Cybils: Winners of the 2010 Cybils Awards

February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Check out this years’ top picks from children’s and young adult book bloggers:

Cybils: Winners of the 2010 Cybils Awards.


Books for [blank] grade

February 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

I get a lot of questions from students (and sometimes parents) about where in the Curriculum Library they can find books for a child in a particular grade. I feel a little apologetic as I explain that the books are not arranged that way. I can’t just point to a section of shelves and say “Here is where you will find the books for fifth graders.” In fact, it is impossible to arrange a library this way, since any single book could be read by a child in any number of grades. Individual reading ability, personal interests, and purpose all play a part in what is appropriate for any given child. For students who expect to get an easy answer, this may be frustrating, I know.

So how is one to identify a book that would work for a particular child or a particular assignment in an education class (which in theory, should be focused on teaching a particular child or group of children)? When choosing a book for any purpose, here are a few things to consider before beginning your search in the catalog or the stacks:

1) Are you looking for a book that will fit the average reader at that grade level? The struggling reader? A challenging book for that grade level?

2) Do you want the child (hypothetically or actually) to read the book themselves? With help? Or do you want to read the book aloud to him or her? These choices make a difference, since children learning to read can understand stories far beyond the level at which they can personally read.

3) How are you planning on using the book? What kind of activities will you structure around the story, if any? Depending on the intended use of the story, a simple or complicated plot may be in order.

4) Is there a particular subject which you would like to use, or which you think the target audience would find particularly compelling?

Considering the answer to these four questions is the best place to start. If catalog searches and browsing prove unfruitful, I sometimes have luck with Google searches; however, it is best to consider the above questions first, since “best read-aloud books about dinosaurs for first graders” would produce a more targeted(though similar) list than “best books for first graders.”

New books!

December 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Emperor’s Egg
by Martin Jenkins


Ruth Law Thrills a Nation
by Don Brown


The Enormous Turnip
by Alexei Tolstoy


Watermelon Day
by Kathi Appelt


Dear Deer,
by Gene Barretta


Cup Cooking: Individual Child Portion Picture Recipes
by Barbara Johnson Foote

Oh noes! We have these banned books in our library!

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Watch out! These dangerous reading materials are available in our Curriculum Library– for future teachers to read!

Twilight (series), By Stephanie Meyer

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

Banned in Australia (2009) for primary school students because the series is too racy. Librarians have stripped the books from shelves in some junior schools because they believe the content is too sexual and goes against religious beliefs. They even have asked parents not to let kids bring their own copies of Stephenie Meyer’s smash hit novels — which explore the stormy love affair between a teenage girl and a vampire — to school. Source: Nov. 2009, pp. 207–8.

Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Withdrawn from classroom use and the approved curriculum at the Montgomery County, Ky. High School (2009), but available at the high school library and student book club. Some parents have complained about fi ve novels that contain foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse — deemed unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need  in college preparatory classes. The titles appeared on suggested book lists compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, for twelve- to eighteen-year-olds who are “reluctant readers.” The superintendent removed the book because it wasn’t on the pre-approved curriculum list and couldn’t be added by teachers in the middle of a school year without permission. Source: Jan. 2010, pp. 16–17; Mar. 2010, p. 56.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Retained on the summer reading list at Antioch, Ill. High School (2009) despite objections from several parents who found its language vulgar and racist. In response to concerns, however, the district will form a committee each March to review future summer reading assignments. The committee, which will include parents, would decide whether parents should be warned if a book contains possibly objectionable material. Source: Sept. 2009, p. 171.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

Burned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library (1939) and barred from the Buffalo, NY Public Library (1939) on the grounds that “vulgar words” were used. Banned in Kansas City, MO (1939); Banned in Kern County CA the scene of Steinbeck’s novel, (1939); Banned in Ireland ( 1953); On Feb. 21, 1973, eleven Turkish book publishers went on trial before an Istanbul martial law tribunal on charges of publishing, possessing and selling books in violation of an order of the Istanbul martial law command. They faced possible sentences of between one month’s and six months’ imprisonment “for spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” and the confiscation of their books. Eight booksellers were also on trial with the publishers on the same charge involving the Grapes of Wrath; Banned in Kanawha, IA High School classes (1980); Challenged in Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980); Challenged as required reading for Richford, VT (1981) High School English students due to the book’s language and portrayal of a former minister who recounts how he took advantage of a young woman. Banned in Morris, Manitoba, Canada (1982); Removed from two Anniston, Ala. high school libraries (1982), but later reinstated on a restrictive basis. Challenged at the Cummings High School in Burlington, NC (1986) as an optional reading assignment because the “book is full of filth. My son is being raised in a Christian home and this book takes the Lord’s name in vain and has all kinds of profanity in it.” Although the parent spoke to the press, a formal complaint with the school demanding the book’s removal was not filed. Challenged at the Moore County school system in Carthage, NC (1986) because the book contains the phase “God damn:” Challenged in the Greenville, SC schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a “vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references.” Challenged in the Union City, TN High School classes(1993).

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

Banned in Ireland (1953); Syracuse, IN (1974); Oil City, PA (I977); Grand Blanc, MI (1979); Continental, OH (1980) and other communities. Challenged in Greenville, SC (1977) by the Fourth Province of the Knights of the Ku Klux KIan; Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980); St. David, AZ (1981) and Tell City, IN (1982) due to “profanity and using God’s name in vain.” Banned from classroom use at the Scottsboro, AL Skyline High School (1983) due to “profanity.” The Knoxville, TN School Board chairman vowed to have “filthy books” removed from Knoxville’s public schools (1984) and picked Steinbeck’s novel as the first target due to “its vulgar language.” Reinstated at the Christian County, KY school libraries and English classes (1987) after being challenged as vulgar and offensive. Challenged in the Marion County, WV schools (1988), at the Wheaton Warrenville, IL Middle School (1988), and at the Berrien Springs, MI High School (1988) because the book contains profanity. Removed from the Northside High School in Tuscaloosa, AL (1989) because the book “has profane use of God’s name.” Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, TN (1989) because “Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude:” In addition, “he was very questionable as to his patriotism:’ Removed from all reading lists and collected at the White Chapel High School in Pine Bluff, AR (1989) because of objections to language. Challenged as appropriate for high school reading lists in the Shelby County, TN school system (1989) because the novel contained “offensive language.” Challenged, but retained in a Salina, KS (1990) tenth grade English class despite concerns that it contained “profanity” and “takes the Lord’s name in vain.” Challenged by a Fresno, CA (1991) parent as a tenth grade English college preparatory curriculum assignment, citing “profanity” and “racial slurs.” The book was retained, and the child of the objecting parent was provided with an alternative reading assignment. Challenged in the Riveria, TX schools (1990) because it contains profanity. Challenged as curriculum material at the Ringgold High School in Carroll Township, PA (1991) because the novel contains terminology offensive to blacks. Removed and later returned to the Suwannee, FL High School library (1991) because the book is “indecent” Challenged at the Jacksboro, TN High School (1991) because the novel contains “blasphemous” language, excessive cursing, and sexual overtones. Challenged as required reading in the Buckingham County, VA schools (1991) because of profanity. In 1992 a coalition of community members and clergy in Mobile, AL requested that local school officials form a special textbook screening committee to “weed out objectionable things:” Steinbeck’s novel was the first target because it contained “profanity” and “morbid and depressing themes.’ Temporarily removed from the Hamilton, OH High School reading list (1992) after a parent complained about its vulgarity and racial slurs. Challenged in the Waterloo, IA schools (1992) and the Duval County, FL public school libraries (1992) because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled.  Challenged at the Modesto, CA High School as recommended reading (1992) because of “offensive and racist language.” The word “nigger” appears in the book. Challenged at the Oak Hill High School in Alexandria, LA (1992) because of profanity. Challenged as an appropriate English curriculum assignment at the Mingus, AZ Union High School (1993) because of “profane language, moral statement, treatment of the retarded, and the violent ending.” Pulled from a classroom by Putnam County, TN school superintendent (1994) “due to the language.’ Later, after discussions with the school district counsel, it was reinstated. The book was challenged in the Loganville, GA High School (1994) because of its “vulgar language throughout.” Challenged in the Galena, KS school library (1995) because of the book’s language and social implications. Retained in the Bemidji, MN schools (1995) after challenges to the book’s “objectionable” language. Challenged at the Stephens County High School library in Toccoa, Ga (I995) because of “curse words.’’  The book was retained. Challenged, but retained in a Warm Springs, VA High School (1995) English class. Banned from the Washington Junior High School curriculum in Peru, IL (1997) because it was deemed “age inappropriate:” Challenged, but retained, in the Louisville, OH high school English classes (1997) because of profanity. Removed, restored, restricted, and eventually retained at the Bay County schools in Panama City, FL (1997). A citizen group, the 100 Black United, Inc., requested the novel’s removal and “any other inadmissible literary books that have racial slurs in them, such as the using of the word ‘Nigger.” Challenged as a reading list assignment for a ninth grade literature class, but retained at the Sauk Rapids Rice High School in St. Cloud, MN (1997). A parent complained that the book’s use of racist language led to racist behavior and racial harassment. Challenged in O’Hara Park Middle School classrooms in Oakley, CA (1998) because it contains racial epithets. Challenged, but retained, in the Bryant, AR school library (1998) because of a parent’s complaint that the book “takes God’s name in vain 15 times and uses Jesus’s name lightly.”  Challenged at the Barron, WI School District (1998). Challenged, but retained in the sophomore curriculum at West Middlesex, PA High School (1999) despite objections to the novel’s profanity. Challenged in the Tomah, WI School District (1999) because the novel is violent and contains obscenities. Challenged as required reading at the high school in Grandville, MI (2002) because the book “is full of racism, profanity, and foul language.” Banned from the George County, MS schools (2002) because of profanity. Challenged in the Normal, IL Community High Schools (2003) because the books contains “racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values.” An alternative book, Steinbeck’s The Pearl, was offered but rejected by the family challenging the novel.  The committee then recommended The House on Mango Street and The Way to Rainy Mountain as alternatives.  Retained in the Greencastle-Antrim, PA (2006) tenth-grade English classes.  A complaint was filed because of “racial slurs” and profanity used throughout the novel.  The book has been used in the high school for more than thirty years, and those who object to its content have the option of reading an alternative reading.  Cahllenged at the Newton, IA High School (2007) because of concerns about profanity and the portrayal of Jesus Christ.  Newton High School has required students to read the book since at least the early 1980s.  In neighboring Des Moines, it is on the recommended reading list for ninth-grade English, and it is used for some special education students in the eleventh and twelfth grades.  Retained in the Olathe, KS Ninth grade curriculum (2007) despite a parent calling the novel a “worthless, profanity-riddled book” which is “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”

Deadline, by Chris Crutcher

Withdrawn from classroom use and the approved curriculum at the Montgomery County, Ky. High School (2009), but available at the high school library and student book club. Some parents have complained about fi ve novels containing foul language and covering topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse — unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college preparatory classes. The titles appeared on suggested book lists compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, for twelve- to eighteen-year-olds who are “reluctant readers.” The superintenden removed the book because it wasn’t on the pre-approved curriculum list and couldn’t be added by teachers in the middle of a school year without permission. Source: Jan. 2010, pp. 16–17; Mar. 2010, p. 56.

Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Burned in Alamagordo, NM (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials series), by Phillip Pullman

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence

Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit

The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, by Mark Twain

Reason: racism

My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier

Retained in all Muscogee County, Ga. elementary school libraries (2009), despite a parent’s concerns about profanity in the book. Source: May 2009.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Appalled by descriptions of adolescent pill-popping, suicide, and lethal injections given to babies and the elderly, two parents demanded that the Mt. Diablo School District, headquartered in Concord, Calif. (2007), eliminate the controversial but award-winning book from the school reading lists and libraries. Source: Jan. 2008, p. 8.

Anastasia Krupnik, by Lois Lowry

Profanity or Inappropriate Language

The Stupids (series), by Harry G. Allard

The first book in the series The Stupids Have a Ball, gets banned because the Stupids throw a costume party to celebrate their children failing every subject in school (including recess). Its critics say this promotes negative behavior and reinforces low self esteem. Another book in the series The Stupids Die gets banned due to objections about the word “die” in its title.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

Reasons given include the book’s references to witches and crystal balls (although the characters are not in fact witches, and the crystal ball is a science-fictional one), the claim that it “challenges religious beliefs”, and the listing of Jesus “with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders”.

Blubber, by Judy Blume

Reason: Language and bullying behavior (

Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

The Gwinnett County, Ga. school board (2006) rejected a parent’s pleas to take Harry Potter books out of school libraries, based on the claim they promote witchcraft. The Georgia Board of Education ruled December 14 that the parent had failed to prove her contention that the series “promote[s] the Wicca religion,” and therefore that the book’s availability in public schools does not constitute advocacy of a religion. On May 29, 2007, Superior Court judge Ronnie Batchelor upheld the Georgia Board of Education’s decision to support local school officials. County school board members have said the books are good tools to encourage children to read and t spark creativity and imagination. Removed from the St. Joseph School in Wakefield, Mass. (2007) because the themes of witchcraft and sorcery were inappropriate for a Catholic school. Source: July 2006, pp. 207-8; Nov. 2006, p. 289; Mar. 2007, pp. 72-73; July 2007, p. 151; Sept. 2007, pp. 205-6; Jan. 2008, pp. 36-37.

A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

Reasons: subject matters about disobeying parents, dying children and the presence of supernatural forces in the poetry. (

Are You there God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Reason: Discussion of menstruation and religion.

The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney

Reason: Sexual content; challenge to authority

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey

Reason: insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority. Captain Underpants costumes have also been banned from schools.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Patterson

Reason: Language and religious concerns.

Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher

Challenged at the Missouri Valley, Iowa High School (2007) because the book uses racial slurs and profanity. Challenged as an optional reading in a bullying unit at the Lake Oswego, Oreg. Junior High School (2007) because the novel is “peppered with profanities, ranging from derogatory slang terms to sexual encounters and violence.” Students are given a list of book summaries and a letter to take to their parents. Four of the eight optional books offered are labeled as having “mature content/language.” Source: May 2007, p. 98; July 2007, p. 149.

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reason: Controversial subject matter; sexual content

Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park

Reason: name calling and bad grammar

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher

Reason: language

Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine

Reason: violence

Diary of Anne Frank

Challenged at the Culpeper County, Va. Public school (2010) by a parent requesting that her daughter not be required to read the book aloud. Initially, it was reported that offi cials have decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank’s diary, one of the most enduring symbols of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, due to the complaint that the book includes sexual material and homosexual themes. The director of instruction announced the edition, published on the fiftieth anniversary of Frank’s death in a concentration camp, will not be used in the future despite the fact the school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints. The remarks set off a hailstorm of criticism online and brought international attention to the 7,600-student school system in rural Virginia. The superintendent said, however, that the book will remain a part of the English classes, although it may be taught at a different grade level. Source: Mar. 2010, pp. 57–58; May 2010, p. 107.

The Egypt Game, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Challenged as part of a reading list in a fourth-grade class at Southern Hills Elementary School in Wichita Falls, Tex. (2009) because the book includes scenes depicting Egyptian worship rituals. The Newbery Award-winning book has been an optional part of the school district’s curriculum for years. “I’m not going to stop until it’s banned from the school district. I will not quiet down. I will not back down. I don’t believe any student should be subjected to anything that has to do with evil gods or black magic,” said the student’s father. Source: Jan. 2010, p. 17.

The Misfits

“Communicate[s] complex social ideas and agendas to children who are too young to critically examine them.” Pleasant Valley, Iowa, 2004

The Bad Beginning

Reason: Discusses child abuse and negative thoughts

The Cay, by Theodore Taylor

Reason: Racial remarks, prejudice

Smack, by Melvin Burgess

Reason: Sexual content

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig

The book raised controversy among several school districts and organizations for its satirical portrayal of the police as pigs, and as a result was banned in parts of the United States.

Nappy Hair, by Carolivia Herron

The book celebrates the differences and unique attributes of black people. Yet, when white teacher Ruth Sherman read this book to her third-graders she was pilloried by black and Hispanic community members who had not read the book.

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Witchcraft and supernatural elements as well as a spirited child.

The Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

Reasons for banning it have been descriptions of injuries and trauma that were apparently too well written.

The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

Banned in some U.S. areas for “being an allegorical political commentary”.

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

Banned for the apparent poor influence it will have on children which is anti-authoritative.

The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition (really…)

“This is one of my favorite cases, although not exactly a kids book; it was banned in some libraries for containing “39 objectionable words” such as slang terms “bed” “knocker” and “balls”. I wonder what Orwell would think of banning the Dictionary, but he’s banned, too, so no one will wonder.”

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

It has been banned in numerous public lower schools, faced criticism from various religious communities, and even faced removal from public libraries.

Sounder, by William H. Armstrong

Has been challenged for use of a racial slur.

Little House on the Prairie (series), by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Has been challenged for its negative treatment of Native Americans.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?, by Bill Martin and Eric Carle

Banned in January 2010 by the Texas Board of Education because the author shares a name with a Marxist theorist. Apparently, no one bothered to check if they were the same person.

The Witches, by Roald Dahl

Concerns over misogyny, violence and devaluing the life of a child.

Information about challenges found on ALA website,,,,, Amazon, the Huffington Post and Wikipedia


July 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Having been an avid GoodReads user for the past few months (how did I ever function as a reader without it??), I had a few people mention online resources which would recommend books, based on your favorites. After reading a blog post by Free Technology for Teachers, I have finally checked out

While I haven’t had too much time to play with it, I can imagine this resource being useful for me when TEP students ask for recommendations for books for their reading students.

The recommendations are entered by users. The theory is that users will only recommend books that they like, and link them to other books that they have liked, so if you look up a book, you will find others that you will also enjoy.

Some more inventive recommendations are definitely in order for some books. For example, I looked up Cam Jansen and the Boxcar Children, both of which are popular series for TEP students’ child readers to have read. However, the recommendations for these consist almost solely of other Cam Jansen and Boxcar Children books. The recommendations for Harry Potter books are better.

So, with room for improvement, go get yourself an account and improve it!

New books for June

June 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m super excited about the books we’ve gotten in the past month. In the bunch, we have biographies, some great fiction, and bullying prevention materials. Here they are:

Borrowed Names, by Jeannine Atkins, CC PO ATKINS BORROWED 2010

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, by Sarah Stewart Taylor, YA GN TAYLOR AMELIA 2010

Sir Charlie, by Sid Fleishchman, YA NF FLEISCHMAN SIR 2010

I and I: Bob Marley, by Tony Medina, CC BIO MEDINA I 2009

Black Elk’s Vision, by S.D. Nelson, CC BIO NELSON BLACK 2010

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee, by Marissa Moss, CC BIO MOSS SKY 2009

Zig and Wikki in Something Ate my Homework, by Nadja Spiegelman, CC FI SPIEGELMAN ZIG 2010

Love, Aubrey, by Suzanne LaFleur, YA FI LAFLEUR LOVE 2009

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, YA FI COLLINS HUNGER 2008

APA Style Manual, 6th ed., RESERVE APA MANUAL

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Teacher Guide, GEM LB3013.3 .O494 2007

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Schoolwide Guide, GEM LB3013.3 .O44 2007

Also, we now have a graphic novel section! So far, we have some authentic manga, and the entire Sandman series by Neil Gaiman! Woot!

Also also! We’ve got quite  a few new textbooks for secondary math, history and American government. Yes! Goodbye, textbooks older than I am! Hello, bright, shiney “new” (ish) textbooks! And thank you to The Mississippi Valley Area Education Agency for their annual give-away.

Um, awesome!

May 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I stumbled across The Alice Project a few weeks ago. It was the end of the semester and I didn’t have time to check it out. I thought it was worth a good look-see, though, so I saved it in my Diigo library. I have recently had some time to go back over things I had saved, and came across The Alice Project again.

What an amazing idea! Here’s an excerpt from the blog:

Over 6 weeks, Mr. Long challenged 57 students to analyze Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — via their copies of The Annotated Alice — by publishing their questions & reflections in real-time on a very global scale…The goal was for the students’ learning/discovery experience to conceptually mirror Alice ‘finding her way’ through Wonderland.

In my search for ways to incorporate technology into the classroom, this has got to be one of the best examples. Forget “upgrading” to an interactive whiteboard (which, while cool, doesn’t really “incorporate” much in a new way), technology is seamlessly woven into this project… it’s not the focus, it’s the vehicle.

I say more of this, please!

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