Mrs. Yusko Reads

Reading: Mischief and the Magical Librarian

And the WINNER Is......

Monday morning found me waking up EARLY to livestream the "Oscars of Kid & YA Lit." As much as I love being in the room when it happens, life got in the way and being there in person just didn't pan out. Thank goodness for technology and Twitter!

Between the end of December when everyone posts about their favorite books of 2018, and the award announcements in January, I love following all the "mock" award voting and posts, and the speculation about which books will/should win the big awards.

I am asked a lot about what I think will win, especially when I do seminars in December and January. I like to tell people that even though I've served on ALA award committees, I'm usually off-base with what ends up winning the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz award. Except for the year that I picked The Crossover by Kwame Alexander...I talked about that one EARLY AND OFTEN.

This year was an unusual one for me. First off, a week before the award announcements I correctly predicted the Newbery Award at a seminar and I can't believe I was actually right. (Well, I predicted the Printz also, but I feel like that wasn't overly surprising). Secondly, I felt that there were a lot of books that were beautifully written, but fit into what I call the "kid book for grownups" category. Which typically means that it wins all the awards, even though it might not have a ton of kid-appeal. (Yes, I know that "popularity" is not one of the award criteria). So, let's just say that I was very surprised that almost none of those books ended up with an award. Again, not that they weren't amazing books, but sometimes it's nice to see very student-friendly books WIN!

I've included links to where you can find a final list of award, honor, and "best of the best" lists as announced recently (see below). But I thought I would take some space to list just a few of my MUST-HAVES from the 2019 award/honor books.

What about you? Did your favorites win?

Kindergarten - 3rd grades:

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (Caldecott Honor)

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (Caldecott Honor) I LOVED this book so much and this honor was a complete shock, but definitely exciting.

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros (Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book)
Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson/Frank Morrison (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor)

Tiger vs Nightmare by Emily Tetri (Geisel Honor)
Islandborn by Junot Diaz and Leo Espinosa (Belpre Honor Illustration)
Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat (Asian Pacific American Award) I REALLY wanted to see this one win the Caldecott.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (Belpre Award Illustration) I thought this would win the Caldecott.

4th - 8th grades:
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (Newbery Honor)

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Stonewall Honor Book) I wanted to see this one on the Newbery Honor list.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (Newbery Award!!)

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (Schneider Family Book Award)
When Angels Sing by Micahel Mahin/Jose Ramirez (Belpre Honor Illustration, Sibert Honor)

Camp Panda by Catherine Thimmesh (Sibert Honor)

Spooked! by Gail Jarrow (Sibert Honor)

Girl Who Drew Butterflies by Joyce Sidman (Sibert Award!!!)

9th-12th grades:
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti (Printz Honor)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Printz Award, Odyssey Honor, Belpre Author Award)

Sadie by Courtney Summers (Odyssey Award) This is a fantastic audiobook and definitely deserved the win. The format of the book may lend itself best to an audio production.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (Morris Award, and others)
Don't Call Me Crazy, edited by Kelly Jensen (Schneider Family Book Award)

A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield (Coretta Scott King Author Award)

Educated by Tara Westover (Alex Award)
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosocza (Excellence in NF Finalist)

Nonfiction Friday: Endurance + A Heart in a Body in the World

I am recycling this Non-Fiction Friday because "A Heart in a Body in the World" by Deb Caletti, one of my favorite books of 2018, just received a PRINTZ HONOR! I am hoping this book will find it's way into your book club, lit circles, etc., because there is so much to talk about in this one. (And the writing is incredible).

In the book, a young woman decides to run across the country, from Seattle to Washington, DC, because she can't think of anything else that will help heal her demons. Along the way she ends up forging a great bond with her grandfather, makes a statement to others in the world suffering like she is, and makes a connection with "Endurance," a biography of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. (The pictured book is one of my favorites about well as "Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong).

The main character reads this book multiple times on her journey, and quotes from it often. Chapter 21 is one of my favorite parts, where she discusses how much this biography has meant to her. It starts, "By the time she's here...running beside the green-brown waters of Albert Lea Lake in Minnesota, watching the eerie mist rise from it, listening to the chip of indigo buntings and eastern bluebirds...she has read Endurance four times."

Read the next several pages in the chapter to give students a mentor text for responding to literature, or for pulling meaningful quotes from a text. This pairing would work well for a book club and/or lit circle interesting in reading fiction and nonfiction and discussing the similarities between the two journeys.

Encourage Your Students to Respond:

Tech Tidbit: Word Mover

I enjoy using this interactive magnetic poetry device from Read.Write.Think. I usually introduce my classes to it in January when we learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and his "I Have a Dream" speech.

I have students create their own original poem (story, thought, sentence) using the words from Dr. King's speech (it is one of the Famous Speeches that students can use as a word bank). There are also options to add your own words and create your own word bank.

Students can also change the font color, size, and poem background to reflect the theme/mood/tone of their writing. I have students email me their final product and then we print and display in class.

While we use the online version (which I send a link to), it is also available as an app in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Enjoy playing with words!


If you follow me on social media, you know that I'm a big fan of using picture books with my middle and high school literature classes. I typically open every class by reading one aloud. This is one that I am saving to read for just the right moment. You know, when someone's pet dies the night before and we just need to help process the loss as a class. Or its just one of those days and we need a good cry.

I would also encourage any school counselor to have this on the shelf and ready to use.

1) This is one that you could use with older students to open a classroom discussion on loss or grief, either personal or a character/event/topic you are studying in class.

2)You could use this story before encouraging students to respond to a writing prompt about a time in their life when they experienced loss.

3) This could be used in a high school psychology class to introduce the stages of grief.

Curriculum Corner: "Dreamers"

Yuyi Morales' "Dreamers" just won the Pura Belpre Award for Illustration. Beyond the fact that it's an ode to libraries, books, and reading, there are many uses for this one in classrooms of all ages.

Kindergarten-3rd grade:

1) As a read-aloud to younger students, and as a discussion starter for "dream," "journey," "border," or "immigrant."

2) Include this memoir in any unit that you already teach about biographies/memoirs.

3rd-6th grade:

1) Pair this title with other memoirs, biographies, or fiction that includes immigrant experiences for compare/contrast discussion.

2) Incorporate this into an art lesson and talk about the illustrative style.


1) The importance of books. What books play(ed) a part in the students memories/experiences?

2) To introduce the topic of "immigrant."

3) Discuss the different definitions of "dreamer" as used in the book.

Narrator of Merci Suarez Audiobook Talks About Why It's Important

NEW YEAR, NEW PRICE on Teacher-Librarian Subscriptions

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Limited time or budget to attend PD workshops/seminars?

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FYI: the 2018 Handbook of YA Lit titles is available for $49 (contact me for a 2018 K-5th grade's free!). And for those that WANT IT ALL, $149 gets you the Teacher-Librarian benefits, PLUS the handbook, PLUS a 20-minute Skype booktalk session with your class or staff).

Join now! Happy Reading!!

CSK Illustrator Winner Talks about the Art in The Stuff of Stars

We can't get enough Jason Reynolds

Coming to a School/Library Near You???

January is the season of resolutions, and though I don't often make them, this year I made one to travel less next school year. This will mean cutting way back on my BER availability, but does mean that I can increase my one-day tailored seminars for schools and districts. In addition to my BER seminars, this school year I have 9 seminars scheduled for school districts, ESDs, and state library associations around the country. These are some of my favorite seminars to do as I can often include kidlit, yalit, or both throughout the day.

For the 2019-2020 school year, I am looking to add 5-10 districts to my seminar schedule. Full-day or half-day seminars...kidlit, yalit, award winners...I can work with you to customize the best PD for your teachers/librarians, at a time of year that you'd like. (And it's often more cost-effective for your district/library association to bring me in directly).

Do you think your district might be interested? Find out more here, or contact me @

Based on the Book... Coming to Netflix!

Links to YALSA's "Best of" Book Lists

And, In Case You Needed a Laugh...