Open Sesame: Spotlight on Jerry Pinkney

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Spotlight on Jerry Pinkney
In Celebration of Black History and an Illustrious Career

In January of 2016, the American Library Association announced the highly anticipated Youth Media Awards, some of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature. The Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, which recognizes an African-American author or illustrator whose body of published work has made a significant contribution in children’s literature, was given to Jerry Pinkney. Minutes later the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which honors an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to children’s literature, was awarded. Also to Jerry Pinkney. The crowd cheered wildly – history had been made.

Read the rest of this entry »

Open Sesame: End-Of-Year Round Up for Children’s Literature

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

End-Of-Year Round Up

2015 has been a fantastic year for children’s literature. Every week our library bag was full of amazing books, many of which I’ve shared with you here. And I can’t let the year come to a close without telling you about just a few more!

Check out these notable picture books and middle grade and young adult novels, including one of the best narrative nonfiction books I have ever read.  Read the rest of this entry »

Open Sesame: 10 New Picture Books to Ring in Holiday Cheer

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

‘Tis the Season: 10 New Picture Books to Ring in Holiday Cheer

As we enter the holiday season, and it’s celebrations of light, of togetherness, of kindnesses great and small, I am reminded again how holiday cheer sees us through the darkest time of year. Here are ten new picture books that embody the wonder and love of the holiday season.

Sharing the Bread – An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Story is a book to be read aloud. The lyrical text presented in rhyme is ideal for sharing, much like the bread this 19th century family bakes. “We will share the risen bread./ Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread./ Grateful to be warm and fed./ We will share the bread.” The family also shares in the work it takes to create a huge Thanksgiving feast. Each person, from child to grandparent, has their own special job in helping make the holiday special. Home-spun illustrations pay ode to the time period with an old-fashioned look. A warm and cheerful read that embodies the spirit of Thanksgiving. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Sesame: New Picture Books by Carle & Henkes

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Pair of Irresistible New Picture Books
By Two Masters of the Craft

The Nonsense Show is the newest picture book from beloved author and illustrator, Eric Carle. The master of picture book art uses his iconic tissue paper collage to create delightfully absurd images, introducing kids to surrealism, the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century, which sought to unleash the wild imagination of the unconscious mind. Carle does not teach the concept of surrealism, rather he allows kids to experience it firsthand through his whimsical interplay of the expected and unexpected. From the cover image of a yellow duck emerging from a peeled banana and the title page with a deer sprouting a rack of flowers, to an irresistible invitation – “Welcome, friends!/ Don’t be slow./Step right up to/ The Nonsense Show!” – the crazy is contagious. Young readers will rush the stage to see the rabbit magician pull a small boy out of a top hat. In vivid color and rhyming text, a parade of illogical juxtapositions, such as a bird flying underwater, a fish swimming in a birdcage, a child in a kangaroo’s pouch, and a girl playing tennis with an apple, stretch the imagination and twist the mind. Kids will laugh out loud at the ridiculousness while pondering the possibility of the preposterous. Carle understands the inner world of children, their innate creative freedom, their penchant for play, and their ease with the silly, the strange, and the surreal. And he translates this through incomparable style and artistic genius. At 86 years old, he continues to be an innovator of the picture book and a ringmaster of entertainment. Nonsense lovers of all ages will want a first row seat at this show.

  • The Nonsense Show by Eric Carle. Published by Philomel Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-399-17687-6

Read the rest of this entry »

Open Sesame: 6 New Picture Books for Young Movers

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Things that Go!

Do you know a young child who is crazy for cranes? Who dreams of diggers and bulldozers? Who is a fan of firetrucks and a believer in buses and bikes? Well, these are for them!

Here are six new picture books featuring things that go, that move, that come to the rescue.

Perfect read-a-loud books with eye-catching illustrations, these books might move your little ones to park themselves right onto your lap.  Read the rest of this entry »

Children’s Literature & Resources that Support Math

Children’s Literature Can Make Math Fun!

Children’s literature can make math accessible and fun!

It seems as if the connections between children’s literature and topics within many academic disciplines are endless. Captivating stories introduce fascinating historical eras, animal tales for young readers share basic concepts of biology, and stories of community teach children about interacting with new people and building relationships. However, somewhat elusive within children’s literature are math concepts. Perhaps the most challenging academic subject to integrate smoothly into your family’s everyday life, math has often been taught through memorization and drilling rather than through curiosity-driven exploration. However, despite it’s elusiveness, math is very much present within children’s literature, and there are numerous resources to support families in exploring math together… and making it fun!

We asked Beryl Hoffman, assistant professor of Computer and Information Technology at Elms College in Chicopee, and a homeschooling mom living in Florence, what children’s literature she would recommend for families wanting to supplement learning (and a love) of math at home.  She had several great picture books to recommend for children that playfully explore math concepts within a story… Read the rest of this entry »

ZooBean: Handpicked Books for Kids

Zoobean: User Generated Curation of Children’s Book Recommendations

Sometimes, browsing the children’s department at the local library for a perfect new book to read as a family can be overwhelming. If you’ve brought your kids with you, chances are there is little time to peruse the stacks, or you might just be at a loss as to what titles will match your child’s current interests.  Librarians in the children’s department are a great resource for finding out about interesting titles, as is our monthly column, Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings & Reviews, but what if you could add to these great local resources with recommendations made by parents too?

Well, there is just the thing, and it’s called Zoobean…

Read the rest of this entry »

Kindred Souls: A Story About Love and Leaving

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Kindred Souls – A Story About Love and Leaving

Well known for her Newberry-winning novel, Sarah, Plain and Tall (HarperCollins, 1985), Western MA author Patricia MacLachlanis gifted at telling stories aimed at the younger set of readers. She can pack so much into a slim book. With lots of white space on each page and bigger type print, this 119-page book is just the right length for new readers to chew on. And told in first person, from a 10-year old child’s point of view, it presents death in just the right perspective for kids. 

Patricia MacLachlan’s new book, Kindred Souls, (HarperCollins) is a story about the love between a boy and his grandfather. 10-year old Jake and 88-year old Billy share a special bond. Jake’s mom calls them “kindred souls.” On their daily walks around the family farm, Billy talks about growing up on the prairie and his beloved sod house, where he was born. Jake cherishes this quiet time together and the predictability of their morning routine.

Then one day something unpredictable happens – a stray dog shows up and adopts Billy as her own. Billy names her Lucy and calls her an “angel dog.” But there’s another surprise for Jake -Billy asks him to rebuild the sod house. Jake is unsure. It’s a big request.

When Billy is hospitalized for bronchitis, Jake realizes the best gift he could give Billy, the gift that would help him get better, is waiting out in the prairie. And with the support of his brother and sister, his mom and dad, they start cutting sod.

Billy recovers enough to come home to his sod house that the family has built together. Jake is proud to show Billy the house, and yet for Jake there is also a pang of sadness. Billy and Lucy leave Jake to go stay in the sod house, and this foreshadowing of their diverging paths, is sharp and true.

Lucy adds a bit of four-legged magic to the story. Her loyalty to Billy, the way she affects everyone she meets, even the other patients in the hospital, is otherworldly. Her presence shows Billy is not alone in his journey. She’s there to accompany him through his last days on earth. And when Billy dies in his sod house, looking out at his favorite view in the world, it is Lucy who comes to let the family know.

The natural rhythms of the farm, and of the prairie – the hummingbirds, the slough that fills with water and ducks, the birthing of a calf – help tie death into the larger picture of life. And under the gifted hand of author Patricia MacLachlan, the subject matter is handled with grace, gentleness, and love. Read the rest of this entry »

12 Baseball Books for Kids

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Take Me Out To The Ball Game:
New Baseball Books for Kids

In this boy-dominated batch of new baseball books, there are picture books and middle grade novels, action packed stories and baseball history, team spirit and individual courage. So, if your in-house sluggers are baseball crazy, try pitching one of these dozen new books to them. They just might hit a home run.

PICTURE BOOKS

F is for Fenway: America’s Oldest Major League Ballpark written by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by John S. Dykes
In celebration of Fenway Park’s 100-year anniversary, this A-Z picture book introduces historic and nostalgic facts about America’s oldest major league ballpark. Readers can learn about the green monster, Peskys Pole, the lone red seat, and the long-standing Yankees rivalry. Red Sox fans will want this one in their collection.
Published by Sleeping Bear Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2012. ISBN 978-1-58536-788-7

Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
A collection of poems that takes ball lovers through the game and introduces them to the players on the field. From “Warm Up” to “The Season Is Over,” Florian pitches perfect in his newest book of poetry.
Published by Harcourt Children’s Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68838-1

Brothers at Bat written by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
The amazing true story of the Acerra family, who had sixteen children, twelve of them boys who all played baseball and who made up their very own baseball team. Set in New Jersey, from the 1920s through the 1950s, this picture book follows the brothers from boys playing ball after school to serious players forming their own semi-pro team to soldiers in World War II to their induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Their story exemplifies true team spirit.
Published by Clarion Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-38557-0

Lucky Luis written by Gary Soto, illustrated by Rhode Montijo
Luis, a baseball loving and somewhat superstitious rabbit, believes the free food samples he tries at the market gives him good luck in his games. But when the food samples run out, so does his luck on the baseball field. In the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, Luis is up to bat. Will he let go of his superstitions and remember what his coach taught him before he strikes out?
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-399-24504-6

Homer written by Diane deGroat, illustrated by Shelley Rotner
In this picture book by local children’s book greats, Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner, it’s the neighborhood dogs who take to the field. While the humans sleep, the Doggers take on the Hounds for the championship. Can Homer hit it out of the ballpark to lead the Doggers to victory? Short, simple text and photographic images that put an array of canines in uniform will have young sluggers cheering.
Published by Orchard Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-33272-9

Just As Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game written by Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny
It’s 1948, in Cleveland, Ohio, and Homer and his father are buzzing with excitement. Their team, the Cleveland Indians, has made it to the World Series, and they’re rooting for Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League. In this exciting game, Doby not only helps the Indians win their first World Series in 28 years, but breaks the color barrier in baseball and helps lay the foundation for the civil rights movement.
Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7636-5026-1

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing of online resource that are educational and entertaining!

Follow Me on DeliciousWhere are these links? Hilltown Families Del.ici.ous Page!  This icon can be found at the top of our site, in the left-hand column.  Click any time to see what links we’ve added!

Below is the latest 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page). All links are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement:

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader, nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our bank of the most recent 25 recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):


  • One Hungry Mama Guide to Halloween
  • Daddy Issues: How Can I Keep My Daughter Loving Science? (article)
  • Science Experiments You Can Do At Home or School
  • Booklists for Teens (Boston Public Library)
  • AAASpell.com – Practice Your Spelling
  • The wisdom of teenagers (article)
  • Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic
  • Out in the Berkshires (LGBT Life in the Berkshires)
  • Day of the Dead: History, Facts, and Resources
  • Maths Teaching Ideas
  • Sidekicks: Graphic Novel Reviews for Kids
  • HauntedHappenings.org (Halloween in Salem, MA)
  • Banking Curriculum
  • Best Documentaries on Eating Green
  • Math Game: 100s Grid
  • Glow in the Woods (For Babylost Parents)
  • My Science Box
  • Ashfield Local Goods Catalog
  • Johnnie’s Math Page
  • RECOMMENDED DVD: Life in the Undergrowth w/ David Attenborough (Nature Science)
  • ArtsVivants/ArtsAlive
  • Kids Caving
  • Online Spelling Course
  • Virtual Skies
  • Smithsonian Education for Students
  • Read the rest of this entry »
  • %d bloggers like this: