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What are we made of? Find out here.

April 3, 2014

New to this story?  Check out Part I.

One page of I LOOK LIKE A GIRL (by Sheila Hamanaka) confused some kids:



“Sugar and spice”?  Why was the author suddenly talking about baking ingredients?  We did some research and found out that she was referencing a poem from the early 1800s:

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snakes and snails and puppy dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.

Kids raged at these poems.

“Why do boys get to have all the fun?”

“Sometimes boys are nice!”

“Sugar and spice?!  Why do we have to stay inside, in the kitchen?”

Until one kid suggested,

“We need NEW poems!”

And here they are.

What_21  What_32What_3  What_10 What_14  What_36What_24 What_25 What_41 What_38 What_37  What_29


-Allie Jane Bruce


Children’s Book Committee – April Pick

April 2, 2014


Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Houghton Mifflin/HMH

Will Sam’s day on the lake with his dad be ruined when his sister tags along? Playful, verse text and pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations. Detailed guide to poetic forms. (8-10)

Our Young Reviewer says:

I would rate this book excellent as an introduction to poetry. It is different because it tells a full story in poems. I could see teachers using this book to get younger readers into poetry by reading this book to them. The kids will relate to the story of a brother not really wanting to hang out with his little sister. The fishing part is funny too.
-Dante, Age 9, Amagansett, NY

What are we made of? Not sugar and spice.

March 31, 2014

It’s a shame when wonderful books go out of print.  Such is the case with I LOOK LIKE A GIRL by Sheila Hamanaka.

Hamanaka cover

Bank Street 3rd-graders (girls AND boys) have latched onto this poetic picture book.  They love the way the girl uses her imagination to see herself as a dolphin, wolf, mustang, and tiger–she may look like a girl, but she feels like something wild, fierce, and free.  Here’s what they had to say about it.

They know that girls are not simply sweet:

“She looks like a girl, but feels like a fierce animal.”

“Girls aren’t always dainty.  They can be tough cookies who don’t mind getting dirty.”

“She wouldn’t want to be staying at home playing dress-up.  She’d be a tiger, not a fairy.”

They identify with the girl in the book:

“I feel the way that she does.  I like to be free.”

“I don’t want to be a princess when I grow up.  You can’t have any fun.”

“I don’t think that girls are dainty.  I can make my brother cry.  We can be nice, but I can be very mean.”

“I want to be fierce, not a princess.”

“Sometimes people can’t tell if I’m a boy or a girl.  It’s awkward.  They expect something but get something different.”

They affirm everyone’s right to be true to who they are:

“We’re all equal, like the book says.  You should look inside me.”

“No girl wants to be stereotyped.  And some boys like pink.  It doesn’t matter!”

“Every girl has the right to act the way she wants.”

“Boys can be nice and sweet.”

“You shouldn’t make people feel they have to change who they are.”

When one confused kid studied the cover and asked

“Wait–IS the character a girl?”

Another kid responded:

“It doesn’t matter.  Just BE WHO YOU ARE.”


Edit 4/3/14: Check out Part II, in which kids take action!

-Allie Jane Bruce

Bank Street Celebrates the 2014 Children’s Book Committee Book Awards

March 24, 2014

On March 6, the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee presented awards to its choices for the best children’s books of the year in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.

Michelle Markel, Joyce Sidman, Pamela Zagarenski

Michelle Markel, Joyce Sidman, Pamela Zagarenski

Michelle Markel accepted the 2014 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for “a nonfiction book that serves as an inspiration to young readers,” Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (who was unable to attend), published by Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins. She said, “I want children to read my stories and feel them. I look for stories children can relate to and that I can tell in 900 words or so.” Although some of the obstacles Clara Lemlich faced are difficult to share with children (such as the physical abuse she sustained while on strike), Markel explained, “Children couldn’t know her bravery without also knowing the strength of her adversary.” The author closed on a lighter note that shed light on the woman Clara Lemlich became: Even in her retirement home, Lemlich organized the orderlies, Markel reported.

Michelle Markel

Michelle Markel

No strangers to the Claudia Lewis Award for the best poetry book of the year, Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski were both present to accept the 2014 award for What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). They have won for two previous collaborations: This Is Just to Say and Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (both also published by Houghton Mifflin/HMH). Sidman said that the collection began with the poem “Chant Against the Dark,” followed by “Sleep Charm,” and “Invitation to Lost Things” came to her when her keys went missing. She sent them off to her editor, Ann Rider, who told Sidman to keep writing, and added “I can see this almost like a prayer-book to carry and pull out when you need it.” Later that morning, when Sidman and Zagarenski visited the 11s/12s, one of the students asked Zagarenski why she uses crowns in so many of her illustrations. She replied that a crown signifies the “invisible specialness” of each living creature.

Joyce Sidman

Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski

Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski

Elizabeth Wein won the 2014 Josette Frank Award for her book Rose under Fire (Hyperion/Disney). The Josette Frank Award honors “a book of “literary merit in which children or young people deal in a positive and realistic way with difficulties in their world and grow emotionally and morally.” Although she visited Bank Street at the end of February from her home in Scotland, Wein was unable to be present for the awards ceremony. However, she prepared some remarks and shared with us her inspiration for the book and some mementos she had collected from the grounds of Ravensbrück while she was conducting her research.


The Children's Book Committee members gather after the ceremony.

Children’s Book Committee members gather after the ceremony.

The complete list of recommended titles published in 2013 will be available soon on the Children’s Book Committee website.

–Jennifer M. Brown

Writers Lab Mini-Conference – Play and Imagination

March 13, 2014

TakingFlight_cover           coverMay23

Join us on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Bank Street College for our Writers Lab Mini-Conference. 

Play and Imagination – Schedule of Events

8:30 a.m.                         Arrive, register, get coffee

9:00-9:30 a.m.             Opening Keynote: Richard Lewis, founder and director of The Touchstone Center

9:30-10:05 a.m.           “Sparking Curiosity in Early Childhood,” a panel of creators of information books for early childhood

  • Andrea Menotti and Yancey Labat (How Many Jelly Beans?)
  • Lela Nargi (The Honeybee Man)
  • Roxie Munro (Busy Builders)
  • Mollie Welsh Kruger, moderator; Bank Street Graduate Faculty and co-chair of the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee

10:05-10:55 a.m.           Becca Zerkin, a member of Matt Reinhart’s pop-up studio, will introduce a hands-on pop-up project.

11:00-11:30 a.m.            Closing Keynote: Stephen Savage (Where’s Walrus?)

11:30-12:00 p.m.           Autographing session, with books for purchase in the lobby from the Bank Street Bookstore

The mini-conference fee is $50 plus processing. We hope to see you there!


2014 Irma Black Award Finalists

March 5, 2014

We are very pleased to announce the 2014 Irma Black Award finalists as picked by our School for Children third and fourth-graders from this year’s list of fantastic semifinalists. The finalists are:

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton, illustrated by Russell Ayto (Peachtree)
Layout 1

Chick-O-Saurus Rex by Lenore Jennewin, illustrated by Daniel Jennewin (Simon & Schuster)

The King of Little Things by Bil Leppillustrated by David T. Wenzel (Peachtree)

That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems (Balzer + Bray)

The students spent a month—one week each with rotating sets of four books—working together with their teacher to vote for their favorite book each week, then met with interim children’s librarian Allie Bruce to discuss the eight books with the most votes and choose the finalists.

Interim children's librarian Allie Bruce discussing semifinalists with the 9/10s

Allie Bruce discussing semifinalists with the 9/10s. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Simon.

Registration is now open for any first or second-grade class that would like to join with classrooms around the country (and the world) to choose our Award winner.

For more information on the Irma Black Award, please see our website.

Social and Emotional Learning Through Literature

March 3, 2014

cbc_logoGreat children’s and young adult literature, like other powerful art forms, enables young people to envision and emotionally connect to events and life experiences that may be the same or quite different than their own.  Stories about individuals who have been marginalized because of class, race, gender, family organization, nationality, immigration status, physical, social or mental disorders, gender identification and sexual orientation, for example, allow readers to tap into the universality of such characters, rather than viewing them as “the other.” In a world where national and global conversations about the human condition are often one-dimensional, we hope that the literature presented here will lead to conversations that build positive social interactions and change.

The books listed under each topic are from various editions of the Best Children’s Books of the Year produced by the Children’s Book Committee at the Bank Street College of Education. Entries include title, author, publisher, copyright date and a brief plot summary.  In most instances titles are in print, available for purchase or easily obtained through libraries.

We provide two lists for each theme. One list suggests books for children eight and younger and the other suggests books for youngsters nine and older.

Since we recognize the importance of feedback from users of our lists we invite you to email us at with your comments. We also invite suggestions for future topics.


Books for Children Eight and Younger

Books for Children Nine and Older


Books for Children Eight and Younger

Books for Children Nine and Older


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