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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Junior Library Guild

I’d like to meet the reviewers and editorial staff with Junior Library Guild as they choose each of the 12 titles for their 22 levels each year. I know they examine 3000 books every year to choose 288 to offer their subscribers. They have an incredible success rate of picking winners. They provide an outstanding booklet with ideas for each title which I can copy and place in the high reading areas like the faculty bathrooms. Don’t tell anyone with SLJ, but they also help save me some time reading reviews.

I subscribe to "some" levels each year and receive one new title per level each month. Will you be surprised when the Newbery, Caldecott, Siebert awards are announced next Monday? I probably already have them on my shelves courtesy of JLG. More importantly it helps me locate titles that I am just too busy to order and might have overlooked otherwise. Hey! Don’t look at me like that! You probably stockpile review magazines and our beloved SLJ (after you read the great articles) to do marathon reading and reviewing in a couple sessions a year.

This month two titles in my mailbox caught my eye: When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper and Go to Bed, Monster! written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz.

When Randolph Turned Rotten is surprising. There is much in these illustrations for the individual reader to savor. I enjoyed acting out Randolph’s feelings  especially on my favorite page where his insides change "from very-best-friend insides (rainbow-filled-with-love insides) to horrible, rotten, awful, and icky insides." You have GOT to go see that page so you can act out his rotten insides. My guidance counselor is going to love this book for small groups and I can already picture students acting out Ivy and Randolph’s parts. Yes, I am thinking reader’s theatre with this. Hmmm. Make sure that you read the author’s information on the back jacket flap with your students. What? Some of you throw those away? Shame?! Some of our greatest info for teaching comes on those dust jackets. 

Go to Bed, Monster! is going on my bedtime picture book list.  I remember offering Bed Time Stories for Children as a prize for our PTA fund raiser years ago. I’d show up at the winning house with my bedtime bag and read the children stories before they went to sleep. I’d always leave a copy of their favorite book so they could share it with their parents the next night. This was a great Friday night activity so we could read late in the night. Parents were there for supervision and this was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the magic of bedtime reading. I wish more of our families read to their children at bedtime!

We need more books with imagination. Yes, you could pair Go to Bed, Monster! with other drawing books like Demi’s Liang and the Magic Paintbrush or the version of the very deadly A Magic Paint Brush available online with Topics Online Magazine.  I prefer to pair it with There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer. We still love this book even though the PC police will probably hunt me down when I admit to reading a book with a pop-gun in it to young children. My own children had Nightmare memorized and clung to the thought of friendly monsters going to sleep and needing comforting. I think students will be able to write their own sequels for Monster. What will they have Monster doing in the school library?!

I’m pleased that both of these titles were very"usable" and practical for my library needs. Would I have ordered these based on first glance? Nope and I would have missed something wonderful. I appreciate JLG for helping me review, filter and find excellent books. Now, I’ve got to go pull out my SLJ to locate the REST of the books I need to order this month. I hope to surface in Philly at ALA Midwinter. See you there.