Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

Goodnight Book Fair

Goodnight ridiculous flashing pacifier necklaces


Goodnight Boxing Santa Lizard Pens


Goodnight barrels-of-slime and selfie sticks

selfie stick

Goodnight erasers of every shape size and color


Goodnight yo-yos always broken and tangled


Goodnight piles and quarters, nickels and dimes


Goodnight Book fair!


Mock Caldecott Week 1

Our first week of mock Caldecott has gone really well, and that’s kind of surprising.  I thought it would be hard to get the kids to focus because the book fair is going on at the moment, and they’re REALLY excited about that. We’ve managed to have some very good discussion, though.

This week, I introduced them to the Caldecott medal, and we talked about what it is, and how it’s awarded. Then we read and discussed our first two titles, Beyond the Pond and Toys Meet Snow.

beyond the pondtoys meet snow.jpg

I decided to add these two titles to our mock Caldecott list after I posted my original 10, for different reasons. I had simply forgotten about Toys Meet Snow, and I really like it, and I had left Beyond the Pond off at first because it reminded me too much of a different book that came out last year. I realized that this was silly and personal and that the kids probably wouldn’t think about the other book at all (I was wrong about that. 4 kids have remarked on the similarity.) and I added it.

I asked each 2nd and 3rd grade class which book they liked better. Most of the classes were split nearly in half, but the majority just barely went to Beyond the Pond every time.

Then I asked the kids who voted for Beyond the Pond what they liked best about it. The answers that I got the most were: the adventure, the treasure and the illustrations. One kid even said that he liked it because it reminded him so much of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, and he said he really loves that book.

Next, I asked the class which illustration they liked the best, and unanimously it was this page because of the baboon butt.


Then, I asked the Toys Meet Snow voters what they liked best about that book. They said they thought it was funny and they liked that Plastic is so smart because she reads so much. They also liked that it reminded them of Toy Story.

I asked them which illustration they liked best, and almost all of them chose this one in which the toys all make snow angels. They liked that Plastic, the bouncy ball’s snow angel was just a round circle.


All in all, it was a very satisfying week for me, and I can’t wait to get into the rest of the books. Honestly, I’m probably more excited about the Saint James mock Caldecott than I am about the real Caldecott.

The Illustrated Tales of an Elementary School Librarian Book Fair: True Story

Book Fair


True Story.

The Illustrated Tales of an Elementary School Librarian: Book Fair

It’s Book Fair Week


Monday Book Battle How to Train Your Dragon- The Book vs. the Movie.

Happy Monday! Today, I thought I’d do something a little different. Instead of comparing two different books like usual, today I’m going to take a look at How to Train Your Dragon, the book and the movie. After reading the book for the first time last week, I was surprised by how different they were. Completely different stories, really, and I thought it would be fun to battle them.  I guess it’s really a Monday Book/Movie Battle this week.

howtotrainbook VS dvd

The Similarities: 

The Characters

Most of the characters in the book made their way into the movie, and they mostly have the same personality with the exception of Fishlegs and Snotlout, Fishlegs isn’t as nice as he is in the book, and Snotlout isn’t nearly as awful. Toothless is completely different as well, but I’ll talk about that a bit later. The other characters pretty much hold to their type. Hiccup is small, nerdy and weak by Viking standards, but very smart, and Stoic is huge, loud and boisterous and doesn’t listen.

The Setting

Both the book and the movie take place on an island inhabited by Vikings during the Middle Ages.

And, that’s about it, really when it comes to similarities.

The Differences

Man. There are so many differences.

The Dragons

The dragons in the movie, aren’t at all like the dragons in the book. They are large dragons. large enough to be ridden and they don’t have the ability to speak. In the book, most of the dragons, especially Toothless, are much smaller.One dragon remarks that they only obey humans because the humans are bigger than they are.They can all speak, but only  Hiccup can understand Dragonese. The characters don’t ride their dragons either, as they are so small.  They use them to fight, and to hunt.

The Plot

In the book, the Vikings have been capturing and training dragons for ages. Hiccup isn’t very good at training his dragon because he doesn’t like to yell, (the only way Vikings know how to train a dragon) so he has to use his ability to speak and understand Dragonese to get the job done.

In the movie, it’s a completely different story. The Vikings are at war with the dragons, who have been stealing their food and raiding their villages, Their goal is to wipe them out completely. Hiccup discovers that the dragons can be tamed and used for good. It’s nothing at all like the book, plot wise.

The Love Interest

Astrid isn’t in the book. I’m not sure why Dreamworks decided that Hiccup needed a love interest, maybe it was an attempt to broaden the appeal of the movie, to boys and girls since in the book all the Vikings are male?


The Toothless of the book and the Toothless of the movie are completely different dragons. Movie Toothless is a bit wild at first, but seems to have a genial personality. He’s a rare, deadly breed of dragon called a Night Fury. Book Toothless, is very small, kind of annoying (he complains an awful lot) and is a species of dragon known as the Common or Garden.

The Student Judges

Every kid I’ve asked, who is into the series, seems to like the movie better. When I ask why, I usually get a shrug and a “I just do.”

The Verdict

The book is usually better than the movie, right? Books have a way of going much deeper into a story than a movie can. I especially have a difficult time with movies. Things go too fast for me, and I can’t stop and think about what is happening like I can while I am reading a book. As a rule, I almost always enjoy the book more.There are exceptions, though. Sometimes the movie IS better (Shawshank Redemption for example) and I think this is one of those cases. How to Train Your Dragon the book, is a four star for me at best. I liked it, and it was enjoyable, but it had the feel of a funny/silly book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Movie is a five star for sure, and one of my favorites. It has an epic feel, and I enjoy it every time I watch it. Dreamworks did a great job taking a pretty good story, and transforming it into an amazing one. Plus, who wants a dragon you can’t ride? Not me. This time, the movie wins.



Kid Lit Conspiracy Theories: Is There a Second Murder in Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back?


So, a while ago, I was getting ready for a Monday Book Battle, and reading both I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat to my kids as part of the preparation. As soon as I read this page,


My son interrupted with, “Dad! HE”S LYING!” Which of course made me a proud papa. He is picking up on dialog clues, and he’s learning to not trust everything the characters say. In short, he’s becoming a good, analytical reader, even though he can’t read yet.

Well, we kept on reading, and then we got to the very end, to this page, where the squirrel is asking about the missing rabbit,


and then to this page.


And then he asked me a question.

“Dad, did the bear just eat the squirrel, too?”

In the four or five years I’ve been reading this book to kids, I had never thought of that before, and it makes perfect sense to me. The bear is in cover-up mode. He has just lied about eating the rabbit, which he wouldn’t do unless he was feeling guilty about it, or because he’s afraid of the consequences (maybe he broke some kind of animal law?)  But the squirrel is asking too many questions, and the best way to keep the squirrel quiet is to dispose of him the same way he disposed of the rabbit. The dead keep their secrets. The squirrel is nowhere to be seen on the next page. We get a wide shot, and we don’t see the squirrel walking away, he just simply isn’t there. Just like the rabbit.

There aren’t enough clues to make a definitive call either way, but I would argue that you can’t really say for sure that the big fish ate the little fish in This is not My Hat, either. It’s a subtle thing, but I think there’s a chance that there is a second murder happening at the end of the book. What do you think?

I shared this theory with a friend of mine, and he went straight to Klassen on Twitter and asked him about it. Jon denied it, but I think that maybe he’s has grown too fond of the bear over the years. You could argue that the bear is partly responsible for Jon receiving the Caldecott medal, or for at least for starting the excitement that lead up to it.  I think that maybe he has a soft spot for the bear and that maybe he’s in on the coverup too. What do you think?


The first ever Saint James School Mock Caldecott

Every year around this time, I tell myself, Benji, next year we’re going to do a Mock Caldecott at Saint James. Then August comes around, and I don’t feel like I have a good grasp of who the contenders are at that point. Mid-November comes, and I feel like it’s too late to get started. Simply put, it just never happens.

This morning, I was inspired by Travis Jonker’s post on his school’s Mock Caldecott. He pretty much laid out a plan on how he does it, and it looks like it would work for my school, too. I thought to myself again, Next year, we’ll do it. But all day it bothered me. Why not this year? I thought of a lot of ok reasons not to do it. We’re already in the middle of reading Crenshaw with the 4th and 5th graders. I was looking forward to reading Christmas books. It’s kind of all of a sudden. We’ve never done it before.

Fortunately, none of these reasons were good enough for me to decide to not do it right now. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I became an elementary librarian, plus a lot of the books on my mock Caldecott list are books that we’ve already read this year. So, starting tomorrow, we’ll be having our first ever Saint James Mock Caldecott.

Here are the 11 titles that we’ll be reading, discussing and voting on.

Boats for Papa

boats for papa



The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

thebearateyour sandwich

Yard Sale

yard sale

Leo: A Ghost Story


Special Delivery


Wolfie the Bunny

wolfie the bunny

Last Stop on Market Street

market street



Lenny and Lucy


The Skunk


This year, the 2nd and 3rd grade will be participating. Over the next three weeks of school we’ll talk about the Caldecott and what it means. We’ll watch last year’s awards ceremony. We’ll read and discuss the books that we haven’t yet read this year, and we’ll review and discuss the titles we have read. Then, on week four, the students will vote on which of the eleven they think is most deserving of the Caldecott medal. The winner will receive the STJ Mock Caldecott medal, and if there are close runners up, they’ll get an honor.

Hopefully, if it goes well, we’ll do it again next year, and I can include 4th and 5th grade as well. I’ll make it a point to not be in the middle of a novel.

I’m really excited about it, and I really like all of these books. I can’t wait to see who wins.

*Update* I decided to add one more book to our mock Caldecott list, Toys Meet Snow. I couldn’t pass up the great illustrations.


*Update 2* At the risk of being overly ambitious, I added one more to our list. Beyond the Bond, by Joseph Kuefler.

beyond the pond

Everything I need to know, I learned from Elephant and Piggie

I’ve been summering from PPEAPD (Pre-Post-Elephant and Piggie Depression) lately. It was really hard for me to enjoy the latest book, I Really Like Slop, the first time because all I could think about while I was reading it was “It’s the next to last one, ever!” :(. Everyone who knows me knows that I REALLY like the Elephant and Piggie books. Last Friday, I spoke at a conference and I mentioned Elephant and Piggie at least four times during my presentation, and this was after I started things out by reading I Broke my Trunk. The Elephant and Piggie books are smart, they’re funny. They’re the BEST books out there for emerging readers, and the quality doesn’t suffer at all because of their simplicity. Most of all, though, they are wise. You can learn a lot from these books. Here’s what I have learned from Gerald and Piggie over the years.

We all need some personal space.


It’s ok to pretend sometimes.

elephant and piggie pretend

Friends find ways to include each other

elephand and piggie catch

Friends are honest with each other

elephant and piggie glasses

Friends worry about each other.


Good communication is key to good friendship.

elephant and piggie trumpet

We should celebrate other cultures.

elephant and piggie cultures

Friends listen to each other (even when the advice is doubtful)

elephant and piggie party

Don’t be a showoff.


Friends are flexible.

elephant and piggie flexible

We’re all good at something.

elephant and piggie spray

We shouldn’t let jealousy ruin friendships.

elephantandpigie new friend

We need to stop and admire the stars sometimes.

elephant and piggie stars

We all need a little rest now and then.

elephant and piggie rest

It’s all about perspective.

elephant and piggie cold

Sometimes having fun is the most important thing.

elephantandpiggie fun

We should constantly be learning new things.

elephant and piggie dance

It’s ok to ask for help.

elephant and piggie help

It’s ok to say no.


Friends stand up for each other.

elephant and piggie Big Guy

People are more important than things.

elephant and piggie toys

Sometimes we find friends in unexpected places.


Friends laugh together.

elephant and piggie laugh

It’s hard to say goodbye.

elephant and piggie goodbye

Thanks for all of the laughs and lessons over the years, Mo.

Monday Book Battle: Don’t Throw it to Mo! vs. Hooray for Fly Guy!

Happy Monday! I hope it has been a great one for you.

Both Alabama and Auburn won their games this weekend, so football is the topic of most of the conversation around here among the students and the faculty. Today we’ll be battling two easy readers about football. Tedd Arnold’s Hooray for Fly Guy! and David A. Adler’s Don’t Throw it to Mo! 

don't throw it to mo VS. 0-545-00724-0

The Similarities

These books had some obvious things in common. Both of them deal with a football player on the tiny side warming up the team bench. Both football teams are behind in their game, and it comes down to the final play in both games. Of course, the tiny heroes Fly Guy and Mo, come into the game at the end and save the day for their respective teams.

The Differences

Besides the obvious, the heroes being of different species, the books have some differences too. Mo Jackson’s coach believed in him the whole time. The other team may not have, (and paid for it) but his coach knew he could come through in the end, and was quick to give him credit when he did. Fly Guy’s coach din’t believe in him at all, for good reason. Fly Guy really couldn’t do anything that a football payer needs to do to play the game. The only reason he puts Fly Guy in is because his new star player got hurt, and he needs someone on the field. He even says, “The game is lost anyway.” So when the big plays happen, when Mo catches the touchdown pass, and when Fly Guy flies up into the opposing quarterback’s nose causing him to fumble (Not sure there isn’t a targeting or a hands to the face penalty in there somewhere) the coaches probably have different levels of surprise. I think that Fly Guy probably has a more triumphant feel to it because He and Buzz are not only beating the other team in the end, but they’re proving their own coach wrong as well.

The Student Judges

I read both of these books to first grade today, and they did a great job pointing out the similarities and differences. When it came time to vote, 5 of them voted for Don’t Throw it to Mo!  About 13 of them voted for Fly Guy. But to be fair, they had already developed a love for Fly Guy from the other books we’ve read this year. I asked them why the voted they way they did, and the Fly Guy supporters said that it was funnier because Fly Guy flew up his nose. The Mo supporters said they liked it because Mo Jackson sounded like Bo Jackson, who is an Auburn legend. They also liked how Mo’s mother woke him up every day by yelling, “It’s a long throw!” and then having him dive out of bed to catch the ball.

The Verdict

I agree with the majority of the 1st graders today. Both books are a fun read, but Hooray for Fly Guy is funnier.



Next Week: It’s a Frog Pop-up book frenzy! Mo Willems’ Big Frog Can’t Fit In vs. The Wide-Mouthed Frog.

The Illustrated Tales of an Elementary School Librarian: Some Weird Stuff Happens in the Library

Some Weird Stuff Happens the Library


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