Holly Valentine | June 2021

C.A.T.C.H. a Spark!

It’s summer! Is there anything better than curling up under a tree outside and reading in the summertime? Summer reading can be magic, and to kick it off, all of our Sparks this month focus on books and all they bring with them – knowledge, imagination, joy and hope. We go from war torn cities to girls yearning for an education to a magical journey into books. It doesn’t seem to be any surprise that books are a gateway to creativity and imagination. Inspiration to us all to create our own stories, with endings yet to be known. 

The Bookwanderers

It’s the best feeling in the world and we’ve all been there: when you feel one with book you are reading and lose all sense of time… What if it really could happen? That is the case for Tilly Pages, who discovers she has the rare ability to be a bookwanderer, going in and out of any story she chooses, as long as she follows the rules. Just think about how magical that would be. Of course it isn’t all easy and dangers lurk at the turn of each page as one misstep and you could alter a book’s course and story. 

Remember the way in which Harry Potter grabbed readers of all ages? This one will too, with its layers of imagination, surprise, and some twists and turns along the way. This chapter book is the first in a series and would make for a wonderful read aloud in upper elementary as well as being an independent novel for older readers that will make them want to escape with Tilly.  

Page by Paige

There is something really very special about this story and the depth of what you take away from it increases with each read. Paige is a young girl experiencing all the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, which have been amplified by a recent move. This is an incredibly moving story that will open the doors to some important social emotional conversations. It is honest and straightforward, which is part of the magic, as it deals with adolescence, feeling like you belong, and finding first love. 

However, this book also has incredibly powerful and haunting illustrations. The book balances the structure of a graphic novel along with classic illustrations. It captures the struggle of growing up, not knowing where to start, and aligns those notions with the struggles of being an artist. This book has a quiet, strong, needed power to reach so many students, and one that they will want to read and analyze again and again. 

The Whisper

A young girl who loves all books is given a magical and special one by her teacher. When she settles in to read it at home, she discovers all the words have been lost. Thinking the book is not able to be read, a whisper comes to her convincing her to create the words she cannot see. What follows is an adventure in imagination and creativity a she develops a story for each page. In doing so, she allows others to see that stories can always be re-written, include timeless tales such as Aesop’s fables. A charming story that will allow readers to imagine and create for themselves as the little girl does. 

One Girl

A simple yet rich and complex story about the power of education and one girl who reads a book and lights a speak for her future and the future of girls everywhere. Lyrical words and stunning illustrations lift this special story about the ways books and education can create and inspire change, starting small and making a huge difference. Be sure to read the author’s note and the book jacket summary for a more in-depth and insightful look at the thinking behind the story. This story would pair beautifully with the story of Malala or a study of children’s rights. 

The Librarian’s Stories

A war-torn city whose library was destroyed is slowly given hope again when the librarian returns to the town square and simply sits and reads aloud. A story that reminds us of the comfort books can bring us, the hope and the inspiration.  It is especially the children who notice this, and long for the books to transport them back to “the time before”.

While in the context of the story, it means the time before the war, the book is a relevant way to start hard conversations with young children about the ways in which our lives have changed since the pandemic entered our lives. A strong example of the connections between strength, endurance and hope, moving forward from the darkest of times. 

The Bookstore Cat

A playful and captivating cat captures young readers in a journey through a bookstore and the alphabet. Students will be challenged to think of words and and gain new vocabulary through the course of the story. The book lends itself to being a mentor text in many ways, including using and choosing adjectives, illustrating meaning, and personality traits. Whether children love books and bookstores or cats, this story will capture them. There are resident bookstore cats all around the world, easily found through an internet search which would allow for engaging real world discussions and connections. 

Simply put, books open doors. They are the gateways to imagination and are a place many of us start our journey to creativity and possibility. Turn a page, take flight and catch a spark of imagination as you and your students begin summer reading.  

About the Author

Holly Valentine is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Institute for Arts Integration and Steam. Prior to joining the Institute, Holly worked as an Arts Integration and Classroom Teacher for 20 years in a suburb of Rochester, NY. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. Holly has been a recipient of the NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. She also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre. Holly holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY,  where she currently lives.