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Monday, January 25, 2021

Congratulations, to the 2021 Geisel Award Winner and Honors!

This morning the 2021 Geisel Award Winner and Honor Titles were announced at the Youth Media Awards (YMAs) Announcement. You can view a complete list and a video of the announcements here

Congratulations to the 2021 Geisel Award winner... 



See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka and published by Candlewick Press. 

 
This year four honor books were named: 

  • The Bear in My Family, written and illustrated by Maya Tatsukawa and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House 
  • Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! written by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers 
  • What About Worms!? written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins and published by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group 
  • Where’s Baby? written and illustrated by Anne Hunter and published by Tundra Books of Northern New York, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, a Penguin Random House Company. 

Congratulations to all of the book creators! Here at Guessing Geisel we’re still gathering our thoughts and hope to be back later with a longer reaction. For now, congratulations to committee chair Lori Coffey Hancock, and to the members of the committee - Jessica Gillis, Jamie Fujiko Kurumaji, Michelle Ng, Katie E. Patterson, Charles Pieri, Elizabeth Wright Redford - on your selections. Thank you all for your dedication to recognizing the very best books for beginning readers!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

2020 Contenders (and Ineligible Titles, too!)

As the Youth Media Awards (YMAs) announcement draws near we've been thinking about all the wonderful books for developing readers published in 2020. We didn't have time to blog about as many as we'd hoped, but that doesn't mean we can celebrate them! So we're using this last post before the YMAs to present you with a list of eligible contenders. And to wrap it up we'll include some of our favorite ineligible titles at the end.

While we've done our best to include as many eligible contenders as we could find, this list is in no way comprehensive. There's also no way to know what the real committee read or discussed. Perhaps this year's winner and honor titles are on this list. Perhaps none of these titles will be announced on Monday! We'll just have to wait and see. 

Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments. 


Eligible Contenders

Note: Titles with an asterisk (*) are written and/or illustrated by a previous Geisel winner/honor author and/or illustrator.

Beginning Readers

Bumble and Bee (series) by Ross Burach

Bunny Will Not Jump by Jason Tharp

Charlie & Mouse Outdoors by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes*

Dog Meets Dog by Bernice Myers

Duck and Cat's Rainy Day by Carin Bramsen

Come In, Zip! and For Otto by David Milgrim*

Fox Tails (series) by Tina Kügler

Fox Versus Winter by Corey R. Tabor*

Frog & Dog (series) by Janee Trasler

Horse & Buggy Plant a Seed! by Ethan Long*

Go, Go, Go by Bob Barner

Jack Books (series) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli*

King & Kayla and the Case of the Unhappy Neighbor by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers*

Layla and the Bots (series) by Vicky Fang, illustrated by Christine Nishiyama

Lunch Box Bully by Hans Wilhelm

A Pig, a Fox and a Fox by Jonathan Fenske*

Princess Truly: I Can Build It! by Kelly Greenawalt, illustrated by Amariah Rasucher

The Really Rotten Princess and the Awful, Icky Election by Lady Cecily Snodgrass, illustrated by Mike Lester

Run, Mo, Run! and Swim, Mo, Swim! by David A. Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks*

Score One More by Marilyn Janovitz

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Shark Report (series) by Derek Anderson

Snow is Fun by Steve Henry

Testing the Waters by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Moran

Ty's Travels: Zip Zoom! and Ty's Travel's: All Board! by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata

Unlimited Squirrels: I Want to Sleep Under the Stars! by Mo Willems*

What About Worms!? by Ryan T. Higgins 

Who Ate My Book? by Tina Kügler

Who Needs a Checkup? by Norm Feuti


Picture Books

Black is a Color Rainbow by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Blue Table by Chris Raschka

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

Round by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Lisa Congdon

Sun Flower Lion by Kevin Henkes*

Turtle Walk by Matt Phelan

Up on Bob by Mary Sullivan*


Graphic Novels

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli*

Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball? by Cece Bell*

Cookie and Broccoli: Ready for School! by Bob McMahon

Noodleheads Lucky Day by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss, illustrated by Tedd Arnold*

Pizza and Taco: Who's the Best? by Stephen Shaskan

Puppy Problems by Paige Braddock


Nonfiction

Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre


Early Chapter Books

Astrid & Apollo and the Happy New Year by V.T. Bidania, illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee

Kondo & Kezumi Visit Giant Island by David Goodner, illustrated by Andrea Tsurmi

The Princess in Black and the Giant Problem by Shannon & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham


Ineligible Titles

If we're wrong about the eligibility of any of these titles, please let us know! 

  • All the Dear Little Animals by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson - Swedish author and illustrator
  • Ana & Andrew (series) by Chrstine Platt, illustrated by Anuki Lopez - Illustrator born and currently living in Spain
  • Beach Day! by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Erika Meza - Illustrator born in Mexico and currently living in the UK
  • Big Shark, Little Shark, Baby Shark by Anna Membrino, illustrated by Tim Budgen - Illustrator born and currently living in the UK
  • Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Lucy Semple - Illustrator born and currently living in the UK
  • Cat has a Plan by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Fred Blunt - Illustrator born and currently living in the UK
  • Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song - Exceeds the 96 page limit
  • Fairylight Friends (series) by Jessica Young, illustrated by Marie Vanderbemden - Illustrator born and currently living in Belgium
  • Fox & Rabbit by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Gergely Dudás - Illustrator born and currently lives in Hungary
  • Hound Won't Go by Lisa Rogers, illustrated by Meg Ishihara - Illustrator born and currently living in Japan
  • Houndsley and Catina at the Library by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay - Illustrator born and currently living in Canada
  • If You Love Books, You Could Be...by Elizabeth Dennis, illustrated by Natalie Kwee - Illustrator born and currently living in Singapore
  • Interrupting Cow by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy - Illustrator born and currently living in France
  • It Is a Tree by Susan Batori - Author born and currently living in Hungary
  • King of the Birds by Elise Gravel - Author born and currently living in Canada
  • Sea Sheep by Eric Selzter, illustrated by Tom Disbury - Illustrator born and currently living in the UK
  • Shadow in the Woods and Other Scary Stories by Max Brallier, illustrated by Letizia Rubegni
  • Tip and Tucker Paw Painters by Ann Ingalls & Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Andre Ceolin - Illustrator born and currently lives in Brazil
  • You Can Do It, Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly  - Egyptian born illustrator currently living in Canada

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Science and Learning to Read: I am NOT an Expert

Before I jump into the meat of this post, I want to make it very clear that I am not an expert in the science of learning to read. I’m a children’s librarian with a profound passion and interest in supporting kids learning to read and the grown ups in their lives. 

I want to share a bit of a personal struggle I’ve been having with a segment of the Geisel criteria over the last few years. The library system I work for has prioritized supporting developing readers since 2017. As a part of the team working on various projects and services for K-3rd graders, I’ve had the opportunity to really dig into the science around learning to read. And more than just reading the research, I’ve had thought-provoking conversations with colleagues about how science should inform the way reading is taught, and more importantly for this post, about how books can support, rather than hinder, reading skills. 

To be clear, I'm discussing research about the science around learning to read as distinct from the teaching approach called The Science of Reading, which has been gaining momentum lately. This approach has become part of the decades-long reading wars in which educators have been debating the most effective way to teach reading. If you're interested in learning more check out this article by Jill Barshay from the Hechinger Report, Four Things You Need to Know About the New Reading Wars

Thinking about the scientific research I've read over the past 3 years (and there's a lot of research out there; there's so much more for me to explore), many parts of the Geisel criteria hold up:
  • “New words should be added slowly enough to make learning them a positive experience” 
  • “Words should be repeated to ensure knowledge retention” 
  • “Sentences must be simple and straightforward” 
  • “The illustrations must demonstrate the story being told” 
The part of the Geisel criteria that I’ve been struggling to reconcile with science is: 
“The book must also contain illustrations, which function as keys or clues to the text.” 
Without science, this criteria seems to make sense. Upon first encountering a new word, readers can use pictures to help them figure out that word. But scientific research shows that readers who are taught to decode (in simple terms, sound out), rather than guess words based on visual context clues, are more likely to be stronger readers in the long term. Emily Hanford looks at this specific area of learning to read in her article/podcast for APM Reports in 2019, At a Loss for Words: How a Flawed Idea is Teaching Millions of Kids to be Poor Readers

So what do we do with this information? I don’t have the ability to magically change the Geisel criteria, although I hope ALSC might be interested in exploring and potentially updating the criteria in the near future. So let’s think beyond the award itself. Let’s think about the many ways libraries continue to perpetuate myths about the learning to read process. And let’s start thinking, and more importantly, taking action to use our library powers to debunk those myths so that we can help the children in our communities become strong, motivated readers. This includes lifting up truly supportive beginning reader titles during reader’s advisory interactions, and addressing the way we shelve, label and organize our books for new readers. We can also use our voices and collections budgets to encourage publishers, editors, authors, and illustrators to delve into the research themselves so that books being created and published for new readers are supportive AND fun, captivating, and page-turning. 

I am not an expert in the science of learning to read. But as a library professional, I can find research, educate myself, share my knowledge, have conversations, question how things are done, and make changes at my library that can and do impact the developing readers in my community. 

Interested in learning more about the science of learning to read? Here are a few resources to get you started. Add your recommendations in the comments section. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Bit Different This Year

It's January and you might have noticed we haven't posted anything about a Mock Geisel. In fact, you might have noticed we haven't posted nearly as much this entire mock season. This has been a challenging year and as we four co-hosts struggled to maintain personal and professional balance we determined that the best thing we could do was and is to give ourselves some grace. We love running this blog, but it takes a lot of work to coordinate, communicate, write, and edit, in addition to our full-time jobs and lives. Additionally, much of our content is usually created by guest bloggers. We felt that it was important to do what we could to give time and space to our colleagues who might be dealing with their own personal and professional challenges. So we decided not to reach out to our usual roster of guest bloggers this year. 

So what can you expect from Guessing Geisel as we count down to the Youth Media Awards (YMAs) announcement on January, 25h at 8 a.m. CT? We'll post a bit more about contenders and Geisel-related topic, however we won't post a shortlist or host a mock via an online survey. We know this is disappointing, so we want to share some other opportunities to participate in mocks and celebrate the YMAs. 

Participate in a mock held by one of our sibling mock blogs across the interwebs. 

Get excited about mocks by listening to this episode from The Book of Life podcast featuring the hosts of the Sydney Taylor Schmooze, our newest mock blog sibling, and mock blog hosts Steven Engelfried from Heavy Medal, Julie Danielson from Calling Caldecott, and me, Amy Seto Forrester, from Guessing Geisel. There's also a bonus episode with even more mock blog content. 

View the results of other mocks on the ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) Blog's 2021 Mock Election Results page. We encourage you to submit the results of any mocks you host as well. 

Share you predictions with us in the comments below. Even though we aren't holding a mock, that doesn't mean we aren't interested in what will win or be honored! 

Livestream the YMAs. We know 8 a.m. CT is early in some time zones, but the thrill is worth early morning bleary eyes (IMHO). 

What will this coming mock season look like for Guessing Geisel? Our current plan is to return to more robust content this summer/fall and to host a mock in January, 2022. We hope that you'll be there with us when we do! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Lists Galore! - 2020 Beginning Reader Lists

The end of the year is a great time if you’re a list lover, especially in a year when it was more difficult to get ahold of new titles. There's a lot of joy to be found browsing through best of lists, award nomination lists, mock title lists, etc. There are always titles we’ve missed along the way and it’s thrilling to discover more great books for new readers! 

Here are some of the lists we've been browsing this year. Note: We’ve included some lists that combine beginning readers and early chapter books, however we’ve avoided lists that lump all children’s books together.

Have we missed any great lists? Let us know in the comments! 


Friday, December 18, 2020

Scholastic Acorn 2020 Titles

Scholastic Acorn has a number of new series, as well as additional titles to existing series, out this year. Their tagline, “Illustrated early readers that plant a love of reading” lets readers and their grown-ups know that these books are meant to support developing reading skills. All Acorn books use the same 6” x 7.25” trim size. Unfortunately, the stiffness of library bound copies can make it difficult to keep the book open and it’s easy to lose text and illustrations in the gutter. On the flip side, they fit so nicely into readers’ hands. Let’s take a look at the titles eligible for the Geisel this year. 

*Scholastic Acorn titles that are ineligible for the Geisel due to international illustrators are Shadow in the Woods and Other Scary Stories by Max Brallier, illustrated by Letizia Rubegni and The Fairylight Friends series by Jessica Young, illustrated by Marie Vanderbemden. I think both are wonderful, and hope that we’ll be able to highlight them in a post about ineligible titles later this blogging season. 

Let's Play Make BEE-lieve shows Froggy frowning reading a book on a lily pad in a pond with Bumble and Bee playing in mud pretending to be a cow and a pig, respectively. Don't Worry, BEE Happy shows a frowning Froggy on a lily pad with Bumble and Bee on either side smiling, Let's BEE Thankful shows Bumble and Bee playing in autumn leaves while Froggy frowns at a carved pumpkin that resembles her.
Book covers for Bumble and Bee series titles: Let's Play Make BEE-lieve; Don't Worry, BEE Happy; Let's BEE Thankful

Bumble and Bee series by Ross Burach 
Bumble, Bee, and their grumpy friend Froggy make their series debut in three titles this year. Each book contains three short stories that feature Froggy expressing disapproval at Bumble and Bee’s ridiculous antics. In Let’s Play Make BEE-lieve the two bees pretend to be farm animals, then pirates, and finally finish up with a game of hide-and-seek that turns into hide-and-sleep. Autumnal activities, including making an apple pie, carving pumpkins, and getting ready for hibernation are the focus of Let’s BEE Thankful. Finally, Don’t Worry, BEE Happy includes stories about best friend picture day, curing Froggy’s epic case of hiccups, and the fun of doing the waggle dance. An easy to read font and color-coded speech bubbles provide strong support for new readers. Unfortunately, sometimes the panel sequencing is confusing and readers may wonder if they’re supposed to read left to right across a full double-page spread, or the left hand page, top to bottom followed by the right hand page, top to bottom. Bolded text is used to convey emphasis, although at times the bolding was distracting more than helpful. Another challenge could be the vocabulary. Some words, such as “pretend” and “treasure” in Let’s Play Make BEE-lieve are introduced and then repeated several times. However, other words, such as “zebra” and “captain” are used just once. This series definitely has a lot of kid appeal, so maybe reading motivation will help readers push through some of the more challenging layouts and vocabulary. 

Book cover for Who Needs a Check Up? shows a cheerful Hedgehog giving Harry the Hamster a pretend check up
Book cover for Who Needs a Check Up?

Who Needs a Checkup? by Norm Feuti 
Harry is worried about his doctor’s checkup. He doesn’t want to go at all. Luckily, his best friend Hedgehog pretends to be a doctor to show Harry all the parts of a checkup. From testing reflexes (Harry’s favorite) to getting a shot that feels like a pinch (Harry’s least favorite), Hedgehog provides Harry with a way to process and prepare. Like the first two books in the Hello, Hedgehog series, Who Needs a Checkup? provides a platform for socioemotional learning, as well as supports for new readers. Sequential panels and color-coded speech bubbles make the all-dialogue text easy to follow. The font is especially supportive, with stick-and-ball A’s and straightforward G’s. While there’s a lot to recommend this book when thinking in terms of the Geisel criteria, I wonder will the title and cover really grab kids? Will the predictable plot create enough of a page-turning dynamic? 

The Great Bunk Bed Battle shows Fritz in the upper bunk and Franny in the lower bunk fighting over a blanket. The Biggest Roller Coaster shows the siblings on riding a roller coaster.
Book covers for The Great Bunk Bed Battle and The Biggest Roller Coaster

Fox Tails series by Tina Kügler 
Kügler’s Snail & Worm Again was named a Geisel Honor title in 2018. This new series also features dual protagonists, but this time they’re fox siblings Fritz and Franny. In The Great Bunk Bed Battle the two compete to see whether the top or bottom bunk is best. The Biggest Roller Coaster features a trip to an amusement park and quest to find the tallest, fastest, loudest ride. Both books rely on color-coded speech bubbles, an easy to read font, and word repetition in short, simply constructed sentences. The illustrations are bright and enticing, reminiscent of Marc Brown’s Arthur series, with enough visual context clues to help readers along, but not so many that they’ll be “reading” the pictures instead of the text. I have a slight preference for The Biggest Roller Coaster because amusement parks have such kid appeal, but then again, there’s something magical about bunk beds. 

The book cover for Princess Truly: I Can Build It! shows a young girl with brown skin and curly brown hair wearing a tutu using her magical building powers to make a dog biscuit dispensing machine for her dog
Book cover for Princess Truly: I Can Build It!

Princess Truly: I Can Build It! by Kelly Greenawalt, illustrated by Amariah Rauscher 
The third book in the Princess Truly series features a young protagonist with brown skin who loves to invent and build bringing a STEM perspective to beginning readers. A bouncy rhyme scheme and very short sentences support new readers, along with a clear, large font. The pastel illustrations are soft and inviting, a departure from the cartoon style of the other titles in this post. The tone is a bit didactic, “I am caring and smart. / I can build anything, / with my big helpful heart.” However, the whimsy and “rainbow power” of Princess Truly’s inventions creates a fun page-turning dynamic. 

The book cover for Frog Meets Dog shows 3 frogs jumping and a dog on a pogo stick,  Hog on a Log shows a pig kicking 3 frogs and a dog off a log, and Goat in a Boat shows 3 frogs and a goat in a rainboat and an umbrella hat in a boat and a dog in the water while it's raining.
Book covers for Frog Meets Dog, Hog on a Log, Goat in a Boat

Frog and Dog series by Janee Trasler 
Clearly meant for very new readers, the books in this series emphasize phonetics and decoding by relying heavily on rhyming words. In addition to Dog, there’s not one, but three frogs who encounter all sorts of misadventures together (the series title is a bit confusing, I must say). In Frog Meets Dog the friends meet for the first time and Dog tries to keep up with the leaping, jumping, and hopping of the amphibians with hilarious results. A greedy pig messes up fun games and fly-topped lunches in Hog on a Log. Finally, Goat in a Boat features a perilous sea journey, as well as a goat in a raincoat with a boat. While the sound repetition is strong, sometimes new words only appear once. Sometimes the plots are a bit chaotic, which could be overwhelming to new readers. If I were to pick a stand out, it would be Goat in a Boat. It has the strongest plot and the lost on a perilous stormy sea scenes add urgency that leads to a truly satisfying conclusion. 

Which Scholastic Acorn series or title is your favorite? Use the comments to let us know!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

See The Cat: Three Stories About A Dog


 This book is a delight. Readers can tell right from the cover the sort of humor they are going to encounter here and this book does not disappoint. With three short chapters where the conflict between the invisible narrator and Max the dog resolves in a fresh way each time it’s the perfect length for slightly more confident young readers.

David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka manage to infuse this story with originality as the long-suffering Max – who opens Story Number Two with “Here we go again.” – engages with the narration in a new way with each tale, finding increasing agency until concluding the final story with a triumphant and contented nap. Teachers may particularly enjoy the way Max uses the power of writing to change the direction of the second story.

Is this one a strong Geisel contender? The use of word bubbles, plenty of white space, and clear cartoon style illustrations are all strengths we’ve seen in previous Geisel titles. The repetition of color and animal words speaks to context readers are likely to have, leaving them better prepared to appreciate the humorous moments. The relationship between the text and the pictures is more conversational than “the illustrations providing a clue to decode the text”, but with its original take on the narrator/protagonist conflict this one is certainly worth a look by the committee.