100 Scope Notes
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Top 20 Books of 2014: 5-1

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

5. The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee [Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster) | Grades K-2]

Click here for additional resources from Watch. Connect. Read.

The opportunity to “read” and pore over a wordless picture book with a group of students is one of the best parts of my job. It typically takes twice the amount of time to read and discuss a wordless book than a thirty-two page picture book that has words and illustrations. We discuss every mannerism, angle, and decision. Together, we tell the story.

I read and discussed The Farmer and the Clown with every third, fourth, and fifth grader in my school. Each group pointed out at least two observations and details that other groups did not notice. Each experience felt fresh and personal, allowing us to look at the story differently and go down a new path with the farmer and the clown. Marla Frazee skillfully showed my students how an interaction with someone different from them can have life-changing effects. Please put this wordless wonder in the hands of readers young and old.

-John Schumacher

4. Revolution by Deborah Wiles [Scholastic Press | Grades 4-7]

Click here for additional resources from Watch. Connect. Read.

After reading Deborah Wiles’ groundbreaking novel Countdown, I became obsessed with keeping track of when its companion would be released. I checked Deborah’s blog, conducted monthly searches, and closely monitored any information that included the terms Wiles, 60s trilogy, editor David Levithan is proud to announce…., and Franny Chapman.  Was it worth waiting nearly four years to read Revolution? Absolutely.

Even though I tried really hard not to think about the Newbery manual this year, page 11 kept running through my head while reading Revolution.

When identifying “distinguished contribution to American literature,” defined as text, in a book for children,

a. Committee members need to consider the following:

Interpretation of the theme or concept –> CHECK

Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization –> CHECK

Development of a plot –> CHECK

Delineation of characters –> CHECK

Delineation of a setting  –> CHECK

Appropriateness of style –> CHECK

If you haven’t already read this distinguished novel, I hope I convinced you to move it to the top of your to-read pile. It is best read slowly and carefully. You need time to savor every word, every sentence, and every paragraph. I guarantee that Deborah’s characters will stay with you long after you read the last page.

-John Schumacher

3. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen [Candlewick Press | Grades K-4]

Click here for additional resources from Watch. Connect. Read.

Plenty of books have open endings, but not many make you care enough to formulate your own conclusion. After you read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, you’ll be formulating. Two friends, armed with shovels, head to the backyard looking to uncover something spectacular. What they find is… well, something unexpectedly spectacular. What does it all mean? A masterwork in humor, subtlety, and surprise, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole will leave readers digging for the truth.

-Travis Jonker

2. El Deafo by Cece Bell [Abrams | Grades 3-7]

Click here for additional resources from Watch. Connect. Read.

Oh, boy!  How in the world can I write a blurb for the book that received the best blurb of the year?

Doesn’t  Travis Jonker’s “Wow!”  perfectly describe Cece Bell’s masterpiece? Let me see if I can come close.

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Nope! I should not have even tried. Nice work, Mr. Jonker! You perfectly summed up how readers all around the world feel about Cece Bell’s impressive graphic novel.

-John Schumacher

1. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson [Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin) | Grades 5 and Up]

Click here for additional resources from Watch. Connect. Read.

Well into one of the most consistently remarkable careers in children’s literature, Jacqueline Woodson has released what may be her best book yet. Through verse poetry Woodson tells the story of her young life – growing up from South Carolina to New York City – and how her relationships and experiences turned her into the writer she is today.

Because it’s beautiful and moving, because it’s a book that will inspire readers, Brown Girl Dreaming is our favorite book of 2014.

-John Schumacher & Travis Jonker

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I asked this on Schu’s site … do you think there is any chance Cece Bell can pull of a Newbery Honor? I really want her to!

  2. Thanks (both of you). What a lovely list!

  3. Wonderful final quatrain, and an unforgettable #1 choice that few can contest. Both FARMER and SAM AND DAVE are of course fabulous books. Wholly superlative presentation by both of you.

  4. This is a great list! My absolute favorite of the year – A Snicker of Magic!!!! A beautiful book with such great language!