Sunday, January 10, 2016

Counting by Mock Newberys

In our book club, we measure time in Mock Newberys. We began our love fest with children’s books on January 12, 2014 with an informal discussion of children’s books that had been gaining buzz over the year. We shared book trailers and plot summaries, discussed characters, and created our own rules by asking participants to vote for the book they would most like to read next.

After our event, our students clamored for us to continue the conversation. The winner of our Mock Newbery, One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, was selected as our first book club selection. We purchased copies of the book for the students because I felt it as important for the students to have this treasured book as their own. Since then, we have continued to meet monthly to discuss children’s books, which inevitably lead to larger conversations about our students’ experiences and feelings – and of course, references to Harry Potter. When we read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, we had a frank conversation about the ways our community’s educational system failed them. When someone questioned the importance of our book club, we read The Giver by Lois Lowry and discussed the dangers and lures of Sameness. 

During this fall, we read Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm and it was a powerful experience discussing the hidden lives of children.
We had to move to another room because there were too many people. That's a librarian's dream!
Thematic food is a big part of book. Enjoy a delicious "Big Al!" 
Candy fish in cupcake trees! 

They asked questions about shame and silence and isolation and friendship – and we discussed them because they deserved honesty. Throughout the intense conversation, I could sense empathy and compassion growing in my students – and their younger siblings who became our latest members to our club. It has been gratifying to see how our community has grown with colleagues and students and alumni and authors and this year, actual children who are the reason we do this work. Their thoughtful responses to the books inspire and delight us. I hope they enjoy it as much as we enjoy having them become part of our community. 

For this year’s Mock Newbery, we took it to the next level. For each book, we had a John Newbery Product Placement ™ item that we gave away. (John Newbery included a pin cushion or ball to record children's good deeds with the book, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly.) Here are the products we shared:

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia, courtesy of Dr. Shira Roth
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, courtesy of Dr. Shira Roth from Constructive Playthings
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Lovely jelly created by student's sister

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Kind words can change lives.

Fish in a Tree by  Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
You can access the StoryCorp guide here
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson - created by Anna S.
Roller Girl Trading Card - back

Make your own Roller Girl Trading Cards using this template

Adults and kids signed up to introduce books from our list and shared their insights. I was so impressed by the caliber of the introductions, as everyone rose to the occasion to engage with these texts. They made powerful connections between each of them and made me see them in new ways. I also appreciated how some participants sought out texts outside their usual genres and were pleasantly surprised with the wonders they found there. And of course, during our discussion of The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, our traditional Harry Potter reference was shared when we thought about Ada’s captivity in the cupboard and Harry’s room under the stairs. Most of all, these stories made us think and wonder and debate. They brought us together once more as a community.

This year’s Mock Newbery winner was Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, which, as is our tradition, will be our first spring book club selection. 

Our Honor books were The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, and Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. 


I can’t wait to discuss Echo with our bookish community (with treats related to the story) and continue to measure time in the stories that connect us.

If you are interested in a John Newbery Product Placement ™ 2016 Mock Newbery bag, leave a comment and I'd be happy to share our extras as long as supplies last. 

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