Sunday, February 20, 2022

Exploring Socio-Emotional Learning with Imaginary Landscapes from Elsewhere Editions

Over on The Classroom Bookshelf, Erika and I blog with our colleagues Grace, Katie, and Denise about using children's books for a range of curricular contexts. Often, we come across beautiful books that we know belong in the hands of children and/or are ideal for a classroom read aloud. But they may not work for a blog entry that focuses on an expanded exploration of a topic, genre, or theme within elementary or middle level language arts, science, or social studies curriculum. Always, we run out of time! We can't blog about every book that we love each year. One of my goals for 2022 is to use this blog to amplify more books, beyond what I can write about during my rotations on The Classroom Bookshelf. 

Two books from Elsewhere Editions, the children's imprint of Archipelago Books, have captured my attention and fit neatly into this category. Elsewhere publishes beautiful books in translation from authors all over the world; too few books from other nations are available to young people in the U.S. 

In 2021, Elsewhere published In the Meadow of Fantasies, written by Iranian writer Hadi Mohammadi, illustrated by Nooshin Safakhoo, and translated from Persian to English by Sara Khalili. This fantastical story is conjured up by a little girl lying in bed in a room all grey, but for the green leaves of a few scattered plants. There are seven horses, but one lacks color. So each of the six other horses give some of their color to the seventh horse. The six horses all have homes, but the seventh has none. So again, they share. On and on, the horses give to the seventh horse, losing nothing by doing so. The seventh horse gives birth to a foal equipped with all of the gifts given to its mother. At the book's conclusion, the foal returns to the little girl's now colorful bedroom. In the Meadow of Fantasies prompts valuable conversations about sharing, accommodating, and celebrating one another. 

You can read SLJ's Betsy Bird discuss the book as part of her FUSE 8 December 2021 Best Translated Books for Children List.  

In July 2022, Elsewhere will publish What Feelings Do When No One's Looking, by Tina Oziewiez, illustrated by Aleksandra Zajac, and translated from Polish into English by Jennifer Croft. Across this episodic, limited palette picture book, feelings are "personified" by a range of furry imaginative creatures. Sentences vary from short, staccato-like sentences to longer, more complex ones. Each page presents a playful visual metaphor to help young children identify feelings and what those feelings do. 

For example, "Curiosity always climbs as high as possible - to the treetops, the roof, or the chimney." A smiling deer-like slender creature sits atop a chimney as a nest of baby birds look up in wonder. 

In contrast, "Envy tramples all that is beautiful. No time to rest-- there are so many beautiful things to ruin!" A furry, determined-looking seven-legged creature makes a list while stomping on a mauve-colored plant. 

What Feelings Do When No One's Looking offers pandemic-weary children the opportunity to make sense of the complicated emotions they may be feeling and concrete examples of the feelings they wish to foster, such as joy, kindness, courage, calm, and compassion.  

From a text set standpoint, these two books will work beautifully as Duet, paired together. But they would also work well in a Solar System exploration of books featuring humans and anthropomorphized creatures exploring emotions, such as Bear Island by Matthew Cordell and The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, which our colleague Katie Egan Cunningham has written about, After the Fall by Dan Santat, that our colleague Grace Enriquez has written about, and When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland. 

Monday, February 14, 2022


Today Mary Ann and Dr. Xenia Hadjioannou of Penn State Harrisburg sent the following letter to The New York Times requesting that the paper add three children’s nonfiction bestseller lists to parallel the existing picture book, middle grade, and young adult lists, which focus on fiction.

The submitted letter included the signatures of more than 500 educators and librarians as well as the institutional signatures of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Children’s Literature Assembly of NCTE. The letter is also being shared on more than 20 blogs that serve the literacy and children's literature communities.

We now welcome everyone–parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, authors, illustrators, agents, book publishers, and book sellers–to sign the letter. 

If you support this request, please add your information to the letter by following the link to the signature collection form: .  Your email address will not be made public. 

Feel free to share the letter and signature collection form with other individuals who you think would also be interested in signing, and share widely on social media using the #KidsLoveNonfiction hashtag.


Nonfiction books for young people are in a golden age of creativity, information-sharing, and reader-appeal. But the genre suffers from an image problem and an awareness problem. The New York Times can play a role in changing that by adding a set of Nonfiction Best Seller lists for young people: one for picture books, one for middle grade literature, and one for young adult literature.  

Today’s nonfiction authors and illustrators are depicting marginalized and minority communities throughout history and in our current moment. They are sharing scientific phenomena and cutting-edge discoveries. They are bearing witness to how art forms shift and transform, and illuminating historical documents and artifacts long ignored. Some of these book creators are themselves scientists or historians, journalists or jurists, athletes or artists, models of active learning and agency for young people passionate about specific topics and subject areas. Today’s nonfiction continues to push boundaries in form and function. These innovative titles engage, inform, and inspire readers from birth to high school.  

Babies delight in board books that offer them photographs of other babies’ faces. Toddlers and preschoolers fascinated by the world around them pore over books about insects, animals, and the seasons. Children, tweens, and teens are hungry for titles about real people that look like them and share their religion, cultural background, or geographical location, and they devour books about people living different lives at different times and in different places. Info-loving kids are captivated by fact books and field guides that fuel their passions. Young tinkerers, inventors, and creators seek out how-to books that guide them in making meals, building models, knitting garments, and more. Numerous studies have described such readers and their passionate interest in nonfiction (Jobe & Dayton-Sakari, 2002; Moss and Hendershot, 2002; Mohr, 2006). Young people are naturally curious about their world. When they are allowed to follow their passions and explore what interests them, it bolsters their overall wellbeing. And the more young people read, the more they grow as readers, writers, and critical thinkers (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2021; Van Bergen et al., 2021).

Research provides clear evidence that many children prefer nonfiction for their independent reading, and many more select it to pursue information about their particular interests (Doiron, 2003; Repaskey et al., 2017; Robertson & Reese, 2017; Kotaman & Tekin, 2017). Creative and engaging nonfiction titles can also enhance and support science, social studies, and language arts curricula. And yet, all too often, children, parents, and teachers do not know about recently published nonfiction books. Bookstores generally have only a few shelves devoted to the genre. And classroom and school library book collections remain dominated by fiction. If families, caregivers, and educators were aware of the high-quality nonfiction that is published for children every year, the reading lives of children and their educational experiences could be significantly enriched.

How can The New York Times help resolve the gap between readers’ yearning for engaging nonfiction, on the one hand, and their lack of knowledge of its existence, on the other? By maintaining separate fiction and nonfiction best seller lists for young readers just as the Book Review does for adults.

The New York Times Best Sellers lists constitute a vital cultural touchstone, capturing the interests of readers and trends in the publishing world. Since their debut in October of 1931, these lists have evolved to reflect changing trends in publishing and to better inform the public about readers’ habits. We value the addition of the multi-format Children’s Best Seller list in July 2000 and subsequent lists organized by format in October 2004. Though the primary purpose of these lists is to inform, they undeniably play an important role in shaping what publishers publish and what children read.

Adding children’s nonfiction best-seller lists would:

  • Help family members, caregivers, and educators identify worthy nonfiction titles.

  • Provide a resource for bibliophiles—including book-loving children—of materials that satisfy their curiosity.

  • Influence publishers’ decision-making.

  • Inform the public about innovative ways to convey information and ideas through words and images.

  • Inspire schools and public libraries to showcase nonfiction, broadening its appeal and deepening respect for truth.

We, the undersigned, strongly believe that by adding a set of nonfiction best-seller lists for young people, The New York Times can help ensure that more children, tweens, and teens have access to books they love. Thank you for considering our request.

Dr. Mary Ann Cappiello 

Professor, Language and Literacy

Graduate School of Education, Lesley University

Cambridge, Massachusetts 

Former Chair, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Committee,  Blogger at The Classroom Bookshelf of School Library Journal, Founding Member of The Biography Clearinghouse  


Dr. Xenia Hadjioannou

Associate Professor, Language and Literacy Education

Penn State University, Harrisburg Campus

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Vice President of the Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), co-editor of The CLA Blog, Founding Member of The Biography Clearinghouse 


Allington, R. L., & McGill-Franzen, A. M. (2021). Reading volume and reading achievement: A review of recent research. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S231–S238.

Correia, M. (2011). Fiction vs. informational texts: Which will your kindergarteners choose? Young Children, 66(6), 100-104.

Doiron, R. (2003). Boy books, girl books: Should we re-organize our school library collections? Teacher Librarian, 30(3), 14.

Kotaman H. & Tekin A.K. (2017). Informational and fictional books: young children's book preferences and teachers' perspectives. Early Child Development and Care, 187(3-4), 600-614, DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2016.1236092

Jobe, R., & Dayton-Sakari, M. (2002). Infokids: How to use nonfiction to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic learners. Pembroke.

Mohr, K. A. J. (2006). Children’s choices for recreational reading: A three-part investigation of selection preferences, rationales, and processes. Journal of Literacy Research, 38(1), 81–104.

Moss, B. &  Hendershot, J. (2002). Exploring sixth graders' selection of nonfiction trade books: when students are given the opportunity to select nonfiction books, motivation for reading improves. The Reading Teacher, 56(1), 6-17.

Repaskey, L., Schumm, J. & Johnson, J. (2017). First and fourth grade boys’ and girls’ preferences for and perceptions about narrative and expository text. Reading Psychology, 38(8), 808-847.

Robertson, Sarah-Jane L. & Reese, Elaine. (2017). The very hungry caterpillar turned into a butterfly: Children's and parents' enjoyment of different book genres. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(1), 3-25.

Van Bergen, E., Vasalampi, K., & Torppa, M. (2021). How are practice and performance related? Development of reading from age 5 to 15. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(3), 415–434.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Expanding Curricular Options: If You Lived During the Plimouth Thanksgiving

At the start of each school year, I always find myself saying to a student or a colleague: "How do we still not have a range of books about colonization in New England written from the Indigenous perspective?" In Massachusetts, where Erika and I both teach, First Contact, colonization, and the 1621 harvest celebration in Patuxet/Plimouth - an event which morphed in public consciousness with the Thanksgiving holiday in the mid-19th century - appears in social studies standards across grade levels. For too long, we've lacked adequate children's literature of all genres to fully explore these topics from multiple perspectives. Slowly, this is beginning to change. 

Earlier this month, rather quietly, one of those long-awaited books arrived. Scholastic published If You Lived During the Plimouth Thanksgiving, a new title in its long-standing "If You" series. Written by Chris Newell, a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe from Motahkmikuhk (Indian Township, Maine) and illustrated by Winona Nelson, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa, If You Lived During the Plimouth Thanksgiving is an effective re-examination of the events of 1620-1621. It's the first book that I know of since Margaret Bruchac, Abenaki, and Catherine Grace's 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (2001) that is written from an Indigenous perspective and offers background information about both the Wampanoag and the English. 

Newell gently reminds the reader that "[t]he story of the Mayflower landing is different depending on whether the storyteller viewed the events from the boat or from the shore."  This expository book covers a lot of content, from basic concepts (colonization, pilgrim), to background information on how earlier European fishermen and slave traders shaped Indigenous people's perceptions of the English, to basic information on the daily lives and beliefs of both the Wampanoag and the English. Throughout the book, Newell threads in that background context, reminding his readers of the larger forces and events that influenced and shaped the relationship between the Wampanoags and the English. In keeping with the series, a question and answer text structure is adopted; all headings are phrased as questions, inviting readers to engage with the text. 

Newell does not sugar coat this history; he invites readers to engage with it. In his introduction, he reminds readers that "Before the arrival of any Europeans, Native peoples lived in America by the millions. Entire nations of people connected by land, kinship, language, and culture existed on the continent for more than twelve thousand years." The book concludes with contemporary Indigenous views on Thanksgiving, leaving the reader with the knowledge that despite centuries of policies to remove Indigenous tribes and nations from their lands, they remain a vibrant part of our nation's culture.  

Gratefully, Winona Nelson's illustrations offer elementary readers a vision of what Patuxet/Plimouth looked like in 1620-1621 that steers clear of the inaccurate and often racist 19th and early 20th century paintings that manage to dominate so many nonfiction books on this topic. 

One concern - the title of the book includes, and therefore privileges, the "Plimouth Thanksgiving," an event that never happened. The inclusion of the phrase certainly grabs the attention of teachers, librarians, and other adults eager to share this history with the young people in their life. But I wonder if it might confuse elementary age readers? 

Scholastic has assured readers on the back cover that the manuscript was "[v]etted by experts," and a Linda Coombs, Aquinnah Wampanoag, is thanked on the verso page. I still wish there was a bibliography, but I'm not sure I've ever seen that kind of back matter in this series. 

You can read reviews from Kirkus Review and School Library Journal

As always, if you seek information on the representation of Indigenous peoples in children's literature, these are our go to resources: 

American Indians in Children's Literature Blog 

The American Indian Library Association and its American Indian Youth Literature Award 

Social Justice Books: American Indians/Indigenous Peoples/Native Nations Booklist 

Additional Information: 

Plimouth Patuxet Museum 

Wampanoag Mashpee Tribe

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

NCTE 2021!!


We're so looking forward to the start of NCTE 2021 in less than twenty four hours! Look for our pre-recorded session with fellow teacher educator Xenia Hadjioannou, author-illustrator Don Tate, and author Jen Bryant within the NCTE conference site. We're presenting on behalf of all of our colleagues at The Biography Clearinghouse!

OD-290 Using Life Stories for Justice, Equity, and Antiracist Teaching: The Biography Clearinghouse

Friday, May 3, 2019

"Movement and Migration: Teaching with Children's Literature" - Join Us at Lesley University One Week This Summer!

This summer, July 8th-12th, we will be offering a professional development institute at Lesley University called "Movement and Migration: Teaching with Children's Literature." In this five-day institute, we will explore children's, middle grade, and young adult literature of all genres that explore immigration and migration. 

Here is the description of our program: 

"Human beings are on the move. Climate change, political
unrest, and economic instability have unleashed unprecedented migrations globally. How do we respond to students who have experienced traumatic relocation? How do we help all of our students understand the people behind the news stories? What can we learn from the past that helps us to understand the present? 

During our week together, we'll explore a range of children’s, middle grade, and young adult books that convey contemporary and historic refugee and immigrant experiences. We’ll hear from authors as well as experts in immigration and the global refugee crisis. Ultimately, we’ll explore the potential for multimodal, multigenre text sets to anchor explorations of human movement and migration in language arts, social studies, and science in grades K–12. With an emphasis on curriculum development, the institute will focus on the use of young people’s literature as a vehicle to explore multiple perspectives, teaching strategies for various genres, and issues related to differentiated instruction and text complexity for diverse learners. 

For more information: Contact Rodney Durand at 617.349.8511 or at You can find out more at the Center for Advanced Professional Studies in Education (CAPSE) at Lesley University. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Text Sets in NYC!

Mary Ann had a great day on Friday, September 14th, working with the NYC Department of Library Services on the role of text sets in their Reading in Action Grant.

To take a look at our NYC Trash Text Set, follow this link.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

JFK Library Conference Wednesday, April 6th

Mary Ann is looking forward to working with Tonya Bolden, Candace Fleming, Emily Arnold McCully, Andrea David Pinkney, and Myra Zarnowski at the "New Frontiers in Biography and History" conference at the JFK Presidential Library this Wednesday, April 6th. This conference for teachers and librarians in sponsored by the John Fitzgerald Kenney National Historic Site and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  For New England folks who wish to attend, you can go find out more here