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Books that Invite Smiles

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

As this week brings to a close my sharing some personal highlights of this year’s Outstanding International Book Award list, I wanted to mention a few titles that left me smiling for a number of different reasons. While many of the rich international titles are ones that challenge us to be responsible readers and take on new perspectives and difficult topics, there is also the universally shared pleasure in reading. What makes us smile could be that the situation in the book is one we have experienced or one that is ironically silly; a smile could come from how the illustrator depicts a character with personality, often with the simplicity of lines and positioning; and we could just smile because of the satisfactory solution to a problem that a character finds. While humor and laughing out loud are not outside the reading experience, a smile can be that satisfactory emotional expression that connects us in many ways to our reading.

I Really Want to See You, Grandma cover Continue reading

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Explore Imagination through Outstanding International Book Characters

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Imagination in its many forms is present in much of children’s and young adult literature just as it is in “real” life. It can help us deal with situations that are seemingly beyond our control, express ourselves in authentic ways through other sign systems, create practical solutions to everyday needs or desires, position ourselves in other contexts as we work to understand other perspectives and eras and add an enjoyable fantasy element to our lives. I always enjoy revisiting the following quote: “Imagining possibilities is at the core of understanding other people, other times, and other places” (Wilhelm and Edmiston, 1998, p. 4). I also am reminded of Frank Smith’s idea (1992) that imagination makes reality possible (1992). So, while there are many ways to celebrate imagination in children’s literature, I would like to share, from the 2019 (published in English in 2018) OIB list, a few very basic examples of children using imagination in seemingly simplistic ways. I believe that these are the seeds that can grow into more complex uses of imagination as children grow into creative and responsible adults.

Cover for Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther Continue reading

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USBBY Award-Winning Books: The Role Literature Plays in Supporting Music

By Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas

USBBY LogoBoth the prestigious American Library Association Awards and the USBBY Outstanding International Book Award lists in children’s and young adult literature were recently announced. This list of 39 translated books that cut across age levels from Pre-K to YA offers many genres, themes and countries of origin with a variety of potential uses in the classroom. While the OIB committee, on which I served this year, suggests potential thematic connections in their discussions as well as in the School Library Journal article announcing the list, I would like to share some personal connections I made while reading and discussing these books. Most of these connections cut across the award list, but later this month, I will share some excellent books that didn’t make the final list as well as other recently published books. Continue reading

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The Batchelder Award: An Entryway to Translated Children’s Books

By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Batchelder MedalThe American Library Association held its highly anticipated annual press conference on January 28, 2019, to announce the major youth awards, including the Caldecott, Newbery, Pura Belpré and Coretta Scott King awards. The award committees worked behind closed doors for 3 days to make final decisions, submitting their award-winners in great secrecy to ALA staff so they could prepare for the press conference and subsequent news releases. This year, I had the honor of serving on the Mildred L. Batchelder Award committee. Continue reading

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Favorite USBBY Outstanding International Books for All Grade Levels

By Holly Johnson

This final week of March, I will highlight a final few books to check out from USBBY’s OIB List. I shared all of the books on this list at the Tucson Festival of Books during the weekend of March 11-12 and really enjoyed talking with others who love books! I also reminded them of what I mentioned a few weeks ago about grade levels: Don’t let the grade levels noted on the OIB List deter you from checking out all of these books! There is something for everyone, and so many would work with young people across grade levels.

2017 OIB list, books for all grade levels Continue reading

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Social Justice in USBBY’s 2017 Outstanding International Books List

By Holly Johnson

This week I continue sharing both novels and picture books from USBBY’s 2017 “Outstanding International Books.” I want to pay particular attention to the issue of social justice in these selections with the hope that readers will re-evaluate some of the current thinking within the U.S. I strongly believe that books provide us with “windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors” (Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990). There are times when what we read can help us determine what we believe and perhaps what actions we take in respect to others as well as our own beliefs.

social justice, Don't Cross the Line by Isabel Minhós Martins Continue reading

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More Outstanding International Books from USBBY

By Holly Johnson

This week, I continue sharing international books that readers will enjoy by highlighting several picturebooks. Revisiting USBBY’s 2017 “Outstanding International Books,” I want to point out several works that span experiences and interests that will be sure to touch all readers regardless of age or grade. While I discuss these books in grade level order as noted on the OIB List, I know these books are not only appropriate for all readers, but will delight them as well.

USBBY Outstanding International Books, OIB list Continue reading

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2017 Outstanding International Books for Everyone!

By Holly Johnson

This month I share international books from across age groups that will be sure to provoke, delight and inspire. This week, I am sharing from the 2017 “Outstanding International Books” from the U.S. Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), a list that came out at the end of January. These books were all published in the U.S. during 2016 and represent countries and cultures from around the world. Some of the books from the list have already been shared on WOW Currents, so while I might mention them, I really want to give you a new set of books to read and enjoy.

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Notes from a Small Island: The Unforgotten Coat

By T. Gail Pritchard, Ph.D., University of Arizona

In this final week of February, I’m continuing Melissa’s look at U.K. award-winning books, in particular the Costa Book Awards. Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat began as an exclusive for The Reader Organisation for their 2011 book giveaway. With 50,000 copies distributed throughout the U.K. and the rest of the world, this brilliant 112 page novella was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards in 2011, was awarded the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2012, received The Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 2013, was on the IBBY International Honour List in 2014, and was a starred review for both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

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Notes from a Small Island: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

By T. Gail Pritchard, Ph.D., University of Arizona

goth girlThis week’s blog focuses on the 2013 Costa Children’s Book Award winner, Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, written and illustrated by the U.K.’s Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell. The Costa Book Awards honor authors in the U.K. and Ireland in five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children’s Book. One unique aspect of the Costa is that it “places children’s books alongside adult books.” The 2015 Children’s Book Award winner, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (reviewed by Melissa in this month’s blog) was also the 2015 Costa Book of the Year. Continue reading