Friday, January 13, 2012

Gary Schmidt Visits Lawrence

Award-winning author Gary Schmidt was our guest last night for the third annual Author Night for 5th and 6th grade students and parents. It was a great evening. A wonderful storyteller, Gary kept the audience filling the library rapt for a full hour before inviting questions, which continued enthusiastically for another half hour. His premise that "It's all about the story" seemed to ring true; students continued to retell story after story today as we reviewed his visit.

Gary's books (among them the touching historical fiction novel Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and his riveting Okay for Now) have central characters who struggle with their place in the world yet come out, over the course of the story, in a better place. Quoting Ezra Pound, Schmidt maintained that a book ought to singe one's hands, bringing the reader to new awareness. His books do just that. He also shared many writing hints -- such as his own discipline of writing 500 words a day on his manuscript and not believing in writer's block ("Move to another location in the story, start writing, and see if you can join the threads").

Gary has already received the Newbery Honor Award for Lizzie Bright and for The Wednesday Wars. His fans, including me, are keeping their fingers crossed that the newly-published Okay for Now will receive recognition this year in the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards ceremony on January 23rd. Good luck, Gary!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Parade of Picture Books

One of the most enjoyable parts of a librarian's job is selecting new books to add to the collection. While the task of reading reviews in professional journals is time-consuming and final choices can be hard to make, the excitement of opening up boxes of fresh new books is fabulous -- and sharing the newcomers with teachers, students and families is a delight. Ah -- a perfect book about shapes for kindergarten. Hooray -- a new gingerbread-themed story for first grade! Terrific -- Grace Lin's new chapter book about Pacy, continuing the story so many 3rd graders know. Finally -- the new book about inventions for 6th grade. And of course, the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Brian Selznick's monumental addition to his unique comic-and-text novels: Wonderstruck.

This month the Lawrence School library will welcome families in Grades K-3 for a Parade of Picture Books. Already, 60 new picture books published in 2011 are circulating to teachers to share with their classrooms. On the 19th of January from 5 - 6:30 pm, families are invited to enjoy reading and listening to these great new books -- and they are invited to vote on their favorite book! Our event is "in the style of" the Caldecott Awards, presented annually by the Association of Library Service to Children to the artist of the most distinguished picture book published the previous year. This year the "real" Caldecott will be given on January 23rd. To learn more about the Caldecott Award, visit the Caldecott Medal Home Page . The official criteria for the award are many. For our purposes, they can be summarized by asking this question about a book: Do the words and pictures work so well together bringing the story alive for us that we can call it a truly excellent (distinguished) picture book? Most simply, is this picture book captivating to read and look at?