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January 8, 2016

How to Build Your Classroom Library in 2016

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    At the start of January when you open that fresh new calendar to the very first page, the year seems full of so many different possibilities. There are new goals to set or previous goals to revisit and re-evaluate — as evidenced in fellow blogger Meghan Everette's post, "New Year's Resolutions for Teachers." As a teacher, the new calendar year also represents for me a year for new books, and in my case they include some that are not even published yet! I want to share with you this list of terrific titles that you will want on your classroom library shelves as soon as they come out.

    (Please note, the publication dates are subject to change. I've listed the books by publication date, starting with January.)

     

    Be A Friend CoverBe A Friend by Salina Yoon
    Publish date: January 5, 2016
    I don’t know whether this book is so special to me because I started my career in education as a special education teacher or if it’s simply a special book.

    The lead character, Dennis, is definitely a special boy. In many stories, the reason a child is different might be the focal point, but In Be a Friend, it's unimportant that Dennis doesn’t speak, what matters is that he is unique. As unique as Dennis is, he also gets lonely. Your heart will break as you read through this book thinking about all the "Dennises" you might know. However, the ending brings joy to everyone — including those who read it. If you are a parent, teacher, speech therapist, administrator, counselor, or therapist, you need this book!

     

    Freedom in Congo SquareFreedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie
    Publish Date: January 5, 2016
    Teaching early learners sensitive topics calls for a sensitive approach. One of the big topics that can be hard to introduce is the idea of slavery. How much is too much and how little is too little? Freedom in Congo Square gets it exactly right. Through simple, rhyming text and beautiful illustrations you will be able to share with your young students what 19th century Louisiana was like from the perspective of slaves, who would labor all week knowing that they would be able to enjoy some brief, but treasured freedom in Congo Square in New Orleans.

    I predict that this will be one you will wonder how you ever did without.

     

     

    Cockatoo, Too CoverCockatoo, Too by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
    Publish Date: January 5, 2016
    If you love playing with words then you will adore this fun-filled, giggle-inducing, brightly-colored cockatoo, Too. Will the two-tutued cockatoos do the can-can with the toucans? Cockatoo, Too is a great way to show your students how much fun words can be. Acting it out could be the highlight of your school week!

     

     

     

     

    The Knowing Book CoverThe Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Matthew Cordell
    Publish Date: February 23, 2016
    Do you buy graduates Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You'll Go? Do you listen to LeeAnn Womack’s I Hope You Dance on repeat? If so, then you must check out The Knowing Book — it might well become your new favorite.

    A book of advice about choosing your own path, the beautifully illustrated story shows how your decisions will lead to magic and sadness and how you need to embrace both with open arms and learn from them. This is a book that readers will treasure for years and years to come.

     

     

    Quick, Little Monkey! CoverQuick, Little Monkey! by Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by Lita Judge
    Publish Date: March 8, 2016
    This title is a must for every early learner classroom library. This is especially a great book to read as you are preparing to depart for a field trip.

    Little Monkey gets separated from his dad and must find his way back to the safety of his father. This is a great introduction to the concept of staying together as a group and what to do if a student does get separated. This book provides an excellent start for that necessary conversation.

     

     

    Fresh Delicious CoverFresh Delicious by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
    Publish Date: March 8, 2016
    Need some poems for your spring-themed centers? This book is full of “poems from the farmers’ market,” and there are already a few that I can’t wait to share with my kids. Okra, wild honey, cucumbers, and farm-fresh eggs are just a few of the topics covered in these 21 fun poems. The poem titled "Basil" is one of my favorites! I can’t wait to see my students’ artwork when they are asked to illustrate this seven-word gem.

     

     

     

    Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure CoverAlbert's Almost Amazing Adventure by Marty Kelley
    Publish Date: March 15, 2016
    I love this book so much! Albert just got back from a trip and is eager to share the details. His friends are excitedly finishing his sentences in outrageous ways. The contrast between when Albert is telling his story and when his friends are making guesses as to his “amazing” adventures, is illustrated in pictures that shift between black and white and wonderful colors. It is a clever device to help your students determine what is real and what is fantasy.

    This is also one of those books that is great to use to teach about voice, because Albert is such a wonderful character. My favorite part of the book (and I’m sure it will be yours as well) is the ending!

     

     

    Horrible Bear! CoverHorrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora
    Publish Date: April 5, 2016
    If you think about your classroom library, how many bear books can you name? Probably quite a few. The bear in this book is horrible — at least if you listen to the cute, red-haired girl with a quick temper in this very entertaining read-aloud. The girl shares her opinion with everyone as she stomps home, angry that the bear broke her kite. The bear is unhappy with her disparaging remarks. How will these two ill-tempered individuals work out their differences?

    The lesson that your students will take away from this hilarious story is that a sincere apology can make a world of difference. This book also has a wonderful voice with big gestures that your students will love. I will definitely be pairing Horrible Bear! with Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna to fully show how rumors affect people.

     

     

    Are We There Yet?Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
    Publish Date: April 12, 2016
    I am a Dan Santat disciple. A chance to meet him last year fell through so that is still on my bucket list. (Although, similar to my meeting Mo Wilems and David Shannon, I might likely just stand there and say something idiotic — if I had a superhero name it would be Awkward Man!) In any case, Dan is the man. I would love to have my brain work the way his does. I am still completely smitten with his Caldecott winner Beekle, and I can’t wait for the world to see this gorgeous book.

    Everything about Are We There Yet? is unique and at the same time familiar as events stem from that question that we have all heard on a road trip: “Are we there yet?” During your first reading your world might become a little topsy-turvy. It's all part of the genius of this book. Much like Marty Kelley uses color and black and white to delineate real and fantasy in Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure, Santat uses picture orientation to accomplish the same thing. Pairing these two books together will be an amazing way to teach your students how to determine imagination from reality.

     

     

    If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON'T! CoverIf You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON'T! by Elise Parsley
    Publish Date: May 3, 2016
    I love that Elise Parsley has followed If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON'T! with this second installation in what could be a highly entertaining series. This is a great cause and effect book without taking the circular story route we have grown accustomed to from the fantastic If You Give A… series by Laura Numeroff.

    The brilliance of Parsley's book is that it treats the absurd idea of bringing a piano to the beach as the most normal thing in the world. I love that she gets inside a kid’s brain and shows you how fun and creative their thought processes are. This book is the perfect example of why I love kindergarten, because if everyone thought and problem solved like a 5-year-old, we would either already have discovered the cure for cancer, or we would have an ocean filled with pianos!

     

     

    I Love Cake! CoverI Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Angie Rozelaar
    Publish date: May 3, 2016
    I have never met Tammi Sauer but if ever a book title described me, this is it! I truly love cake. I could wax poetic about red velvet and chocolate, but instead I will write about how much I love this book. It stars Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose, and it’s a sweet, sweet story.

    I totally identify with Moose because he has a great sense of humor, he’s larger than his friends, and the dude can put away some cake. There is one more way that Moose and I are alike and that is that there is one thing we both love more than cake. Find out what it is by picking up a copy of this for your library. It will be a favorite for years to come.

     

     

    Thunder Boy Jr. CoverThunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
    Publish Date: May 10, 2016
    Every year pre-k and kindergarten classrooms around the world start off school with a unit about names. Kevin Henkes' Chrysanthemum has been my go-to book for this, and I always used Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to talk about the letters in my students names.

    Next year, I will be using Thunder Boy Jr. by the celebrated Sherman Alexie. Besides being a great story, it is one of the titles that brings diversity into my classroom just by being there. As much as I love Chrysanthemum, it tends to be a little long for beginning-of-the-year kinders. Thunder Boy Jr. covers the same idea that Chrysanthemum does but with less text, which is always a selling point for kids who are new to a school environment.

    Kids also love the main character. As he searches for a new name that “celebrates something cool that I’ve done,” it is easy to do the first text-to-self connection by having students rename themselves based on something cool that they have accomplished. 

     

     

    Louise and Andie: The Art of FriendshipLouise and Andie: The Art of Friendship by Kelly Light
    Publish Date: June 14, 2016
    As I point out in a previous blog post, early learners love characters that they know. Kelly Light has brilliantly continued the story of Louise, a character who so many kids around the world fell in love with after reading Louise Loves Art.

    In the first story she masterfully set up a story where compassion for family comes before one’s personal passion. I used this book as a red carpet event and my class loved it. Now Louise, Art, and that awesome cat are back, and this time they have a new neighbor moving in. Enter: Andie. Andie loves art as much as Louise but will they let their “artistic differences” keep them from becoming the best of friends?

    Your class will love revisiting Louise and seeing how the problem is solved with some creative thinking. Using this book as an introduction to a self-portrait art activity would be a brilliant use of this book. I’m adding it to my collection of friendship books because I feel it captures the delicate dance of creating a new friendship so skillfully. The first time you read it, don’t be surprised if you hear yourself saying “ahhh” out loud to no one in particular, except for the talented Light.

    Mark your calendars for all of these great books!

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Pinterest and Twitter.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

    At the start of January when you open that fresh new calendar to the very first page, the year seems full of so many different possibilities. There are new goals to set or previous goals to revisit and re-evaluate — as evidenced in fellow blogger Meghan Everette's post, "New Year's Resolutions for Teachers." As a teacher, the new calendar year also represents for me a year for new books, and in my case they include some that are not even published yet! I want to share with you this list of terrific titles that you will want on your classroom library shelves as soon as they come out.

    (Please note, the publication dates are subject to change. I've listed the books by publication date, starting with January.)

     

    Be A Friend CoverBe A Friend by Salina Yoon
    Publish date: January 5, 2016
    I don’t know whether this book is so special to me because I started my career in education as a special education teacher or if it’s simply a special book.

    The lead character, Dennis, is definitely a special boy. In many stories, the reason a child is different might be the focal point, but In Be a Friend, it's unimportant that Dennis doesn’t speak, what matters is that he is unique. As unique as Dennis is, he also gets lonely. Your heart will break as you read through this book thinking about all the "Dennises" you might know. However, the ending brings joy to everyone — including those who read it. If you are a parent, teacher, speech therapist, administrator, counselor, or therapist, you need this book!

     

    Freedom in Congo SquareFreedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie
    Publish Date: January 5, 2016
    Teaching early learners sensitive topics calls for a sensitive approach. One of the big topics that can be hard to introduce is the idea of slavery. How much is too much and how little is too little? Freedom in Congo Square gets it exactly right. Through simple, rhyming text and beautiful illustrations you will be able to share with your young students what 19th century Louisiana was like from the perspective of slaves, who would labor all week knowing that they would be able to enjoy some brief, but treasured freedom in Congo Square in New Orleans.

    I predict that this will be one you will wonder how you ever did without.

     

     

    Cockatoo, Too CoverCockatoo, Too by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
    Publish Date: January 5, 2016
    If you love playing with words then you will adore this fun-filled, giggle-inducing, brightly-colored cockatoo, Too. Will the two-tutued cockatoos do the can-can with the toucans? Cockatoo, Too is a great way to show your students how much fun words can be. Acting it out could be the highlight of your school week!

     

     

     

     

    The Knowing Book CoverThe Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Matthew Cordell
    Publish Date: February 23, 2016
    Do you buy graduates Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You'll Go? Do you listen to LeeAnn Womack’s I Hope You Dance on repeat? If so, then you must check out The Knowing Book — it might well become your new favorite.

    A book of advice about choosing your own path, the beautifully illustrated story shows how your decisions will lead to magic and sadness and how you need to embrace both with open arms and learn from them. This is a book that readers will treasure for years and years to come.

     

     

    Quick, Little Monkey! CoverQuick, Little Monkey! by Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by Lita Judge
    Publish Date: March 8, 2016
    This title is a must for every early learner classroom library. This is especially a great book to read as you are preparing to depart for a field trip.

    Little Monkey gets separated from his dad and must find his way back to the safety of his father. This is a great introduction to the concept of staying together as a group and what to do if a student does get separated. This book provides an excellent start for that necessary conversation.

     

     

    Fresh Delicious CoverFresh Delicious by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
    Publish Date: March 8, 2016
    Need some poems for your spring-themed centers? This book is full of “poems from the farmers’ market,” and there are already a few that I can’t wait to share with my kids. Okra, wild honey, cucumbers, and farm-fresh eggs are just a few of the topics covered in these 21 fun poems. The poem titled "Basil" is one of my favorites! I can’t wait to see my students’ artwork when they are asked to illustrate this seven-word gem.

     

     

     

    Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure CoverAlbert's Almost Amazing Adventure by Marty Kelley
    Publish Date: March 15, 2016
    I love this book so much! Albert just got back from a trip and is eager to share the details. His friends are excitedly finishing his sentences in outrageous ways. The contrast between when Albert is telling his story and when his friends are making guesses as to his “amazing” adventures, is illustrated in pictures that shift between black and white and wonderful colors. It is a clever device to help your students determine what is real and what is fantasy.

    This is also one of those books that is great to use to teach about voice, because Albert is such a wonderful character. My favorite part of the book (and I’m sure it will be yours as well) is the ending!

     

     

    Horrible Bear! CoverHorrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora
    Publish Date: April 5, 2016
    If you think about your classroom library, how many bear books can you name? Probably quite a few. The bear in this book is horrible — at least if you listen to the cute, red-haired girl with a quick temper in this very entertaining read-aloud. The girl shares her opinion with everyone as she stomps home, angry that the bear broke her kite. The bear is unhappy with her disparaging remarks. How will these two ill-tempered individuals work out their differences?

    The lesson that your students will take away from this hilarious story is that a sincere apology can make a world of difference. This book also has a wonderful voice with big gestures that your students will love. I will definitely be pairing Horrible Bear! with Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna to fully show how rumors affect people.

     

     

    Are We There Yet?Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
    Publish Date: April 12, 2016
    I am a Dan Santat disciple. A chance to meet him last year fell through so that is still on my bucket list. (Although, similar to my meeting Mo Wilems and David Shannon, I might likely just stand there and say something idiotic — if I had a superhero name it would be Awkward Man!) In any case, Dan is the man. I would love to have my brain work the way his does. I am still completely smitten with his Caldecott winner Beekle, and I can’t wait for the world to see this gorgeous book.

    Everything about Are We There Yet? is unique and at the same time familiar as events stem from that question that we have all heard on a road trip: “Are we there yet?” During your first reading your world might become a little topsy-turvy. It's all part of the genius of this book. Much like Marty Kelley uses color and black and white to delineate real and fantasy in Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure, Santat uses picture orientation to accomplish the same thing. Pairing these two books together will be an amazing way to teach your students how to determine imagination from reality.

     

     

    If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON'T! CoverIf You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON'T! by Elise Parsley
    Publish Date: May 3, 2016
    I love that Elise Parsley has followed If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON'T! with this second installation in what could be a highly entertaining series. This is a great cause and effect book without taking the circular story route we have grown accustomed to from the fantastic If You Give A… series by Laura Numeroff.

    The brilliance of Parsley's book is that it treats the absurd idea of bringing a piano to the beach as the most normal thing in the world. I love that she gets inside a kid’s brain and shows you how fun and creative their thought processes are. This book is the perfect example of why I love kindergarten, because if everyone thought and problem solved like a 5-year-old, we would either already have discovered the cure for cancer, or we would have an ocean filled with pianos!

     

     

    I Love Cake! CoverI Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Angie Rozelaar
    Publish date: May 3, 2016
    I have never met Tammi Sauer but if ever a book title described me, this is it! I truly love cake. I could wax poetic about red velvet and chocolate, but instead I will write about how much I love this book. It stars Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose, and it’s a sweet, sweet story.

    I totally identify with Moose because he has a great sense of humor, he’s larger than his friends, and the dude can put away some cake. There is one more way that Moose and I are alike and that is that there is one thing we both love more than cake. Find out what it is by picking up a copy of this for your library. It will be a favorite for years to come.

     

     

    Thunder Boy Jr. CoverThunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
    Publish Date: May 10, 2016
    Every year pre-k and kindergarten classrooms around the world start off school with a unit about names. Kevin Henkes' Chrysanthemum has been my go-to book for this, and I always used Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to talk about the letters in my students names.

    Next year, I will be using Thunder Boy Jr. by the celebrated Sherman Alexie. Besides being a great story, it is one of the titles that brings diversity into my classroom just by being there. As much as I love Chrysanthemum, it tends to be a little long for beginning-of-the-year kinders. Thunder Boy Jr. covers the same idea that Chrysanthemum does but with less text, which is always a selling point for kids who are new to a school environment.

    Kids also love the main character. As he searches for a new name that “celebrates something cool that I’ve done,” it is easy to do the first text-to-self connection by having students rename themselves based on something cool that they have accomplished. 

     

     

    Louise and Andie: The Art of FriendshipLouise and Andie: The Art of Friendship by Kelly Light
    Publish Date: June 14, 2016
    As I point out in a previous blog post, early learners love characters that they know. Kelly Light has brilliantly continued the story of Louise, a character who so many kids around the world fell in love with after reading Louise Loves Art.

    In the first story she masterfully set up a story where compassion for family comes before one’s personal passion. I used this book as a red carpet event and my class loved it. Now Louise, Art, and that awesome cat are back, and this time they have a new neighbor moving in. Enter: Andie. Andie loves art as much as Louise but will they let their “artistic differences” keep them from becoming the best of friends?

    Your class will love revisiting Louise and seeing how the problem is solved with some creative thinking. Using this book as an introduction to a self-portrait art activity would be a brilliant use of this book. I’m adding it to my collection of friendship books because I feel it captures the delicate dance of creating a new friendship so skillfully. The first time you read it, don’t be surprised if you hear yourself saying “ahhh” out loud to no one in particular, except for the talented Light.

    Mark your calendars for all of these great books!

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Pinterest and Twitter.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

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