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 By consensus, titles with no remaining support also may be withdrawn.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. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

2017 International Beginning Readers Roundup

Today's guest contributor is Patrick Gall. Patrick works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago. He served on the 2015 Newbery Award Committee, is currently serving on the USBBY Outstanding International Books List committee, and is a guest reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine. 

The following books will not be 2018 Geisel Medal/Honor recipients, although in almost every way they excel in fulfilling the Geisel Award terms and criteria. They can’t be awarded a Geisel because they are international, meaning that they were previously (or simultaneously) published in a country other than America. This specifically conflicts with the “books originally published in other countries are not eligible” portion of the Geisel criteria. Many of the listed books have been translated and may end up as 2018 Batchelder Award/Honor winners; however, it is important to note that titles originally published in English (often from Australia, Canada, and England) are ineligible for the Batchelder. For a year-to-year list of excellent international books (both translated to and originally in English) check out the USBBY Outstanding International Books lists

With an eye to design and layout (thanks to Jackie Partch’s excellent GG post), I’ve compiled a list of strong international beginning readers that offer unique perspectives, structures, and an international vibe that are inherently valuable to beginning readers as they grow not only as readers, but as global citizens. 

Additionally, this list is roughly organized by intended audience (youngest to oldest) and includes the country of origin after each publisher: 

1. What Does Baby Want? by Tupera Tupera, illus. by the authors (Phaidon/Japan) – This cleverly designed board book about breastfeeding was likely intended to be read by an adult to a baby, but its clear text-to-image connections would make for a great read aloud by a beginning reader sibling! 

2. Up! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes, illus. by Ashley Barron (Owlkids/Canada) – Beautiful cut-paper collages depict contemporary scenes of babies throughout the world being carried by loved ones. The bubbly text has an overall repetitive structure, all the while introducing readers to new caregivers and carrying methods (and thus new words). 

3. nipêhon / ᓂᐯᐦᐅᐣ / I Wait by Caitlin Dale Nicholson, illus. by author (Groundwood/Canada) – This large format Cree/English beginning reader portrays a very brief and seemingly everyday task – gathering yarrow for tea – with both loving respect and tender humor. Cree-first text interrupts the notion of English as a default. 

4. Hop Up! Wriggle Over! by Elizabeth Honey, illus. by author (Clarion/Australia) – Brimming with nearly every sound effect imaginable, this gentle title features native animals of Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea in anthropomorphized, child-minded scenarios (such as gobbling up breakfast and going to the park). 

5. The Cat Book by Silvia Borando, illus. by author (Candlewick/Italy) & The Dog Book by Lorenzo Clerici, illus. by author (Candlewick/Italy) – With nearly identical narrative structures, these interactive, call-and-response style titles are best read together. The small trim size (with large, bold text), vibrant color palette, and straight-forward cartoon illustrations scream (or meow and bark) successful beginning reader! 

6. I Like, I Don’t Like by Anna Baccelliere, illus. by Ale + Ale (Eerdmans/Italy) – Set to the repetitive text pattern of "I like..." and "I don't like..." a diverse cast of children are depicted either at play or in child labor scenarios with the same familiar objects - such as shoes, rugs, and phones. The collage illustrations appear to incorporate actual images of children, therefore heightening the emotional impact of the work. 

7. Days with Dad by Nari Hong, illus. by author (Enchanted Lion/South Korea) – A loving conversation between a father in a wheelchair and his non-disabled daughter employs a predictable back-and-forth rhythm, helpful illustrations, and simple, effective language. 

8. Waiting for Goliath by Antje Damm, illus. by author (Gecko Press/Germany) – A hapless bear spends a year’s time waiting for his best friend, Goliath. Uniquely illustrated through mixed media dioramas that provide context and reader support, this title develops into a major page-turner. 

9. See You When I See You by Rose Lagercrantz, illus. Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press/Sweden) – While considerably over the 96 page limit (at 148 pages) this fifth Dani book is just as good as its predecessors, and although allotting time to several adult characters, remains kid-centered. Succinct dialog and expressive full-page ink illustrations propel the story forward. 

10. You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illus. by Lauren Tobia (Kane Miller/England) – In this eighth and final Anna Hibiscus title, readers encounter the silly (Anna’s goofy brothers Double and Trouble) to the serious (the death of Anna’s grandfather) in Anna’s African village. Supportive sentence level writing, helpful repetition, and tender illustrations of Anna and her family guide newly independent readers through this important story. 

There are certainly other excellent international beginning reader titles that I left off of this list, and many others that I have likely missed, especially regarding books originally published in countries in South America and Africa. Please share your recommendations and thoughts in the comments.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Let's Get Ready to Mock!

We here at Guessing Geisel are excited to announce we’ll once again be hosting a Guessing Geisel Mock Vote here on the blog.

There are many ways to host a Mock Award. Some take place in schools or public libraries, with young readers, or with colleagues serving as professional development opportunities. All have varying levels of similarity to the committee experience, and many adhere to the criteria to the degree that they can.

The actual Geisel Committee will have two full days to discuss and deliberate face to face in February, and will have spent the previous year reading, rereading, reviewing and assessing, observing beginning readers, and preparing their suggestions and nominations.

For most Mock Awards, participants may not have read all of the titles under consideration. If they are able to gather in person, it is often for no more than an hour or two, or their discussions may be spread out over the course of many weeks or months. If they are not able to gather in person, that component of face to face discussion is missed entirely.

However, we see lots of reasons to host a Mock Award. We find the more closely we can examine the criteria and mimic the balloting process, the more insight we have into the process. We come to see how only one honor book might be awarded in a given year, or how six honors might be chosen. We see how it could take multiple ballots to determine a winner, or how it might be settled after the first one. Only seven people in the entire country will actually know what happened in the room in any given year, and they will never tell. But by mimicking the experience, we develop a keener sense of how things might develop behind those closed doors.

Not to mention, it’s fun!

Sample Ballot from the Geisel Manual

Our Guessing Geisel Mock Vote will be conducted as follows:
  1. At the bottom of this post is a list of titles, to which we invite you to add your suggestions and nominations. Comment and tell us what excellent contenders are missing from our list. Or, make an argument for your favorites already included.
  2. A first ballot will be live from January 18th-24th. To mimic the voting process of the actual committee, you will have room on your ballot for three titles. A first place vote will be worth 4 points, a second place vote 3 points, and a third place vote will be worth 2 points. 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. We are open to the possibility that we, just like the real committee, may have a clear winner after a first ballot, in which case we'll stop there and announce our results.
  3. If the first ballot does not produce a clear winner, we’ll conduct a second ballot from January 25th-February 1st. The real committee would keep going until they met the criteria for determining a winner, but we will stop after our second ballot and determine our winners. We invite you to join us for this virtual Mock Geisel with the hope that you’ll discover some new favorites for beginning readers.

2018 Mock Geisel Contenders

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Two Duck, Duck, Porcupine titles by Salina Yoon

Today's guest contributor, Robbin Friedman, is a children's librarian at the Chappaqua Library. She writes reviews for School Library Journal, serves on ALSC's Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media committee and will soon begin as a member of the 2019 Newbery Committee.

Bold black lines paired with kicky consonants bring an emphatic joy to Salina Yoon's Duck, Duck, Porcupine!, an early reader packed with kid appeal. Two follow-up books, My Kite Is Stuck! And Other Stories and That's My Book! And Other Stories, adhere to the same formula of three short episodes, each featuring Big Duck, Little Duck, and Porcupine as they navigate life's tiny hurdles.

Fans of the first book, or of Mo Willems, will recognize the dialogue-only text in addition to the character dynamics, as Big Duck bumbles and Little Duck saves the day. The animals' simple outlines and bright colors match the energy of their speech, rife with exclamation marks. Each character's defining accessory, while unnecessary for distinguishing a white duck, a yellow duck, and a purple porcupine from each other, provide their own levity--the kind of joy that can only come from a weird-looking animal in a bow tie. Yoon adds a mild metafictive element as Little Duck throws deadpan looks of incredulity out to the reader, in response to Big Duck's foolishness. These visual charms carry the books, which have less distinguished text which likely precludes these titles from Geisel contention.

The visual elements of the text work well, with a clear and well-spaced font against all-white speech bubbles. The line breaks mostly come in logical places, allowing for a fluid reading experience, though the confines of speech bubbles do force a few strange breaks. Repetition and alliteration help readers make their way through the dialogue, though some of the vocabulary -- 'customers,' 'showstopper,' 'operate' -- is both unduly challenging and unsupported in the text.

Pairing a bumptious character (Big Duck) with a quieter, savvier one (Little Duck) is not an original premise, though the gentle Porcupine does add a twist to this popular dynamic, which will appeal to young readers either way. Common plotlines, such as discovering your talent or starting a lemonade stand, contrast with more unlikely stories, as in one episode which becomes a mashup of playing hospital and pirate. One of the most amusing chapters, the title story from My Kite Is Stuck, plays out as a less-surreal version of Oliver Jeffers' book Stuck. The well-worn tropes may not provide a page-turning quality by themselves, but Yoon's charming characters will propel many readers through the books. This vibrant trio undoubtedly has a future on the early reader shelves, but probably not at the awards announcement, at least not this year.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mock Geisel Shortlist and Predictions Round-Up

It’s the most wonderful time of the year...for mock award shortlists and award predictions! As I prepare to co-host a Mock Geisel discussion for my colleagues, I find myself searching cyberspace to find out what titles others are including in their mock award discussions or predicting as winners. So I thought I would round-up a few of my favorites to share with you, dear Guessers.
Shortlists for Mock Discussion
In case you were wondering, here are the titles we chose for my library’s Mock Geisel. We were limited to just 5 this year. Not an easy thing to do when there are so many great books to discuss!
Are you doing a Mock Geisel at your library or school? What titles are you including? Let us know in the comments below.