Monday, February 19, 2018

Oh, Happy Day!: The Guessing Geisel Hosts Share Their Post-YMA Reactions

In this post, the three co-hosts of Guessing Geisel (Amanda, Amy, and Misti) share their thoughts and reactions to the 2018 Geisel Award winner and honor titles.

Watching the YMAs
Amy: Even thought I was in Denver, I opted to live stream the announcements so I could watch with my colleagues at work. We projected the live stream onto a big screen, drank coffee, noshed on breakfast-y things, and used printed ballots to predict the winners. Even thought I wasn't in the announcement room, I did my fair share of shouting and groaning. But I only had cheers for this year's Geisel results. Charlie & Mouse has held a special place in my heart all year, plus it won every mock Geisel I participated in! 
Misti: I watched the live stream from my office, as well.  Since I'm in the Collection Development & Technical Services department, I provided a source of amusement (and doughnuts) to my bemused colleagues, as the occasional "Yes!!!" or "What?!" did burst out.
Amanda: I had a reserved seat for the announcements with the rest of the Stonewall Book Award Committee. I have been unabashedly rooting for Charlie & Mouse (and I See A Cat), and was overjoyed when they were announced. I may have been embarrassingly enthusiastic in my congratulations to the committee on their excellent choices.

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes
Amy: I cannot tell you how happy I am about Charlie & Mouse coming out on top. The timeless illustrations, the carefully considered text, and sweet humor delight me on every reread. Most importantly, as someone who identifies as biracial (Chinese-American mother, Caucasian father), I finally see myself reflected in a beginning reader (25 years late, but who's counting?).  
Amanda: Truly, Charlie & Mouse is such a special book, with such a clear sense of place and character - Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes could not be more deserving for what they have done here and I hope that its win means we will see much more of this duo. As Amy mentioned, in addition to its objective excellence in humor, pacing, and style it also joins the ranks of beginning readers that allow readers to feel seen.  Neighbors - like Mr. Michael & Mr. Eric - broaden further the possibilities for readers to find themselves, their families, and their community reflected in this book. 
Misti: I was so thrilled to see this book win.  Apart from being super excited that our mock winner was also the actual winner (good job, you guys!), I'm a big fan of this book.  In my opinion, it has a fresh but classic feel to it, and I hope that many more beginning readers will discover this series due to its Geisel win. 

I See a Cat by Paul Meisel
Misti:  Okay, I have to admit it: this book is my favorite Geisel contender of the year. The text is so simple, but it works together with the illustrations so very well.  I'm always searching for books written at this very-beginning-reader level, and when I find one that manages to be such a delight to read . . . all I can say is, more like this, please! 
Amy: Paul Meisel certainly has a knack of engaging canine romps written for the very newest of beginning readers. The font choice in this title is particularly strong, in my opinion. 
Amanda: In addition to the simplicity and repetition that make this a strong choice for the emergent reader, as a dog owner it simply feels true to life. This title took to day at my library's Mock Geisel, and I was rooting for its simple brilliance not to be overlooked. A practically perfect book, in my opinion.

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats, written by Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Nancy Meyers 

Amy: I must say, I overlooked this one. Perhaps because it was one of three released in the same year? 
Amanda: This was the strongest out of the trio released this year, and is a solid choice for entry into the beginning reader puzzle/mystery lane. 
Misti: I took a second look at this one when it got some votes on our first mock ballot, and was favorably impressed.  It's definitely designed for readers who are already fairly confident, but not quite ready for big chapter books.  The mystery plot works well, there's some quiet humor, and who doesn't love a mystery-solving canine/human duo?

My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon

Amy: By far the strongest of all the Duck, Duck, Porcupine stories, IMHO. The bright colors, bold black lines, and a silly trio make this book a stand out. 
Amanda: Charming characters and effectively bold illustrations. 
Misti: This one flew under my radar -- I was aware of it, but didn't sit up and take note, exactly.  Taking another look at it, the distinguished features Amy and Amanda mention really do stand out.  Bravo, Duck, Duck, and Porcupine!

Noodleheads See the Future, written by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, and illustrated by Tedd Arnold 

Amy: A beginning reader with a list of sources and an author's note about the origins of Noodlehead stories! Be still my heart. I love that both the author and publisher felt that beginning readers deserve all the things found in other formats.
Misti: I can see this book being really popular with young readers -- the authors really do demonstrate respect for the beginning reader's interests and abilities.
Amanda: Tedd Arnold has a proven track record for beginning readers, and Danielle's analysis of this title really helped me to look at it in the larger context of Noodlehead stories and recognize the excellence of presenting that tradition in a way that is accessible to the new reader.

Snail & Worm Again by Tina Kügler 

Amy: Hooray for another solid beginning reader friendship duo. I adore Snail and Worm and their encouraging, supportive relationship, that is also humorous and playful.
Misti: You know what I love about this book?  Snail's eyes. They are so expressive! This is another great example of text and illustrations working extraordinarily well together.
Amanda: This was another runner-up in our library's Mock Geisel, and I need to give kudos to my colleague, our exemplary Youth Materials Selector, for advocating for its place on our shortlist. Justin, you were right.

Other Thoughts
Amy: One winner and five honors! That means libraries and schools have six easy purchases that all provide beginning readers engaging and supportive experiences. If I could add an honor, it would be Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy. I think it got overshadowed by the first C&M title, but that it has a lot of merit on it's own. If it had been published in a follow year, would it have gotten more love? We can only speculate, but I'd like to think that it would. 
Amanda: For Geisel in particular, it is always a joy to see multiple honors. You can tell in the room that even in a room full of the most passionate fans of kid lit, beginning readers don't have the exposure that picture or chapter books do, making it all the more important to recognize and hopefully raise the profile of truly excellent beginning readers. Only I See A Cat is a stand-alone title this year - caregivers of young readers have the opportunity to discover companion titles as well as these winners and expand their selection of funny, heartfelt, and otherwise distinguished books for their newest readers. Incredible work on the part of this year's committee!
Misti: I agree completely -- fantastic selections, and I'm also pleased to see so many of them.  And something for everyone, from the earliest beginner to the reader approaching full fluency. Take courage, authors, illustrators, and publishers of beginning readers: your work is important and appreciated!  I can't wait to see what the next year will bring.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Congratulations to the 2018 Geisel Award winner

The Youth Media Awards took place this morning. If you missed the announcements live, you will be able to view a recording here

Congratulations to the 2018 Geisel Award winner . . . . 

Charlie and Mouse, written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Emily Hughes!

The honor books named are:

I See a Cat by Paul Meisel

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats, written by Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Nancy Meyers 

My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon

Noodleheads See the Future, written by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, and illustrated by Tedd Arnold 

Snail & Worm Again by Tina Kügler

Congratulations to all of the book creators! Here at Guessing Geisel we’re still gathering our thoughts and will be back later with a longer reaction. For now, congratulations to committee chair Sandra J. Imdieke, and to the members of the committee - Meagan Albright, Kate Capps, Renee M. Christiansen, Rachee Fagg, Joy Feldman, and Sylvie Juliet Shaffer - on your selections. Thank you for your dedication to recognizing the very best books for beginning readers.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

And the Mock Award goes to...

We here at Guessing Geisel are thrilled to announce the official winner and honor titles for the 2018 Guessing Geisel Mock!

Winner: Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

  • Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy by Laurel Snyder, illustrated. by Emily Hughes
  • Egg by Kevin Henkes
  • The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper & Mo Willems
  • I See a Cat by Paul Meisel

This year we used 2 ballots. The first determined our mock winner and the second our mock honors. Using the same weighted point system as the Real Committee (4 points for each first choice vote, 3 points for each second choice vote, and 2 points for each third choice vote), the results of the first ballot made it clear that Charlie & Mouse was our winner. Out of 30 ballots, the sibling duo garnered 43 points! You can see the tally from the first ballot below. 

After the first ballot, we turned our thoughts to the mock honor titles. As Misti outlined in her post, we decided upon a second ballot to mirror the process the Real Committee would go through.  As with the Real Committee, we decided there would be no limit (or requirement) for the number of honor titles to be named. Looking at the results of our second ballot, we felt that these 4 titles clearly rose to the top each with total point counts above 17 points. You can see the tally of points below. 

Now all we can do is eagerly anticipate the announcement of the real YMAs on February 12, 2018 at 8am (MST). We hope you'll join us in live streaming the announcements online or watching (and cheering!) in person at ALA Midwinter in Denver, CO.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ballot #2 - Vote for the Mock Geisel Honor Titles of 2018

Now's your chance to cast your ballot to decide on Guessing Geisel's Mock honor titles! Check out Misti's post for more insight into our decision to hold a second ballot for honor titles and to see the winner of our Mock. 

As they do on the real committee, we'll be weighting the responses with 4 points for each first choice vote, 3 points for each second choice vote, and 2 points for each third choice vote. This ballot will stay open January 26th-February 2nd. 

Please, complete only one ballot per person. Only complete ballots will be consider (i.e. you must choose a first, second, and third choice). Ballots must have three unique titles (we all have favorites, but we ask you to take a moment to consider another title that deserves some mock love). 

It's not required that you have read all books to participate, although we recommend reading as many as possible, and reading reviews here and elsewhere. 

Mock Gold, Discussion, and Re-Balloting for Honor Books

Good news! We have a Mock Geisel winner! This year’s Guessing Geisel Mock Gold goes to:

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

We’ll take more time to celebrate Charlie and Mouse in a later post, but first, we have some unfinished business to attend to.

The Geisel manual has this to say about Honor Books:
Once a winner is selected, the issue of Honor Books is addressed. The terms of the award provide parameters:

• There is no requirement that Honor Books be named.
• There is no rule dictating the number of Honor Books to be named.
• There is the expectation that Honor Books be truly distinguished, not merely strong contenders for the award.

The committee first considers whether or not to select Honor Books. If it decides there are to be none, the selection process is complete. If Honor Books are to be chosen, the selection process proceeds. At this point, certain choices present themselves:

• Whether or not to use the winning selection ballot to choose Honor Books. The committee looks at titles with the next highest number of points.
• Whether or not to ballot one more time. Only one additional ballot is allowed. The Honor Book selection ballot consists of titles from the winning selection ballot that received points. (Of course, the winner is eliminated.) By consensus, titles with no remaining support also may be withdrawn.

The committee studies the ballot tally (either from the winning selection ballot or from one subsequent ballot on Honor Books), and the committee determines which books committee members deem to be truly distinguished.
In our first ballot, after the winning title one book scored higher than other potential Honor Books: Egg by Kevin Henkes. We could have selected that book alone as our Honor Book, or tried to find a cutoff point among the lower-scoring books. However, we thought it would be interesting to see what happens to the voting pool when our winner is taken out of the mix. Will Egg continue to stand much higher, or will other titles rise to the top?

The Geisel manual also states that “The committee may not proceed to another ballot without a second round of book discussion.” Oh, how we would like to have a round of book discussion with you, Readers! What strengths did you see in the titles you selected for our first ballot? Since we can’t gather you all in one place, please do comment below. In the meantime, here are some of our thoughts on the strongest contenders from our first round of balloting:

Egg by Kevin Henkes
Amy says: I think the clever word repetition paired with the super appealing graphic novel panels makes this an attractive book for beginning readers. 
Amanda says: Henkes probably didn't intend this book for independent readers, but his illustrations work so effectively with his text to communicate this sweetly funny story.

The Good For Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper
Amy says: I love how Harper deftly explains and explores and expands on the abstract concept of nothing. And it's funny to boot! 
Amanda says:  I second the appreciation of tackling the topic of "nothing". And the expressiveness of the characters as they portray various emotions really stands out as relevant to a child's sensibilities.

A Pig, a Fox, and Stinky Socks by Jonathan Fenske
Misti says: I love the page-turning dynamic in this book.  Not only do the rhymes and repetition move the reader along, but each joke is set up over several pages, causing the reader much gleeful anticipation.
Amy says: I agree, Misti. Many have tried to imitate Dr. Seuss's rhyme schemes, but I think few have succeeded as delightfully as Fenske.

It's Shoe Time by Bryan Collier
Amy says: It's certainly notable that this is the first instance of humans in the world of Elephant and Piggie! 
Amanda says: There are more confident readers who are going to love all this wacky shoe wordplay.

Now by Antoinette Portis
Amy says: The artwork really stands out to me as excellent, and the layout navigates the interplay between text and images beautifully. 
Amanda says:  With the exception of the cloud page, there's such wonderful white space around the text and images in this book that the reader has room to take a breath and be present with the illustrations.

I Am (Not) Scared by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Amy says: Oh, the glorious white space in this book! It's simply delicious. 

I Won't Eat That! by Christopher Silas Neal
Amy says: The repetitive, but never boring, structure is my favorite part of this book. But I do worry a bit about "bioluminescent phytoplankton."

I See a Cat by Paul Meisel
Misti says: How can a book so simple be so funny? By the perfect interplay of text and illustrations, that's how. This creates a successful and enjoyable reading experience for even the earliest beginning reader.
Amy says: I like that it elevates an ordinary day into something exciting and funny. No small feat for the scant number of words it employs.

Noodleheads See the Future by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss
Amy says: The detailed backmatter thrills my librarian heart
Amanda says: It was interesting to see Betsy Bird include this among folk & fairy tales in her 31 days of lists - it helped me appreciate more deeply how Tedd Arnold is bringing something rooted in the very traditional to young readers. 

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers
Misti says: This book makes excellent use of repetition of potentially unfamiliar words (like "intruder").  Plus, the mystery plot is compelling and, along with touches of humor, keeps the reader engaged in this story that may be longer than some beginning reader books they have encountered.

On our ballot for Honor Books, we're including all titles that received votes in our first ballot -- the books above, and several others. We'll be posting that ballot very soon!  Meanwhile, feel free to comment about the books you find truly distinguished and deserving of a (Mock) Geisel Honor. 

Wondering how the points fell for the first ballot?  Check out the screenshot below!  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cast Your Ballot for the 2018 Guessing Geisel Mock!

Now's your chance to cast your ballot for Guessing Geisel's Mock! As they do on the real committee, we'll be weighting the responses with 4 points for each first choice vote, 3 points for each second choice vote, and 2 points for each third choice vote. This ballot will stay open January 18th-24th. If needed, a second ballot will be posted January 25th-February 1st. Please, complete only one ballot per person. 

It's not required that you have read all books to participate, although we recommend reading as many as possible, and reading reviews here and elsewhere. 

For more information on how we will conduct the Guessing Geisel Mock Election, check out our recent post describing the process.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Wish There were More Beginning Readers with...

When I scheduled myself to write this post several months ago, I had thought I would focus on those genres and topics that I frequently get asked for at the children's reference desk. Things like: 

  • Mermaids 
  • Robots 
  • Science Fiction 
  • Sports 
  • Princesses 
  • Folk and Fairy Tales 
  • Graphic Novels 

I still think more beginning readers in these areas would be fantastic and would circulate like hotcakes. But if I had the chance to tell publishers, editors, authors, and illustrators just one thing I want to see more of, it would be humans. 

Yep, you heard right, humans. But, there are plenty of stories about humans, you say. I thought so too until my colleague Sarah and I took a three week course called Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA provided by Library Journal. One of the assignments was to complete a diversity audit on all or part of our collection. Our library system is working hard to support K-3rd students in Denver because Denver Public Schools released a report showing that in the 2015-2016 school year only 31% of third graders were reading at grade level. In five Denver Neighborhoods only 10% of third graders were reading at grade level. So it seemed a natural fit for us to look at the fiction portion of what we call Early Books and Transitional Books

To clarify, at our library we've defined the two categories as follows. Early Books are meant for the first stages of the learning-to-read process, have just a sentence or two per page, easy to sound out words, and lots of helpful pictures. Readers who are ready for longer sentences and up to a full page of text may be ready for Transitional Books. Although these books are longer, they still have great supportive features, like lots of white space and large fonts, as well as fun pictures.

One of the things I loved about the diversity audit is that we compared the diversity in our collection to that of our city, state, and nation (depending on the statistics we could find). After much discussion, Sarah and I decided to look not only for cultural representation (including OwnVoices authors and illustrators), but also for characters who are ability-diverse, live in lower socio-economic households, or are being raised in a diverse family (single parent, blended family, interracial family, adopted/fostered, raised by a non-relative). We also kept track of how many titles focused on animal or object (think trains, cars, or toys), rather than human, protagonists. 

Now, I can't say that our project took into account all the beginning reader titles currently available for purchase. We, like all libraries, have a finite budget. However, I will say, we are a large system. I feel confident that our project covered most titles from major publishers. 

Although I knew there wasn't a lot of diversity in beginning readers, I wasn't quite prepared for the final percentages. 44% of Transitional Books were about non-human protagonists, which no doubt contributed to the fact that only 11% of books had diversity of any kind (that's lumping all the above categories together). The stats for Early Books told a similar story, 55.5% of stories were about non-humans and once again only 11% of books featured diverse characters. Add to that the fact that just over 4% of Transitional Books and a scant 1% of Early Books authors and illustrators (that's combining them together) are OwnVoices. It was a sobering project, that's for sure. 

All of this to say, #WeNeedMoreDiverseBeginningReaders with humans in them. Beginning readers and early chapter books are important to the journey of every young reader. We need stories that engage kids by reflecting their world back to them. If you're reading this post, you want excellent books for all the beginning readers in your life. Let's make it known that #WeNeedMoreDiverseBeginningReaders! Ask your vendor rep, your publishing contacts, your author and illustrator friends. Do a diversity audit on your beginning readers. Share the results. Spread the word.