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Notable Children’s Books

Posted by in Book List

The Children’s Literature Assembly released its 2014 list of Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts! I’ve reprinted the list below, along with covers of my favorite books from the list.

CLA, a professional community of children’s literature enthusiasts, is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). CLA helps advocate for the importance of literature in the lives of children; I am a proud CLA member. Joining CLA gets you one of my favorite journals: The Journal of Children’s Literature.

2014 Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts 

Ah Ha!, by Jeff Mack, published by Chronicle Books. 

Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, published by Dial.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein, published by Random House.

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet, by Andrea Cheng, published by Lee & Low Books. 

Exclamation Mark, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, published by Scholastic Press. 

Forest Has a Song, by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley, published by Clarion Books. 

Gaby, Lost and Found, by Angela Cervantes, published by Scholastic Press. 

Hold Fast, by Blue Balliett, published by Scholastic Press. 

Journey, by Aaron Becker, published by Candlewick Press. 

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, published by Little, Brown and Company. 

Light in the Darkness: A Story About How Slaves Learned in Secret, by Lesa Cline-Ransom, illustrated by James E. Ransome, published by Disney/Jump at the Sun Books. 

Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, published by Chronicle Books. 

Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard, by Annette LeBlanc Cate, published by Candlewick Press. 

Martin and Mahalia: His Words Her Song, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, published by Little, Brown and Company. 

Navigating Early, by Clare Vanderpool, published by Delacorte Press. 

Nelly May has Her Say, by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Henry Cole, published by Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux. 

Prisoner 88, by Leah Pileggi, published by Charlesbridge. 

Sure Signs of Crazy, by Karen Harrington, published by Little, Brown and Company. 

The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst, published by Harcourt Children’s Books. 

The Candy Smash, by Jacqueline Davies, published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, published by Philomel Books. 

The Language Inside, by Holly Thompson, published by Delacorte. 

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, by Margarita Engle, published by Harcourt. 

The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration, by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Mia Posada, published by Millbrook Press. 

The Matchbox Diary, by Paul Fleischman, Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, published by Candlewick Press. 

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders, by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So, published by Chronicle Books. 

Words with Wings, by Nikki Grimes, published by WordSong. 

Zebra Forest, by Adina Rishe Gewirtz, published by Candlewick Press. 

2014 Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts Selection Committee Members: 

Patricia Bandré, chair; Shanetia Clark, Christine Draper, Evie Freeman, Dick Koblitz, Jean Schroeder, and Barbara Ward

 Counting by 7's     Journey    Words with Wings 


Beatles were Fab   Matchbox Diary   Knock Knock






My Friend, Ferdinand

Posted by in Book Review

One of my most cherished possessions is the actual Story of Ferdinand book that I read as a child. Sharing the book with my children’s and young adult literature students on the first day of class is a more powerful experience because it’s the actual book my hands held so long ago. The story is five years older than my mom, who somehow kept track of it for me through the years. I have given the same gift to my own children; their favorite childhood picturebook lives in their keepsake box.

Why Ferdinand?

I was a voracious reader as a child. Just ask my dad who lugged my heavy suitcase filled with books back and forth to LaPush Beach every summer. My poor mom had the misfortune to work next to the public library and was recruited to cart books home for me every summer day. Out of all the books that I read as a child, why is Ferdinand so special? The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone is a close second, but Ferdinand holds a special place in my heart. I always tell my students that if I ever got a tattoo, it would be Robert Lawson’s drawing of Ferdinand sitting contentedly under his cork tree.

Ferdinand wasn’t like the other bulls. While they were running around and butting their heads together, Ferdinand would “sit just quietly” under the cork tree and smell the flowers. He wasn’t afraid to be different. He just wanted to do what made him happy. And best of all, his mother left him to it. I didn’t like to run around outside with the other kids either. I just liked to stay inside and read. And like Ferdinand’s mom, mine let me, as often and as long as I wished. I was a pale and scrawny kid, but I was happy.

I think this is a powerful message for readers. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to sit under whatever kind of tree you wish. Ferdinand’s tree is made of cork. Mine is made of books. What’s your tree made of?

Fun Ferdinand Facts

Ferdinand lives a rich life outside of his book. He was a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Songs have been written in his honor. Walt Disney created a short animated film of the story in 1938. According to IMDb, Fox Animation Studios has acquired the rights to the book, so there could be another movie about Ferdinand in the future. Ferdinand merchandise is all over the web; I even have a Ferdinand necklace that one of my girls gave me. I’m currently coveting this little guy on Etsy.

Philosophy of Ferdinand

Philip Nel, a professor of English at Kansas State University, wrote a fascinating blog post on the history of the book. Was Ferdinand a pacifist? Why did Hitler ban the book? What is Ferdinand really about?

Allison Tate wrote a lovely blog post on Huffington Post about her son. Disinterested in the competitive sports that so many of his classmates played, he found comfort in Ferdinand’s story of nonconformity.

Ferdinand’s Friends

Here are a few of my favorite books featuring nonconformist characters.

 Tale of Despereaux Me I Am!Otter and OdderBig Orange SplotPaper Bag Princess