This time last year, we at Read to Them set out to have conversations about books in our catalog while making it easy for you to pull up a seat at the table, too. Each month, we picked a theme and selected three books that exhibit subtle aspects of the theme. Every theme is bolstered by blog posts, author interviews, and a Book Stack of other titles in our catalog where the selected theme can be found. So, as we settle into a new year, we thought it would be fun to explore a year’s worth of gatherings at the Lamp-Post.
As you read, click the hyperlinks in each section to view the posts. You can view all Lamp-Post content, here.
For our first venture, we explored Friendship as it’s presented in Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins.
Our blogs delved into how vulnerability and friendship play hand in hand, and how sometimes less-than-likely friendships are the ones that have the most profound impact on our hearts. We also had the opportunity to sit down with authors Katherine Applegate and Emily Jenkins, pondering the idea of how friendships can help us see the best in ourselves.
February was spent with the stunning trio of Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds, and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
Our blogs took the time to explore the concept of quiet courage as well as how courage can serve as a vehicle of self-discovery. Author Lesa Cline-Ransome sat down with us to look deeper into the idea of leaving home, and the courage it takes to venture into a new, unknown place.
In tandem with Women’s History Month, we sat with titles who had strong female-centric stories: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry, and From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks.
Our blogs highlighted how the persistence in each of these titles bolstered the philosophy that children’s literature should serve as doors, maps, and folding chairs and the power that can be found in sticking with your own story even in the face of outside obstacles. Our table was quite full this month, as we got to chat with all three authors about the importance of persistence – both in their work, and in their journey to become successful writers.
April: Environment & Conservation
With The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park, and Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins, we delved into the importance of environmental conservation.
Our blogs take the time to appreciate the ingenuity of environmental reformers and how conservation efforts consist of a million little villages working to make the Earth a cleaner, more livable place. We even got the chance to celebrate Earth Day with author Lynne Rae Perkins, who shared her processes for choosing phrases and metaphors that can plant seeds in the minds of student readers.
This month, we shared many laughs and ruminated on the importance of humor with the wonderful characters in El Deafo by Cece Bell, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, and Clementine by Sara Pennypacker.
The content of our blogs walked on the lighter side, daring to ask “Who Needs Funny Books in the Age of Cat Videos?” and also how – in a world that often takes itself too seriously– it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself. We were delighted to have the opportunity to sit with librarian, author, blogger, and podcast host, Betsy Bird, to see how humor can be used as a superpower and even help kids tackle big topics.
When the school year came to a close, we delved into the topic of understanding by accompanying the characters in A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, Restart by Gordon Korman, and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.
In our blogs for this month, we took the time to sit with the intimacy of understanding and considered how having an advocate that stands up for you when your own voice fails can help others understand you, too. Authors Elana K. Arnold and Sharon M. Draper came together for a reflective conversation about understanding people who are different from you, and how both authors use their storytelling as a vehicle for readers to find their own meaning.
With summer in full swing, we looked at stories that highlighted the value of play and otherwise playing around – 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde, Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr, and Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.
In July, we introduced a new feature to at the Lamp-Post – a Book Stack! This element presents an additional twelve books that contain our monthly theme, giving you plenty of reading material beyond our three featured titles. Wanna Play?
As for our blog, we discussed how stories are an essential part of play. We also had two authors meet us at the Lamp-Post– Wendy Orr and Vivian Vande Velde, who discussed how characters and stories become the raw material for creative play and children’s growing expressive language.
For August, we dared to step into the pages of books with magical, fantastical settings– Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Malamander by Thomas Taylor, and Upside-Down Magic by Emily Jenkins, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle.
Once you check out our Fantasy Book Stack, dive into our blog where you can see how fantasy books allow us to process real-world heartaches. Where our author interviews are concerned, we had a double treat this month! First we got to talk to Zetta Elliott and Thomas Taylor about the vastly different fantasy series, and then we were able to sit down with the writing triad of Emily Jenkins, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle and learn more about their collaboration process. The results were fascinating!
While kids were getting their number two pencils ready, we took a look at three stories that feature schools: Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord, Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, and The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin.
September’s Book Stack is full of school stories, the perfect accompaniment to our blog that invites you to be a little introspective, to use school as a reason to ask, “Who Are You, Anyway?” This was another month of abundance, as we were able to have three interviews with three brilliant authors: Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan, and Cynthia Lord. Each takes the time to consider the role of school in their stories, and how their personal experiences impacted the stories they’ve told.
October: Off on an Adventure!
In tandem with Read Aloud to a Child Week 2022, we packed our bags and selected a roster of five books that sweep readers and characters, alike, off on adventures of a lifetime.
Though this month looks a little different, we still had plenty of rich conversations. Our Book Stack is brimming with far off-places and daring journeys, and our blog for this month shares how reading aloud can forge incredibly special memories from one’s childhood. Author Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library) stopped by the Lamp-Post to share both how improv has informed his writing and how there’s a universal appeal to being read aloud to.
As we wound down for the year and settled in for the holidays, we pulled up our chairs and settled around tables with the different families in Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech, and The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.
Pick up our Book Stack, and check out our blog to see how the three featured books build on the idea of family, pushing and stretching it to be expansive while remaining close-knit. To close out our year of amazing author interviews, we had a warm and touching conversation with Meg Medina about families in all of their loving, loud, and sometimes flawed glory.
Perhaps the most magical moment of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is when young Lucy Pevensie steps into a seemingly mundane wardrobe and finds herself in a winter wonderland. There is nothing but the crush of snow under her boots, a blanket of white pressing over the trees. And straight ahead, a fine iron lamp-post to mark the start of her journey.
We hope, as we all settle into 2023, that you’ll keep meeting us at the Lamp-Post, too!