Book Talk – November

Each month, I will feature several books (especially nonfiction) to help you celebrate the special days.

November picks up where October left off with the Day of the Dead or El Día de los Muertos celebrated from Halloween to November 2, the feast of All Souls.  This Mexican holiday focuses on remembering those family and friends who have died.  Traditions include fiestas, papier-mâché skeletons or calaveras, and colorful altars decorated with candles, marigolds, butterflies, sugar skulls, fruit and pan de muerto or bread of dead.  These offerings are put in homes to welcome the souls of the dead relatives.

Inspired by a real Mexican family of artists, Calavera Abecedario – A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, is a colorful look at skeletons that come to life for the fiesta; one skeleton for each letter of the alphabet from ángel to zapatero.  The alphabet glossary and author’s note by Jeanette Winter offer additional information on this celebration.

Illustrator Jeanette Winter teamed up with Tony Johnston for another book on this Mexican tradition.  In Day of the Dead, readers take a ringside seat during the preparation for and observance of Mexico’s three-day celebration of the dead.

“When you love someone they never really leave.”  Barbara Joosse and Giselle Potter present a heart-warming picture book story, Ghost Wings.  You’ll never look at a butterfly again without thinking about this book.  It’s one of my favorites for any time of the year.

Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery

On a hill overlooking downtown Washington, DC stands Arlington National Cemetery, the last resting place of more than 300,000 Americans who have served their country.  Author/Illustrator Chris Demarest shares that “every marker is a story unto itself.”  Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery is a must read for children to understand the importance of Veterans Day, November 11.

Lucky turkey pardoned by the President and enjoying the good life at Mount Vernon

Preschoolers will enjoy learning about all the preparations at colonial Plimoth and at a nearby Wampanoag village as ten little Pilgrims and ten little Wampanoag get ready for a wonderful harvest feast in One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims. one little pilgrim

Arizona author BG Hennessy and illustrator Lynne Cravath create an accurate depiction of Pilgrim and Wampanoag life in 1621 in Massachusetts in this picture book.  Check out the backmatter author and illustrator notes to learn about their research for this book.  And yes, the Pilgrims and Native Americans did eat turkey during their three day feast that we know as “the First Thanksgiving.”

Do you start your Thanksgiving celebration by watching the Macy’s Parade on television?  Then, enrich your experience with Caldecott honoree Melissa Sweet’s book, Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade.  balloons over broadway

1931 – Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade

This book earned top awards for nonfiction – the 2012 Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus award.  Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, illustration and text give this book an amazing richness.  Comparing her illustrations to actual photographs of the parade show her attention to accuracy, an important characteristic of nonfiction.

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Grab a piece of pumpkin pie and a good book and enjoy your holiday!

November Literacy Links & Events

Each month, I’ll update “what’s happening” for  literacy advocates.  You’ll discover upcoming  author events, book sales, reading council meetings and even how to swap your books for free!


Let’s start with those free books.  Check out for the easiest way to swap the books you don’t need or read any more (cookbooks, craft books, even Cliff notes, anything with an ISBN!)  You list the books and when someone requests one, you print the mailing label (and postage if you want) and mail it media rate.  You’ll receive a credit when it’s received and you can then go swapping.  You receive credit just for signing up and if you use my name as a referral, I even earn a credit.pbs_logo-V2

Another great place to get bargain books is the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library warehouse book sale.  Check their website,, for dates of sales.  Regular prices are $1 for paperbacks and $2 for hard-bound books and they’re organized just like in a library!  Easy to find and easy to buy.  Become a “friend” and you even get a discount.  You can also purchase books online at their Books for Good site that benefits local charitable nonprofit groups.

November is a busy month for book lovers.  

It’s National Picture Book Month. 

Check out for ideas on how to celebrate and to read essays by famous children’s authors and illustrators on why picture books are important.

Mark your calendar for these special literacy events.

Newbery medalist Cynthia Kadohata will be signing at the new Changing Hands Book Store, 300 W. Camelback Rd., on Saturday, November 1 at 2pm.ckadohata pic

thing about luckYou may know her for Kira-Kira, Weedflower and The Thing About Luck, recipient of the 2013 National Book Award.  Her latest book released in September is Half a World Away.


Mark your calendar for the Teachers Open House and Annual Sale (40% discount to teachers!) at Gardner’s Book Service on Saturday, November 8 from 9am-2pm.  Free gifts, food, door prizes and more so get your list and head to Gardner’s to shop.  Don’t forget to sign up for their free professional development workshops.  I presented the Power of the Picture Book in October and upcoming workshops include the Grand Canyon Reader Award.  Librarians Kerrlita Westrick and Shirley Berow will book talk the nominees for the GCRA on Saturday, November 22, 10 – noon.  Please register for this free workshop by calling 602.863.6000.

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There is no meeting for the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council in November but mark your calendar for Thursday, December 11, 4-6pm at the Paradise Valley Unified School District office, 15002 N. 32 Street, Phoenix.  Free to GPVRC members, $5 for guests.

Best of the Best – Footprints from the States   Join us for a walk around the states as we share books and good eats representing each of our home states. Bring a book and a food dish representing your home state. “Name That State,” state “literary mystery” activities and a state-themed white elephant sale will be featured to help fund community service projects. Come join us for some “state of the state” food and holiday fun!logo read