About Kelly Depin

Director of Libraries and Technology at Derby Academy in Hingham, MA.

Sparking Up Storytime

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Imagine yourself reading a picture book to students. If you’re a good sideways or upside down reader, you can keep the pictures in view the whole time.  You may use different voices for each character, using inflection the way a chef uses a knife. A little library instruction may start or end the session : ‘What does the author do?’, ‘The illustrator?’. You might even draw attention to how the cover does this or that. But have you ever discussed the gutters or layout?  How about the typography or endpapers? Megan Dowd Lambert, author of Reading Picture Books with Children : How to Shake up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See does exactly that.  In association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Lambert has developed the Whole Book Approach, a dialogic method used to read with students, not to students.

If the thought of opening up what can be a fairly controlled and practiced performance scares you – don’t worry. Lambert takes you through the deconstruction of a picture book, showing how the sum of the parts is more than the book itself. This gives the librarian new tools in interpreting the author and illustrator’s intentions for the story. Inspired by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenewine’s Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) https://vtshome.org/, Dowd opens up the storytime to include what she describes as ‘See, Hear and Say Reading’. The elements of the picture book itself serves as prompts for questions during the reading of the story. Storytimes can become conversation times, ripe with enriching experiences where students themselves are actors on the text, not just an audience.

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Along with new knowledge of what formatting can add to texts, Lambert also includes instructions on how to create a Whole Book Approach to storytime. Working to create a welcoming interactive storytime with you as the storyteller shifting intention from performing to discussion is a major first step. For some of us, (me included!) letting go can be scary. What happens if complete chaos ensues and of course, that’s when the head of school decides to do a pop-in. Actually, using the visual thinking strategy questions support student engagement with the text. A simple, ‘what’s going on in this picture’, can lead to increased child interest. Allowing the students’ spontaneous questions and reactions to drive the discussion creates authentic learning and deeper engagement with the book as a whole, instead of just the storyline or your knock-out performance.

As a performer at heart, I was more than a little concerned trying this method. However, the Whole Book Approach has become a trusted tool in my belt. While there are times when a performance style reading is appropriate, increased interaction during storytime with students is optimal. The most important thing is to establish a ‘question and response welcome’ environment, or students may continue to be content as an audience. Once that dam breaks, be prepared to be as engaged in the conversations as the students. Don’t be afraid to make them work – and allow ambiguity to be a member of the crowd too. A properly placed ‘I don’t know – what do you think’ may broaden their minds exponentially. For those of you looking at state standards, these discussions are rich with “key ideas and details/concepts”, “craft and structure” and “integration of knowledge and ideas”.

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If you are intrigued with learning how to read with rather than to children, please make sure to check our Lambert’s book (book description on amazon but order through an independent book store!) as well as her website. Teaching near Boston, I was lucky enough to bring Megan Dowd Lambert to our campus for professional development. While it was only 90 minutes, many of my teachers remarked that it was one of the most interesting and useful pds they’ve had in a long time (ok – for some that’s not a big reach!). Perhaps a better indicator is that the two copies I purchased for our professional collection have both gone missing – and I’ve been begged to replace them. To a librarian, that indicates worth. Don’t take my word for it, check out Lambert’s website and see if this might be a good addition to your storytimes.

Global Connections

As librarians, the world can be “our oyster”.  We are privileged to not be constrained by borders when it comes to excellent books for our students. In fact, many of our schools are adding to their missions some type of “world citizen” plank intended to make our students aware that there is more to this world than their town, state or even country.  Lucky for us, there are resources and events that allow us to help support that tenet, allowing us to lead the way to the abundance of world riches around us. Following are a few resources to start finding your way on your journey to be a citizen of literature without borders.

The United States Board of Books for Young People (USBBY): Whether you get involved in the International Children’s Book Day or use their excellent curated list of of International Books of the year, USBBY is a great resource for dipping your toe into the world of books from all around the world. Their mission is “Building Bridges Through Children’s and Young Adult books.” They are the United States section of IBBY, The International Board on Books for Young People.  Both organizations are an incredible resource in not only finding out which is the best of international publishing for youth, they have opportunities to collaborate with fellow colleagues beyond our borders.

Taking a cue from “one book, one school/town/university” initiatives, Global Read Aloud, “One Book to Connect the World” features books for several different reading levels.  You are welcome to sign-up any time before September 30th, when Global Read Aloud kicks off.  Since 2010, over four million students have participated in this program. It’s a great entry into the international community, with support from the organizers along the way.

What does radio sound like in other countries?  Well, you could try a shortwave radio or you can go to Radio Garden and listen to radio stations from all over the world.  While there’s not the interaction with others that you can find in some of the following websites, Radio Garden is a free resource allowing immersion into a culture that may be different than your students. 

If you are interested in helping create connections with other classes and students around the world, you can try Kidlink Global Education Projects. As Kidlink explains it, they “ make it easy for students and teachers to participate in the numerous collaborative projects by creating web pages in an independent and extremely simple way. Kidspace allows you to integrate in the page other tools like e.g. Google Drive, Padlet”.  While the initial website looks dated, the treasures are found in the both the teacher’s room and student works.

Ready to try something bigger?  Penpal Schools bills itself as the ‘world’s largest collaborative community.” With over forty projects and the ability to create your own, your students (and your teachers!) might enjoy one of their self-contained projects that include video, an article and questions to answer which in turn will be turned into a discussion among the penpal students. Librarians might be intrigued with lessons on “Fake News” or “Digital Literacy”, while one of your teachers might be interested in using “The Human Body” or “Homes around the World” written by Oxford University Press.

Epals have been connecting classrooms around the world for many years. While it can be used for something as basic as pen pals, you can also collaborate with teachers from all over the world.  What about a battle of the books with a school across the US or across the world? Share book reviews with another classroom in another country? Epals can help you with that.

One of the Scholars’ Door at the Bodleian

If these programs excite you, maybe it’s time for you to fly away and experience international travel first hand.  The United States supports international teacher experiences through the Fulbright’s Global Classrooms Program,  Short Term Projects or their Semester of Research Abroad. Teaching Traveling has a list of teacher opportunities all over the world.  I’ve personally been abroad going through Oxbridge Academic Programs. Imagine spending a week at Oxford visiting behind the scenes of the Weston, the Bodleian, various college libraries and the Oxford University Press.  It was a pinnacle experience for me, and the other librarians with me

Christ Church, Oxford

No matter what our stated mission is, as librarians we want our students to become responsible world citizens.  What better way to introduce them to the world outside with not only literature representing others, but actual experiences writing to or working with students like themselves that live in other parts of the world? If you have a favorite international resource, please pass it along in the comments below. Have a great and informative September!

Don’t Forget the Market(ing)!

Recently, I’ve discovered I’ve made a rookie mistake. When I moved from public school to private school, I was astounded by my budget! It was easily fifteen times what I had as the sole librarian to a PreK-3 70% poverty school.  Lured by the thought that “budget” means “worth”, the habit of always advocating, always marketing rusted to a complete stop. Why spend time advocating to an administration that obviously ‘valued’ the library. Why market to a faculty that were in and out of the library space every day? Look at the money! Like I said, Rookie Mistake.

Due to a diverse set of reasons, in my area (and possibly yours) there is now more competition for students and parents than may have existed before. In my state, Massachusetts, our public schools overall are considered to have excellent public schools. Charter schools can drain off pupils not only from public schools but private ones as well. The area may be experiencing a shortage of appropriate aged children as a communities’ character changes and evolves. In the end, the private school is a business, albeit an educational non-profit. If you as the librarian (either single or department) are not consistently showing your department’s worth, the river of riches may start slowing to a trickle.

To help counteract my lack of advocacy and marketing, I recently read two excellent books on marketing for librarians:


Building a Buzz : Libraries & Word of Mouth Marketing by Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace (ISBN  978-0-8389-1011-5, 2010); and Bite-Sized Marketing : Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian by Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste and Jonathan Silberman (ISBN 978-0-8389-1000-9, 2010). While both books focus on public libraries, most


of what they say can be adapted for private school libraries.  “Wait! Shouldn’t I really be focusing on advocacy?” When I was in library school (2007!), I created a wiki pointing out the benefits of marketing over advocacy Libraries in the digital age : Ridding ourselves of advocacy – Laying Claim to marketing. While I have mellowed some and agree that there is a place for advocacy, it is marketing that keeps our presence in front of the administration, faculty, students and parents – all very important stakeholders.

Both books give excellent suggestions on getting a marketing program started for your library.  Good marketing is about organization, focus and consistency. Researching your community as well as performing a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) for your library forms the bedrock of information to build an effective marketing approach. Your marketing program doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, simple and memorable is much better!  Everyone loves a story – can you make a compelling story for your library? Make that story memorable – and don’t forget to include a call for action. Start out with your big picture communication goals and break it down into several doable, measurable objectives.

I started small.  I was bothered that I spent a lot of time trying to get the great books that I bought for the library into the hands of students.  Looking at our school day, how could I get the message that the library had a stream of new books coming in during the school year? Using the information from the above books, I realized that I had a captive audience right before our morning meetings. I was able to create an auto-advancing slideshow by using Google slides that played on the screen before the morning meeting commenced.

  I would run these slide shows for several mornings before changing them and occasionally point the slide show out during morning announcements. While I wish I could say that new books started to fly off the shelf, I can’t. But my new books did start moving, which is more than I could say before the slide shows started. While that may have been my primary intent, a secondary benefit occurred.  My head of school commented on how nice the slide show was and thought it was a great idea. That was a two birds with one stone moment. 

This summer I’m working on more marketing moves. No, not media buys or a banner in the sky. Rather, I’ll be working on bathroom posters, basic fact-sheets, copy for weekly “Did You Know” emails to the faculty and scripts for Literacy Tips shorts . By the end of next school year, I want the faculty to understand that collaborating with their librarian adds depth to their teaching.  The library’s message is “The Library and You : Partners in Teaching”. For the students I want the message to be “Find what you need at the Library”. Ultimately these messages hopefully will create a message for my administration, “Fully Fund the Library!”

By the way, I have often found some of the best ideas from my fellow librarians. Please feel free to join the conversation by replying to this post with some of your best marketing and advocacy ideas!

How do you solve a problem like picture books?

When I worked in the children’s room of a public library, picture books were some of our biggest movers. Adults and children would come in and take out armfuls, anticipating times spent reading together or looking through the pictures, telling stories of their own making. I hoped for some of the same circulation numbers when I became a school librarian. In my fantasy, students in the lower elementary grades would come in and beg to take home more picture books – or come in during free time and swap out the books they just got a few days before. Well, I’m not sure what it’s like in your elementary libraries – but that scenario has not happened in mine. Yet.

I was chatting with a fellow school librarian recently and picture book circulation came up. “Do your picture books circulate?” I asked.
“Not much” she answered.
“Mostly teachers?”
“Yes,” she replied, “and few with the popular characters like Fancy Nancy or Pete the Cat.”
That conversation replays in mind constantly. There are times when I wonder if I’m just not choosing the right books for my audience. Maybe I should require the PreKs and Kindergarten to only get picture books – after all, those books are made for them! Not only can they be used for pre-literacy and literacy activities, the stories are created explicitly FOR their enjoyment.

What to do? What to do? “Sigh? Sigh.” Following are some ideas to possibly help make those picture books move. Granted, picture books may never circulate like they do in public library – AND IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. Most school libraries are missing the second half of the dyad – the parent or guardian or babysitter that takes the child to the public library in the first place. It just makes our job ‘more challenging’ as we get those picture books to move.

Do a thorough weeding
Are your shelves stuffed? Do not underestimate the power of a good weed. Be heartless. If it hasn’t moved much in 10-15 years, it probably isn’t going to move next Get rid of anything worn. Put the worn or dated books that circulate on a list to repurchase (unless the last time it circulated was five years ago). If it bothers you to weed, take a note from Maria Kondo, thank the book for its service and let it go. Depending on your school policy, you could offer teachers first choice then put the rest in a ‘free book’ cart for students and/or find a local library or charity to benefit from your largess. If your shelves look crammed and full, students aren’t enticed to browse for that perfect picture book.

Explicitly teach that displays are for students
Have you ever set up a book display with the purpose to create circulation on some items and have students ask permission to take a book? I have. Now I make sure that I mention during library time that displays are for taking. If you have some displays that need to have books stay and some that allow circulation, it may help to let students know which ones they can take books from or offer to place a hold on a book that needs to stay in your library for a while.

Offer read alikes for picture books
If your story time has a theme or an author focus, make sure students know of picture books that share the same theme or author. I would often put up a small floor display by my reading chair of read alikes or an author’s other works, allowing students to look at them during book choosing time.

Partially ‘genrefy’ your picture book collection
While my inner feminist bristled whenever a girl asked me for a princess book, (“wouldn’t you like this one about a female astronaut instead?”), it’s hard to fight the power of the pink. Whether it’s just the holidays, or princesses, or firefighters, using spine labels or separate locations may help those picture books circulation more.

Extend circulation to parents
Again, this is up to your school’s policies, but parents are the ones gathering the picture books in the public library. Whether you stay open a little later or earlier a few days a week, advertising to parents that they can grab picture books while they’re waiting may help with circulation numbers and provide a needed service to time strapped parents.

Provide a box of books to classroom
Why do you rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Sutton’s law can also apply to the classroom. Most students only go to the library with their class. While that’s all well and good, their chosen books tend to go home. What if you had a box of books that live in the classroom rotating the selections every few weeks? Not only are you getting some of your picture books to see the light of the classroom, you may be helping a stressed out teacher find something for a child to do when they have finished an assignment early. Granted, some teachers may want nothing to do with this, but I’m sure you can find a few that would be willing to try this with you. Especially if you try to match the books with curricular themes.

Now I’m looking for your input. What are some of the ways you’ve helped increase the circulation of picture books? Let’s get these books where they belong…in the hands of the students!

It’s Raining Poems!

With April showers come.. Poetry Month! Here in the Northeast, I am still (occasionally) scraping ice off my windshield in the morning, but I know elsewhere trees are in bloom, birds are singing and everyone is in shorts. OK, the boys in my school are in shorts, even though it’s hardly above 40. However, that’s due to the “Why?” chromosome more than outside temperature! (Sorry for the tangent – back to the blog!) April was designated as Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 in order to celebrate and recognize the role poetry plays in our culture.

The Academy provides a myriad of resources for poetry month including lesson plans, web site resources, and links to poem collections that kids like. You can also hold a “Poem in Your Pocket” day on April 18th. Other free educational websites like Reading Rocket, PBS Learning Media, and yes, Pinterest contain resources to make poetry come alive for your students. Another interesting project is a crowd sourced bilingual poem with contributions from second and third graders by former poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera on the Library of Congress website entitled, The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon. You can choose to hear it read aloud or see the pictures with amazing illustrations by Juana Medina. To hear poetry read aloud, Youtube and Vimeo are full of poetry read by both the famous and the not-so-famous.

Novels in Verse on display with the word “Poems” in lit letters.

April is also a good time to evaluate your poetry collection. Maybe you need to “weed” some of the more tired books that may not have traveled much beyond your library walls. Give an old book a facelift by recovering some of your more classic volumes. Check your representation at this time as well. There are so many new books that feature poets of color. Some of my new favorites are 28 Days of Poetry Celebrating Black History, Bravo: Poems about Amazing Hispanics, and Can I Touch your hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship.

For those of us that love literacy, playing with words is icing on the cake. If you would like to share what YOU are doing for poetry month, please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below. It’s also a great way to brainstorm what might work at your school! This year, we will once again have fourth graders recite their favorite poem at morning meeting – and I’m promoting “Poem in your Pocket”. What are your ideas?

SEL and You

When you’ve been around education for any length of time, you become aware that even the education field is not immune from trends. Instead of hemlines or lapel sizes, ours tend to focus on subject matter or techniques.  Project Learning anyone? STEM? STEAM? Who remembers when we used to teach civics? Guess what-we’re teaching it again. Phonics or whole reading is now phonics AND whole reading despite the factions that fight on. Let’s just hope that open classrooms don’t come back, or did they already in the concept of the learning commons? Lately, social-emotional learning (SEL) seems to be making the rounds. Social-emotional learning as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning as the “process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” https://casel.org/what-is-sel/. Whether we look at it as ‘one more thing to do’ or a tool for classroom management, the fact is that school librarians have been teaching SEL since we’ve had librarians in school!

The history of children’s literature abounds in examples of social and emotional learning.  When a culture tells a story, the teaching stick in the collective memories. Fairy tales and Bible stories (unedited) may be a bit much for younger audiences nowadays, but even their tamer renditions can help children see how decisions create consequences without having to take action themselves. We all know that talking to strangers and tarrying in the woods may result in bad things happening! Stories help us learn about how the we fit in the world and how the world fits in ourselves.

Let’s take a look at our collections. The stories found in non-fiction abounds through memoirs, biographies and scientific texts (on many reading levels) to help build students’ knowledge about managing emotions, making good decisions and how to create nourishing relationships.   Fiction has long been recognized as a way to develop empathy, even with populations or creatures that we may never meet in person. When we and our students read a well-written story, we automatically put a piece of ourselves in the shoes of the other. While there are limitations (I’ll never be a wizard no matter how much I wish it!), I can see what it’s like when nobody wants to believe what I’m saying as well as realizing that there are times when we misjudge the actions of those close to us.

While longer texts can be used in SEL, the picture book has long been a librarian’s tool of choice in expanding a child’s social-emotional learning. As librarians, we often choose picture books to read to our students that reflect issues and ideas that are happening in their classroom and the world at large. If the school is emphasizing a specific character trait, we often use those books that reinforce that characteristic. As experts in children’s literature, our curation of books can help weed out those clunkers that contain obvious preaching. Children aren’t fooled by sanctimony and sermons. Stories that may not have an obvious right or wrong answer can be used as discussion openers, allowing for thoughtful classroom learning.

Below are some of the newest titles and a link to my pinterest board on SEL books that you might want to check out for your library.  Once you start looking at some of your picture books through the lens of social emotional learning, you may want to create notes or a small database to help you find the right book for the right situation.


Julian is a Mermaid – Jessica Love. Julian is awed by three ‘mermaids’ on their way to the a seaside pageant. His desire to be like them results in using his Abela’s curtains and makeup to become just like them! This book shows us there is more than one way to be a little boy, especially when affirmed by those that are important in their lives.

Me and My Fear – Francesca Sanna. At first, fear is a small fluffy friend that helps keep her safe. However, over time fear grows until it starts controlling what she can and can’t do. It is only once she finds that everyone has fears that she is able to learn to control her own.

The Funeral – Matt James. An arty but realistic book on what the funeral experience might be like for young children.  Even though she knows she should be sad, she can’t help but be delighted to be playing with her cousin or not going to school that day. Questions abound about the service and body but answers are left very open ended.

Tiger vs. Nightmare – Emily Tetri. Tiger never had to worry about nightmares because her monster friend used to keep them away.  One day a nightmare arrives that scares the monster! It’s only after they problem solve that the two are able to come up with a solution that defeats the nightmare and allows them both to get a good night’s sleep.

If I Had a Horse – Gianna Marino. Through simple language, watercolor and pencil, Marino uses the relationship between a horse and a young child to show that learning about and understanding others allows one to grow strong and brave.

I Walk with Vanessa: a Story about a Simple Act of Kindness – Kerascoet. A wordless book that shows that bullying affects even those who witness the act. When a young girl sees the new girl get bullied, she is upset until she finds that she can act on the problem.

Captain Starfish – Davina Bell. Alfie gets anxious sometimes, even about things he wants to do – like participate in a parade. With strong parental support, Alfie realizes his spirit animal may be more like a clown fish who comes out of hiding now and then.

Link to my Pinterest board to lists containing books on social emotional themes

Works Cited:

CASEL. “What Is SEL?” CASEL, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional
Learning, casel.org/what-is-sel/. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019.


Wordless Books in the Library


Wordless books can be a librarian’s secret weapon for having a raucous story time! Students vie to give their interpretations to what happened, what IS happening and what is about to happen. Amidst the controlled chaos, wondrous learning is occuring. Students are comprehending the story by inferring from the picture clues. Predictions of what comes next spout as each one defends their choice by citing evidence from the pages. The why’s and where’s spotlight their oral language skills. All from a book with pictures – and no words. Sounds like they have mastered some of the Common Core Standards for ELA, all while having fun with a story.

Image result for reading

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, states that, “Wordless books are a wonderful introduction to books and plotting for children who can’t read yet. Since we become picture-literate before we become print-literate, they can “read” the book if someone helps blaze a trail through the narrative initially. After hearing the book and seeing how the clues for the narrative are all in the pictures/illustrations, the child can pretend to read, though in fact they are taking real steps in reading…” (qtd. In Levin).They can convey the plot line to younger students or siblings while they practice essential pre-reading skills. Students can experience success with a book, even when they do not have solid text reading skills.

Wordless books are not just for Kindergarten or Preschool students. Strong visual literacy skills not only help students learn to read text, but also ‘read’ other visual presentations of information in their lives. Pictures, video and infographics depend on their readers to have strong visual literacy in order to tell the full story (easter eggs anyone?). Wordless books can be used as opportunities to discuss current events and difficult issues. In Shaun Tan’s Arrival, one is drawn into the experience of being an immigrant, where everything is so different and strange when you arrive into a new country. How else could we experience that without being an immigrant ourselves except by going through it with the main character? The 48 pages in Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole would take more pages than that to unpack all that occurs. What should determine the right thing to do, my conscience or my culture? Why? By Nikolai Popov should be required reading for anyone who studies war or has their fingers near the button.

Photograph, George Fujii (on right)     Depending upon the time you have for library instruction, there are many ways to use wordless books. When using them for story time, it’s important that you ask the students questions, like ‘what is happening in this picture? What makes you think that? What do you think happens next?’ Unlike some other picture books, wordless books are works of collaboration between the illustrator, you and the readers. For station work or for group work, you might print several pages of a wordless book and have the student draw either what came before or what comes next after the series of pictures. Using comic strip graphic organizers, students can create their own ‘wordless book’ with guide words on top like ‘beginning, middle and end’. Some of the aforementioned wordless books with older students can be used as catalysts for discussions or writings about current events. Asking students to create alternative endings or using images to express their own opinions about subjects may make those students that aren’t as successful within the written realm to express themselves fully with images and pictures.
With so many upsides I’m sure you’ll be adding wordless books to your library routine soon. Following are short descriptions of some of my favorite (and the Caldecott committee as well!) wordless stories. Enjoy!

97860Tuesday, Flotsam, Section 7, Mr. Wuffles ,etc. – David Wiesner. With three Caldecotts and two honors to his name, Wiesner is the king of illustrators. I LOVE to use Tuesday with K-1’s because the humor and whimsy is side-splitting. After the spectacle of flying frogs on one Tuesday, when the students see the last page of the next flying animal, I always hear several go, Ohhhh, Noooo! And giggle. What is better than that? One could do an entire author/illustrator unit of several weeks just using his work.

773276Good Night, Gorilla – Peggy Rathman. I buy this board book for anyone in my acquaintance that is having a baby. The look on all of the animals faces when they are discovered in the bedroom will make any adult laugh out loud. Teamed with Rathman’s 10 Minutes to Bedtime, you have a themed story time that every child will relate with. If you use Peggy Rathman’s website’s http://www.hamstertours.com/ in a station or with the group, your students will think you too are powered by hamsters!

6534132The Lion and the Mouse – Jerry Pinkney. This 2010 Caldecott winner can only be described as luscious. The story of how even the small can help the mighty resonates with young children. Don’t forget his equally incredible The Tortoise & the Hare.

9703979A Ball for Daisy – Chris Rascha. Students can relate to Daisy who is so happy with her favorite toy, a ball and is devastated when that ball is destroyed by another dog. Conversations about how to be a good friend and why it’s okay to be sad sometimes flow naturally from this story.

29102937A Wolf in the Snow – Matthew Cordell. Last year’s Caldecott Winner displays unlikely friends helping each other when they find themselves lost from their pack (or people). Notice how many of these wordless books are Caldecott winners or honor books? Hmmmm.

18475599The Farmer and the Clown – Marla Frazee. A little clown is separated from his clown family. A grumpy old farmer takes him in. Just as the two become firm friends, the clown family returns. For some reason, this one makes me tear up. Humans being beautiful to each other does that.

352295The Knight and the Dragon – Tomie dePaola (and his Pancakes for Breakfast)! The knight has a problem. The dragon has a problem. Who can help solve their problems? Well, let’s try the librarian princess. Yes, this one has some words (Pancakes does not). But together, they are a great little unit on how to solve problems – and one features a librarian. Seriously, it doesn’t get better than that!

For Older Students

13591670Unspoken – Henry Cole. A young girl discovers a runaway slave in her barn. What should she do? Her culture says one thing. What does her heart say? Especially useful for starting discussions about how to do what’s right when others (friends) may be pulling you to do what’s wrong.

36095343A Stone for Sascha – Aaron Becker. Another priceless work by Aaron Becker, author/illustrator of the wordless trilogy Journey, which also won a Caldecott Honor. This 2018 picture book tells the story of a young girl whose dog has died, and she has to experience her vacation without her for the first time. A stone which arrived from space and has seen dinosaurs and civilizations come and go gives her comfort. More suitable for older students.

37975169Vacation – Blexbolex. You are having a lovely holiday with your grandfather and then he brings back from the train station… an elephant? How would you react? How would anyone reasonable react to an elephant spoiling the fun.

920607The Arrival – Shaun Tan. A man’s country is overwhelmed by monsters. He must leave his family and everything he knows behind to try and make a new home for his family in a country where he can’t communicate and all is strange. Using fantastical creatures and symbols to convey the disorientation one experiences in a new place is genius.

151774Why? Nikolai Popov. A frog sits on a rock, enjoying the day and minding his own business. Suddenly, he is attacked by a mouse wielding an umbrella. Soon a minor scuffle becomes a all-out war. Why? Be prepared for discussions of big issues.

Kelly Depin is the Director of Libraries and Technology at Derby Academy in Hingham, MA. Derby Academy (Prek-8) was established in 1784 and is one of the oldest continuous co-educational institutions in the United States. 

Levin, Vanessa. “Jim Trelease: Wordless Picture Books.” Pre-K Pages, 20 Feb. 2018, www.pre-kpages.com/jim-trelease-wordless-picture-books/.

Image Credits
Creator:National Gallery of Art, Young Girl Reading painted by Jean Honore Fragonard c. 1769.
Credit:image courtesy National Gallery of Art
Photograph, Lady Bird Johnson Visiting a Project Head Start Classroom, March 19, 1966. Johnson White House Photographs from the National Archives, White House Photo Office Collection identifer #596401.

Project Energize


At the end of the school year, I find that I’ve made lists upon lists upon lists of the projects I want to do during the summer: tweak the scope and sequence; create new videos and games for library instruction; learn new apps and smash them to bits; read my way through lists of the best so far this year; and on and on and on. I love my job. I want to do it to the best of my ability. But I have finally realized that if I don’t take some time to recharge my batteries, I will limp along to the beginning of the next school year, no more refreshed than when I ended. If you will bear with me, I’d like to present several ‘finds’ I use to energize myself over my summer break.

Find Humor

In this current political climate, social media can be especially stressful. Most of us may have two social media accounts: one for personal use and one for professional development. This summer I am looking for images, tweets and pages that feature humor (and animals) to balance out some of the vitriol that also rides along in these accounts.  Some of my favorites (which can be found in most major formats) are “Fake Library statistics” (@fakelibstats), I’ve Pet that Dog (@ivepetthatdog) and anything featuring cats (or hedgehogs or manatees or add your favorite animal here!). I found I lost a lot of time but gained some deep belly laughs this holiday week with Twitter’s #secondcivilwarletters.  For example, chance@pkrandall, wrote:

“Our espresso machine is broken and our supply of Starbucks singles is running thin. Our avocado ration is cut in half and there’s a 10-minute wait for a charging port. Sherman was right: War Is Hell. Sent by my iPhone “

As Abraham Lincoln noted, “…If I did not laugh, I should die.” I have several comedies queued up on Netflix, some great funny reads in my pile, and a few dates with friends stamped in my calendar.  I find a good belly laugh at least once a day during the summer feeds me. What tickles your funny bone?


Find Wonder

National Geographic and NASA Instagram feeds showcase some of the most amazing photography available. I also subscribe to several authors that showcase work in progress, making me feel part of their creative process. Spending time outside everyday is important, even if it’s just watching clouds as they go by, or enjoying the lightshow of ladybugs. If you’re lucky enough to have a beach or a creek bank near you, spending time just watching the water burble pass or crash on a shore allows wonder to come to the surface. For me, wonder is awareness with gratitude. It can be found in nature or in the kindness we show to strangers.  Keeping an ever watchful eye out for instances of wonder feeds me for when I feel life flows too fast. These are ways that I find wonder. How do you find it? Can you be more intentional in finding wonder in the midst of this human comedy?

Here we see the spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it. Both objects, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are found in the constellation of Sagittarius and lie 15 000 light-years away. The star Hen 2-427 shines brightly at the very centre of this explosive image and around the hot clumps of gas are ejected into space at over 150 000 kilometres per hour. Hen 2-427 is a Wolf–Rayet star, named after the astronomers Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet. Wolf–Rayet are super-hot stars characterised by a fierce ejection of mass. The nebula M1-67 is estimated to be no more than 10 000 years old — just a baby in astronomical terms — but what a beautiful and magnificent sight it makes. A version of this image was released in 1998, but has now been re-reduced with the latest software.


Find Curiosity

Summer is the time when I let my curiosity freak fly. Pinterest. How many times have you climbed into that platform only to discover an hour has flown by? Now’s the season to indulge yourself with no guilt. You can follow those pins to where ever your curious mind wanders. Bookstores? My phone is out and snapping pictures of books and displays. Bonus points if there’s a bookstore mascot of the animal variety. Public Libraries. Busman’s holiday! I may not be able to take any books out but I can peruse their shelves, check out the signage, grab promotional literature and check out programs. Summer is the time to explore interests that you may subjugate during the school year. A friend of mine decided to try woodworking with no previous experience. A beautiful mixed wood cutting board was her reward. Where will your curiosity lead you?


Sometimes the best way to find something is to stop looking for it. I find when I fill myself with humor, curiosity and wonder, important projects get the energy they need to progress and the warm breezes of summer blow away the busy work that filled my in box. Have a wonderful, restful summer full of humor, curiosity and wonder.