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Library Blog -- Raucous Clubhouse

Raucous Clubhouse is a forum created and moderated by Barnesville's librarian to share information and excitement about books and other reading materials and experiences.

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More book reviews!

Before I get to the reviews, let me just thank you all so much for indulging me with this experiment! It has been so gratifying and heartening to read your children's honest and insightful reviews of the books I recommended. To know that they are making connections to themselves, learning new information, and just plain enjoying these books has really been a highlight of my summer. Let's do it again next year, shall we??

I'm delighted to share these reviews from a few students new to our school, two joining the 6th grade and two joining 4th.

Ben B. (6th) had this extremely thoughtful and powerful response to Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes:

"Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes was conflicting for me. The book was well written but I did not like the subject matter. It was gruesome, it was sad, it was unfair how the white people, treated the black people, like monsters. Black people, are trying to live their life the same as white people. In this book and throughout American history white people have brutally treated black people. Frequently, for no reason. This practice is wrong. This book highlights a few of these incidents. Emmett Till was involved in one of these incidents. At 14 years old, Emmett Till, was visiting his cousins in Money, Mississippi. He was use to talking to white people. However, when he said only one word, “Bye” to a white woman, she accused him of flirting with her. Her husband and brother confronted him. The husband punched Emmett 6 times and then shot Emmett. After killing him they wrapped his body in barbed wire and dropped him in the river. The saddest part of Emmett’s story is that it is true! Racism is unacceptable! We should learn from the past to build a better future!"

Ben also reviewed Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann:

"Five stars knocks it out of the park. It was happy, sad, loving, dramatic and pawmazing! I would want a dog like Strongheart because he is a police dog and an actor. Even though he does movies he still protects and serves. The author really brought Strongheart to life."

Ben also wrote this review of The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman:

"The Girl Who Drew Butterflies How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman was delightful. I like the idea of a science and an art book combined. The pictures were amazing. The story of Maria and her fascinating adventures in the bug world were eye opening. As a creative person, I would give this five stars for amazing art work and another five stars for fascinating science facts, such as a nymph is an immature form of insects that undergo only partial metamorphosis. I also learned that Native Americans put red powder on there body for decorating purposes. But my favorite part was when she realized that there was a whole other world out there full of new bugs to discover and new flowers to paint. Every day Maria would study bugs such as the white witch moth, pinktoe tarantula, painted jezebel or a stinging flannel moth caterpillar. Whatever bug it is Maria will study it. This picture, painted by Maria herself, is made out of elements of her studies. This picture was one of the many magnificent pieces in her bug book. Maria spent months working on a picture of the metamorphosis of a arsenura armida moth. Maria wanted this book to change how we look at bugs. I believe that most bugs are disgusting. However, this book changed the way I look at bugs, except for wasps. I will never like wasps."

Another incoming 6th grader, Kendall S., shared a review with me, as well as reviews written by her sisters Madelyn and Caitlyn, who are both new to the 4th grade!

Here's Madelyn's review of Bolivar by Sean Rubin:

"I really liked Bolivar by Sean Rubin. This book is a very funny book, because there is a dinosaur that only this one girl notices but everyone else doesn't notice that he is not a human. The illustrations are very pretty, and help make the book more interesting. I think this book is trying to help people understand that most people are too caught up in their own life to recognize everyone else in the world. I would recommend this book to people who really like graphic novels."

And here are Caitlyn and Madelyn's (4th grade) reviews of A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade.

Caitlyn: "I loved this book. It showed poor Pluto’s life when he found out he wasn’t a planet anymore. It was written so that it was easy to understand even if you are young. My favorite part was when he got home. That’s why I loved this book."

Madelyn: "I recommend this book to kids my age. I like this book because it is not so easy that it becomes boring to me. I also like that Pluto was determined to find the right group where he belongs, and he found them. This is a really good book, I think you will like it too!"

See you all SOON for the start of the school year!!



Posted by sarahw on Thursday August 29
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Book reviews from some of our youngest students

Hi everyone!

I'm sure you've wondered to yourself whether the stories and characters and important plot points of the books you read so diligently to your toddlers and little kids are actually "sticking." Attention spans being what they are at this age (and even older...) it can seem like they're off to the next activity quick as a flash without really processing what happens in the books they've heard. But the processing happens over time, sometimes days or even weeks. Your 5-year-old might surprise you by launching right into the middle of a detailed conversation about the adventures a character went on in book you read to them...a month ago!

Talking with your child about a book you've read to them, or asking an older child to give you their take on a book they read to themselves, doesn't just give you these insights into what they got from it. It helps them cement those details in their understanding of the book, it aids their comprehension, and it provides them with the language to discuss what makes a story interesting or boring, how a story is crafted, and improves their writing process.

I'll share reviews sent in by Lower School students here, and in the next post I'll share from the Upper School!

Audrey B.,who is a new student joining the Pre-K, has done a remarkable 16 reviews! Here are just a few of them:

Islandborn by Junot Díaz

"I like this book because she asked the people what the island was like. I didn’t like when Mr. Mir was grumpy but then he was nice. I liked learning about the heroes but didn’t like the monster."

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët

"I didn’t like the bully but I like Vanessa’s friend. Bullying is bad. If you see someone being bullied you can take them away from the bully and include them in your game or tell a teacher."

Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora

"I like this because she gave them stew and they gave some food back. My favorite part was when they brought food back to her."

Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex

"I liked that the kids were monsters but actually humans because they were trying to scare Darth Vader."

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

"I liked that his abuela was not mad at him because he dressed up in plants and curtains. She gave him the necklace. I liked that."

Drawn Together by Minh Le

"I like that they can make their way across to each other. I liked that the grandfather gave him french fries, hot dog and salad after the mom left."

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

"I like that they took care of and built the house back up after they blew fire on it because they ate spicy salsa. I learned that you don’t give dragons spicy salsa."

Fox the Tiger by Corey R. Tabor

"I liked that at the end the squirrel said foxes are the best and then the turtle said it too. A funny part was when the fox wanted to be a tiger and used paint to make stripes."

Ziva W., a returning student heading into Kindergarten, had this review to share:

Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes

"This book was the best, because it had a dog and I like dogs and cats. Jessica was able to walk because she had prosthetics she attached to her leg. The dog helped her do things. At first he lived with someone else who taught him to be a good boy for Jessica. The best part was that Rescue kind of rescued Jessica."

Zander Q., a new student to the 3rd grade, had these thoughts:

Do Not Lick this Book! (It's Full of Germs) by Idan Ben-Barak

"I like this book because it tells a lot about your body. It could tell you what you may not know. It tells a lot about science."

A House that Once Was by Julie Fogliano

"I like this book. This book is about a house that was lonely then people will move in. Then the house wasn't lonely anymore. Anybody can read this book because it's fun."

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer

"I liked this book. It tells a lot about the Big Bang. It tells a lot before the Big Bang. It tells a lot after the Big Bang. It made me feel happy that there is an earth and moon and sun. It made me happy that there are humans."

My Beijing by Nie Jun

"I liked the book. It made me feel like I am in Beijing. It tells a lot about Beijing. It tells a lot about what they do there."

My librarian heart is just full to the brim reading all these wonderful reviews - and so is my teacher heart and my parent heart! There's still time to send in reviews before school starts. I'm attending the National Book Festival again this year, so I'm hoping to get copies of some of these books signed by the authors as Summer Reading Prizes! Stay tuned!

See you all SOON!

Posted by sarahw on Thursday August 22
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What I did on my summer vacation, and more book reviews to share!

Happy August, everyone!

On the heels of our trip to Kentucky, Ziva and I ventured west to spend two whole weeks in California. I grew up in Los Angeles, and this trip was all about old traditions and new adventures.

During the first week, I took part in Costume College for the first time. This is an event that has grown throughout the years to over 700 participants, all of whom do some sort of costuming, but it's a very wide range. The spectrum runs the gamut from completely authentic historic ensembles to cosplay with 3D-printed horns and flashing lights. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle, since I've been making costumes and clothes for about twenty years, but I only recently began really focusing on making 18th century garments entirely by hand. Costume College offers classes, workshops, lectures and symposia on all aspects of costuming, as well as several special dress-up events throughout the weekend where attendees can show off their work. Here's what I wore to the Saturday Gala:

It's based on this gown that is held in the Costume and Textile Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:

I had a lot of help figuring out how to make it - and a lot of help actually getting it finished in time for the Gala!! I'm really proud of the final result. I'm even percolating plans to teach a class all about it at Costume College next year!

The second week was spent as far away from civilization as possible, in a cabin at a tiny lake up in the Sierra Nevadas. There was running water and electricity, but no phone service and no wifi! It's been my family's treasured tradition since I was about Ziva's age, and it was exactly what I needed after the marathon of sewing and preparation for Costume College. It's one of those places that just feeds my soul. We loafed and swam and just enjoyed being in nature.

And when I got back, I found an inbox fairly overflowing with book reviews waiting for me!!

Here's a review of Kwame Alexander's Rebound, written by Daniil E., rising 8th grader:

"Recently I read and enjoyed a book called “Rebound” by Kwame Alexander. It had a very unique writing style, not just boring paragraphs filling pages, but disorganized little strips of words all over the place. I liked how Alexander used different font sizes to enhance the communication between characters at certain times. The use of the 1980’s slang added a nice touch to the characters and feeling of the book. The book ends with a good moral and happy ending. Be happy with what you have, and always stay positive."

Doesn't that make you want to just run out and get a copy?? I love how much detail he included!

There are lots more reviews to share, so I will post them all over the next few days. There's still plenty of time to send in reviews to win prizes at the beginning of the school year!

I hope you are all enjoying the last weeks of summer! I can't wait to see how much the returning students have grown, and I'm looking forward to welcoming our newcomers!

Happy reading,


Posted by sarahw on Thursday August 15
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An audiobook review

Hi everyone,

I hope you're all beating the heat and enjoying summer!

I have a review to share, and full disclosure - it's from my daughter, Ziva! She's been at Barnesville as long as I have ;-) and she's going to start kindergarten in the fall.

This past weekend, we drove to Louisville, Kentucky for the annual Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove, so before we left, we stopped in at our local public library branch and loaded up on audiobooks for those long hours in the car. Along with Dr. Seuss and Fancy Nancy, I also borrowed "Matilda." It had been a while since I had read it myself, and I wanted to experiment with whether Ziva would give her full attention to such a long book, and whether she would actually enjoy it! After all, the protagonist is the same age as she is. She perked up when she heard that "Pride and Prejudice" was on the list of books Matilda read; that's a story she's very familiar with, since the 1995 adaptation is in my rotation of videos to "watch" while I sew!

When "Matilda" ended, I asked Ziva whether she liked it. Here's what she had to say:

"Yeah, I liked it! Actually, I loved it. My favorite part was at the end when [spoiler alert!] Matilda got to stay with Miss Honey."

Something else that she mentioned remembering was the description of the "power" coming out of Matilda's eyes as thousands of little arms with hands on the ends of them, pushing over the cup with the newt in it onto the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull.

So if you're wondering whether audiobooks "count" as reading - they absolutely do! The reader still has to keep track of the plot points and characters, and it allows them to build vocabulary by hearing unfamiliar words out loud in context. You can pair the audiobook with a hard copy for the child to read along, or just allow them to use their imagination to create the pictures in their own minds. You might follow up with asking them to draw a picture from the story, or to describe something that happened using their own words to reinforce comprehension skills.

Please continue sending in your children's reviews as the summer progresses!

Posted by sarahw on Tuesday July 16
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Book reviews are rolling in!

Happy summer, everyone!

This is so exciting - students have begun reading from the library book lists that went out with summer work packets, and are already reviewing what they've read!!

Zander Q, a student new to Barnesville entering 3rd grade in the fall, has these reviews of the books he's read so far.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall:

"The book was not bad. The good parts were when the old keeper left the lighthouse [and] the new keeper came to the lighthouse. The bad parts are when the fog came. And when there was a disaster, the keeper needed to help the people in the ocean."

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld:

"The book was okay. The good parts were when the kid was sad, the rabbit came over and made the kid happy. The bad parts were when the birds knocked down the tower. I think anybody can read the book"

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña:

"I liked the book because when Carmela made a wish it came true. In the back of the book Carmela made a wish; it was an ocean nearby and seagulls flying. Another wish was wishing for her father to come back to work. You should read this book because when a wish doesn't come true it will make you feel better."

Logan R, who will be entering the Pre-K class, gave this review.

Girl Running by Annette Bay Pimentel:

"The girl was running. She was running fast. She was running with the boys."

I love these so much! Please, keep the reviews coming!

Happy reading,


Posted by sarahw on Sunday June 30
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End of year wrap-up

Hello families!

It has been a busy couple of months!! I can't believe the last time I posted was in February. A lot has happened, and I certainly had every intention of posting monthly, but I guess that was too ambitious!

In any case, let me just say how much I have enjoyed my first year here at Barnesville. Your children are delightful to be with, and I love all of the conversations I've shared with them about books and reading. We are planning big things for next year, and I look forward to getting better acquainted with the students and their reading interests and preferences, in order to be able to continue building the perfect library collection for them!

One thing that I had intended to set up earlier, which got away from me with everything else going on, was the Naturebrary! With all of the generous donations we received on Family Fun Night, we were able to put together 6 backpack kits for students to check out and take with them outside on the school property, or even on field trips if they wish! The kits all have books and a few handheld tools for exploring different aspects of nature: Rocks; Insects; Flowers; Trees; Birds; and Sky (that one even has a small telescope!) Even better, the rest of the donated books and overflow items that wouldn't fit in the backpacks are all going to the Friends Meeting School to help them start their own Naturebrary!

I'm sure you have heard by now about our new Blue-Tongue Skink. His name is Bartholomew Tennyson. He is quite the character - he's such a prince that he prefers eating from my hand to using his food bowl - and the students have really enjoyed observing and learning about him. I realized when I got him that I didn't actually have any books about skinks in our library collection, so I had the ECs through 3rd grade make observations and tell me the questions they had about him, and then the 4th, 5th and 6th graders did research online to find the answers to those questions! I will be putting it all together in a booklet that will be part of the library collection, so that anyone who wants information about our pet can easily find it!

Look at that blue tongue!!

The other big announcement is that the library's Summer Reading recommendations come with a challenge! The students are being invited to write reviews of the books they read over the summer, and send their reviews to me to be posted here on the blog! For the rising Pre-K through 1st graders, the guideline is a sentence or two saying what they liked or didn't like about a book they liked or didn't like. For the older students, a paragraph will be ideal. I'll keep track of how many reviews the kids send in, and there will prizes in the fall for the students who send in the most reviews!!

I hope you all have a wonderful, adventurous (and maybe also restful?) summer, and I am looking forward to starting another great school year in September!

Posted by sarahw on Wednesday June 5
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Black-Eyed Susan Awards 2019

Hello families,

I am delighted to announce that Barnesville School students are once again voting for the Black-Eyed Susan Awards! If you are not familiar with these awards and how voting works, allow me to provide a brief background and how they are different from other awards for youth literature.

The Newbery and Caldecott winners, among many others, are announced annually at the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference. For each of these awards, a long list of nominees is drawn up by a committee of librarians and educators, and the books are voted on by a different committee of librarians and educators. What's so neat about the Black-Eyed Susan Awards is that while the list of nominees is decided by librarians and educators, the books are voted on by KIDS! I think it's so terrific that this opportunity exists for students to read a whole slew of new books and have their voices heard in the selection of the award winners. It really empowers kids and lets them know that grown-ups are listening and taking their opinions into account. School libraries and public libraries all around Maryland will be taking part, so our school is just one piece of a bigger picture when it comes to the best books of 2018-2019!

Here the website with all the information about the Black-Eyed Susan Awards, and here's the list of nominees in each category!

In the EC through 4th grade, the teachers chose two-week slots to read aloud all 15 titles in the "Picture Books" category, and they are collecting their students' votes and submitting them to me. The kindergarten students have already voted! I have been delivering the picture books to the classrooms in the "Black-Eyed Susan Book Bag" which Ellen Landriau decorated several years ago.

For the middle schoolers, I booktalked a selection of books from both the 4th-6th grade category and the 6th-9th grade category, and explained that in order to vote, the students have to read a minimum of three books per category - and of course, they're welcome to read more! The students all listed the books they were interested in reading, and there were one or two books from each category that came up in lots of students' lists.

Of the 4th-6th and 6th-9th categories, here are the books I presented:


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy King

Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres


Posted by John David Anderson

Restart by Gordon Korman

Up from the Sea by Leza Lowitz

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

If your child has forgotten the books they chose to read, I will be happy to remind them.

We already own several of the nominated books in our collection here at the school, and I have purchased a few others, but there are not enough copies to go around - which is a great problem to have! I will buy a few extra copies of the most requested titles for our library, and I also highly encourage you all to visit your favorite bookstore, or better yet, your local public library, so that your student(s) can read the books they have chosen and submit their vote(s) to me. Thank you for your help and support with this undertaking!

The deadline to have all votes submitted is April 25, 2019.

Happy reading and voting!

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Peace Week 2019

Hello families,

Even though we missed Monday and a bit of Tuesday because of the snow, we are still on for the Peace Week Assembly and Candle Lighting on Friday! The theme this year is "Upstanders," which is a term coming into use to differentiate from the "Bystanders" in bullying situations. We are expanding the meaning to include people who "stand up" to fight oppression, marginalization and/or underrepresentation. The students are working hard to collect information about their chosen Upstander, and creating posters, role-plays, and multimedia presentations highlighting their accomplishments and efforts.

During Buddy Time last week, students chose from a display of library books I had set up to read with their buddies. From picture books all the way up to detailed biographies and chapter books, our collection contains a terrific variety of inspiring and empowering stories that share a common message: one person can make a big difference!

If you can, please take the opportunity offered by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday to keep the dialogue open and reflect with your children. I hope that Peace Week and the Assembly are meaningful for the students, and that they feel compelled to keep the flame of justice burning throughout the year.

In solidarity,


Posted by sarahw on Wednesday January 16
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A great big THANK YOU!

Hello families!

Having wrapped up my first big event as the Barnesville School Librarian, I am pleased to say that Grandparents'/Grandfriends' Day was a success all around! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting your extended families and friends, and the kids clearly loved showing off their school and their library.

It was so gratifying to see the kids excitedly choosing books that really piqued their interest. I also appreciated everyone's flexibility in being willing to dedicate titles that had been ordered for the library, but simply hadn't arrived yet. Lesson learned for next year: place those orders way further in advance!

I was completely overwhelmed by the generosity of our students' visitors. All told, the dedications came to $1905, which is really quite astonishing! That's close to 100 books! I guess we just have a bunch of terrific readers at this school whose families are proud of them, y'know?? And along with expressing my gratitude here, I have given the students the task of writing their own thank you notes (or in the case of the little ones, dictating and drawing pictures). As a child of the '80s, I still appreciate the value of a personal, hand-written acknowledgement, and I know for a fact that grandparents do as well.

One of my big projects for the year that these funds will help support is a standalone Spanish Collection within the library. Previously, Spanish language and bilingual titles were interfiled with the rest of the books according to genre, topic, and section, but I believe that bringing them together in one location will make them more visible and more accessible. I am working with Señor Gonzalez and Señora Campos, taking their suggestions and ideas, to round out the titles we already own so that the library can fully support the PreK-8 Spanish curriculum and the Exchange Program in Peru. The collection will be situated on the set-in shelves just to the right of the main library entrance.

Yep, that's the Harry Potter series en español!

I spy Where the Wild Things Are, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Charlotte's Web.

Stay tuned for announcements about artwork(s) that will grace the space directly above the shelves, and information about the official unveiling and launch of the collection next fall, to coincide with Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month!

This will probably be my last blog post before the break, so Happy New Year and catch you on the flip side!


Posted by sarahw on Wednesday December 12, 2018 at 02:35PM
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Gearing up for Grandparents' Day!

Hello families!

It's hard to believe, but Grandparents'/Grandfriends' Day is almost here! The students have been eyeing all the new books as I've been processing and cataloging them with the help of my amazing parent volunteers. The students are most excited when they spot books that I purchased as a direct result of a suggestion they submitted - and as you will see below, their recommendations continue to pour in! I love getting ideas from the kids for titles to add to our collection. Don't get me wrong, publications like School Library Journal and Horn Book are great for learning about new books, and finding out what the reviewers like, but kids are the best critics of literature written for them!

Here's the cart with all the shiny new books, just waiting to be dedicated on Tuesday! Godzilla the Guard Dragon is keeping a close watch on them ;-)

See any titles your child would be especially interested in??

More! More ! More!

Here's that recommendation jar I mentioned - it's full again! The sign on the front says "Plant a book suggestion...and watch our collection GROW!"

Our bookmark design this year is courtesy of Ariana W. in the 4th grade. She drew a beautiful scene and composed a very profound and succinct statement: "Books are a gateway to imagination and wonder." Isn't it lovely??

We are so looking forward to welcoming your child(ren)'s grandparents or grandfriends on Tuesday!

Posted by sarahw on Friday November 16, 2018
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Choose groups to clone to:

An independent private school in
Montgomery County, Maryland
offering innovative preschool
through 8th grade programs.

Barnesville School

21830 Peach Tree Road
PO Box 404
Barnesville, MD 20838

p: 301.972.0341
f: 301.972.4076


We offer a vigorous academic program for students as well as engaging, hands-on learning experiences.


Our positive, supportive learning environment promotes imagination, exploration, personal growth, and achievement.

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