Open Books, Open Minds

from The Pike School Library

SummerReads Spotlight #1: Graphic Novels

Noted educator and reading advocate Pernille Ripp’s recent blog post, “Not Too Easy,” celebrates the power of the graphic novel – stories told through comic-style illustration with supporting text. She urges parents and teachers to take a closer look at this literary form and points out the many merits of graphic novels.

Here at Open Books, Open Minds, we are huge graphic novel fans. Far from being “easy,”  they require readers to infer meaning from illustrations and sequence complex graphic layouts. More importantly, students enjoy reading them!

Many genres are represented in graphic novels, from the more familiar science fiction superhero adventure to historical fiction and memoir. Here are some titles featured in this year’s editions of SummerReads.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. In this humorous memoir, the author recounts a memorable experience at a summer camp for Russian-American kids.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown. A powerful look at this American disaster. A 2015 Robert Sibert Honor Book.

Trickster: Native American Tales; A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembecki. A superb Own Voices collection of tales from a wide array of Native cultures.

Age of Bronze: The Story of the Trojan War by Eric Shanower, Graphics bring new life to this ancient story of love and war.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. Prince Sebastian wrestles with a secret life and wonders about his identity.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang. In this two-volume historical novel, Yang explores the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the nineteenth century in China through two opposing viewpoints.


Visiting author Adam Gidwitz wows Middle School!

Award-winning author Adam Gidwitz was a huge hit in the Middle School during his recent visit. A talented storyteller, he captivated students at his assembly presentation with the classic Grimm fairy tale of Snow White, and described how he uses traditional literature in new ways in his writing. At the grade-level workshops that followed, Adam showed his masterful teaching skills as he guided students to create a story framework of their own, using humorous examples and keeping everyone engaged in the writing process. During recess, students lined the hall to meet Adam and have some one-on-one time while getting books signed.

Pike’s author visits are made possible in part by the annual Book Fair. Thank you to our community for supporting reading and literacy enrichment!



The Thrill of New Books

New book highlights – come by the library to browse and borrow!

Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal.  This new and very talented author is related to our own Kate Moran!

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health,  edited by Kelly Jensen. A Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2018. Learn more and download an excerpt here.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Winner of the 2015 National Book Award; a young people’s edition will be published in July. Part of the Revisioning American History series by Beacon Press.

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake.  A 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Ivy deals with many personal ups and downs after a tornado destroys her home.
A Name on the Quilt: A Story of Remembrance by Jeanine Atkins. Thank you to Shaun Connors, Office of Community Life intern, for this generous donation. Learn more about the AIDS Memorial Quilt project here.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno. Thank you to the Eliet family for this generous donation. Watch the book trailer.
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon.  A 2019 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book. Caleb and his brother meet smooth-talking Styx, and embark on wild summer adventures.

Time to Read Without Walls!

Spring has sprung, and it’s time for the annual Reading Without Walls Challenge! Throughout April and May, we’re encouraging our community to explore books of diverse voices, genres, and formats.

Reading Without Walls is the creation of Gene Luen Yang, the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Here’s how he describes the challenge:

Teachers, here’s how can you participate!

  • Promote the challenge to your students and encourage them to participate.
  • Take the challenge yourself. Broaden your reading horizons!
  • Choose a read-aloud that fits the challenge, or invite a guest reader into your class.

Families, here’s how can you participate!

  • Pick a family reading night: pop some popcorn, and dive into books.
  • Start a Reading Without Walls book group (for adults or for kids!)
  • Listen to audiobooks or enjoy a read-aloud together.

Everyone! Take a photo of you and the book (or just the book if you prefer) and send it to (or print it yourself and bring it in).  We will add it to our Reading Without Walls bulletin board.

On social media? Post and hashtag #ReadingWithoutWalls@PikeSchool. You’ll inspire others to do the same!

There are lots of book suggestions on display in the library. We can’t wait to hear what you’ll read for the Reading Without Walls Challenge this spring!


Women’s History Month

We’ve been celebrating the achievements and contributions of women throughout this past month…but why stop at the end of March? Here are some of our newest favorites.





Voting time for favorite books!

Students have been enthusiastically participating in this year’s Massachusetts Children’s Book Awards, reading or listening to the nominated titles for the past few months. Over fifty students have read a total of 285 books!

Now, they’re ready to vote. Pike’s votes will be submitted to Salem State University, the award’s sponsor, and the winning books will be announced in April. Here are some of our students’ most-recommended titles:

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz. Students appreciated how this historical tale combines elements of different genres, and are excited to meet the author when he visits in May.

The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale.  Our graphic novel lovers were drawn in to this biography of Harriet Tubman, which is part of the Hazardous Tales non-fiction series.

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. This cross-cultural friendship story set in Maine was a favorite read-aloud in a 4th grade classroom.

Students were also touched by Rose Howard’s frantic search for her dog in Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. Read an excerpt here.

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen is the story of Gerta’s desperate plan to reunite her family after the Berlin Wall goes up overnight.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds went viral among our 5th graders. Listen to the author read the first chapter.

Students enjoyed Matt Tavares’ beautiful illustrations of Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez in Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues. Watch Tavares bring Fenway Park to life in this drawing demonstration.

If you need a new book to read, stop by the library to pick up these and other titles!

An amazing Mock Caldecott year!

We’ve had an eventful end to this year’s Mock Caldecott season! Faculty and staff enjoyed our annual Chocolate and Caldecott event last week, and our third grade students got a chance to review the final two books before voting day. Not only did they have a lot to say about these intricately illustrated stories, the first round balloting was so tight that we needed a second run-off ballot. After those votes were counted, it was still too close to declare a winner! And so, for the second time in Pike’s Mock Caldecott history, we have co-winners, which are presented below!

Hello Lighthouse, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, wowed our students with its gentle story of a lighthouse keeper and his family, told through incredibly detailed and inventive illustrations. Here are just a few of their insightful comments:

  • The fog is beautiful!
  • The northern lights are reflected off the water.
  • I love how the spot illustrations have rope around them.
  • I notice the small connections.
  • I like the way you can see the texture.
  • It feels like a classic!

Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat, is also a rich family story that immersed students in wordless storytelling and challenged them to think about symbolism in the illustrations. Their notes on this final book show how passionate they have become about picture book art.

  • I love the small patterns, and how the dragon is in the bridge.
  • It shows deep meaning.
  • Amazing endpapers!
  • There are different textures on each page.
  • I like how the spine is a pencil.
  • This book has beautiful colors all around.




The Mock Caldecott Contenders (part 1)

Every year, 3rd grade students study art in picture books and put their knowledge to work as they decide which of five books has the most distinguished illustrations, in Pike’s time-honored tradition, the Mock Caldecott Award.

Choosing the five books is one of the most fun parts of the job, but sharing them with students is even better! Here’s a look at three of our contenders, and our students’ reactions.

Our first book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, was shared at an all-school Thanksgiving assembly, and students were eager to take a closer look at the vibrant art by Frané Lessac, which enhances the lyrical informational text by Traci Sorell. Our students said:

  • I like how the color tones are based on the season.
  • The repeating little details jump out at you.
  • I like how  there are always curves.
  • Everything is connected and comes full circle.
  • On the last page, it’s all the seasons… I love it!

A Big Mooncake for Little Star, written and illustrated by Grace Lin,  is on a bunch of “best of” lists for 2018, with good reason.  The lush, limited palette illustrations gradually reveal Little Star’s shenanigans, while keeping the suspense until the last endpaper. Our 3rd graders discussed the art in this story with enthusiasm, saying:

  • I like the details and the dark colors!
  • Perfect for a child audience.
  • The crumbs and stuffy show the way like a suspect.
  • Perfectly sequenced.
  • The endpapers and the title page have lots of details.

One of our goals is to provide contrasting artistic styles for students to examine, and the delicate colored pencil drawings in  Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal were a big change from our first two choices. Students commented on the strong textual and visual patterns, showing their growing familiarity with many artistic terms.

  • I like how Alma is the most colorful, and the small details like the red string.
  • The hidden patterns pop out, and you can see the different textures.
  • I like how there is very little background so you focus on the characters.
  • The aunt’s background is nice and mythical.
  • I like how the endpaper’s stripes match Alma’s clothes.
  • “This book warms me up!”

In our next post, we’ll share the final two contenders, and go behind the scenes for a look at the voting process – stay tuned!


Stories for the Season

It’s time to enjoy the many stories of the season! We’ve listed some of our favorites below. Leave a note in the comments with your favorites, and enjoy this holiday season.

The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Alselm Grun, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Translated from the German. A beautifully illustrated introduction to the patron saint of children, with information about how Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in Europe.

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar. While Sadie’s family is busy making Indian dosas for their Hanukkah celebration, she is busy playing and climbing.

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Jessie Reisch. Learn about the science and beliefs connected to the shortest day of the year.

Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet, illustrated by Christine Davenier. Rachel loves celebrating Hanukkah, but can’t help being a little jealous of her friends who celebrate Christmas.

The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. In a long-ago village, a boy learns how to harvest dried sap from myrrh trees, which is then sold to three mysterious travelers taking gifts to a baby.

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Learn about the origins and traditions of this African-American holiday that begins on December 26.

Every Month is a New Year by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Susan Roth. Explore celebrations around the world from Iran, China, New Zealand, and many more in this poetry collection.

Native American Heritage

American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, held each November, is an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the varied identities and experiences of First Peoples through time. Here at Open Books, Open Minds, we encourage reading and learning about cultures all through the year, and would like to especially recommend these titles by and about Native people.

The Cherokee people express gratitude throughout the seasons. Text in English and Cherokee. Traci Sorell is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.











An important overview of indigenous people and their history in North America, authored by Simon Ortiz, of the Acoman Pueblo tribe.









A key resource for educators who want to learn how to incorporate culturally responsive approaches to teaching about Native peoples. Co-authored by Guy Jones, Hunkpapa Lakota, a full-blood member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.













Moving beyond the printed word, PBS is airing a new multi-part series, Native America, which explores the history, culture, and present-day experience of Native peoples in North, Central, and South America. In addition, check out the collection of resources curated by PBS Learning Media.


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