Children’s Book Award Winners 2016

Newbery Award for Best Children’s Book

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson follows a little boy and his grandmother on their bus ride through the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. On the way, they interact with and comment on the diverse people and neighborhoods they see. The story is full of energy, bringing to life the feeling of public transportation and the rich fabric of city life. Pegged for K-2nd grade.

Caldecott Award for Best Children’s Book Illustrations

Finding Winnie:The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall tells the true story of the bear that was the inspiration for the Winnie the Pooh books. The story is mesmerizing. Small children will love the way it addresses issues that always concern them – a parent’s love and protection. And the pictures have a beautiful washed-colors look to them that captures the feeling of being outdoors. Pegged for K-3rd grade.

Feed the World: Garden Produce

Every spring I get visions of tomatoes fresh of the vine in my yard. Anyone who’s ever had a garden tomato will probably agree that there’s no comparison to the store-bought variety.

So, all you green thumbs, here’s a way to share the wealth with your local food pantry. You’ve probably seen a community garden or two on one of your spring walks or even a drive. Well, many of those gardens grow produce to donate to food pantries. I used to volunteer in a food pantry. We stocked up on canned goods but had limited perishables. But wow! If we had been able to give out fresh veggies and fruits—that would have been so much better for the soul (as well as a boost to the body).

If you’re interested in participating, check out the Garden Writers Association website. Since 1995, members have grown 20 million pounds of produce for over 80 million meals. And going strong. That’s amazing.

GWA can connect you to a local community garden in any region of the country, even internationally. If you can’t find one near you, consider starting one yourself. Happy planting!

Share links to community food gardens here!

Spring Has Sprung!

Green by by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is simply beautiful in its examination of the various shades of green. Green, the color of spring. Simple text. Seeger’s pictures are vibrant with the freshness of new life. For age 2-6.

The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous is a holiday classic with beautiful pictures in soft, dyed-egg colors. My children spent many an hour painting one-of-a-kind eggs inspired by the old tradition that is at the center of this story. And I like the intergenerational aspect of the story, with children’s lives being enriched by their grandparents. Pegged for ages 6-9.

Share your favorite books about Spring.

Welcome Spring!

Spring has arrived. On my morning walk I spied snowdrops, the first flower after a long winter in my neck of the woods. Soon the trees will bud, the grass will green, the air will smell of new growth.

As with many things, there is the art and the science of spring. The beauty we see. The behind the scenes nuts and bolts that make it happen.

The Science of Spring

The science first. The spring or vernal equinox. Guesses? I love sharing facts like this (sometimes I’m the educator, sometimes I’m the one being educated). Has to do with the earth’s relationship to the sun. At the equinox (there are two of them), the earth is pretty much straight up and down for a hot minute. At the vernal equinox, the sun is moving into our half of the world (for my part of the world that means northward).

The Art of Spring

Now the art. Take your pick. There is so much to experience. A walk in nature. A painting at the museum or an online version that you might save to your home screen. I am energized by Monet and Jonathan Green. A symphony or song. Yesterday I listened to Vivaldi’s “Spring.” A dance. The Rite of Spring choreographed by the great Nijinsky.

A Spring Poem

I leave you with an excerpt of a poem “Spring” by William Blake.

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,–
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little boy,
Full of joy;
Little girl,
Sweet and small;
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Share your favorite rites of Spring

Inspiring Powerful Girls

This week, I am working nearly every waking moment on various important deadlines, including revisions on my book due out in Spring 2017. Very stressful but also very empowering.

I had planned to talk about work being done in the world to empower women. I hope that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is giving young girls a dose of “I can do anything.” Beyond taking note of that, I have to admit I don’t have time to highlight inspiring organizations empowering women and girls. BUT… I won’t leave you with nothing. Instead, I hope you will turn to “Huffington Post’s” “girl empowerment” shout-outs.

I’ll be back in the blogging frame of mind soon!

Share your stories of inspiring girls’ empowerment.

Kids Books About Inspiring Females


Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee is an A to Z compilation of some truly amazing women across a broad spectrum. There is just one page on each so it truly is a survey. But taken together, these stories give a powerful sense of the impact of women on our world. Pegged for Grades 3-7.

Atalanta as told by Marlo Thomas and Friends is one of my old favorites. Atalanta was a princess with a traditional father who thought his daughter’s main role in life was to marry and bear children. But Atalanta had other ideas. This story is part of the Marlo Thomas collection Free to be You and Me. It comes in book version but also in a terrific audio version. For all ages.

Share your favorites about inspiring women and girls.

More Good News About Bilingualism!

The Old Good News

Back on November 8, 2015, I wrote about the great things a second language can do for your child’s development. Recap: (1) Better cognitive skills (your kids will be super multi-taskers and have sharper memory of what they see and do) (2) More jobs open to them when they grow up – cha-ching! (3) Easier to develop friendships with peers from other cultures and (4) yes… better vacations in non-English speaking countries.

The New Good News


Now, more good news. “Two recent studies” show that children who are exposed to multiple languages have superior social skills. Specifically, these children are more likely to be able to pick up on how others see things and to respond to it. This skill would come in quite handy during this 2016 election season. Maybe too late for that but it’s never too late to seed the way for better public discourse, or, for that matter, stronger relationships at all levels.

Note, your child doesn’t need to be bilingual to get benefit. The key is EXPOSURE. This is great news. Even if your child is not fluent in another language, he or she benefits from hanging out with someone who is bilingual.

An old-time philosopher said: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” As we raise the next generation, we have the opportunity to push those limits, to send them far, far, into outer space.

Do you have stories about the power of languages in your life?

A Birthday Celebration for Every Child

Birthday celebrations are so important to children. They are the person of the hour for a whole 24 hours! It’s a day to mark the fact that they are growing up! But some children live in families with so few resources that they struggle to put together a party.

Parties for Everyone!

One mom planning a party for her four-year-old had an “ah-ha!” moment. Here she was providing her son with all of the party accouterments any child could wish for. She thought, Do we really need all this? Out of this thought, she created “The Birthday Box”. Local service agencies reach out with requests and the Birthday Box provides each child, well…. A “party in a box.” Cake, candles, party utensils, and a wrapped gift.

Another organization with a similar concept is “Cheerful Givers” based in Minnesota.

Share your stories of birthday charities.

Fabulous Birthday Books!

On The Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier is a book gifted to many newborns because it celebrates exactly what it says in the title: the day you were born. I like it because it talks about a baby’s entry into the world with all its natural wonders and loving people welcoming this new being. And the pictures are lovely. For newborns thru age 3.

A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban is part of the classic “Frances” series and is one of my favs. In this one Frances is not the birthday girl. Her sister Gloria is. Frances swings back and forth between feeling giving and feeling jealous. The Hobans are spot-on in capturing how siblings feel about NOT being the birthday child. Pegged for ages ages 4-8.

Share your favorite birthday books for kids!

Celebrating Birthdays, Celebrating Life

I am thick into preparing my family’s “birthday month”. When my kids were little, we referred to it as our own private March Madness. Out of the five of us in our nuclear family, only I am born outside the month of March. The girls are spaced three years apart between each (how’s that for timing?!) – too much of an age difference for joint parties. On top of that, my mother’s birthday is smack in the middle of March. Our kitchen turned into a bona fide bakery every March. And, of course, there were gifts, party invites, streamers, etc.

Why do we celebrate birthdays?

Now everyone is older. It is still birthday month in my life but in a very different way. Which gets me thinking: Why are birthdays meaningful? After all, in some cultures, birthdays are not celebrated at all. And for those of us who do celebrate, what do birthdays mean?

A Kid’s-Eye View

Kids seem to enjoy birthday celebrations the most. Of course, there is the material joy of gifts and cakes. This is also the one day each year for the birthday boy or girl to be the center of attention. Family love. A chance to host friends. And also a pride in notching another year onto the belt, another step in becoming “big.”

A Middle-Aged-Eye View

At my age, many people don’t actually like to celebrate their birthdays at all. I remember when I turned 50, I hightailed it out of town to avoid any “surprise” parties. My birthday was a stark reminder that I was “heading into the back nine” as they say.

An Elder’s-Eye View

At my parents’ age, my experience is that those who make it that far enjoy celebrating again. It is a time of reflection on a life well lived, a chance to share memories and celebrate deep connection to family and friends.

Celebrating Life

There is one thing, though, that runs continuously through every birthday. And it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. That is your actual birth day, the day you came into the world. It is a chance to celebrate life itself, with all its various points along the life cycle. A time to engage in the sheer joy of the birthday person’s presence on earth, his or her unique contribution to humanity.

So, a Happy Birthday to all my March people. And, more generally to all: To Life, L’chaim!

Share your favorite birthday stories.