Most Popular Titles 2015-2016

I have remained silent here this past year because I have been focusing my energies on teaching. This past year has been my first year working as a school librarian at Myers-Wilkins Elementary School in Duluth, Minnesota. Myers-Wilkins Elementary School is a gem of a school, with very dedicated teachers and a diverse and vibrant student body. I am lucky to have landed here.

I am breaking my silence today to share with you the most popular titles that my students checked out this past year. I love reading posts like this shared by other school librarians in search of titles my own kids might enjoy. I hope you will find a book or two on this list to share with your kids.

Most Popular Titles 2015-2016.jpg

Two of my fourth grade students created a book display of great summer reads and just happened to display the #1 most popular book in our library in the center.


Hooray for Fly Guy!  1.  Hooray for Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold




Scaredy Squirrel  2.  Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt



Can I Play Too?  3.  Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems




I Will Take a Nap  4.  I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems




We Are in a Book  5.  We are in a Book! by Mo Willems




Gaston  6.  Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson



I Will Suprise My Friend  7.  I Will Surprise My Friend! by Mo Willems




Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl  8.  Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl! by Tedd Arnold




Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping  9.  Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Mélanie Watt



Should I Share My Ice Cream  10.  Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems





The Babysitters Club #1  1.  The Babysitters Club #1. Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier




Sisters  2.  Sisters by Raina Telgemeier




Amulet #1  3.  Amulet #1. The Storekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi




Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Long Haul  4.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney




Diary of a Wimpy Kid Hard Luck.jpg  5.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney




Diary of a Wimpy Kid Third Wheel  6.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney




Bad Kitty for President  7.  Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel




Bad Kitty School Daze  8.  Bad Kitty School Daze by Nick Bruel




The One and Only Ivan  9.  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate




Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days  10.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney




Additional Popular Titles Not Written by Mo Willems, Tedd Arnold, Jeff Kinney or Nick Bruel

In addition, these fine books landed on the list of top 50 most circulated books at Myers-Wilkins Elementary School this past school year.

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Big Nate Goes for Broke by Lincoln Peirce
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes
  • Pony Party by Kate Egan  (A My Little Pony book, in case you don’t recognize the title!)
  • Slowly Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle
  • Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman: The Fifth Epic Novel by Dav Pilkey
Posted in All Ages | 4 Comments

WEEK 2. Comics Club – realistic comics + depicting movement

WEEK 2. Comics Club - realistic comics + depicting movementWe are back for Week 2 of Comics Club! This spring, I am leading an after-school Comics Club for 4th and 5th grade students as well as sharing book recommendations and comics creation activities here.

I hope that Comics Club will inspire kids to create comics. More importantly, I think Comics Club will give kids a greater appreciation for visual storytelling and will motivate kids to read. Through Comics Club activities, students are actively engaging with the books they are reading. This week, they discussed the characters they had read about in their humorous comics (see last week’s post). They also learned how to depict movement and looked for examples of how movement is depicted in the books they will read this coming week.


This week, I shared six realistic graphic novels with the kids. The students each got to select one graphic novel to take home and read during the coming week.


I introduced the kids to four ways to depict movement. The kids found examples of each of these in the books they are reading for this coming week. They also practiced drawing figures on the move and passed their drawings to one another to see if other students could guess what movements they were trying to depict.

1. Draw a figure moving.

2. Draw movement between panels.

  • moment-t0-moment*
  • action-to-action*

3. Action lines.

4. Sound effects.

*See Making Comics by Scott McCloud for his fantastic explanation of how transitions between panels are used to tell stories.

After discussing the first two ways to depict movement, we watched this YouTube video and looked for others. I love this entire series of videos created by author Lincoln Peirce and publisher Andrews McMeel.


I have been getting most of my ideas for teaching Comics Club from:

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud by Jeff Smith — Art teacher Jeff Smith has been teaching high school students how to create comics since 2002 and shares his ideas here.

QUESTION: What are other good resources for teaching students about comics? Please, share!

Posted in Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | Tagged , | 4 Comments

WEEK 1. Comics Club – humorous comics + creating cartoon characters

WEEK 1. Comics Club - humorous graphic novels + tips for creating cartoon characters | Delightful Children's BooksAs I mentioned last week, I am leading an after-school comics club for 4th and 5th grade students. (Last week, I wrote about why it’s valuable to encourage kids to read comics.) While I’m at it, I thought I would quickly share resources here each week. This week in Comics Club, I shared four humorous graphic novel series with my students, and I taught them a few tips for creating cartoon characters.



The four humorous graphic novel series I shared with the kids were:

The students each got to select a book from one of these series to take home with them and read during the coming week.


I also shared a few tips for creating cartoon characters:

1. Choose a “distinguishing characteristic” for your character that will make your character easily identifiable.

2. Practice drawing your character with various expressions.

3. Create a personality or backstory for your character.

I shared these videos with the students that show authors drawing their characters and offering tips on the fly.

How to Draw Greg Heffley (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)

How to Draw Amelia (Amelia Rules)

How to Draw Nate (Big Nate)

How to Draw Raina (Smile and Sisters) and Callie (Drama)


In addition to leading Comics Club, I am adding comics and graphic novels to the school library collection, which has me mulling over this question. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Where is the best place to catalogue and shelve graphic novels in a library collection?

Option A. Dewey’s already answered this question! 741.5 in the nonfiction section.

Option B. Pull graphic novels, and create a stand alone graphic novel section.

Option C. Integrate comics into the collection. Fiction comics should be catalogued by author’s last name and integrated into the fiction section. Nonfiction comics should be catalogued by Dewey decimal number according to their subject matter and integrated into the nonfiction section.

*This question is aimed at children’s librarians, but library users are welcome to chime in as well!

Posted in Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Comics Club: Why encourage kids to read and create comics?

Attn. 4th & 5th grade parents and teachers: An online comics club for kids with weekly book recommendations and Comics Creation Challenges!I will be leading an after-school comics club for 4th and 5th grade students this spring. I’m very excited about it. I thought I could lead a stripped down version of comics club here at Delightful Children’s Books.

For the in-person version of comics club, I will be having 4th and 5th grade students read and review comics and create their own comics. Each week, comics club students will choose a book to read from those that I booktalk. I will also send the kids home with a Comics Creation Challenge (related to what we’ve done in comics club) that they can complete at home if they would like.

For those of you with 4th and 5th graders, I will do the same here at Delightful Children’s Books. I will give you a list of books to choose from in a particular genre and a Comics Creation Challenge.

  • Week 1. Humor
  • Week 2. Realistic Fiction
  • Week 3. Superhero
  • Week 4. Comic Strips
  • Week 5. Memoir/Nonfiction
  • Week 6. Fantasy/Mystery
  • Week 7. Manga

*** Rough schedule! Subject to change. ***

Before we begin… 

What are “comics”?

I use the term “comics” to mean stories or vignettes told via a combination of images and text. “Comics” is a general term that includes graphic novels, comic strips, web comics, comic books (i.e. floppies) etc.

Why encourage kids to read and create comics?

1. Reading and creating comics helps kids improve their visual literacy skills — i.e. their ability to communicate with images as well as words. Visual literacy skills are important now that technology enables us to share images easily. Our kids will be expected to create webpages, PowerPoint presentations and documents that use images effectively to communicate.

2. Images in comics often motivate kids to read the text.

3. Images can provide “scaffolding” (i.e. assistance) to help kids learn new and challenging vocabulary.

4. Comics can be used to encourage kids to branch out in their reading. For example, a kid who only reads fast-paced adventure novels might be willing to read mysteries, realistic fiction or nonfiction in comic form.

5. For hesitant readers who enjoy comics, increasing access to comics is the <best> way to motivate kids to read for fun.

In Beginnings, author Raina Telgemeier recalls the impact her father’s encouragement had on her.

Beginnings IClick on this image to read the full comic at Raina’s website!

Posted in Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | Tagged | 8 Comments

New! Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty offers readers a peak into the life of a wonderful jazz musician by the same name. I lived in New Orleans for a couple of years and had the pleasure of hearing Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews play back when he was a teenager. Even at a young age, he was an impressive musician. Trombone Shorty does more than simply tell the story of one jazz musician. Trombone Shorty paints an authentic picture of and celebrates the New Orleans jazz tradition.

Trombone Shorty by Bryan Collier

Troy Andrew’s (aka “Trombone Shorty’s”) story is a rags to riches story. At the same time, his story is not atypical for a successful New Orleans jazz musician. In fact, Trombone Shorty’s story sounds remarkably similar to Louis Armstrong’s story and, more recently, the stories of Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins and The Rebirth Brass Band. Grow up steeped in the jazz tradition. Get your hands on any instrument you can find. Practice like crazy. Rise to the top in a city that produces some of the finest jazz musicians in the world.

From my brief experience living in New Orleans, Trombone Shorty seems to capture the best of this city. It describes the Tremé neighborhood — a neighborhood that is short on money but rich in musical tradition. It describes a unique part of America where kids look up to jazz musicians rather than sports stars, where the hottest ticket in town is a ticket to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival rather than a ticket to a Wild hockey game. It references gumbo and street parades and brass bands.


Illustrator Bryan Collier has shown amazing consistency with the quality of his illustrations. It looks like Collier put just as much attention and care into illustrating Trombone Shorty as he has put into illustrating past books. There is movement in every picture, from swirls coming out of Trombone Shorty’s trombone to balloons on the loose bouncing from one image to the next. Collier’s collages, full of texture, warmth and energy, are perfect for depicting a neighborhood filled with brass bands.

When Trombone Shorty’s career takes flight and Trombone Shorty is depicted literally flying in the air in a hot air balloon, the moment is at once breathtaking and visually consistent. Collier’s illustrations have all led to this moment.


In his endnotes, Troy Andrews/Trombone Shorty says he wrote this book “to inspire hope in kids who might be growing up under difficult circumstances but who also have a dream, just like I did.” Trombone Shorty is certainly an amazing gift to kids growing up in Tremé. For all young readers, Trombone Shorty provides a wonderful introduction to New Orleans jazz music, a distinctly American music.

Recommended for: Ages 5-10. Pair with If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong by Roxanne Orgill to introduce kids to New Orleans jazz music. You can also take a look at my favorite picture books about jazz here: 9 Books to Introduce Kids to Jazz.

To Share With Kids

A fantastic photo of Troy Andrews playing trombone as a kid, from the endnotes of the book:

Trombone Shorty - young boy

A video of Trombone Shorty playing “Where Y’At”:

A video of brass band musicians playing at jazz musician Lionel Batiste’s funeral. This is such a neat tradition and provides a glimpse into the culture that Troy Andrews grew up in.

Lastly, the Trombone Shorty Foundation is a foundation dedicated to preserving the New Orleans jazz tradition by providing educational and mentorship opportunities to young New Orleans musicians. For more information, take a look at the Trombone Shorty Foundation website.

Posted in Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | Tagged , | 3 Comments

New! Emmanuel’s Dream

In Ghana, West Africa, a baby boy was born:

Two bright eyes blinked in the light,

two healthy lungs let out a powerful cry,

two tiny fists opened and closed,

but only one strong leg kicked.

So begins Emmanuel’s Dream, the true story of a young man born with only one leg who biked around Ghana to raise awareness for what those with disabilities can do. This story was eye-opening for my children, as evidenced by the questions they asked: “Why was Emmanuel born with one leg?” “Why did his dad leave him?” “How did Emmanuel play soccer with only one leg?” There are very few books that feature characters with disabilities, and this is a good one. Emmanuel’s Dream will captivate children and broaden their view of the world.

Emmanuel's Dream Cover Small

Author Laurie Ann Thompson does an excellent job of telling Emmanuel Ofosu’s story. She avoids over-telling. Each word seems to serve a purpose — either moving the story forward or elaborating on the theme of how those with disabilities have been viewed in Ghana (and elsewhere).

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Rather than focusing solely on Emmanuel’s bike ride around Ghana as an adult, Thomson also describes aspects of Emmanuel’s childhood that young readers will be able to relate to. For example, Thomson describes Emmanuel’s efforts to fit in with classmates and first learn to ride a bike.


While I believe Emmanuel’s Dream is a valuable, eye-opening story to share with children, I personally keep returning to this picture book to gaze at Sean Quall’s illustrations. They are beautiful. Quall’s illustrations are flat, apparently influenced by folk art, and yet they pack an emotional punch. The image above depicts Emmanuel’s parents’ reactions when they discover that Emmanuel has only one healthy leg. Emmanuel’s father is devastated. Emmanuel’s mother appears to be holding the family together.

ED 05 SCHOOL copysmall

In this image, we see Emmanuel walking the two miles to school alone for the first time. Emmanuel looks small and yet determined.


Sean Quall has illustrated several other picture books, including Before John was a Jazz Giant by Carol Boston Weatherford and Dizzy by Jonah Winter. With Emmanuel’s Dream, Quall’s illustrations seem to have found the perfect match. Quall’s illustrations have a generally subdued feeling that help tell Emmanuel’s story in a way that is moving but not overly sentimental. Quall depicts the Ghanaian landscape with lots of texture and a salmon, turquoise and beige color scheme. Finally, I like the decision to stick with a simple, sans serif font throughout to avoid competing with Quall’s illustrations.

Recommended for: Ages 4-9

Emmanuel’s Gift: The Movie

Emmanuel Ofosu’s story has also been told in a 2005 documentary called Emmanuel’s Gift that I will now have to check out. It is rated G, so it’s appropriate for sharing with children. Here’s the trailer.

Posted in Ages 4+, Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New! Bird and Squirrel on Ice (+ A Few Questions for James Burks)

Bird & Squirrel on Ice by James Burks is the perfect graphic novel to put in the hands of kids who think they don’t enjoy reading. This graphic novel has fast-paced action, humor and irresistible characters. While Bird & Squirrel on Ice is the companion book to Bird & Squirrel on the Run!, it differs markedly from Burks’ previous work. Bird & Squirrel on the Run! is essentially one, extended, entertaining chase scene. In contrast, Bird & Squirrel on Ice has a more complex plot that includes elements of the fantasy genre.

Bird & Squirrel on Ice

With Burks’ first book — Bird and Squirrel on the Run! — I was hooked from page one by the colorful, expressive characters Burks has created. Bird is constantly upbeat, happy-go-lucky and unaware of the dangers he and Squirrel encounter. In contrast, Squirrel is constantly on edge and provides the perfect foil to Bird.

Bird and Squirrel on Ice I

In Bird and Squirrel on Ice, Bird and Squirrel are back, with their over-the-top personalities firmly in tact. Bird and Squirrel’s personalities are revealed with this early spread. We see Bird enjoying being carried along by an avalanche, unaware of the danger he and Squirrel face. Squirrel, on the other hand, is petrified. Once again in this sequel, the main humor arises from the stark contrast and amusing dialog between these two characters.

Bird and Squirrel on Ice II

We are also introduced to a new character — Sakari. I love how Burks introduces Sakari in this spread, with an image that depicts the setting, a sequence of images depicting Sakari walking and then suddenly aware of Bird and Squirrel, and finally Bird and Squirrel crashing into the frame in a ball of snow. Sakari is the young daughter of a penguin village chief. She is wiser and braver than Bird and Squirrel. Her inclusion in this tale immediately increases the tale’s complexity.BirdSquirrel_pp10_11 In Bird and Squirrel on Ice, “The Great Whale” has been harassing Sakari’s village. When Bird and Squirrel arrive, Sakari mistakenly identifies Bird as “The Chosen One,” a bird who legend tells will come to bring peace and prosperity to Sakari’s village. Ever-gullible Bird is happy to assume the role of “The Chosen One,” particularly when Sakari’s village treats him like royalty. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear — to everyone except Bird — that Bird is in danger.

Recommended for: Ages 5 through 10, although sensitive younger readers may find the plot too scary. Kids who enjoy comics with humor and fast-paced action. Bird and Squirrel on Ice and Bird and Squirrel on the Run are likely to win over some reluctant readers as well.

A Few Questions for James Burks

Since first seeing Bird and Squirrel on Ice, I, for one, have not stopped wondering whether any more Bird and Squirrel books are in the works. I decided to go straight to the source and ask creator James Burks. While I was at it, I could not resist asking him which comics have influenced him and which comics he would recommend I share with my 4th and 5th grade Comics Club students.

Are you planning to write any more Bird & Squirrel books?

There will be two more Bird and Squirrel books. I’m coloring book 3 right now. It will be out towards the end of this year. It’s called “Bird and Squirrel on the Edge.” Then book 4 will be out towards the end of 2016. I don’t have a title for that one yet.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a few things. I’m illustrating a new series for Scholastic/Branches called “Haggis and Tank Unleashed.” They’re early chapter books that follow the adventures of a Scottish Terrier and a Great Dane. I’m also coloring the third Bird and Squirrel book as I mentioned above. And last but not least I’m working on my next picture book that I wrote and illustrated for Disney/Hyperion called “Pigs and a Blanket”. Also, my very first graphic novel “Gabby and Gator” is coming out at the end of February in paperback. It features some new flippable animation of “Gabby and Gator” in the bottom right hand corner.

Which comics have influenced you?

I was really influenced by Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. I really love the early strips. They’re so clearly staged with such a great cast of characters. Calvin and Hobbes was also a big influence. Bill Watterson has an amazing ability to capture emotions and bring life to his work. Which is always something I try to do with my books.

I will be leading a comics club for 4th and 5th graders this spring. What is one comic book (aside from your own) that you would have them read? Why?

Hilda and the TrollI really love the Hilda books. Written by Luke Pearson and published by Flying Eye Books. There are four books so far. All of them are great in my opinion. They’re larger size and the artwork looks amazing. They center around a little girl named Hilda and her adventures in a whimsical world filled with giants, trolls, fairies and more. Book 1 is called “Hilda and the Troll”, book 2 is called “Hilda and the Midnight Giant”, book 3 is called “Hilda and the Bird Parade”, and the most recent one is called “Hilda and the Black Hound”. I believe they were originally published in the UK. They’re beautiful books.

Posted in Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+, Ages 9+ | 4 Comments