Kyle Lukoff talks about puzzling out books, gives tips to librarians to protect their patrons’ right to choose their own books and compares picture books to formalist poems.
It turns out that Kyle thinks writing a novel is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and so do I. He talks about how his third novel he wasn't sure how three different story elements were going to hang together, but in the end they all fit perfectly with one another, which felt like magic. His third novel isn't out yet. In the meantime, read his Newbery Honor book Too Bright To See or his latest novel Different Kinds of Fruit.
For eight years, Kyle worked as a school librarian. When I read his ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Award speech, I wanted to delve into protecting patron's rights on the podcast. He took the following actions to protect his students' right to choose their own books:
1) Invited parents and guardians to check out up to four books they could share with their kids at home to validate the adult's right to choose and participate in their child's reading life.
2) When a caregiver complained to Kyle that the book their child chose was too difficult, Kyle asked the adult to read the book at home for 15 minutes with the child. Then, ask if the child enjoyed the book. If the answer was yes, great. If the answer was no, then ask the child if they would like to return the book and pick a different title. That way the child had agency instead of the adult choosing for them.
3) Kyle told teachers that if caregivers had a problem with something in the library, that the caregiver had to reach out to him directly.
For the first time ever on the podcast, we talked about how "picture books are more aligned with formalist poetry than any other kind of writing." Kyle gives a lesson on picture book structure using Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and he also talks about the structure in Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper and Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen. I talked about Kyle's book Explosion at the Poem Factory, which in addition to being a super-fun story is also a poetry primer.
Kyle recommends that elementary libraries have the following books on hand:
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
Sounds like Kyle loves this book as much as I do. He wrote a forthcoming picture book called Just What to Do, which is a response to Cori's book about how often what we need when we're upset is not to do anything, but to have someone who will listen to us talk it through.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell
Traci was in my debut group, and I love her work. In addition to We Are Grateful which talks about gratitude year round, Kyle said he loves At the Mountain's Base. As a fourth grade teacher, I highly recommend We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know because it dispels the myth that Native Americans no longer exist and highlights the power of education.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
It's impossible not to feel joy when reading this book.
Finally, Kyle recommends any book written or illustrated by Yuyi Morales to brighten up any library space.
If you would like to win one of Kyle's amazing books, leave a comment below.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's podcast art.
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