BA Library Newsletter

Fun Stuff and Information from Mrs. Dixon

Week of February 15th - 19th

Last time I published this newsletter, I was remarking on how quickly January flew by - now here we are well past mid-February! With all of the schedule changes, heading back into the building for hybrid instruction, and snow, snow, SNOW(!), I have fallen behind in my newsletters - my apologies! Here is an update on what's been happening in library this month . . .

What We've Been Reading . . .

(click on the book covers for links to read-alouds)

Finally, a book with some words!

After reading lots and lots of books with only pictures, and using our imaginations to tell stories, kindergarteners were ready to hear a book with words! They were not so sure, however, when I told them the book I was going to read had NO PICTURES. Everyone agreed that a book with pictures is much more fun. Until . . . along came B.J. Novak's "The Book With No Pictures", which is by far the most fun book with no pictures I've ever read! If you heard me making strange sounds and singing very badly over a zoom call recently, well, that's why. Click on the picture of the book above for a video of the author reading and see for yourself why this book is just SO RIDICULOUS. For fans of the TV show "The Office", you may recognize B.J. Novak - he was one of the show's writers and played the character of Ryan Howard.

As we move on from books with no words, we remain highly focused on the pictures, or illustrations, learning all about the Caldecott Medal and Honors awarded by the American Library Association. Each year, the American Library Association chooses the "most distinguished American picture books for children" and awards the artists (illustrators) with the Caldecott Medal (one first place book) or Honor (several second place books). For the next few weeks in library, we will be studying past and present winners and voting ourselves on which books we like the best. This week's uncontested winner was "Bear Came Along" by Richard Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Click on the image of the book above for a video of the amazing LeUyen Pham reading this book with some cool illustrator insight into the pictures!

Nonfiction Books and Inquiry

First grade students have been continuing our unit on nonfiction books and text features. We've been pairing them up with some pretty fun fiction books and songs too, because who doesn't love to have a little fun while learning?! I love how our nonfiction learning always leads to new questions (many of which I don't know the answers to!) that require us to dig a little deeper. This is the foundation of inquiry research that the students will be using in the upper grades. Over the past few weeks we've learned about the subnivean zone (see below for more), the life cycle of tadpoles, and the very unusual naked mole rat!

One of my favorite books I've read this winter is "Over and Under the Snow" by Kate Messner. Technically it's a fictional story, but it's packed full of nonfiction information about animals in winter, and specifically, the "subnivean zone". The subnivean zone is the area between the ground and the snowpack that small animals such as mice, voles, and shrews use for protection, shelter, and food during the long cold winter. Recently in New Jersey, we haven't had enough snow to have an subnivean ecosystem happening . . . until this year! Now that we've got more than six inches of snow on the ground, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere, small mammals may be making their winter homes in this space between the snow and the ground. They will create long tunnels with "rooms" - bigger areas where they eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. The subnivean zone usually stays at a temperature of around 32 degrees, and absorbs heat from the sun, so even when the air is bitter cold on the surface, small animals can stay warm and cozy inside of their burrows. Next time you are out for a walk, check for signs of these hidden homes: usually marked by air holes in the snow (or if you're lucky, some footprints after a fresh dusting of snow)!

Thanks to author Kate Messner and for this great information!

Narrative Nonfiction Addiction

I really am obsessed with this genre - I don't want this second grade unit to end! The best thing about narrative nonfiction is that it combines everything that is wonderful about picture books: great stories, beautiful illustrations, and learning!

Our most recent books were all about amazing animals: Ivan, the shopping mall gorilla, and Owen and Mzee: two unexpected best friends. Not only did these books teach us about things that happened in real life, they also provided important lessons about friendship, kindness, and taking care of one another. We can't get enough of these awesome books and love all of the learning that is happening! Be sure your second graders continue to check on their library google classrooms for posts and announcements about Ivan, Owen, and Mzee!

Also, if you subscribe to Disney+, the story of Ivan the shopping mall gorilla has been turned into a movie. I always recommend reading the book first, and Katherine Applegate's chapter book "The One and Only Ivan" is a wonderful story based on the real events and told from the perspective of Ivan the gorilla. It is beautifully written and is one of my top children's chapter books of all time. If it's too difficult for your second grader to tackle on their own (it may not be a "just right" book for them yet, and that's OK!), read it together as a family or listen to the audio book version. I promise the whole family will fall in love with it! For more information about the Ivan books, see the official website below:

Celebrating Black History Month

This month we have been reading books by some amazing black authors and illustrators to honor and celebrate Black History Month. In addition, third grade students have been learning through picture books all about the civil rights movement: the history, significance, and important voices of activists that made a big change in the world. Picture books are a great way to approach this weighty subject with young readers. We've had some wonderful discussions and learning about people who stood up for what they believed in, and sacrificed so much for change.

In researching books to share with my third grade students, I came across illustrator and author Vanessa Brantley Newton. As I always love to tell my students about the authors of the books we are reading, I watched some interviews with Vanessa and fell in love with her. She's an awesome human being, an amazing artist, and is a native New Jerseyan! One of her biggest goals is to promote diversity in picture books: to show kids pictures of kids that look like them. Explore the illustrations of her book "Let Freedom Sing", linked above, and you will see exactly what I mean. To learn more about the amazing Vanessa Brantley Newton, see the videos below!

For more books to celebrate Black History Month, check out the Black History Month Virtual Library below!

Check out this week's space-themed Library Fun Choice Board in honor of the Mars Perseverance Mission!

(click on the image to access the choice board)

Please be sure to join our Library Google Classrooms!

If your 2nd-5th grade student hasn't already, please be sure to have them join our library google classroom. It's where I post fun information, links to things we're learning about, and announcements about library. Here are the links:

2nd Grade

3rd Grade

4th Grade

5th Grade

Please note: many links on this page are only available to South Brunswick School District users. If you have trouble accessing a link, please log in with your student's email and password.

All book cover images courtesy of