Module 6: Pink and Say

51Xh9z+IgELPalacco, P. (1994). Pink and say. New York, NY: Babushka Inc.

Summary: Pink and Say tells the story of a generational family tale of Sheldon Russell Curtis, or Say, and his friend Pinkus, or Pink. Sheldon was white solider in the Union Army who was left for dead following a battle.
Two days after being injured, he was was found in a field with an injured leg by Pink, an African American Union soldier. Pink dragged Say all the way to his mother’s house where he and his mother nursed him back to health.

While in Pink’s and his mothers’ house, Sheldon discovered he did not want to return to war and confided a dark secret. Meanwhile, Pink confirms that he and Say must return to war.

As Pink and Say are preparing to leave, marauders arrive at Pink’s house. His mother hides the boys under the floor while she steps outside to shoo them away. Under the floor, the boys here a single gun shot. When they reappear, they find Pink’s mother’s lifeless body.

After burying her, they set out to return to the Union Army, however, they were captured by the Confederate Army. Pink was hanged while Say was eventually released.

Impressions: I did not expect this book to as depressing as it was even though my undergraduate thesis dealt with slavery and race relations in the Antebellum South. I suppose I expected something more hopeful for children. With that said, I appreciate the honesty. It is always refreshing to read Historical Fiction with rich characters and when I find outliers, such as Pink and Say, it is even more intriguing.

What is incredibly fascinating about this story is that it is a family tale. This is not a story that Polacco pulled from her imagination; her family has passed it down for generations and it is now her story to pass down.

Finally, Polacco’s illustrations are beautiful. Each character is colored in a way that they come to life – such as their rosy cheeks or red knuckles and Polacco has a way of emphasizing the important part of the story within the illustrations, such as when Pink and Say let go one last time. In this illustration, the reader clearly sees the grasp Pink and Say have on one another while two  men attempt to pull Say away.

Review: “Gr 2-5-This poignant picture book tells of an interracial friendship that develops during the Civil War. Sheldon, a young white soldier nicknamed Say, is left for dead in a pasture in Georgia and found by Pinkus, or Pink, an AfricanAmerican Union soldier who carries him to his mother’s home. Pink’s mother nurses the stranger back to health and comforts him with words of compassion. The brutality of the war comes to life as the woman is shot by marauders, and the two boys are captured by Confederate soldiers and sent to the infamous Andersonville prison. Say lives to tell his tale to his grandchildren but Pink is hanged shortly after imprisonment. The translation of this moving story is excellent and as faithful as possible without the colloquialisms that permeate the original. The sensitively rendered full-page illustrations work especially well with the text.”

Colmant-Donabedian, T. (1998, February). [Review of the book Pink and Say, by P. Polacco]. School Library Journal, 44(2), p. 132.

“Polacco relates a true incident from her family’s history in this powerful story set during the Civil War. Fifteen-year-old Sheldon “Say” Curtis has been wounded and left for dead by his fellow white Union soldiers. Pinkus “Pink” Aylee, a 15-year-old African American Union soldier, finds Say and carries him home to his mother, Moe Moe Bay. Pink and his mother nurse Say back to health, and the two boys forge a strong bond of friendship, even though Pink plans to return to his military unit. Before they can leave, marauders kill Moe Moe Bay. Pink and Say are captured soon after and taken to Andersonville prison, where Pink is hanged within hours of his arrival. Say survives to tell the story and pass it on through generations. Polacco’s artwork shows dramatic perspectives and faces full of emotion. As the friends are wrenched apart in prison, they are able to clasp hands for a moment as Pink says, “Let me touch the hand that touched Mr. Lincoln, Say, just one last time.” This picture book is a departure for Polacco in terms of content and audience, but the familial ties still remain.”

Johnson, N.J. & Giorgis, C. (2005, September). [Review of the book Pink and Say, by P. Polacco]. Booklinks, 15(1), p. 55.

Library Uses: The book is a realistic look at the grey area that certainly existed during a time that is often thought of as black and white. Pink and Say shows readers a stone that is often unturned.

One suggested activity would be to read this book to tweens and follow it with a guest speaker, such as a historian or a professor, who can verify some of the information in the book and give more historical information about the Civil War and the relationships between African Americans and white soldiers.


Module 5: Gossamer

GossamerLowry, L. (2006). Gossamer. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 

Summary: Where do dreams come from? At night, the imagined emerge from the heap, carefully deciding which of your personal belongings to touch in order to gather memories. After collecting these fragments, they then bestow them upon you as you sleep.

Where do nightmares come from? The sinisteed scorch through your walls when you are weak and vulnerable and inflict your fears and awful memories upon you as you sleep.

In Gossamer, Fastidious is tasked with training Littlest One in the art of collecting fragments and bestowing. However, Littlest One is quite curious and a too irritating for Fastidious. After speaking with Most Ancient, Thin Elderly agrees to switch places with Fastidious.

Thin Elderly has more patience with Littlest One and can see he potential. He recognizes her skills and value, such as her gossamer touch and inquisitive mind. When John, a fragile, abused boy is placed in the home they are working to deliver dreams, Thin Elderly and Littlest One much protect him from the sinisteed and ultimately the Horde.

Littlest One proves her ability by being brave, strong, and resourceful while Thin Elderly’s patience and unwavering faith in her helps her to succeed in saving John.

Impressions: Gossamer was such a beautiful book. I just do not know how else to describe it! Lowry is incredibly creative! When I figured out that the imagined were collecting fragmements from objects to create dreams, I was filled with excitement – how original and stunning!

My son is only 2 1/2 but I read bits and pieces of this to him before bed and even he laid there, engaged. The way Lowry writes is incredibly captivating and is better read aloud than to oneself. If it can capture the attention of a toddler, imagine what it can do to a class of elementary students or middle schoolers; you don’t need pictures, at all.

Review: With this slender novel, two-time Newbery Award Medal winner Lois Lowry answers the age-old question: Where do dreams come from? Littlest One is training as a dreamgiver. With a touch as light as gossamer, she takes seriously her job of gathering memories from people’s possessions and returning the pleasant memories as dreams. When she and Thin Elderly, her mentor, get a new assignment, they realize that their new job will be difficult. The woman is old and John is a troubled boy with an abusive father. He has recently been placed in foster care with the old woman. But nightmares visit the boy each night and threaten to undo the good work that Littlest One and Thin Elderly do to bring happiness to their charges. Lowry skillfully crafts three stories into a successful whole in this enchanting novella. With her own gossamer touch Lowry’s prose resonates with lyricism and sensitivity. To fully appreciate the prose, teachers and librarians should read this aloud. Strong characterizations and multiple themes (love, trust, work ethic, abuse, growth, and coming of age) lend it to engaging class discussions.”

Litherland, T.N. (20016, November 1). [Review of the book Gossamer, by Lowry, L.]. Library Media Connect, 25(3), p. 75.

Library Uses: As previously mentioned in my impressions and review, Gossamer is an excellent read-aloud. It would be a wonderful book to read to classes over the course of a couple library visits, as it is not very long. It would also work great as a book talk.

Module 4: Wonder

wonder-book-cover Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Summary: August, or Auggie, was born with a rare disorder that causes him to look different and as a result, he has been homeschooled since kindergarten. Now that he is entering middle school, it has been decided that he should attend a real school. While at school, Auggie has to deal with not only the prejudices children have because of his disorder but also the issues that come with growing up and being in middle school.

Via, Auggie’s older sister, is now in high school and has decided she wants to go by Olivia. She wants a new identity, one where people don’t know here as Via, the girl with the deformed brother. She has lost her best friends with high school, has become part of school theater, has a new boyfriend, and is suddenly fighting with her mother. Why can’t anyone realize that Olivia exists, too?

And then there are the various people in Auggie and Olivia’s lives. Auggie becomes acquainted with Jack Will and Summer, his two best frends and Julian, his enemy. Olivia says goodbye to Miranda, her friend since elementary school and hello to Justin, her musician boyfriend. Bringing the story together are Auggie’s and Olivia’s parents.

Impressions: When I worked at San Antonio Public Library, older tweens and younger teens were asking for this book left and right and after reading it I can see why it is so popular. What I liked most about the book was not that you learn about acceptance of people who are different than you, sure that is the major theme of the book, but that Palacio incorporated the chapters offering the perspectives of the other characters. Too often in books, and in life, we get one side of the story. As I read Auggie’s story and I got to the Bleeding Scream part, I was angry at Jack Will. But when I read his chapter, I realized that he was in middle school and felt peer pressured and ultimately said something stupid, not thinking of the consequences. We have all been there.

Review: “After being home-schooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle school life when he looks so different from everyone else?

Auggie has had 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies he was born with, but he still has a face that has earned him such cruel nicknames as Freak, Freddy Krueger, Gross-out and Lizard face. Though “his features look like they’ve been melted, like the drippings on a candle” and he’s used to people averting their eyes when they see him, he’s an engaging boy who feels pretty ordinary inside. He’s smart, funny, kind and brave, but his father says that having Auggie attend Beecher Prep would be like sending “a lamb to the slaughter.” Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too.

A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.”

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, November 15). [Review of the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio]. Kirkus Reviews, p. 73.

“Kids’ books about befriending somebody “different” could fill a library. But this debut novel rises to the top through its subtle shifting of focus to those who are “normal,” thereby throwing into doubt presumptions readers may have about any of the characters. Nominally, the story is about 10-year-old August, a homeschooled boy who is about to take the plunge into a private middle school. Even 27 operations later, Auggie’s face has what doctors call “anomolies”; Auggie himself calls it “my tiny, mushed-up face.” He is gentle and smart, but his mere physical presence sends the lives of a dozen people into a tailspin: his sister, his old friends, the new kids he meets, their parents, the school administrators—the list goes on and on. Palacio’s bold move is to leave Auggie’s first-person story to follow these increasingly tangential characters. This storytelling strategy is always fraught with peril because of how readers must refresh their interest level with each new section. However, much like Ilene Cooper’s similarly structured Angel in My Pocket (2011), Palacio’s novel feels not only effortless but downright graceful, and by the stand-up-and-cheer conclusion, readers will be doing just that, and feeling as if they are part of this troubled but ultimately warm-hearted community.”

Kraus, D. (2012, February 1). [Review of the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio]. Booklist, 108(11), p. 77.

Library Uses: This is a great book to use during National Bullying Prevention Month (the STOMP Out Bullying campaign) which I see no reason libraries (or if someone was in a school library) can’t be apart of – as a community organization, we should play a role in ending bullying). Also, this is another great read for a book talk or tween book club. I can think of so many things to discuss, such as bullying, not jumping to conclusion, feelings about growing up, friendship, miscommunication.

Book Trailer #1: The Graveyard Book

Can you tell that I love this book? It is just incredible fun! I had a time using iMovie to make this trailer, though. I made about 6 different versions of this trailer – the first one had cool effects but it was a template and I couldn’t as much as I would have liked. The versions after that had various glitches – even this one has a pink flash near the end for some unknown reason.

I am familiar with Creative Commons and the CC search, as I had to use it for LibGuides to add pictures so that is what I used for my photographs in my trailer (all photos have creative commons licenses). The credits for the photos are below the trailer.

The music in the trailer is copyright Apple, iMovie, and is their Suspense 1 & Suspense 2 tracks featured with iMovie.  

Continue reading “Book Trailer #1: The Graveyard Book”

Module 3: The Graveyard Book

51tAOAlaH7L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Gaiman, N. (2008). The Graveyard book. New York: HarperCollins Pub. 

Summary: Nobody Owens’ mother, father, and sister are brutally murdered when he is a toddler by a man named Jack. He narrowly escapes by carefully climbing out of his crib and wandering to the graveyard down the street while Jack continues his horrendous acts. At the graveyard he is adopted by a married ghost couple and raised by the rest of the ghosts in the graveyard, and with Silas, a dead but non-ghost inhabitant of the graveyard. As Nobody grows up, he learns the ways of the ghosts, including disappearing, dream walking, and haunting. The old saying “it takes a village” rings true with Nobody, as this village of graveyard citizens must work together to save Nobody from himself and from Jack, who continues his pursuit to kill Nobody.

Impressions: I have been avoiding Gaiman for years, as many of my friends are obsessed with his work and I did not want to jump on that bandwagon. However, one of my favorite adult genres is paranormal fiction so I decided to see how I would enjoy it in juvenile form. Additionally, I read that this book is very macabre and it is to my understanding that children’s lit has been heading in this direction. So I thought, “Let’s check this out.” First, I can understand why my friends read Gaiman. The writing sucks the reader in and though there are a few illustrations throughout, Gaiman’s writing is such that I was able paint a very vivid image of each chapter in my own head – this is what I enjoy in a book- if an author can transport me to that world, he/she is getting a thumbs up. Second, I enjoyed seeing the transition of Nobody through the years and his slow exit from the graveyard and entry into the world. Finally, I just need to finally learn to not knock something something until I have tried it – also, Newbery’s aren’t what they used to be!

Review: “Creepy, unsettling, and somewhat disturbing. That’s how Gaiman begins his multiple-award winning book, which draws the reader into the life and mystery of a young boy named Bod. We learn early in the book that as a toddler, Bod narrowly escaped a gruesome death by crawling down from his crib and out of the house just as the rest of his family was being slaughtered. He toddled his way down the street under the cover of darkness and straight into a graveyard, where he is immediately noticed by a few of the long-term spectral residents.

Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a childless couple who reside in the cemetery, are drawn to the toddler, and after two ghosts appeal to them to keep the boy safe, they take the boy into their care. Silas, a man who lives between the living and the dead, is appointed Bod’s guardian. His wise counsel and knowledge of the real and spiritual worlds helps a maturing Bod figure out who it is who wants him dead and why.

McKean’s wispy and somewhat ethereal illustrations in shades of gray and black are sprinkled throughout the book. The drawings and well constructed story will provoke the imagination and pique the reader’s curiosity about the mysterious alliances and connections within the story. Readers will never look at a graveyard in the same way after reading this cleverly crafted adventure. (MS)”

Anonymous. (2010, May). [Review of the book The Graveyard Book, by N. Gaiman]. Language Arts, 87(5), p. 403.

Library Uses: I can see myself using this book for a book talk or a tween book club.


Module 2: Not in Room 204


Riggs, S. (2007). Not in room 204. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman.

Mrs. Salvador has plenty of rules for her classroom: turn in quality work, no fighting, keep a tidy work space, be polite… Regina Lillian Hadwig, a quiet but excellent student, is very appreciative of Mrs. Salvador’s rules. Mrs. Salvador asks her about her quietness; Regina confirms that she is quiet at home and begins to think about a secret she keeps from her mother. In February, Mrs. Salvador discusses stranger danger and inappropriate touching by others with her class. She tells her students that if any of her students are ever touched where they shouldn’t be touched, they could tell her and she would know what to do. The next day, Regina comes in early to tell Mrs. Salvador that she has been touched somewhere she should not have been.

Impressions: I cannot say that I have read a picture book that handles, or even discusses, sexual abuse so carefully and in a manner that children will understand. I did not expect this topic from the title but I am certainly glad that I read it. As a mother I am happy to see to know it exists, happy to know that it can assist me in having these conversations with my children easier. In, general, I was impressed with the content over everything else. The illustrations did not particularly do much for me, though.

Review: “Gr. 1-3. It is regrettable that there is a need for books for young children dealing with the topic of sexual abuse, but this straightforward story effectively fits the bill. Young Regina likes her new teacher Mrs. Salvador very much, and as the school year progresses trust builds between them. When Mrs. Salvador says during a Stranger Danger unit that if someone is touching a student in an inappropriate way, she knows ‘exactly what to do to help,’ Regina finds the courage to tell Mrs. Salvador about things her father does that ‘not even her mother knew.’ Zollars’ bright, graphic illustrations help keep the story reassuring and upbeat without diminishing the importance of the topic. A note at the beginning stresses the need to broach the subject of sexual abuse with children and gives guidance for helping to prevent it.”

Tillotson, L. (2008, January). [Review of the book Not in Room 204, by S. Riggs]. Book Links17(3), p. 19.

Library Uses: Sexual abuse is a topic that is typically swept under the rug and as a result, I don’t expect many parents or children to be inquiring about it. However, I can see educational professionals, such as teachers, requesting books on the topic. Having this information handy for when professionals or teachers want to talk about stranger danger is ideal. Additionally, it is a great addition to library displays during child abuse prevention week that typically only feature non-fiction books. If I were a school librarian, or even planning to become one, I would certainly recommend teachers to read it for themselves.

Module 1: The Hundred Dresses


Estes, E. (1944). The hundred dresses. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Co.

Summary: Wanda Petronski is a poor Polish-American girl growing up in a small Connecticut town. When she tells her classmates, Peggy and Maddie, that she has one hundred dresses hanging in her closet but yet only wears the same blue dress every day they begin relentlessly teasing her.The endless cruelty Wanda experiences in school ultimately results in her father removing her from school. As a result, Maddie, who had already been feeling guilty for the teasing becomes increasingly upset over her actions. It isn’t until Wanda wins a drawing contest (after she has already moved), in which she drew her one hundred dresses, that Maddie and Peggy accept her and realize that Wanda has liked them all along.

Impressions: Childhood is incredibly simple – children hurt the feelings of others, learn their lesson, apologize and then all is right in the world. There are no grudges, no hard feelings. Or at least this is how Estes’ world appears to be in The Hundred Dresses. I am far removed from elementary school and this book was written in 1945 so childhood was certainly different then than when I grew up. What hasn’t changed though is bullying and racism. It may look the same (teasing because of stuttering or because someone is poor or not popular) or it may be different (cyber bullying). And racism is certainly alive today – Hispanics and people of Middle Eastern descent have been constant targets in America as have other minorities. For these reasons, The Hundred Dresses, though slightly dated, is still relevant for children today.

Review: “This long standing favorite tells the story of Wanda, a Polish immigrant, who is teased by her classmates for her differences and her claim that she owns a hundred dresses. Estes skill with languages shines in this ash she uses just the right word or phrase to vividly catch the emotion and the moment, but still keeps the text natural sounding and accessible. The story serves as a classic example of outstanding use of language in transitional literature.” Liang, L.A., Book Links, January 2006

Liang, L.A. (2006, January). [Review of the book The Hundred Dresses, by E. Estes]. Book Links, 15(3), p. 51.

Library Uses: Many of my colleagues and I are in agreement about the Caldecotts and Newberry award winners being somewhat dry. This is, of course, personal taste. The Hundred Dresses is a great Honor book with substance to keep on hand for patrons looking for award winners. I could also see myself using it for a tween time book talk since it is a fairly easy read and deals with a topic that would apply to that age group.



May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Suicide Hotlines:

1-800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

Red Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio 1-888-628-9454 

Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 

This is a serious post.

When we think of mental illness, what comes to mind? We’ve all looked at our incident reports. We’ve internally rolled our eyes when that patron has come in. But this isn’t just about the patrons. Yes, some of them do have mental illnesses but they aren’t the illness, they have they illness. We can’t call them crazy. We can’t make them the joke. We need to take the issue seriously. Look around you, the chances are one of your coworkers has battled with or is currently battling depression or anxiety. Maybe you have experience with a mental illness?

Student Council

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Mental Health Myths and Facts. Retrieved from

Changing the way libraries work with mental illness

When I was researching information for this post, I came across this article written by Josh Berk, director of Bethlehem Area Public Library. It examines the “homeless problem” his library faced. He realized one of the biggest issues he had was that his staff did not know how to properly react around this demographic, many of whom had some sort of mental illness, whether it was paranoia, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc. Rather than call the police or kick the patron out, Berk went to several trainings with a few of his employees where he learned to recognize some of the symptoms of these illnesses. He also learned that many of these illnesses did not make these individuals harmful or violent. He requested these trainings be taught to all of his staff. His library system is now working together with community health agencies.

This article changed my thinking. I’ve seen periodic trainings offered on how to interact with individuals with disabilities but never ones offered on those with mental illnesses yet its such a prevalent issue in every community. Imagine how our perspectives might change, how our services might change…

The Huffington Post recently wrote about how the San Francisco Public Library is revolutionizing its work its homeless population by offering mental health services.

Their program began when SFPL hired a full time psychiatric social worker, the first library in the nation to do so. Their social worker, Leah Esguerra, worked to assist the approximately 750 homeless individual who visited SFPL daily. A total of 150 have received permanent housing while around 800 have received mental health and social services. Moreover, the library has begun to employ the formerly homeless after they complete a a 12 week vocational rehabilitation program.

This is such a revolutionary and commendable program for a library system to take on. It certainly is not doable or necessary in every system but there are many lessons that can be learned here, especially about humanity and how a the help of others can take someone a long way. 

Suicide Hotlines:

1-800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

Red Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio 1-888-628-9454 

Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1