Open Books, Open Minds

from The Pike School Library

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.


Go Sox!!!

We’re ready for the World Series, and our fingers are crossed for the Boston Red Sox! Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite Sox-related titles.

Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits by David Ortiz

Boston Pilgrims vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: The First Modern World Series by Peter Campbell

F is for Fenway: America’s Oldest Major League Ballpark by Jerry Pallotta

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares

No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season by Fred Bowen



What’s New?!

Few things make a librarian’s day like unpacking boxes of new books! When our newest shipment arrived last Friday, we decided to share the wealth, and two eager 5th graders got the chance to empty boxes of fresh books with shiny covers. They were delighted to discover many new favorites and, of course, got the well-deserved perk of borrowing a few for the weekend.

Here are a few that we can’t wait to read and share:

Nothing Stopped Sophie: A Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe.  Follow the journey of this amazing French woman as she tackles tough math problems and defies expectations of who can be a mathematician. A gorgeous picture book biography that just might go on our Mock Caldecott list.

Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos. Attention, writers! Get valuable writing tips and enjoy funny childhood stories from the award-winning (and super-snooper) author of Dead End in Norvelt and the Joey Pigza series.

Charlie and Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane.  A desperate woman gives Charlie a message in sign language before she disappears. Francine (Frog), who is Deaf,  is eager to crack the case. As she and Charlie work to solve the mystery, Charlie also learns about Deaf culture.

Every Month is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World by Marilyn Singer. Enjoy poems that highlight many new year traditions in this inventively designed title, featuring illustrations by Susan Roth.



Starting School

We can’t wait to welcome students back to the library for the new school year. Here are a few of our favorite back-to-school titles to enjoy!

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex   E REX


It’s Back to School We Go: First Day Stories From Around the World by Ellen Jackson   371 JAC


Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch   E BLO


It’s Back to School, Charlie Brown by Charles Schulz   741.5 SCH


You’re Wearing That to School?! by Lynn Plourde   E PLO



Last call for summer adventures!

Here at Open Books, Open Minds, we’ve got one eye on the calendar and the other on the stack of books we’re excited to finish before summer ends. Here are a few favorite SummerReads titles that feature summer adventures near and far. Jump in ~ the reading’s fine!

The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy. The Fletcher boys and their dads find surprises at their beloved summer vacation spot.

Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech. Mary Lou is ready for an annoying, hot summer in Ohio, but everything turns upside down.


The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott. Oscar finds a hidden world under Fenway, where he must navigate mysterious tunnels and face down villains to overturn the famous Babe Ruth curse.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. In 1968, Delphine and her two younger sisters spend an eye-opening summer in Oakland.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Arturo’s relaxing Miami summer turns into a hilarious quest to save his town from a ruthless land developer.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. A summer in the Berkshires is a wonderful adventure for this fun-loving family.




Lend us your ears!

If you’re like us, summer means enjoying long, lazy days. Whether your plans include sitting on a beach or strolling in the woods, chances are good that you’re also spending time in a car, bus, or plane to get there. Why not enjoy some fabulous books along the way? Here are some of our favorite audio titles, recommended for a wide range of ages. Talented narrators bring these characters and stories to life in thrilling adventures, fantasies, and mysteries.

Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, read by Sunil Malhotra. A tiger cub has escaped from a reserve in the Sunderbans in West Bengal, India, and Neel, a poor boy from the islands, is determined to find her in order to save her from being captured and sold.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry, read by Jayne Entwistle. Seven enterprising Victorian young ladies conspire to hide a murder from the authorities at their British boarding school in this tongue-in-cheek mystery.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan, read by Kieran Culkin. Thor’s hammer is missing again. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve it quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants.

Horizon by Scott Westerfeld, read by Johnathan McClain. When Aero Horizon 16 crashes in the Arctic, eight children emerge from the wreckage to find themselves alone and surrounded, not by ice, but by a mysterious and deadly jungle. How will they survive? 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien, read by Barbara Caruso. With nowhere else to turn, a field mouse asks the clever escaped lab rats living under the rosebush to help save her son Timothy, who lies in the path of the farmer’s tractor.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. With his trademark dry wit, the author narrates this humorous tale involving a WWII Japanese rifle, molten wax, a death which may or may not be murder, and other escapades from a memorable summer.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk, read by Jorjeana Marie. Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. But when fire appears across the water,  mysteries and prejudices from her past unfold in dramatic fashion.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since J.K. Rowling first introduced the world to Harry Potter. Series narrator Jim Dale brings this remarkable wizarding world to life with an incredible array of voices.


Some summaries adapted from publisher descriptions.





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