Wednesday, December 12, 2018

FOCAL Award Luncheon Honoring Author Uma Krishnaswami for Her Book STEP UP TO THE PLATE MARIA SINGH

Uma Krishnaswami, Author of Step Up to the Plate Maria Singh
Last Saturday was the 39th annual FOCAL Award Luncheon, held at the elegant Smereldi's Restaurant at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. (FOCAL–Friends of Children and Literature–is the support group of the Los Angeles Public Library Children’s Department.)
Uma Krishnaswami and Caroline Gill, FOCAL President
This year’s honoree was author Uma Krishnaswami for her middle grade novel Step Up to the Plate Maria Singh, about a young girl living in Yuba City, California, during World War II, who wants to play baseball on the school team.
Book sale table and committee member Meredith McGowan
Maria copes with the disapproval of her traditionalist Mexican mother and the many financial worries of her doting Punjabi father as she tries to fit in with the other students at her school. In her excellent speech accepting the FOCAL award, Uma Krishnaswami told us how she got the idea for this historical fiction story and the background of this little known culturally blended group in the Yuba City area of northern California.
Student winners of the essay contest: Rachel Hume, Christopher T. Redekopp, Olive R. Sanders. With Sandy Schuckett, Essay Judge Chair and Uma Krishnaswami
I always enjoy going to the FOCAL Award Luncheon. It is an opportunity to see friends, hear the student winners of the essay contest read their insightful essays about why they would like to meet the author, see the wonderful book theme centerpieces made by the art students of Ray Moscoszkowicz at Nobel Middle School and the puppets created by Jesse Kingsley and Moira Lael Macdonald, and, of course, to enjoy a delicious lunch.
Jesse Kingsley and his puppets of Maria Singh. One was given to the author and the other to the Children's Room at LAPL
For four years I served on the Award Committee and I know how hard it is to select just one book for the award.
Carol Raby, Chair of Award Committee
Nominees are books for children that take place in California or shed light on some aspect of California life or history. (For a list of past winners, click HERE.)
Renny Day, VP Correspondence, Membership, FOCAL Points Editor and Barbara Metzenbaum, Past President
I thank all the hard working members of the 2018 Award Committee for their excellent choice, the judges of the Essay Contest and the students and their parents and teachers for their enthusiasm for the book, and the members of the FOCAL Board for their support of the library and for putting on another excellent Award Luncheon.
Centerpiece depicting Maria playing baseball; made by students of Ray Moszkowicz at Noble Middle School

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


When my books go into school libraries, I want to know--
  • Who will read them?
  • How will they fit into the curriculum?
  • What connections do they make to other kinds of learning?

Here are are few of my recent books and ways they can be used to enhance learning:

A Day and Night in the Rain Forest (PictureWindow Books, 2015)
Common Core Connections:Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: Describe how the passage of time is shown throughout this book.
Key Ideas and Details: Explain the similarities and differences between diurnal and nocturnal animals in the rain forest.
Key Ideas and Details: Name three things that all animals in the rain forest need to survive.
Key Ideas and Details: Name three diurnal predators in the rain forest and their prey. Then name three nocturnal predators and their prey.

[Similar connections can be made with the other three titles in the Day and Night series--in the Desert, in the Forest, and on the Prairie.]

Living Fossils: Clues to the Past (Charlesbridge, 2016)
Curriculum Links:

Language Arts: comprehension strategy--compare and contrast, main idea/details strategy, cause and effect relationships
Science: Life science--animal adaptation and classification

Hatching Chicks in Room 6 (Charlesbridge, 2017)
Teaching Ideas:Sequencing: Understanding Chick Development and Text Structure
Life Cycles: Make a time line.
Eggs: Where do eggs come from?
Baby Animals: What do baby animals need?
Photo essays: How do pictures tell the story?

A Warmer World (Charlesbridge, 2012)
Common Core Curriculum Links:

Language Arts: genre--non-fiction informational text; new scientific vocabulary, comprehension strategy, cause and effect relationships
Science: Life science--animals and their environment, survival, adaptation, extinction. Environmental issues--global warming/climate change over time, pollution