Tag Archives: determination

Spot Light • January 2015

Spot Light Books of the Month - January 2015

If You Wish by Kate Westerlund, illustrated by Robert Ingpen - inspires the imaginationIf You Wish

by Kate Westerlund, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
(Independent Pub Group, 2014)

Publisher Summary  A strange man and a flying horse teach Willow that when she re-reads a book her imagination can show her brand new stories…This marvelous fantasy, illustrated by the internationally acclaimed Robert Ingpen, will have children re-reading their favorite stories and daring to travel inside the pictures as they discover that books are for more than just reading.

Make Way for Books  “You can read a book more than once, you know. You might even find a book inside the book…When you read a book again and let your imagination take over, it can take you to new stories, so it’s like a book inside the book!”

Thus begins a celebration of the power of imagination. This book unfolds as a dream might unfold for a child picturing a scene from a story and then imagining, “what if?” It leads to beautiful places, offers unusual perspectives of usual things, and challenges ordinary thinking to become extraordinary. Rich, dreamlike illustrations capture the glorious adventure this girl discovers by daring to think beyond the pages of her books. For every reader who needs inspiration.

Storyteller by Patricia Reilly Giff - a gentle finding-one's-place storyStoryteller

by Patricia Reilly Giff (Random House, 2011)

Publisher Summary  Elizabeth is drawn into a dramatic story from the American Revolution when she discovers a portrait of her ancestor, a girl called Zee, who has a striking resemblance to Elizabeth. The girls’ lives intertwine and Elizabeth’s present-day story alternates with Zee’s. As Elizabeth learns about Zee, and walks where Zee once walked and battles raged, the past becomes as vivid and real as the present.

Make Way for Books  Patricia Reilly Giff creates a gentle and beautiful story of finding one’s way and place in the world. Two stories, one set during the early days of the America Revolution and the other set in the present, interweave and leave the reader aware and appreciative of the gifts of individuality each person possesses. A well-crafted, affecting reading experience!

A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet - deserving of all awards it's garnishedSplash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Random House, 2013)

Publisher Summary  As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during World War I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn’t lift his right arm, and couldn’t make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint–and paint, and paint! Soon, people—including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth—started noticing Horace’s art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country. Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring biography of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.

Make Way for Books  In an unusual move within book publishing, this author/illustrator team researched Horace Pippin together. The result is a remarkably tight text-illustration experience. While Bryant’s careful word choice flows easily, delighting and informing simultaneously, Sweet’s illustration conveys Pippin’s life story via his folk-art style, as if we readers are privy to his sketching pad. Sweet prominently hand-writes Pippin’s sayings, and illustrates close-up all that is important for Pippin to create his art, deepening the reader experience. This is an inspiring story of a talented individual who bore his responsibility to family and country well, and eventually, to his artistic gift.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler  - moving and memorable, stunning designImprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II

by Martin W. Sandler (Walker & Co., 2013)

Publisher Summary  While Americans fought for freedom and democracy abroad, fear and suspicion towards Japanese Americans swept the country after Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories with Japanese American survivors of internment camps, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during their imprisonment, and after their release. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps and explaining how a country that is built on the ideals of freedom for all could have such a dark mark on its history, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today’s world and provides the historical context we need to prevent similar abuses of power.

Make Way for Books   Sandler presents a remarkable account of the events leading up to, during, and following the internment of Japanese Americans. Punctuated with photographs, the exemplary nonfiction writing provides much more than a history lesson; it delivers a moving and memorable reading experience.

The Book That Gave My Reader Wings


When my middle daughter Liberty was 7 years old, she wanted to read more than anything. She spent hours looking at books and tried so hard to decode them, but she literally couldn’t see. Born a preemie, her vision was weak and reading real books was HARD, even with very strong glasses. The more time passed, the more she wanted to read real books and the more her frustration with “baby books,” basic decodable readers with bigger font sizes, grew. We were homeschooling at the time and I made the decision to back off a bit. We took a look at the unique way she learned and decided we needed some very active learning. We did sight word hopping, ABC dancing and a lot of word art. As her phonemic foundation solidified, her confidence soared until it came time to read a book. She had the skill, she was ready to read, but seeing it was literally such hard work that she just couldn’t bear it.

In the months that followed, I was determined to help her enjoy reading, even if she couldn’t read the words herself. I let her choose much of what we read and we instituted a system where I would read and she would “help” me. We would look through the book and mark a selected sight word with highlighter tape and then when we came to those words she would read them. Before long, she was choosing a sentence to read on each page. We were making real progress, and she was enjoying great books but she longed to read them on her own.

Elsies Bird

Then came Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen. It was nominated to win our state’s children’s book award so our public library had an awesome display with many copies. The cover is gorgeous, done in watercolor and full of life and it literally drew her in. “Mom,” she said, “I need to read this book.”  She checked it out and began to devour the illustrations. On the way home from the library, I could hear her reading, really reading it to her little sister. I had read the book previously and knew that in places the font was small and almost cursive-like. I couldn’t believe she was reading it! My amazement grew as she was willing to lay aside her frustration and work to blend the words she didn’t know. It was in this book that I realized she needed to say the letters out loud in order to blend them, because she needed to hear them since seeing them was very difficult. I cried as I drove and witnessed the breakthrough we had been praying for. When she finished she said, “Hey Mom, this book is awesome.”  She read it over and over and renewed it to read over and over again.

Elsie’s Bird was indeed the book that freed Liberty to become a reader. It gave her a reason to read and the courage to try, even when it was hard. She owns her own copy now and still chooses to read it often. It is often the book she recommends to others, and it is always her answer to the question, “What is your favorite book?” When I think of my own struggling reader and her experience with Elsie’s Bird, I am reminded of how powerful choice is to a reader. I am also reminded that especially struggling readers deserve to have the opportunity to read high-quality literature to build their skills, so that when they find their favorite book, they too will be prepared to take flight as a reader.

Jami Spaulding is the elementary librarian at Lincoln Christian School in Lincoln, NE. She loves spending her days connecting great kids with great books and helping them develop the skills to become lifelong learners. Jami and her husband are blessed to be raising their own three readers. You can follow her adventures in the library at http://jamilovesbooks.blogspot.com/ or on twitter @jamibookmom