Category Archives: Guest Blogger Post

Authors, illustrators, educators, and other industry professionals visit the blog to share their expertise.

“What does this book have to do with me?” Why Mirror and Window Books Are Important for All Readers

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal. 

When we lived in Brooklyn, I knew my sons were growing up in a diverse community. They understood that people have different skin colors. That people speak different languages. That people eat different foods. That people believe different things. That we all share a common humanity. That life is full of complexity.

Now we live in the woods and appreciate the quiet of country living but this is far from a diverse community. For my boys, there is greater diversity in the pages of a book than on the streets of their town. Multicultural children’s literature is a doorway into greater understanding that their cultural background is not the only cultural background. That their way of speaking is not the only way of speaking. That their point of view is not shared by everyone.

When we open a book and start to read a story, we use our imaginations to walk through whatever world the author has created. Children’s literature is full of stories about boys and girls that look like my children. Rudine Sims Bishop uses the terms mirror books and window books to describe how we both see ourselves and see others when we read literature. The characters my sons encounter are often mirrors and they find their life experiences reflected in the books they read. Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but do they have enough access to high-quality stories that represent other cultural backgrounds in a positive way?

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What’s in your classroom library? Rethinking Common Core Recommended Texts

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal.

We live in an increasingly diverse society. Nowhere is this more evident than in classrooms, in both urban and suburban schools.  Nationally, our classrooms are almost 45% non-White and the trend toward greater diversity is expected to continue. Our classrooms reflect this trend, but our classroom libraries do not. The New York Times found that despite making up about nearly a quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment, young Latino readers seldom see themselves in books. Those of us in schools working with children from minority backgrounds know this to be true as we scan our bookshelves and find protagonists that are overwhelmingly white and living in suburban, privileged settings. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that in 2011, only 6% of children’s books featured characters from African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific/ Asian Pacific American, or Latino backgrounds.

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Turning to Story after the Sandy Hook Shooting

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal. 

As we unravel the tragic events that took place in Newtown, CT, I am reminded of the dedication Jan Spivey Gilchrest wrote in When The Horses Ride By: Children in the Time of War:

For the beautiful, powerful and courageous children of the world, you are far more than dolls and toy trucks. You are real people only smaller. Know that we are here to love you, listen to you, respect you and protect you.

Gilchrest’s words remind us as educators, parents, and writers that there is great beauty and strength in the children who fill our lives. As the process of healing begins, stories can remind us of just how beautiful, powerful, and courageous children are. Stories can celebrate the simple acts of care people bestow on one another. Stories can, in turn, inspire acts of kindness.

Every semester I ask my students to consider how they will use children’s literature to help their own young students understand traumatic events. Rather than turning to texts that offer generic historical accounts, I find my students selecting stories that center the human spirit. The Classroom Bookshelf has generated a wonderful book list for supporting children with grief and loss. It’s a resource to turn to in the days and weeks ahead as we come together to grieve and to take action. As we move forward as a nation, we will also need books that celebrate children and the power of love and remind us to give thanks. The following books are stories that I continue to come back to as I work alongside teachers. Consider how these and other stories can provide comfort and build a community of care in your classroom. Let’s continue to recognize what’s most important in our classrooms—the children, their stories, and stories that inspire them.

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Guadalupe Garcia McCall gets a visitor from beyond

guest blogger guest post by Summer of the Mariposas author Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

I’ve been travelling to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas a lot these days, visiting with some wonderful librarians, sharing my story with some amazing students, and just enjoying the adventures this burgeoning writing life is affording me.

Road trips have always been a meditative time for me, a time to be thankful for the blessings in my life and ponder the rest. I listen to the silence of the road, look at the scenery, and engage in prayer. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about being an author and wondering if this is going to be my next career, if I will be fortunate enough to have more books published. Not that I am doubting myself, no, it is more that I am feeling so privileged I don’t want to lose myself in the awesomeness of it all. I don’t want to let it go to my head. I want to always remain true to myself, my culture, and my faith.The Gravesite of Don Pedrito Jaramillo

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Bryce Moore’s Guide to Slovakia, Part II

guest bloggerIn this guest post by Vodník author Bryce Moore, Bryce continues to share his favorite things to see, do, and eat when visiting Slovakia.

What to See

In my last post, I gave a rundown of some of Slovakia’s best castles. But Slovakia’s more than just castles:

Bratislava is the capital of the country. It’s a gorgeous old city, and it’s only 45 minutes away from Vienna–they make excellent cities to tour together. Bratislava has much of the same refined culture that you see in Vienna, but it’s at a fraction of the price. (I once went to the state opera and got box seats for $4. Prices have gone up significantly since then, or course.) Check out the markets in the old square, where craftsmen from around the area come together each day to sell their wares. Great stuff.

Tatra Mountains, Slovakia
Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

Banska Stiavnica is a fascinating old mining city. It’s a drive to get there, but once you arrive, you find a city that’s essentially been left alone for the last few hundred years. (One of the tragedies of many places in Slovakia is that Communists made it a point to tear down or change a lot of the historical landmarks. Banska Stiavnica must not have been deemed important enough to warrant Communist attention.) It’s got mines that are over 700 years old, a series of reservoirs, fantastic old churches–and some of the steepest hills I’ve walked up and down. Bring your hiking shoes! (And make sure to check out the Chateau in St. Anton, a town right next to the city. It’s honestly better than any of the attractions I went to in Vienna. Much more authentic—it really gives you a sense of how the Hapsburgs lived.

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Bryce Moore’s Guide to Slovakia, Part I: Castles

guest bloggerIn this guest post by Vodník author Bryce Moore, Bryce shares his favorite things to see, do, and eat when visiting Slovakia.

When I was asked to write a brief guest blog post about traveling to Slovakia, the first question that popped into my head was, “How do I keep it brief?” I’ve been to the country many times, and I absolutely adore it. There’s so much to see and do—although there are some things you have to watch out for if you’re not accompanied by a native Slovak speaker.

First off, let me say that this is just really for western Slovakia. I have yet to be over to the eastern half of the country, and I don’t know much about it. In many ways (from what I’ve been told, at least) the eastern and western sides are like two different places. Eastern Slovakia has a much bigger influence from Hungary. Western Slovakia is influenced by Austria and the Czech Republic. Surprising, in a country that’s significantly smaller than West Virginia. But then again, it’s Europe. Things work differently over there.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me dig right into the meat of the topic: why should someone want to go to Slovakia? A better question would be why wouldn’t someone want to go to Slovakia? It’s a beautiful country, filled with mountains in the north, plains in the south, and rolling hillsides in between. It’s got dense forests, wild rivers, and some of the most awesome castles you can think of. The food is fantastic, the people are friendly, and it’s an area most Americans haven’t even heard of. (Seriously. Try writing a book that takes place in Slovakia, and see how many people ask you where that is again.)

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Angelo Sosa’s Chilled Edamame and Spring Pea Soup

guest bloggerCongratulations to our picture book Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic, which just received its THIRD starred Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnicreview! School Library Journal calls it “a stellar title that will rest comfortably next to acclaimed picture-book memoirs by Allen Say, Peter Sís, and Uri Shulevitz.”

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Writing a Life: How to Write a Biography for Children

guest bloggerAlan Schroeder photoIn this guest post we welcome Alan Schroeder, author of In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage and Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage to discuss what it takes to write a biography for children.

Writing someone’s biography can be a tricky business. First—and this is important—you’ve got to be enthusiastic about the person you’re writing about. Otherwise, it won’t work. Readers will know that on some level you’re not engaged and they won’t enjoy reading the book any more than you enjoyed writing it. I was asked once to write a biography of the Three Stooges. I said no, because I’ve never found their humor to be funny. Sure, I could get the facts right, but that’s not enough. You have to have passion.

Image from BABY FLO
A snapshot of Florence Mills and her dad in ‘Baby Flo’

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What your cat is really thinking: the CAT GIRL blog tour roundup

guest bloggerA few weeks ago we did a giveaway to celebrate the release of Cat Girl’s Day Off and asked readers what they’ve always wanted to ask their cats. We pulled a few of their questions and asked our resident cat translator, Natalie Ng (a.k.a. Cat Girl), to get us some answers. Straight from the cat’s mouth:

What’s the secret to always landing on your feet?

Rufus Brutus the Third: You point them towards the floor. What a silly question.

What’s the most annoying thing your pet parent does?

PD: It’s hard to pick just one thing, don’t you think? There’s the nasty medicine they make me take, for one. Not to mention the dry cat food they give me. They only give me wet food once a week, like I need to be on a diet. Ian does sneak me food from the table though, so he makes up for it a bit. Oh, and trying to keep me in the house all the time! A cat’s gotta roam, you know?

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How to Read a Poem Aloud, Part 5

guest bloggerWell, Poetry Month is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop reading poetry to your kids! Poet/Anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins provides our final tip of the month. Check out his advice as well as his anthology, Amazing Faces.

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