BES Graphic Novel Nominees (2014-2015).

(The following was adapted/updated from my BES Graphic Novel Nominees post from March 17, 2013) 

It’s time to celebrate year two!

The nominees in the graphic novel category of the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan (BES) Award were just announced! Voting will soon be closed for this year’s nominees and our Maryland students will soon select the first recipient of our BES Graphic Novel Award for grades 4-6! 

As the committee chair for the BES Graphic Novel Award, I again struggle to articulate how proud I am of the nominees our committee members selected and how privileged I am to have worked with such a great group of teacher librarians in selecting these titles.

We selected 10 graphic novels published within the past three years (2011, 2012, and 2013) that we felt were outstanding titles for students in grades 4-6. These are graphic novels we also consider to be must-haves for library collections and titles we feel will quickly earn the hearts of students and teachers alike. They represent a variety of genres including action/adventure, science fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. But more importantly, there are a testament to the great strength graphic novels possess in storytelling. We hope you and your students enjoy these titles as much as we do! 

The 2014-2015 BES Graphic Novel Award Grades 4-6 Nominees are:

SMASH: Book 1, Trial by Fire by Chris A. Bolton and Kyle Bolton
When Andrew’s hero, Defender, dies, Andrew unexpectedly inherits his superpowers. Andrew must learn how to use his new powers while dealing with bullies, homework and fighting crime!

Chris A. Bolton (@SmashComic) lives in Portland, OR and Kyle Bolton (@SmashComiclives in Seattle, WA. Visit!

Ariol: Just a Donkey Like You and Me by Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant
Nothing stands out about Ariol and that, perhaps, is what makes him so easy to identify with. His experiences at school are a mixed bag of embarrassment, pet crushes, and classroom high jinks. He’s obsessed with THUNDER HORSE, he loves hanging out with his best friend Ramono, and he can’t help but tell it like it is. Translated from the original French, these vignettes will resonate with anyone who has ever loved or loathed being in school for all the right reasons.

Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant each live in Paris, France. Visit for more info.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
In author Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale recounts historical episodes that he learned after being swallowed by a giant history book in One Dead Spy. Joined once again by the Hangman and a British officer, in this outing, Hale narrates the tale of the ironclad ships of the Civil War. In this tale we learn about the ironclad Monitor and Merrimack, and meet President Lincoln and other civil war figures including “Lincoln’s Commando,” Will Cushing, Swedish engineer John Ericsson, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, and Jefferson Davis’ Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory. The illustrations, colored in shades of blue and grey, bring the naval battles of the Civil War to life. The book includes biographic information about the major characters, a timeline of Will Cushing’s Civil War, and a sketched bibliography.

Nathan Hale (@MrNathanHale) lives in Utah. Visit for more info.

Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
In this alternate-world historical graphic novel, every town has its own monster- a monster that provides the town with revenue, protection and the occasional terrorizing rampage. Which leaves the town of Stoker-on-Avon in a bit of a bind since their monster is a moaning mess, prompting town officials to send their local mad scientist on a mission to fix the monster.

Rob Harrell (@HarrellRob) lives in Austin, TX. Visit for more info.

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes edited by Kazu Kibuishi
The seven stories in this anthology all share a common thread: each contains a mystery box that plays a central role in the story’s plot. From menacing clay doll in Under the Floorboards to seeing the world through the eyes of a hungry forest spirit in The Butter Thief, this collection of tales edited by the creator of the popular Amulet series is equal parts mystery, adventure, and wonder.

Kazu Kibuishi (@BoltCity) lives in California. Visit for more info.

Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever! by Stephen McCranie
Mal is a misunderstood genius who, because of his love for learning and inventing, finds himself on some pretty amazing adventures! One of his endearing characteristics is the ability to see the form and function of things a little bit differently. We can begin to share his love of science by helping students discover how things work and how a really cool rocket might be hiding in a simple pencil!

Stephen McCranie (@StephenMcCranie) lives in Albequerque, NM. Visit for more info.

Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker
Missile Mouse, an agent of the Galactic Security Agency is sent on an assignment to Tankium3 to investigate the situation on the planet after one of the residents turns up in the capital under the influence of a mind control device. Much to his dismay, he must rely on a team of security robots to assist him in his quest.

Jake Parker (@MrJakeParker) live in Utah. Visit for more info.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan
The year is 1908 in Muskegan, Michigan and young Henry is delighted with the vaudeville troupe that has come to summer in the nearby resort town of Bluffton. In particular, he is drawn to a boy his own age named Buster Keaton, a star of the stage as the “human mop” who can seemingly take any fall and not get hurt. As the two become friends over several summers, Henry longs to be a performer like Buster while Buster longs for Henry’s life of normalcy. As Henry and Buster come of age they discover that more than the changing seasons can cause a rift in their friendship. Phelan peers into the past to offer a rare look at the childhood of Buster Keaton including the controversy over child labor and child abuse that surrounded the family act. The strong sense of the era is captured in vivid color and diverse linework with an honest nostalgia in this work of historical fiction.

Matt Phelan (@MattPhelanDraws) lives in Pennsylvania. Visit for more info.

Cat’s Cradle: Book 1, The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux
Suri is a character full of spunk and mischief- with just the right mix for becoming a monster tamer! She not only believes the seven elements of fantasy- magic, otherworlds, universal themes, heroism, special character types, talking animals, and fantastic objects- exist, she lives them. After discussing fantasy motifs and giving examples from familiar middle school literature, students can draw mind maps of the elements they find in Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine.

Jo Rioux lives in Ottowa, Canada. Visit for more info.

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman
Hakata Soy isn’t your average kid. He’s an ex-super spy and space hero who just wants to settle down to a normal kid’s life at Astronaut Academy, but being a student there proves to be anything but simple. He doesn’t get along with his new roommate or the popular kids at school, and worst of all his mysterious past keeps catching up with him including a robot doppelganger. Will the friendly faculty, new allies, and bunnies help Hakata adjust to academy life? Jam-packed with humor and homage to games and graphic literature, follow Hakata on his quest for a fresh start amidst vignettes featuring a uniquely wild cast of characters that reflect a wide diversity of readers.

Dave Roman (@Yaytime) lives in California. Visit for more info.

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(The following was adapted/updated from my Picture Book Nominees post from March 14, 2012) 

State book awards are as unique as the state awarding them, as is the process for selecting the titles. The Black-Eyed Susan Award has been given to authors each year since 1992 and the award recognizes outstanding literature for children in the categories of Picture Book, Grades 4-6, Middle School, and High School. Book nominees are selected in each category by committees of active and retired school librarians from throughout the state. The nominees are announced in March for the following year. Winners are student-selected in April of the following school year. 

Announcing the nominees now gives us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the books, start planning lessons and activities for the following school year, and earmark money from our book budgets to purchase the nominated titles. 

Personally, I really like scouring the list of nominees to see if an author of a nominated book could visit our school in person or virtually via Skype. 

Having said that, I want to share a resource with you I created to help promote the nominated books and save time finding information on author visits for our nominees. Visit my BES Graphic Novel Author Visits 2014-2015 sqworl for links to the author’s school visit information (where available). I’ve noted where the authors travel from in case it helps you plan your author visit more easily. (I know travel expenses can sometimes make or break our school’s decision, but you can always explore alternate means of funding such as grant writing and fundraising. Some authors will even Skype for a 15-minute session for FREE!)

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Let’s Get Busy with author Seymour Simon.

Episode 48: Talking photography, readable science books, and a promise to “Do no harm.”
Seymour Simon (@SeymourSimon), author of nearly 300 books for children, talks about writing photo essays, StarWalk KidsMedia, and his journey from membership in the Jr. Astronomy Club to beloved science teacher to award-winning author.

Download for FREE on iTunes, using the Stitcher mobile app, or at LibSyn.

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Be the Hero (Tulsa City-County Library presentation).

I’ve created a Presentations page as a more permanent home for my presentation slide decks. Only two slide decks are currently stored there, but descriptions and additional presentations will be added shortly.

For now, please enjoy the slide deck created for my talk with Tulsa City-County Library staff, patrons, and educators. Additional links and resources to follow.

Be the Hero from Matthew Winner

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Let’s Get Busy with author illustrator Steve Light.

Episode 46: Talking inky hands, storytelling, and bookstore windows.
This week on the Let’s Get Busy podcast we talk with Steve Light (@SteveLight), author of Have You Seen My Dragon?Zephyr Takes Flight, and Trucks Go, about eye-catching line work, working with preschoolers, and taking field trips to an artist’s studio.

Let’s get busy.

Download for FREE on iTunes, using the Stitcher mobile app, or at LibSyn.

Episode Notes

Steve Light homepage
Story Boxes (available on GuideCraft)
Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Steve Light (from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog)
Picture Books by Land, Sky, and Sea (Books of Wonder event on April 27, 2014)

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Tulsa Library: “Be the Hero” featuring Matthew C. Winner

Tulsa school and public library personnel, I’m coming your way!
I look forward to joining you all on Wednesday, April 16th from 4:30-6pm to talk about leading from the library, engaging learners through gaming and handheld tech, and being the hero to your students, staff, parents, and patrons. 

Download the flyer here (click HERE) and sign up using the survey at this link (click HERE).

See you soon!

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The Children’s Literary Salon - Podcasting Children’s Books: Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs

If you’re in or around the New York City Public Library on Saturday, April 19th I would love for you to join us for a panel about at the Children’s Literary Salon about podcasting in the world of children’s books. The event is hosted by Betsy Bird, author of children’s books and of one of my favorite blogs, A Fuse #8 Production (hosted on School Library Journal’s site)

For details, see information below.

The Children’s Literary Salon - Podcasting Children’s Books: Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs

Saturday, April 19, 2014, 2 - 3 p.m.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium (Map and directions)
Fully accessible to wheelchairs
Join podcasters Katie Davis (Brain Burps About Books), John Sellers (PW KidsCast), and Matthew Winner (Let’s Get Busy) in conversation about the world of children’s literary podcasting and their experiences with the form.
Katie Davis is a children’s author/illustrator with titles ranging from picture books like Little Chicken’s Big Day to her latest, a young adult novel called Dancing With the Devil. She’s a video marketing maven and a “writerpreneur” with the #1 podcast in iTunes in the Children’s Publishing category Brain Burps About Books, and teaches tech-wary writers how to build and strengthen their platforms through video. She also coaches on social media and marketing, or as Katie calls it, “making friends and meeting people.” 
John A. Sellers is the children’s reviews editor at Publishers Weekly. He also hosts the magazine’s children’s books podcast, PW KidsCast, and edits its cookbooks e-newsletter, Cooking the Books.
Elementary teacher and librarian Matthew Winner blogs at The Busy Librarian and is the creator of the Let’s Get Busypodcast.  In 2013 he was named one of SLJ’s Movers & Shakers.  Citing “his innovative ideas and boundless enthusiasm for student learning and engagement” SLJ also highlighted that Matthew is Maryland’s 2012 Outstanding User of Technology Educator, is a White House “Champion of Change,” and a published author.

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Let’s Get Busy with artist Stephen Powers.

Episode 45: Talking striving for improvement, battling presuppositions, and creating art everywhere.
This week on the Let’s Get Busy podcast we talk with Stephen Powers, artist and author of A Love Letter to the City, about using words and paint to reach people and sharing his art with cities around the world.

Download for FREE on iTunes, using the Stitcher mobile app, or at LibSyn.

Episode Notes

First and Fifteenth (home of Stephen Powers)
A Love Letter to the City from Princeton Architectural Press

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New Reads from Chronicle Books

The most recent delivery from Chronicle Books finally made it back down to my TBR pile after lots and lots of nights in the boy’s room. Easy to see why he likes them so much!

Busy Bunny Days in the Town, on the Farm, and at the Port by Britta Teckentrup
(March 2014)
The Bunny family is busy busy getting ready for school, exploring the farm, and an enjoying a family outing at the port. In this can-you-find-it story Teckentrup shows the same scene at different times of day (6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, and 9pm) and readers observe how the Bunny family and other town citizens interact throughout the day. A brief introduction starts the day followed by a statement of the time of day and some questions to prompt searching on each page. There’s also a town criminal, Baxter Badger, who is constantly up to no good and who will captivate readers’ attention. The evolution of Where’s Waldo or just a fantastic approach to visual storytelling, expect your readers to get lost in the details and secrets of Busy Bunny Days.

We’re Going to the Farmers’ Market by Stefan Page
(March 2014)
The popular To Market, To Market is updated in this board book to introduce young readers to the experience of going to a famers’ market. The illustrations are made up of simple shapes and the colors pop off the page. From market to farmer to home to adding the finishing touches to a cake, this stories a great one to read over and over.

I Didn’t Do My Homework Because… by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
(March 2014)
Nevermind the dog eating your homework. This book of excuses covers homework from inception and the scenarios are every bit as clever as a scene from one of Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Events books. Some of my favorite scenes include an uncle being challenged to a duel, a famous director asking to use your bedroom to shoot his new movie, and a problem involving a carnivorous plant. Just imagine what ideas of their own students will share after reading this book!

Cat Says Meow: and other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt
(March 2014)
Using typeface and some clever placement, Arndt creates graphic animals whose identifying characteristics are composed of the letters making up their identifying sound. Meow becomes two eyes, two ears, and a set of grinning whiskers. Quack, chirp, chomphee haw, and cheep cheep cheep bring other animals to life. The whole thing is very fun to look at and I found myself hunting for the letters that comprised within the sound.

The Great Day by Taro Gomi
(March 2014)
The greatest days of all are when everything seems to work out in your favor. The Great Day is not so different. A boy is first to wake up, first to make it to breakfast, first to school, and so on. Even as the boy encounters obstacles and misfortunes, we still see his day as a series of first. Though not stated, I couldn’t help but feel that when so many things go right, it’s difficult to worry about the things that go wrong. And that would make it a great day indeed.

Run, Dog! by Cecile Boyer
(March 2014)
The text is restrained so much so in Run, Dog! that we, the readers, are permitted to follow a cause into its series of effects during a game of throw and retrieve with the family dog. As we watch the red ball fly over the dog’s head, readers flip portions of the page, animating the series of events that follows. The results are captivating and even when you can predict what will happen, you’ll still discover yourself holding your breath throughout the page turns.

At The Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin
(March 2014)
The same moment of the day is seen through different time zones throughout the world, revealing glimpses of culture and connectivity. A beautiful book for any time.

PhotoPlay! Doodle, Design, Draw by M. J. Bronstein
(March 2014)
Confession: this doodle book might not make it into the hands of my readers. There wasn’t a single page of the book that I didn’t want to break out my fine tip Sharpie and colored pencils and start to sketch. Bronstein has assembled a lively and enticing collection of images to doodle on, add to, imagine within, and lose yourself through. And where will I start, you ask? About 10 pages in, where sits a meerkat gazing longing toward the heavens beside the sentence, Marcie would like to go to school to learn to fly. Total wonder.

Here Comes Destructosaurus by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
(March 2014)
Aaron Reynolds (Creepy Carrots, Carnivores) and Jeremy Tankard (illustrator of It’s a Tiger!) remind us of the little monsters we’ve all been at times. And while this may be true for some more recently than others, it’s an experience we all share. The narration throughout the story is that of the onlooking parent who plays witness to the mayhem and disaster a town succumbs at the hands of the Desctructosaurus. The cause of all of this destruction is revealed in a plot twist that’s equal parts sweet and remorseful. In short, Reynolds tells it like it is and we all love our desctructosaurs a little more in the process. 

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New Reads from Flying Eye Books.

Oh my! The school year got busy and the TBR pile grew taller and taller. Here is a trio of books from  the good people at Flying Eye

Pongo by Jesse Hodgson 
(November 2013)
A lonely orangutan sets out to look for the Sun, ascending higher and higher through the layers of the rainforest. Along his way he has several encounters of objects mistaken for the Sun, each urging the orangutan to climb higher and higher. Hodgson’s art in this story is textured and warm. This is evidenced most strongly in Pongo’s golden fur. Young readers won’t resist the urge to run their fingers on the pages to experience the world Hodgson establishes along Pongo’s journey. Oh, and the baboon tushy mistaken for the Sun will get giggles every time!

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space by Dr. Dominc Walliman and Ben Newman 
(October 2013)
Professor Astro Cat guides readers through the reaches of space, both known and unknown, in language that’s easy to understand and impressive in depth. The layout and graphic design of Professor Astro Cat feels as though the book was ripped from the Time-Life Science Library books for my childhood, which is to say that each page is a treat wherein to lose yourself with unseen details to discover with each new read. While the information is not new, the way it’s presented is sure to draw readers in.

100 Bears by Magali Bardos
(March 2014)
You know how counting books usually follow a sequence and theme, like counting fruit or socks or ladybugs? Forget what you know about counting books. Those books were (are) awesome, but this book is something new for your eyes. In this outrageous tale, author Magali Bardos recounts how some bears from a forest made their way into a dinner party, scared away the guests, dressed up in fancy costumes, and proceeded to take over the party. But what sets this story apart is that the story is told through sequential numbers describing an increasingly peculiar experience. Imagine having to recount a story to a friend and having the limitation that each of your sentences must include a number beginning at 1 and proceeding in order until reaching 100. It’s crazy how well this story works and how often you smile at the surprise uncovered with the page turn.

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#WhyLib - My Teacher Librarian Origin Story

It’s School Library Media Month. Time to share your story.

A conversation was started on Twitter to share the stories of how librarians found their way to being in a library. Our paths are diverse, but we share a common thread. Hear our stories. #WhyLib
(from the Why We Became Librarians padlet shared HERE)

I didn’t choose this profession. It chose me.

I was an English major turned Elementary Education student only who only recently realized that I had something to offer that world and that it would be in the form of working with children. Not one to set longterm goals or develop clear understandings of a career path 10 or even 5 years out, I soon found myself propelled into the elementary school classroom. And what’s more, I was good at it.

But I also realized that I was good at school. Good at learning. Good at completing work with bar set high.

I had barely started work as a general education teacher in 4th grade when I felt it necessary to begin work on my Master’s. And it only took the suggestion of the media specialist at the school, Mrs. Louise Wall, to know that I was meant to go to library school. I deeply admired the way she lived and breathed passion for the written word. I loved seeing her teach and I took every opportunity I could spare to collaborate with her. She only needed to make the suggestion that I consider pursuing a career in Library Media Sciences and the seed began to take root.

Mine is not a glamorous path, but it’s an earnest one. I work hard. I hold myself to high standards. And I want to offer my absolute best to the children because I feel they deserve nothing less.

I am an LMS who adores the title Librarian. The word holds sincere connotation and invokes memories of safety, exploration, and fun.

I work in a school library, not a library media center.

I acknowledge the ill-informed views the general public holds toward school libraries and librarians, and I make it a point each and every day to live my profession on my sleeve and to change perceptions of school librarians one person at a time.

I didn’t dream of working in a library. I wasn’t raised on a diet of rich stories or adventurous literature.

But librarianship has taken its hold on me and I will devoutly work to make the profession proud and to lift the name of librarians to a noble and grand stature.

I didn’t choose this profession. But I’m glad it chose me.

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Read other #WhyLib posts and stories from teacher librarians throughout the country by visiting and share your own this School Library Media month.

Here are the stories shared by some of my friends.
Sherry Gick - HERE
Joyce Valenza - HERE
Jennifer Reeder - HERE
Andy Plemmons - HERE

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