2013 Bluestem Award Master List (Part 1 of 2)

The Bluestem Award is an Illinois readers' choice award for grades three through five. The 2013 nominees were announced yesterday.

The award is designed for students in grades 3-5 who are ready for longer titles than found on the Monarch list, but not quite ready for the sophistication of some of the Rebecca Caudill titles. Named in honor of Big Bluestem which is the state prairie grass, the award may include both timeless classics and current titles, as well as books that have appeared on Monarch and Rebecca Caudill lists.

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez [Random House | 2010]

About the book:

Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about! Tía Lola, his quirky,carismática, and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami. Like her stories for adults, Julia Alvarez’s first middle-grade book sparkles with magic as it illuminates a child’s experiences living in two cultures.

A classroom teacher created a PowerPoint presentation about How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay.

Julia Alvarez presented at the 2009 National Book Festival.

Julia Alvarez talks about the complex relationship between an author and a reader.


The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Perisiani [Charlesbridge | 2009]

Joe and Bob Switzer were very different brothers. Bob was a studious planner who wanted to grow up to be a doctor. Joe dreamed of making his fortune in show business and loved magic tricks and problem-solving.

When an accident left Bob recovering in a darkened basement, the brothers began experimenting with ultraviolet light and fluorescent paints. Together they invented a whole new kind of color, one that glows with an extra-special intensity—Day-Glo.

Vicky Smith chats with Chris Barton about Shark vs. Train.

Download The Day-Glo Brothers activity and discussion guide.

Chris Barton and Tony Persiani were featured on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.


The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch [Little, Brown | 2007]

Warning: this description has not been authorized by Pseudonymous Bosch. As much as he'd love to sing the praises of his book (he is very vain), he wouldn't want you to hear about his brave 11-year old heroes, Cass and Max-Ernest. Or about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange (and stinky) circumstances. And he certainly wouldn't want you to know about the hair-raising adventures that follow and the nefarious villains they face.

Pseudonymous Bosch visited my school library two years ago. My students enjoyed exploring Bosch's website.

Little, Brown's Secret website has games, videos, and excerpts.


Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea [Random House | 2010]

About the book:

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school. Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.

Visit Rob Buyea's "For Teachers" page.


The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino [Chronicle Books | 2009]

How do snow crystals form? What shapes can they take? Are no two snow crystals alike? These questions and more are answered in this visually stunning exploration of the science of snow. Perfect for reading on winter days, the book features photos of real snow crystals in their beautiful diversity. Snowflake-catching instructions are also included.

Chronicle Books created a fantastic guide for The Story of Snow.

Check out The Story of Snow's blog. There are tons of interesting facts and images.


Redwoods by Jason Chin [Flash Point | 2009]

When a boy riding the subway finds an abandoned book about redwood trees, strange things happen. He reads that their ancestors lived during the Jurassic period as dinosaurs appear at the window. Discovering that redwoods alive today first sprouted during the Roman Empire, he finds himself seated between two Roman citizens. And when, still reading, he emerges from the subway, he enters the very forest described in the book he holds in his hands...

Browse inside Redwoods.


Love that Dog by Sharon Creech [HarperCollins | 2003]

About this book:


Room 105 -- Miss Stretchberry

September 13

I don't want to
because boys
don't write poetry.

Girls do.

Meet Jack, who tells his story with a little help from some paper, a pencil, his teacher, and a dog named Sky.

If you're not following Sharon's blog, start right this minute.

SharonCreech.com has teaching guides for all her books. There is a special guide for Love that Dog and The Unfinished Angel.

Sharon Creech and her editor talk about how they work together.

Walter Dean Myers and Sharon Creech perform a reader's theatre of Love that Dog.

What a treat! Sharon Creech reads from Love that Dog.

Sharon Creech shares the inspiration for The Unfinished Angel.


Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper [Atheneum | 2010]

Travis Jonker and I named Out of My Mind a best book of 2010.

Out of my Mind gives a voice to those who otherwise lack one. Sharon Draper highlights Melody's struggle and allows the reader to focus on her abilities, rather than her disabilities. You cannot help but pause and consider how you have unintentionally treated those who may face a similar struggle. Out of My Mind is difficult to get out of your mind. It changes the way you think about those differently-abled.

Dr. Sharon Draper is a former high school teacher and the 1997 National Teacher of the Year. She provides detailed study guides for each of her books. Download the Out of My Mind guide.

Sharon Draper reads the first chapter of Out of My Mind.

"The loss of any library pains me." -Sharon Draper


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