What’s New In Children’s Literature

Wow. I did it. I taught my first professional development class to educators! I was nervous, I mean I'm used to my audience being shorter than I am, after all.

What's New In Children's Literature

What's New In Children's Lit Resources

The link above is for my resource handouts. I talked about a lot of books today.

The session covered:

  • Nonfiction
  • Biography
  • Poetry
  • Fiction (Early and Middle Grade chapters)
  • Graphic Novels
  • Picture Books

For each book, I made slides to show the cover and the illustration style. The corresponding resource page included the author, illustrator (or photographer), Accelerated Reader information, notable titles by the author, further reading bibliographies on the topics and any useful links.

I worked so hard on this project and the feedback was fabulous! I'm so proud of myself. I styled my session after an amazing woman who travels the country teaching sessions like this, Judy Freedman. I was fortunate enough to attend one of her sessions a few years ago and I learned so much!

I am kind of drained so I won't write about a particular book today, but if you are interested, check out the links.


Science Comics

I really like to learn new things. I’m fabulous at trivia. I soak facts up and secret them away in the books and crannies of my brain, and I’m always looking for more.

I learned the coolest facts about bats this weekend, thanks to a great series of graphic novels called Science Comics.

Did you know bats are extremely important in pollination? Trees and plants who only bloom at night can’t rely on bees, so they rely on nectar drinking bats. Fruits like mango, guava, bananas, durian and cocoa rely on bats too. And guess who is responsible for replanting trees by pooping after eating…that’s right, bats.

I was astounded to learn that bats have this awesome leg tendon that automatically tightens when the bat hangs upside down. The bats use more energy to let go then they do to hang because of it! And speaking of their anatomy, they are more closely related to primates then rodents! They have a thumb, something almost all animals besides primates lack.

But I didn’t just read about bats this weekend, I also read about dinosaurs.

This book was told in a neat way. As the information about dinosaurs was collected, each “generation” was positive that they knew everything and they were 100% sure of it. Of course, as new specimen are found and the ways scientist study those specimen becomes more high-tech, we are constantly changing what we thought we knew about ancient life.

I knew that coprolites (fossilized dinosaur poop) existed but I did not know that originally they were thought to be bezoar stones from the stomach. And who knew the idiocy that competition caused in the men looking for fossils! Two feuding paleontologists were know to purposely plant false fossils to discredit each other’s work and weren’t above dynamiting fossil beds to keep each other from making finds.

The book does a great job explaining how the different dinosaur families are divided, how they probably evolved and furthered other sciences. It is because of dinosaur fossils that we understand plate tectonics.

The series has quite a few titles:

I have read Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean but I don’t own the other books. I plan to buy them all and get anything forthcoming. They are published by First Second Books, the same company that publishes the Olympians series.

Ok, saving the best for last, here is a page of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers that explains the different ways Dinosaurs may have died to later become fossils.

Look at that first panel with the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus. Now imagine the “Aw yeah!!” in a voice like Flava Flav. LOL!!


Greek mythology is intricately woven into our daily lives. We name days of the week, months and celestial bodies after the gods and goddesses. We speak a language where many words are derived from the names of characters in those familiar myths. So it isn’t crazy to think we know those old stories pretty well, right?

I’m going to have to admit ignition so much of the mythology that I thought I knew. What I know are the most popular and famous stories that end up repeated in movies and alluded to in books. A lot of the things I thought I knew were partial truths, and for a book nerd like me, that’s hard to admit.

The good news is there is a cure for ignorance….reading! So I’m reading George O’Connor’s Olympians series.

  • Zeus – King of the Gods
  • Athena – Grey-Eyed Goddess
  • Hera – The Goddess and Her Glory
  • Hades – Lord of the Dead
  • Poseidon – Earth Shaker
  • Aphrodite – Goddess of Love
  • Ares – Bringer of War
  • Apollo – The Brilliant One
  • Artemis – Wild Goddess of the Hunt
  • Hermes – Tales of the Trickster

The school owns the whole set except for Hermes, it’s too new, so I’ve decided to educate myself on the great but imperfect Olympians.

I have read up to Ares, though I plan to finish the books today. Each book not only explains the origins of the highlighted god, it also shows their personality through interactions with the other Olympians. The stories also include side stories, like Athena helping Perseus defeat Medusa or Hera’s vendetta against Heracles. 

I like that O’Connor thoroughly explained how it all started, with Gaea and Oranos, then Kronos taking over and Zeus’s eventual coup with the help of his brothers Hades and Poseidon. O’Connor repeats parts of the story in each story as necessary.

The pages of the books are numbered because O’Connor gives us Geek Notes (with an ‘R’ added to make them Greek Notes) that explain his graphic panels. He uses a lot of historical, literary and artistic references and most of us would just miss them. His author’s notes also are worth reading, as he takes the time to explain why he designed the characters and pursued their stories as he did. He also makes sure to tell us when there are contradictions in the myriads of stories.

I really appreciated the family trees in the front on each book – I referred to them a lot! The other thing I love are his character pages that give specs on each leading character, not just the gods, goddesses and heroes.

I can see why my students love this series. It’s a nice companion to the Rick Riordan books and all the other Olympian-based fiction on the shelves.

Fish Girl

Caldecott Award winning illustrator David Wiesner has teamed up with Donna Jo Napoli to tell the story of the Fish Girl.

Fish Girl lives in an aquarium by the sea. She lives with her friends the fish, a special octopus and Neptune, King of the Sea. Neptune runs the aquarium, putting on shows, and he protects Fish Girl. He has told her that she is the last of her kind, that they must hide for her safety. She must play peek-a-boo with the visitors to make them wonder, did they really see her?

But living the way is lonely, even Neptune goes home at night. One night a chance to make a real friend is too hard for Fish Girl to resist.

Fish Girl and Livie form a kind of friendship, though Fish Girl can’t leave the water or even talk. Becoming Livie’s friend helps Fish Girl find an inner strength; one night she climbs out of her tank! Livie also plants seeds of doubt about Neptune. Fish Girl leaves her tank again only to discover that there are legs hidden within her tail!

Fish Girl’s world is quickly swirling out of control. Not only can she walk, she learns the truth about Neptune: is is just a man, and so she vows to escape but not until she frees her friends. 

The story comes to a climax when “Neptune” discovers Livie and Fish Girl together. He sends Livie away with veiled threats to Fish Girl if Livie tells anyone about her. Fish Girl can take no more! She shows him her legs and her dear old friend Octopus saves her, in fact there is more to Octopus than meets the eye.

Mira, as Livie named Fish Girl, is free. Her future is uncertain though. Weisner gives us a hint that she may find happiness on the dry land with Livie, but as a true storyteller, he lets us write our own ending in our imagination.

Real Friends

I just read the new graphic novel by Shannon Hale, Real Friends. It’s a memoir, Shannon’s story of friendships as she grew up.

I’m very thankful my daughter, who is 10 years old and finishing fourth grade, read this book. I said in yesterday’s post that this book openly talks about how friendships change and how some kids just aren’t real friends. I want my daughter prepared for this, though I know she’s seeing and experiencing changes in her friendships already.

Why is it so important to me to help her learn these lessons? I was a lot like young Shannon. Completely attached to one friend until things changed in third grade. A new girl moved to our tiny town and the three of us had roller-coaster friendships for the rest of elementary. I felt left out and developed stomach problems, that eventually cleared up and left depression in its place. I don’t think those girls were purposely mean to me, I just didn’t have the tools to grow and change with the friendships. 

I see, in my K-4 school, situations like this all the time. Girls wanting to fit in. Girls who upset one member of their friend-group and then end up on the outs with the whole group. My daughter tells me that one of her best friends is part of a group like that. Thankfully, my daughter stays away and offers a calm alternative when that group is too rough.

Do boys go through stuff like this? I have a twin brother, and while his friendships changed over the years, I don’t remember there being drama like this.

I’m going to ask the school’s counselor to read this book. I feel like it’s something she can recommend to girls who need it. I don’t always know there is anything going on, but they are all my girls, so I want to help them all.