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Choosing the Right Reads in the New Year

September, 2010
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I often feel overwhelmed when choosing my next book to read. Do I want something different from what I have just read? Do I want to re-read a favorite? Should I be totally “out there” and choose a non-fiction book? Do I care more about the writing style or about the story? Do I want to read about China? Or perhaps read a graphic novel? Hang on; what was the title of that book I was recommended last week?

So many questions pop into my mind! Where to start? As members of the International School community, we are fortunate to have access to wonderfully resourced libraries. The choice of books is wide ranging and there is ‘literally’ something for everyone. Students, staff and parents all have access to an amazing selection of reading materials at their fingertips. But that doesn’t make it any easier, right? Too much choice! So, we often tend to read the same sort of books over and over again.

Panda poster matureTo avoid doing this, a group of international school librarians launched the “Panda Book Awards”. Now in its third cycle, the awards are given in four categories: “Younger Readers” (picture books), “Middle Readers” (Upper Elementary), “Older Readers” (Middle school) and “Mature Readers” (High school students). Students can vote in more than one category provided that they have read across the nominated titles. The nominations are made by international school librarians, taking into account several aspects of the books, such as format, subject, multiculturalism, etc.

Last year the winners were: Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman (Younger Readers); Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (Middle Readers); Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (Older Readers); and Life Sucks by Jessica Abel (Mature Readers).

The winning authors were sent a brush painted scroll by Beijing artist Wang Hai Tao, who also designed the logo for the awards. We were delighted to receive letters from Claire Freedman and Jessica Abel, thanking all the students who had voted for them. It’s not bad when a world famous author is thrilled to receive a prize that comes directly from you, huh?

This year the shortlist for the Panda Awards is better than ever, with a wide variety of themes, stories, and reading levels. We have graphic novels, non-fiction books and a wide array of fiction: fantasy, realistic, adventure, sci-fi… all of them amazing reads!

If you are ever stuck for reading material, or cannot decide on where to go for your next reading adventure, you will certainly find good quality reads in this list. To find it, look for posters around the school, see your librarian or visit https://pandabookawards.wikispaces.com/. To get everyone involved and excited about reflecting on their wonderful reading choices, students, parents and teachers alike are encouraged to vote for their favorites. The voting will take place before Chinese New Year, so, with only a few precious months to devour a fabulous line-up of books, make sure you visit your school library, find a quiet, comfortable place to indulge in your pick from the ‘Panda Book awards’ list and remember to vote for the books that inspired you the most!

The ‘Panda Book awards’ is a fantastic example on how International Schools cooperate with each other for the benefit of the community. However, there are also plenty other great events lined up for you this year. Another amazing event in Beijing is The Battle of the Books. This inter-school event involves students from Grade 6 to Grade 10. There are twenty chosen books. Each school forms a team of students, who will read the books that are set for each ‘Battle’. When the ‘Battle’ is on, the teams will be quizzed to see who knows their books best. Not all the students read all the books, but they share the reading load. Students are exposed to a wide range of books – possibly different to the kind that they are used to reading, including some classics and some ‘Panda Book awards’ nominations. BCIS has won the ‘Battle of the Books’ three times in a row and some schools have already vowed to take the title away from them this year. So, it looks like the ‘Battle’ will be a particularly hard-fought one this year! This is a fun way to try and beat your friends in other schools, whilst exposing yourself to new types of books and information. Just think how much you’ll learn just by having fun! That’s got to be good for you!

If you would like more information about the ‘Panda Book Awards’ or would like to find out more about the “Battle of the Books’, contact your school librarian. We look forward to seeing you around the library soon!


By Ana Cob,

K-12 Teacher Librarian, Beijing BISS International School


Ana’s Book Recommendations:

curious-garden-sThe Curious Garden by Peter Brown (Younger Readers category): Liam lives is a gray city, but that doesn’t stop him from loving the outdoors. One day he discovers a few plants and imagines how great it would be to make a garden out of them. The garden keeps growing, and growing and … This is a very uplifting, wonderfully illustrated book for the younger ones.

frozen-in-time-sFrozen In Time by Ali Sparks (Middle Readers category): When Freddy and Polly wake up, they do not know where or more importantly when they are. A jump from the 50s to 2010 is not an easy one, especially when they realize how much have things changed. This is a fantastic read: think a little bit of culture shock combined with intrigue and humor.

reach-me-sWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Older Readers category): After a stranger punches her best friend in the middle of the street for no reason, Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes, suggesting that she may be able to save someone’s life if she plays along with the notes’ directions. This novel won the prestigious Newberry Medal Award for children’s literature in 2010 - a must-read for adults and teenagers alike.

stitches-sStitches by David Small (Mature Readers category): In this memoir, David Small tells his story as a sickly boy whom his doctor father always treats. He endures long treatment sessions and one day he wakes up without being able to speak, due to the cancer he was never told he had. This extraordinary graphic novel is not an easy one to swallow. It is a heart-breaking and beautifully illustrated story.


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