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Monday, February 3, 2020

Job Well Done: The Guessing Geisel Co-Hosts React to the 2020 YMA Announcements

In this post, the co-hosts of Guessing Geisel (Amanda, Amy, Kahla, and Misti) share their thoughts and reactions to the 2020 Geisel Award winner and honor titles. 


Watching the YMAs
Kahla: I watched the livestream from my office, and although my coworkers were not all as enthusiastic about the awards I was, I filled in the gaps by texting reactions with colleagues and friends. The excitement at the conference was contagious, even through the screen!
Misti: I watched the livestream from my desk, as well. I always bring doughnuts on YMA day, and figure that my enthusiastic reactions are good entertainment for the rest of my department!
Amanda: I was tuning in to the livestream from home, feeding my baby and cheering on my friends and colleagues who did amazing work on their various committees. I was so excited that the livestream included shots of the waving committees standing to be recognized for their work. On a personal note, I was delighted to have read more of the award winners than I expected in this year when I’ve had my mind on other things. 
Amy: I was in Philadelphia watching the announcements unfold live! It’s always such a thrill to feel the excitement crackling through the room. In addition to shouting out with joy when favorite books were announced, I was also texting the other co-hosts and live tweeting for @GuessingGeisel


Stop! Bot! by James Yang
Amanda: I was surprised to see a picture book take the top spot this year as the beginning reader series just get stronger and stronger, but not surprised to see Stop! Bot! recognized. From its unique trim size that really supports the vertical movement of the story to the predictable layout of the word balloon on each spread, there’s much to celebrate in this imaginative book. 
Kahla: The beguiling simplicity of the text pairs wonderfully with the bustling illustrations, so full of little details that invite a second (or third) look. 
Amy: We included Stop! Bot! in our mock, but it only got a handful of votes, so this was a lovely surprise. I also love the trim size; to me it says something exciting and unique is inside. This is one I also wish I had been able to read with kids.
Misti: I, too, am looking forward to getting to know this book better -- I gave it a quick read when we put it on our mock list, but now I’ll be sure to go back and give it my full attention. 


Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell
Kahla: Graphic novels got a lot of attention across the board this year, and it’s great to see the comics format becoming more commonplace in the top Geisel spots. This one solidly hits the mark for creativity that engages kids in reading! 
Amanda: I think it’s great that CeCe Bell thought that this one might be too weird for the committee, and that this riff on the classic “Dick and Jane” found a spot. I always appreciate when humor with high kid appeal is recognized. 
Misti: Oh, definitely! I always say that it’s so hard to write humor, and even harder to write it for beginning readers, so I love to see something funny taking home a prize.
Amy: There simply aren’t enough graphic novels for developing readers! I’m always happy to see a graphic novel recognized by the committee because I think it encourages the creation and publication of more. Also, a brain with legs just tickles me! 


Flubby is Not a Good Pet! by J.E. Morris 
Misti: This book was on my list from early on. I’m so glad to see it get recognition from the committee! (I'm also amused, while formatting this post, at the number of Geisel honored titles with exclamation marks this year. These books, emphatically, have something to say!)
Kahla: This book is satisfying on multiple levels, not the least of which is that there is simply something irresistible and timeless about fat, lazy cats. 
Amy: Agreed! I think kids can see the promise of a resistant cat in the title of a book can only lead to hilarity. I also appreciate the depiction of Flubby’s child owner with brown skin and hair. While not #OwnVoices, there’s still so little diversity in beginning readers that it’s notable. 
Amanda: What Kahla said! There’s not a word out of place in the pacing of this relatable story. I can’t wait to share this one with owners of bad pets everywhere. 


The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli
Amanda: Pizzoli’s no stranger to the Geisel Award. Congrats to him and CeCe Bell for being the repeat honorees this year. How meta to recognize a story in which our main character learns to read “over time, and with practice” with an award for those engaged in that very learning themselves. 
Kahla: To echo Amanda, how cool to see a book all about the power of stories and libraries make one of the top spots for an award that celebrates learning to read! Especially when said story manages to tug at adult heartstrings while also hitting that kid-humor sweet spot with a nice toilet scene. 
Misti: This is a book with great kid appeal -- well, all-ages appeal, really!  I also love the learning to read connection in a Geisel honoree.
Amy: Pizzoli lives in Philadelphia, so I imagine it must have been a really cool experience to receive that phone call on Sunday and know that the YMAs were happening in his own city! I didn’t see him there (there were a lot of people!), but I hope he was able to be in the room to experience the excitement of a roomful of people going wild about his book! 


Other Thoughts
Amy: A little part of me is sad to say goodbye to this round of contenders, but another part of me is excited about all the amazing titles to come! I stopped at a lot of publisher booths to ask about upcoming Geisel contenders (see the @GuessingGeisel Twitter account for pics) and it’s gonna be a good year! 
Kahla: Can't wait for it! Thanks to everyone who helped fill this year at Guessing Geisel with great conversations. 
Misti: It’s been a great year on Guessing Geisel, and I echo Kahla’s thanks to all of our great guest contributors, and to those who read and comment.  We couldn’t do it without you!
Amanda: It’s very exciting to have the historic overlap between the CSK and Caldecott/Newbery picks! And what a delight to see Antoinette Portis (2007 Geisel Honor) take a Sibert honor, and Kevin Henkes (2014 and 2016 Geisel Honors) recognized with the Legacy Award.  Overall it feels like a pretty satisfying year! There will always be beloved books left out the selections, but job well done to the committees this year.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Congratulations, to the 2020 Geisel Award Winner and Honors!

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 2020 Geisel Award winner . . . . 


Stop! Bot! by  

Stop! Bot!, by James Yang!

The honor books named are:

Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell

Flubby is Not a Good Pet!, by J.E. Morris 


The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli



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 Jean B. Gaffney, and to the members of the committee - Denise Davila, Melody T. Leung, Sara Pope, Kelly Finan Richards, Barbara S. Spears - on your selections. Thank you all for your dedication to recognizing the very best books for beginning readers!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Starting a Beginning Reader Book Club

Have you been enjoying the Guessing Geisel posts this year? Are you looking for fresh programming ideas? Why not squish them together by starting a book club for beginning readers!

I have now had two sessions of my newly-minted Beginning to Read Book Club, and although building a following for a new program can take time, I’m having a blast. My goal with this post is to share the resources I used in my planning, talk a bit about why such a book club can be a good addition to a programming lineup, and share what I’ve done so far and what I plan to try in the future.

First and foremost, I must give credit to the lovely ladies at Jbrary (truly, where would we all be without them?) Not surprisingly, they have a post about starting a beginning reader book club, and it was invaluable to me during the planning phase. Another useful resource is this SLJ article about beginning reader book clubs around the country. And finally, all of the wonderful Guessing Geisel reviews this year served as both inspiration and resource as I put together my list of titles for the coming months.

Book clubs are in many ways a natural fit for libraries: we get to show off our collection, talk about books we like with folks in our community, connect members of the community with one another, and create positive library experiences. I wanted to offer a literary program to fill the gap between storytime and the book clubs we offer for older kids. I also wanted to demystify the beginning reader section for patrons and showcase an often confusing and intimidating collection.

Given that this was a new program for my library and I wasn’t sure what reading levels might show up to the first meeting, I decided to start with the basics: the Elephant and Piggie series. I pulled several titles from the series and set them up on a table, and also set up a craft. I borrowed heavily from Jbrary for the structure of my meetings, so I won’t recreate that here; the only differences are that I don’t have participants register for the program, and I don’t always have multiples of the titles, so instead I’m using series where I can order several and let the kids all pick a different one (or more!) to check out if they want. They don’t need to read anything ahead of time to participate. At the meetings, we decide which title from the series we want to read together, and how we want to read it—I can read it to them, they can read it to me, or we can all take turns reading a page. So far they have always chosen to read at least some of it themselves.

I had one reader show up to the first session, and although he was able to read longer books, he enjoyed the Elephant and Piggie titles, and we spent some time decoding the images and speech bubbles and talking about the characters. Meeting two showcased the Pig in a Wig books, and this time I had three participants of slightly varying reading levels. All were comfortable reading the books, so after we had read the first few pages, we paused and spent a few minutes noticing the rhyme scheme and guessing what might happen on the next page based on that pattern. We also talked about the end papers—which in this series provide clues to the content of the story—and used the end papers to make educated guesses about what might happen in the titles from the series that we hadn’t read together.

Next meeting I plan to branch out into nonfiction, with the slightly more challenging Disgusting Critters series by Elise Gravel. Other series I’d like to explore in the coming months include Charlie and Mouse and Fox and Chick, both of which will be useful in introducing chapters and talking about themes and character in greater depth.

Has anyone else started a club for beginning readers? Anyone else thinking about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Lists Upon Lists!

Guessing Geisel’s mock results have been announced, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped reading Geisel contenders! If you’re looking for more great contenders, or simply want to read more beginning readers, here are a few lists of favorite 2019 beginning reader titles. 

  • If you live anywhere near Portland, OR you still have time to register for Oregon Library Association’s Children’s Services Division Mock Geisel Award Workshop (registration closes on January 15). They have a great shortlist
  • Michele over at Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook has been reading books for developing readers all year. She’s sharing her favorites using the hashtag #road2reading.
  • 100 Scope Notes’ Travis Jonker names his favorites in his annual Geisel Prediction Post.
  • The CYBILS (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) has posted their list of nominees for their Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books category. Winners will be announced in February. 
  • Betsy Bird posted her favorites Easy Books as part of her 31 Days, 31 Lists series (side note: Betsy is also one of our guest contributors!). 
  • Finally, you can see mock results for many awards collected on the ALSC blog. At the time of writing, there weren’t any mock Geisel results posted, but I’m sure the results will be rolling in soon. 

Whether you held a mock with colleagues, students, we’d love to know what titles you picked, as well as your results. Please share in the comments below! 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

We Have a Mock Winner (and Honors, too!)

We here at Guessing Geisel are happy to announce the official winner and honor titles for the 2020 Guessing Geisel Mock!


Book cover for Fox + Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier
Winner: Fox + Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier


Book covers for mock honor titles
Honors:
  • Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot by Cece Bell 
  • Penny and Her Sled by Kevin Henkes
  • Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes 
For the first time in Guessing Geisel history we arrived at our mock winner and honor titles after just one round of balloting! 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), we were able to clearly see our winning and honor titles. Out of 36 ballots, Ruzzier’s delightfully witty duo garnered 64 points, a full 8 points ahead of the crowd! Or, another way to look at it is 19 out of 36 people included Fox + Chick on their ballot!

As with the Real Committee, we decided there would be no limit (or requirement) for the number of honor titles to be named. Per the award manual, once a winning title has been chosen through the balloting process, the committee then turns their attention to Honor Books.
“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.” 
In this case, we looked at the titles with the next highest number of points on our first ballot. All sitting between 43-56 points, each of our mock honor books were at least 15 points ahead of the next contender (Let’s Have a Sleepover at 28 points). This 15 point gap felt big enough to merit a cut off point. You can see the point tally below.


Ballot tally
Other interesting balloting results:
  • Each of our 12 contenders got at least 2 votes. 
  • Our readers also voted for two write in titles: Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis and Snail & Worm: All Day by Tina Kügler. 
  • Fox + Chick and Chick and Brain both had 10 first place votes, but differed in numbers of second and third place votes. 
  • The mock winner and all the honor titles were created by authors and illustrators with works named Geisel Award winners or honor books in previous years. Ruzzier for the first Fox + Chick title (2019, honor), Bell for Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover (2013, honor), Henkes has had two brushes with Geisel fame: Waiting (2016, honor) and Penny and Her Marble (2013, honor), and Snyder and Hughes took home the medal in 2018 for the first Charlie & Mouse title. 
  • For more about balloting and reballoting, check out Amanda’s previous post
Now all we can do is eagerly anticipate the announcement of the real YMAs on Monday, January 27, 2020, at 8 a.m. ET. We hope you'll join us in live streaming online or watching (and cheering!) in person at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, PA.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

What's It Like to Be on the Geisel Committee #5

Today's guest blogger, Julie Danielson, writes about picture books at her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and reviews for Kirkus, BookPage, The Horn Book, and Tennessee's Chapter 16. She is one of the bloggers at The Horn Book's Calling Caldecott and is a Lecturer for The University of Tennessee's School of Information Sciences. 

This is an exciting time of year for the Real Geisel Committee, who are making final nominations for the award — and who will soon meet behind closed doors to start deliberations and pick the big winner and Honor books.

Angela Frederick, Librarian at Nolensville High School in middle Tennessee, is familiar with the thrill of working as a team on a Geisel committee. She was a member of the 2019 committee, the one that gave the Geisel Award to Corey R. Tabor's Fox the Tiger, which her committee described as being "an inviting tale of the power of transformation and friendship." (You can see the Honor books listed here.) Angela has served on multiple award committees, including the 2015 Printz committee, and she chaired the 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

But I wanted to find out from her what it was like to serve on the Geisel committee, so we talked via email about her experience.

JD: Are Geisel committee members asked to read professional materials on evaluating beginning readers prior to committee work?

AF: There is a manual for the committee, and there is a suggested reading list of articles and books written by various leaders in the field. I myself read Robin Smith's articles and Kathleen Horning's From Cover to Cover, among other articles from School Library Journal and Booklist, etc.

JD: Child appeal is a part of the Geisel criteria. When you did your committee work, how often were you getting feedback from children about books you read?

AF: Several committee members were working directly with children in school or public library settings and were using the books in storytimes or lessons.

JD: Do you have any beginning reader pet peeves?

AF: I dislike when difficult vocabulary words are included in an otherwise easy-to-decode text. I feel like this can discourage a new reader who is having success with the other words. I also don't like when sentences continue on to the next page before ending.

JD: How did serving on the committee affect your work as a librarian, generally speaking?

AF: It helped me understand another aspect of the power of literature to help children on their journey to becoming readers. A book that can be read to a child by an adult is often written differently than a book that a young reader can read on their own.

JD: You've served on other committees. What is one way in which serving on the Geisel committee differs from other committee work you've done?

AF: The criteria was much more specific than some of the other committees, so that the field of choices was narrowed down quickly.

JD: What's the most memorable or valuable thing you learned from your committee work?

AF: I think the most valuable thing I learned is how to recognize an early reader of quality. I was also reminded of how a great committee working together can be such a lovely experience.

JD: What is your very favorite beginning reader book?

AF: Geisel 2019 Award Winner Fox the Tiger by Corey Tabor, of course!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Geisel Goes Global: International Beginning Readers

Photo courtesy of Ann Schwab
Ann Schwab is a Senior Librarian with Denver Public Library where she manages the Central Children’s Library. She currently leads the library’s Grade Level Reading project team and is excited to explore new ways to support children in K – 3rd grade (and the adults in their lives!) as they learn to read. 

Sometimes I page through a new book and say to myself, “This looks pretty good.” I read it with award criteria in mind and think, “Actually, this is really good.” My excitement builds, “This could be a contender!” I flip to the author and illustrator bios and there’s that familiar sinking feeling. It’s a no go. Ineligible. The author or illustrator (or both!) live in another country and the award is “restricted to author(s) and illustrator(s) who are citizens or residents of the United States”. Or I discover the book has been translated and “books originally published in other countries are not eligible.” While not eligible for the Geisel, many are excellent examples of other aspects of the criteria and contribute to “the body of children’s literature that encourages and supports the beginning reader".

It’s time to celebrate these books and not let them get lost in the flurry of end-of-year mock excitement! Here are seven titles with an international connection published in the US in 2019. I’ve included publisher, translator and author/illustrator country of residence to the best of my knowledge. Be sure to share your favorite Geisel-worthy international titles from this year in the comments!

Cover of Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka
Cover of Poppy & Sam and the
Mole Mystery
by Cathon
Cover of The Clothesline by Orbie















Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka, illustrated by the author (published by Gecko, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano, author lives in Japan)
A board book masquerading as a beginning reader? A beginning reader masquerading as a board book? In the end it doesn’t matter because this gem is full of engaging illustrations, action, and humor. The vertical design may be a challenge for some, but the simple sentences and repeating text help make this an accessible book for new readers.

Poppy & Sam and the Mole Mystery by Cathon, illustrated by the author (published by Owlkids, translated from the French by Susan Ouriou, author lives in Canada)
Young Poppy and her panda pal Sam are back for more detective teamwork in this follow-up to 2018’s Poppy & Sam and The Leaf Thief. This tale of friendship and discovery contains short sentences in speech bubbles with ample white space around the text making this a satisfying graphic novel/picture book hybrid for new readers.

The Clothesline by Orbie, illustrated by the author (published by Owlkids, translated from the French by Karen Li, author lives in Canada)
Reggie has a ritual when he races down the stairs. He likes to yank the clothesline knot and hear the satisfying sound it makes when he releases it. One day he slips in the midst of this ritual yank and finds himself whizzing down the clothesline only to get stuck dangling above the backyard. With straightforward text and watercolor illustrations full of drama and suspense, the plot clearly “advances from one page to the next and creates a ‘page-turning’ dynamic”.

Cover of Hats Are Not for Cats!
by Jacqueline K. Rayner
Cover of Tip and Tucker:
Road Trip
by Ann Ingalls
and Sue Lowell Gallion,
illustrated by André Ceolin 
Cover of Soccerverse: Poems
About Soccer 
by Elizabeth
Steinglass, illustrated by Edson Ikê


















Hats Are Not for Cats! by Jacqueline K. Rayner, illustrated by the author (published by Clarion, author lives in the UK) “Hats are not for cats!” decries a pompous canine in this humorous tale while a fun loving, friendly feline sets out to prove otherwise. Simple, rhyming text with lots of repetition, along with expressive illustrations, make this picture book also work well as a beginning reader.

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by André Ceolin
Tip and Tucker: Hide and Squeak by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by André Ceolin (published by Sleeping Bear, illustrator lives in Brazil)
Hamsters Tip and Tucker are the stars of this new entry in Sleeping Bear’s leveled reading series “I Am a Reader!”. Specifically targeted to grades K-1, the series follows the adventures of the hamster duo in teacher Mr. Lopez’s classroom. Italicized text highlights occasional words and phrases in Spanish which may be a welcome addition or stumbling block for readers depending on their background knowledge.

Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer by Elizabeth Steinglass, illustrated by Edson Ikê (published by Wordsong, illustrator lives in Brazil)
In 22 poems in a variety of forms, this book celebrates all things soccer, from equipment to dealing with bullies and ball hogs. The reverso poems “Instructions to Field Players” and “Instructions to the Goalkeeper” gives readers a chance to read the same text twice in a unique way. The poems span the K - 2nd grade reading continuum with some featuring short sentences and words while others contain longer sentences with more advanced vocabulary. The subject matter and imaginative illustrations, however, are sure to motivate many readers and their background knowledge of the game may buoy them through the challenging text.

Cover of Beneath the Bed and
Other Scary Stories
 by Max
Brallier, illustrated by
Letizia Rubegni 
Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories by Max Brallier, illustrated by Letizia Rubegni (published by Scholastic, illustrator lives in Italy)
A collection of scary stories wrapped in an early chapter book package, this title hits the “subject matter must be intriguing enough to motivate the child to read” criteria sweet spot. Rubegni’s detailed, Edward Gorey-esque illustrations reinforce details of the stories. While this title hovers at the upper end of the Geisel target audience, it does so with confident creepiness and flair.