The Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented

Kaleidoscope: Spring 2017

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A Message from the Co-Presidents

Hello CAGT Members!

Hard to believe it’s already Spring!  Seems like just yesterday we were gathering for our conference in Loveland.  In the interim, we’ve celebrated another successful Legislative Day at the Capitol this past February 23rd.  We had 268 students attend with us this year, which is always a special event, especially when the students ask highly intelligent and probing questions of the legislators during lunch!  Thanks and kudos to Lynette Zickerman for once again organizing a tremendous event.  Lynette will be stepping down from organizing Legislative Day, and she made her final event a fantastic experience for all.

Executive Director Kathleen Robinson and Co-President Roger Dowd attended the NAGC Affiliate Conference in Washington, DC this past March.  In addition to networking with people from other state affiliates and hearing about the latest research and advocacy strategies, we met with several Colorado congressional staffers.  Our focus was on expanding the federal Javits grant and funding for GT-related items with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Although the DC area was experiencing a ‘blizzard’ (which would be considered a ‘flurry’ in Colorado), we were able to have some positive meetings with congressional staff.  

We are excited about our annual Conference, which will take place on October 16 and 17 at the Loveland Embassy Suites.   This year’s theme is “The Heart of the Rockies: Elevating the Gifted Connection”.  Please spread the word and join us!  This is our annual networking and educational opportunity and we typically draw 700 + attendees from around the state.  

As we move forward in our work for 2017, we hope to expand our programming and partnerships with rural districts and BOCES, protect and strengthen our legislative initiatives and continue our collaboration with organizations that share our vision and magnify our efforts.  We thank you for joining us in this work to make CAGT a source of support for gifted educators, students and their families.


Jennifer Barr & Roger Dowd, CAGT Co-Presidents

CAGT News & Events...

2017 Conference
The Heart of the Rockies: Elevating the Gifted Connection
October 16th and 17th
Embassy Suites, Loveland CO


Call for Proposals for the annual CAGT Conference!

Conference Call for Proposals is now opened. 



Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT) is pleased to announce the CAGT Distinguished Student Awards program for the 2017 – 2018 school year. This awards program is designed to recognize distinguished achievement in academics, leadership, or the arts, in children ages 7-18.  Three children from the state of Colorado will be named CAGT Distinguished Students: one student for the Junior Division (ages 7-9), and one student for the Senior Division (ages 10-12), and one student for the Masters Division (ages 13-18).  All three students that are selected will receive a CAGT Certificate of Excellence and a $500 cash scholarship.


CAGT encourages teachers or parents to recommend past or current students for this honor.  The awards will be presented at the CAGT annual conference this fall, which will be held at the Embassy Suites in Loveland, Colorado on October 22 and 23, 2017.  CAGT will publish the names of the Distinguished Student winners in the conference program and the CAGT newsletter, The Kaleidoscope.


CAGT believes that the CAGT Distinguished Student Awards Program will inspire and encourage children to achieve to their fullest potential; it will highlight the contributions of these students and draw attention to the educational needs and capabilities of our state’s gifted and talented students.

 Information and nomination procedures can be found here.


Colorado Scholarship for Diverse Talent Development

The primary purpose of the Colorado Scholarship for Diverse Talent Development is to increase and support culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students' access to talent development opportunities through teacher training.

The Colorado Scholarship is intended to support teachers working in Title I schools that are new to the field of gifted education. The opportunity provides teachers the tools for identifying and understanding the needs of underserved gifted learners. Selected candidates will attend the CAGT annual conference and participate in activities and/or presentations focusing on the fundamentals of gifted education with an emphasis on working with underserved populations. Upon completion of the program, candidates will complete a short "project" exhibiting their understanding of the issues addressed.

Application information is available on the CAGT website under the events button. Click here to go directly to the application page.

Applications are due Monday, May 15, 2017





Education Commissioner to form Teacher Cabinet

Apply to serve on the Education Commissioner's Teacher Cabinet

The Commissioner is creating a new opportunity for Colorado teachers to share their hands-on classroom knowledge. This advisory group will be made up of 15 teachers from around the state representing small, medium, large, rural, suburban and urban school systems.

Teacher Cabinet Members will:

-Serve as a sounding board for the implementation of state education policy.

-Brainstorm solutions for some of the challenges facing today’s educators, such as raising achievement among all students, supporting low-performing schools and increasing the number of individuals joining the teaching profession.

To be considered for the Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet, educators must have at least three years of experience in the classroom and must submit an application, resume and two letters of recommendation to CDE by 11:59 p.m. Friday, May 5.

Selected educators will serve two years on the cabinet beginning in August 2017.

For more information, please see the Commissioner home page

Leadership Awards

CAGT in collaboration with the Office of Gifted Education Colorado Department of Education will present Leadership Awards in the following categories: George T. Betts Inspiration Award, Parent of the Year, Educator of the Year, Administrator of the Year, Special Advocate of the Year, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at CAGT's 40th Annual Conference at the Embassy Suites Loveland on October 16 and 17, 2017. All are invited to nominate people for one or more categories

To nominate a person for the CAGT leadership awards, please use the information found here.



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Book Ends
Jerry Flack, University of Colorado

Looking for the Best? Look for the Bear



 The year 2017 marks the 25th Anniversary of Candlewick Press, very possibly the finest publisher in the nation of books especially well suited to gifted readers. The publisher began with the aim to bring to the United States exceptional picture books first printed in London, England by Walker Books. The charming colophon features a cuddly bear carrying a lighted candle that serves as the hallmark of both Walker Books and Candlestick Press. It was designed by the great British illustrator Helen Oxenbury in 1992. Farmer Duck and Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? were among the first books published in the USA by Candlewick Press. The first book authored or illustrated by an American was I Saw Esau, brilliantly illustrated by Maurice Sendak. An early entry in the Candlewick catalog was Martin Handford's phenomenally popular Where’s Waldo (1987) and its many sequels. One of Candlewick’s own ongoing series is the Maisy collection by Lucy Cousins.


Candlewick books can be spotted on book store shelves even before a “Look for the Bear!” is noted on the title page. The book designs are unfailingly superb. In the first quarter century of its existence, Candlewick has published handsome books that represent many genre and are suitable for all ages of gifted readers. Some of the stellar early titles may no longer be in print, but are available from school and public library collections. Biographies written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Robert Penning include Shakespeare: His Work and His World (2001) and Dickens: His Work and His World (2005). The Candlewick Book of Fairy Tales (1993) by Sarah Hayes is illustrated by one of Candlewick’s most beloved author-illustrators, P. J. Lynch. World literature classics include Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote (2009) as retold by Martin Jenkins and splendidly illustrated by Chris Riddell. Spiritual books of exceptional beauty include God’s Dream (2008) written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams and illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Reeve Lindbergh’s In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child’s Book of Prayers and Praise (2000) that features artwork by illustrators of multiple cultures. See also the wondrous With A Mighty Hand: The Story of the Torah (2013) as adapted by Amy Ehrlich and brilliantly illustrated by Daniel Nevins. Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes (2014) is a gorgeous anthology of collected classics by Elizabeth Hammill and illustrated by more than seventy celebrated artists. Paul B. Janeczko and artist Chris Raschka have collaborated on at least four poetry anthologies, the latest being The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects (2015). Raschka’s latest highly imaginative illustrations illuminate A Song About Myself (2017), a poem by John Keats.


Biographies, History, and Inventions


Tubridy, Ryan. Patrick and the President. Illus. by P. J. Lynch. Somerville, MA (2017).


At the present time in which many Americans are dismayed at the national political spectrum and when immigration is a controversial issue, Patrick and the President is a wonderful piece of history for young readers. There was a time when one of the most charismatic presidents, John F. Kennedy, was beloved in the USA, Ireland, and much of the free world. All eight of Kennedy’s great grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late 1840s during Ireland’s terrible potato famine. The youngest president ever elected to that high office made a four-day trip to his ancestral homeland during the summer of 1963 in what he termed were the best four days of his life.


Tubridy, a popular media specialist in Ireland tells a fictional story of a young boy named Patrick who desperately wants to shake hands with the American President who was Ireland’s gift to the world. The president is coming to his “hometown,” the historical village of his own great grandfather. Patrick’s family, much like all Irish families, were overjoyed when the announcement was made that America’s popular president would visit Ireland for four days, June 26 until June 29 of 1963. Patrick’s classmates will greet JFK singing “The Boys of Wexford,” a beloved and heroic Irish song of patriotism. Patrick will also have a second opportunity to shake hands with the president when he acts as a food server at a genuine Irish Kennedy Family reception. The excitement of the nine-year-old boy is palpable in the exciting narrative. Beautiful images of Patrick’s story and the presidential visit are crafted by Ireland’s Children’s Laureate, the much beloved artist P. J. Lynch. End matter provides day-by-day documentation and photographs of one of Ireland’s proudest historical events. 


Candlewick’s Biography series includes Elizabeth Rusch’s tribute, Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World (2013) colorfully illustrated by Oliver Dominguez. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld worked together to write What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors (2012) that is superbly illustrated by Ben Boos and A. G. Ford. In her first picture book, illustrator Ekua Holmes takes wing and allows Carol Boston Weatherford’s biography Voice of Freedom, Fanny Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (2015) soar. Tanya Lee Stone reveals the brave history of America’s first black paratroopers in her history, Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles (2013). Stone’s riveting account is greatly enhanced with the use of period photography. British author-illustrator Marcia Williams reaches must further back in time in her comic- strip style historical journey of The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes, and Ferrets! (2015).



A Daring Man, An Uncommon Artist, and Just Plain Fun


Matt Tavares, best known for his illustrated biographies of baseball greats, shares in words and images the first known daredevil crossing from the United States to Canada (and back again!) in his vivid picture book account Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin (2016). Hester Bass explores The Secret World of Walter Anderson (2009), a famed watercolorist best known for his love of nature and eccentric lifestyle. Mac Barnett narrates the fun-filled story of President William Howard Taft’s ordeal of becoming stuck in the White House bath tub. Chris Van Dusen adds hilarious illustrations to President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath (2014). Beyond the embarrassment of Taft’s predicament, readers do learn a fascinating footnote to history. President Taft is the only American president to also serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.




Alexander, Kwame, Colderley, Chris, and Wentworth, Marjory. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. Illus. by Ekua Holmes. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2017.


In the preface to the poetry anthology, Out of Wonder, first author Kwame Alexander states the rationale for this collection of poetic tributes to 20 poets who lived as early as the thirteenth (Rumi, 1207-1273) and the seventeenth (Basho, 1644-1694) centuries, who did not write in the English language, and who lived in such diverse nations as Persia, Japan, and Chile (Pablo Neruda). The greatest number of honored poets did write in the United States in the nineteenth (Emily Dickinson) and twentieth centuries (Robert Frost, Langston Hughes) or are still creating new verse in the present day (Sandra Cisneros, Terrance Hayes). Alexander characterizes the wonder of verse as follows:


A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you and to change you in ways you never imagined.


Two criteria guided the selection of the 20 esteemed poets. They had to be interesting people and the anthology authors had to be passionately in love with the verse of the represented subjects. The new poems that salute the honored poets is found in the anthology’s three sections. Part I, “Got Style” is devoted to poems that imitate the verse styles of such distinctive poets as e. e. cummings and Nikki Giovanni. Part II, “In Your Shoes” pays homage to poets such as Walter Dean Myers and Emily Dickinson who celebrated the times and places in which they lived or continue to create today. Appropriately, Part III, “Thank You,” contains tributes to poets such as Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks whose richness with words inspired the primary authors to become poets themselves.


Chris Colderley observes and honors Basho’s style in his “Contemporary Haiku,” three connected haikus celebrating today’s classroom environments. Senior author Kwame Alexander pays homage to Walter Dean Myers with “Walter, Age Ten,” a gathering of couplets celebrating both Harlem and basketball in the “In Your Shoes” pages. Alexander’s own gift as a superb poet graces “Majestic,” a soaring testimonial to Maya Angelou in “Thank You” verses. Marjory Wentworth uses blank verse in “The Music of the Earth,” her celebration of Pablo Neruda’s love of nature and travel. Her poem is superimposed on one of Ekua Holmes’s stunning double-page paintings that are brilliantly executed mixed-media images that are especially rich, vibrant, and colorful. The collaborations are extraordinary. The brilliant art work of Ekua Holmes perfectly complements every verse in this wonder-filled anthology.


The complete anthology is significantly enhanced by both the expository preface and the author end notes which contain relevant biographical sketches of the honored poets as well as a chronology of the subjects and national origins of each. Further information about the author-poets of Out of Wonder is also provided. 


Out of Wonder may suggest to students how they can join forces to honor creative individuals across time who have worked jointly in a given field of their choice. They can expand upon the current volume by writing verses that honor additional poets around the world and across time or they may choose to recognize in prose or verse exemplary or noted individuals in such diverse disciplines as architecture, science, music, or cinema. In such collaborations, students would be wise to follow the structure, organization, content, and visual stimuli Kwame Alexander and company utilize.


Holiday Favorites – Christmas and Chanukah


One of the most memorable Christmas books in first quarter century of Candlewick Press is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (1995) written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by the incomparable P. J. Lynch. Lynch also illustrated Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (2006) and O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi (2008). Chris Raschka’s exuberant illustrations celebrate Dylan Thomas’s classic, A Child’s Christmas in Wales (2004). A trilogy of exquisite cut-paper illustration volumes of Christmas show off the exceptional talents of London artist Niroot Puttapipat. These gorgeous holiday classics include The Night Before Christmas (2007), Jingle Bells (2014) and The Nutcracker (2015). Walk This World at Christmastime (Big Picture Press, 2016) created by Debbie Powell is a cleverly designed and illustrated tour of the world, especially accentuating how diverse cultures celebrate one of the world’s most popular of all holidays. Perhaps the greatest pop-up book artist in the world of children’s literature today is Robert Sabuda. Sabuda teamed with writer Michael J. Rosen to create the glorious pop-up, Chanukah Lights (2011). Sabuda returned in 2016 to feature the Nativity with his glorious pop-up construction, The Christmas Story.


Prize-winning Books


Given the exceptional quality of Candlewick books it is not surprising that many authors and illustrators have won notable honors, especially from the American Library Association (ALA). Kate DiCamillo received Newbery Honors for her juvenile novel Because of Winn-Dixie (2000) and she has twice been honored with the Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (2013). Laura Amy Schlitz also received the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from A Medieval Village (2007). David Ezra Stein received Caldecott Honors for his hilarious picture book, Interrupting Chicken (2010). Jon Klassen has written and/or illustrated at least three ALA winners. He received Caldecott Honors for Sam & Dave Dig A Hole (2014) that was written by Mac Barnett. He received the Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat (2012) plus Theodore Seuss Geisel Honors for I Want My Hat Back (2011). Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book Journey (2013) was also named a Caldecott Honor book. Becker extended his exquisite Journey with two sequels, Quest (2014) and Return (2016). The latest triumph is Du Iz Tak? (2016), a Caldecott Honor book written and illustrated by Carson Ellis. Additional highly honored Candlewick books are noted at the publisher’s website <>.


What do readers discover when a Newbery-winning author and a Caldecott Medalist collaborate? The result is a brand new fairy tale that may well become a classic. Laura Amy Schlitz who received the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from A Medieval Village and Brian Floca who won the 2013 Caldecott Medal for Locomotive (Atheneum, 2013) use their exceptional talents to create a delightful story of an over-worked royal child who is always good with a highly inventive and very naughty crocodile in Princess Cora and the Crocodile (2017). The only royal child in the realm from early childhood on is the victim of the good intensions but with over-the-top consequences for the lonely princess of the kingdom. The king tires his daughter with daily physical exercises designed to make her strong. The queen takes upon herself the royal education of her daughter, Princess Cora. The child is made to constantly read boring books about law and ruling a country. Finally, Nanny is so obsessed with imperial cleanliness that Cora is forced to take three baths a day. This regimen is the only life the princess knows until she writes to her own fairy godmother asking for some relief from her incredibly boring life. She also asks for a puppy, her greatest desire. Cora’s wish is granted with some surprise elements. Instead of a golden-hair puppy, the very next day a large green crocodile arrives at the palace. He has no manners and he loves to bite people. He dresses in Cora’s clothes, hides his very long tail, and most importantly gives Cora a free day away from her royal drudgery. He encourages Princess Cora to have outdoor adventures such as climbing trees and staining her royal dress with deliciously juicy freshly picked strawberries. Meanwhile, in short order, the crocodile creates a series of hilarious episodes with Cora’s mentors that both shocks them and adds a bit of humility along the way. The very devilish crocodile makes life miserable for all three of Cora’s overbearing mentors. Roles are reversed. The overbearing mentors learn to see the error of their ways. The mischievous alligator leaves the scene, Cora gets a golden-hair puppy who loves her, and teachers who revise their previously boring methods. As with most fairy tales, Princess Cora’s story ends on a happy note.   


Candlewick Press Imprints


In addition to the extraordinary volumes published by Candlewick Press, this innovative publishing house extends its great library of fine books to at least five imprints.


The Nosy Crow


Nosy Crow books are especially geared to beginning readers and are equally well suited for parent or teacher read aloud volumes. Classic folk and fairy tales are given a fun twist by artist Ed Bryan who enlivens Cinderella (2016), The Three Little Pigs (2016), Little Red Riding Hood (2017), and Jack and the Beanstalk (2017). The storytelling is grand and the boldly colored illustrations will appeal to both children and adults.


Candlewick Studio


Candlewick Studio books are characterized by unusual beauty and visual elegance. Norman Messenger’s An Artist’s Alphabet (2016) is visually stunning. First published in England, this wordless alphabet book is akin to an art museum’s special exhibition of the fusion of extraordinary vision and remarkable creativity. All of the titles in this imprint are hallmarks of the glory of the book arts. A similarly exquisite volume is David Ellwand’s RetroPhoto: An Obsession (2016), a visually splendid treatment of one man’s passion for cameras, film, and the images they reveal. More than one hundred cameras are cataloged and the book is made all the richer for the photographs Ellwand shares that he created with his extraordinary personal collection of cameras and film. In addition to his phenomenal catalog of the history of cameras and the images created with them, the photographic artist and historian moves readers into today’s world of digital photography. Thanks to one man’s obsession with cameras, film, and traditional darkroom methods of development, this handsome volume is a lesson as to how gifted creators can turn their passions and hobbies into spectacular books.


Templar Books


Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet (2011) is yet another fantastic view of how imaginatively the 26 letters of the English alphabet may be visualized. The Fairy Tale Handbooks (2013) as written by Libby Hamilton and illustrated by Tomislav Tomic is a wonderfully interactive tribute to great magical tales in the fairy and folk tale genre. Every page opens to a new surprise hidden under a flap, told in miniature books, and phenomenal pop-ups.


Big Picture Press


“Big” is an understatement in the creations of this Candlewick imprint. Animalium (2014) written (curated) by Jenny Bloom and illustrated by Katie Scott is a super, over-size book that is the equivalent of a field trip to a natural history museum. It is the first volume in the Welcome to the Museum series. The chapters or galleries include invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The second entry in the Welcome to the Museum series from Big Picture Press is Historium (2015) as curated by Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson. It is also a worthy substitute for a sojourn to an archaeology museum. Chapters or galleries include reproductions of artifacts that reveal the ancient history of Africa, America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania. Each gallery is further subdivided into civilizations that once thrived in each geographical setting. One example is Gallery 4, Europe, which explores The Celts, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and The Vikings.


The most recent Welcome to the Museum volume is Botanicum (2017) which is devoted to more than 160 exhibits of plant life. Curators of this latest museum-like book are Katie Scott and Kathy Willis. Magnificent artwork highlights the star plants to be found in galleries that include trees, herbaceous plants, palms and cycads, and trees. In every gallery of this handsome book highly informative details are complemented with superb illustrations. Here in three volumes are adventures in books that are museums that are open 24 hours daily. Students will want to visit the rich and varied contents in all three Welcome to the Museum books often. Every page opens to new knowledge


Two additional entries from Big Picture Press are the works of Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski. Maps (2013) is an around-the-world geography that highlights both the continents of Earth and a wide selection of individual nations. The same collaborators more recently created Under Earth/Under Water (2015). Readers first learn about all the amazing things that lay beneath the surface of the earth. Next, readers turn the same book around and upside down to further learn about myriad creatures and features that reside beneath the world’s water resources. The Big Picture Press books might well be viewed as Where’s Waldo books for intellectuals. The depth of information is great and the design of each of the books is superb. The paper used in printing is of the highest quality as are the inks that produce such richly colorful images. These are books students will want to return to again and again.


Big Picture Press books also feature accordion-style fold-out books that are highly inviting time lines of the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: A Visual History of Modern Transportation (2014) illustrated by Mike Lemanski and a History of Women’s Fashion (2015) illustrated by Sanna Mander.


Five Great Books from the Candlewick Treasury


Baker, Jeannie. Circle. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2016.


On her title page for Circle, Jeannie Baker notes that in its lifetime a goodwit will fly farther than the distance from the earth to the moon. In spare but highly informative text, the author-illustrator relates the bar-tailed godwits’ annual migration of more than 7,000 miles from their northern home in the Arctic (Alaska) to their southern home in Australia and New Zealand. She begins this incredible migration story in the mud and sand of the sea and feeding grounds of their summer residence. The godwits fly as a flock high above the clouds, following ancient and timeless pathways to their northern habitat. Occasionally, they find safe stretches of wet lands where they can rest and eat. Taking to the air again, the godwits mate and lay four perfect eggs in the vast open spaces of remote Alaska. The hatched chicks grow fast and soon it is time to begin the long flight back to the warmth and bounty of wetlands in Australia and New Zealand.


In a highly informative text, Baker outlines both the natural history of the godwits which make the longest unbroken journey of any species in the world. She also points out the human acts such as urban development that cause valuable wet lands for the goodwit to constantly disappear. Along with new knowledge from words, Baker also uses a large world map to visualize this incredible animal migration. Her illustrations throughout are both accurate and sublimely beautiful. Within her paintings of the annual migration of the bar-tailed godwits, she also “hides” other migrating animals for students to discover such as green turtles, caribou and humpback whales. A unique feature of Baker’s illustrations are her views of the ever-curving horizon of earth in the circular journey or migration of these extraordinary birds.   


Arsenault, Isabelle. Alpha. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.


Alpha, a virtually wordless alphabet book presents for readers the NATO phonetic alphabet that is universal in its uses, most especially in emergencies. Its formal name is the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet. In her end note the author-illustrator provides a simple example of how each letter in a message is spelled out using “Alpha”. The word “cat” in the NATO phonetic alphabet would be translated as “Charlie-Alpha-Tango.” Arsenault’s beautiful color drawings present an exotic array of objects to reveal the NATO alphabet. “Charlie” is represented by the famous derby hat worn by the great movie genius, Charlie Chaplin. “I” reveals a richly decorated Indian elephant. “O” or Oscar is portrayed as an actress in a formal gown poised on a red carpet. Gifted readers who easily fall in love with words will want to engage in further study of this unique but vital international alphabet. The variety of referents for each letter may be a wonderful game of word association by curious players. Can students find and fully interpret the book creator’s allusions to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet? Abecedarians may find Dallas Clayton’s A is for Awesome (2014) an equally stimulating example of a Candlewick gem of the ABCs.


Cotton, Katie. Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild. Illustrated by Stephen Walton. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.


Counting books are the first cousins to alphabet volumes. Counting Lions is a poetic accounting of ten magnificent wild creatures from lions to gorillas, giraffes, tigers, and elephants plus turtles, macaws and zebras, all of which are endangered species. Cotton fosters an affectionate tribute to each species and Stephen Walton creates glorious over-sized pages of the ten exquisite charcoal drawings of the endangered animals. The books opens with a letter from actress Virginia McKenna who portrayed Joy Adamson in the 1966 movie Born Free. McKenna now heads up international agencies concerned with the protection and preservation of the featured creatures in Counting Lions. In vital prose notes at the end of the book, Cotton provides a wealth of information about each of the ten animals featured in this very special counting book. The end matter also includes a listing of websites students can visit to learn more about the protection of endangered species. This is a book that readers of all ages (including parents and educators) will want to return to again and again. Counting has never been so enlightening!


Ellis, Carson. Home. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.


Circle, Alpha, and Counting Lions are about rare and exotic subjects. Hence, it would appear that nothing could be more prosaic or commonplace than a book about homes. Even so, the author-illustrator works magic with homes around the world of people of myriad cultures, animals (bees in trees, birds in nests), literary (“The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”), and mythological people and places (Atlantis, a Norse god). Homes are seen on land, under the sea, and even on the moon. Home are found in such diverse nations as France, Russia, Slovakia, and Kenya. The text is simple but the gouache and ink illustrations rendered in earth tones with occasional highlights in brilliant red are beautiful. Moreover, Carson creates a seek-and-find approach to her exquisite and fantastic catalog of all sorts of domiciles. The artist’s own studio reveals her at work on one of the painting of her own home. The illustration contains iconic images found in her much larger full-page paintings. The creator also makes her homage to homes go full circle. A small figure spied in the upstairs window of her initial drawing is revealed in the final painting to be none other than the artist herself peering out of an upstairs window of her own home. She challenges readers with two questions: “Where is your home?” and “Where are you?”


Homes should prompt readers of all ages to create images, exterior and interior, of their own list of homes. For example, what are some of the world’s most famous homes? (The White House, Buckingham Palace). What are some of the largest homes in the world? (The Great Barrier Reef). How many unique kinds of homes do insects inhabit (hornets’ nests, spider webs)? Chart and illustrate the homes found in children’s literature (“The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel & Gretel”). For a history or cultural project, students can research Native Americans and create a book of the many varied homes of the First Peoples of what is now the USA.


Walsh, Melanie. Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2016.


With striking acrylic cartoon images, Walsh narrates the story of a young boy (her own son) who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Isaac wants to explain to his classmates, friends, and family some of the most basic characteristic of his exceptionality and who better to describe his unique behaviors than a superhero? Sometimes Isaac, the superhero, finds his brain crowded with almost too many fascinating things. He has super energy, but he is also sometimes says things to his friends without thinking of their feelings. Even though he is a superhero, Isaac is occasionally afraid of bright lights and sounds that seem foreign to him, but do not bother his classmates. His parents explain superhero behaviors he can use when he is uncomfortable. If he feels scared when people look directly into his eyes, he can use a superhero trick his father taught him. He can just alter his vision and look at people’s foreheads rather than face them eye to eye. Rarely has an exceptionality been treated in such a simple, informative, and even FUN manner. In her end notes, Walsh lists Internet sites that are valuable links for readers who wish to learn more about Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.




Candlewick Press has created a library of superb books. Their vast array of titles serve all ages of gifted readers as stand-alone volumes. The company website <> highlights current and back issues of handsomely crafted books of exceptional value to creative and inquisitive readers. A great many titles such as Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! invite curious gifted readers with suggested print and online resources to further research special topics. The Candlewick website also features “Candlewick Cares” which superbly articulates the core values of this remarkable publisher. For the past 25 years Candlewick Press has created superior books for gifted, talented, and creative youths. May the next 25 years be equally grand.



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