Friday, November 20, 2015

Sibert Smackdown!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the Nonfiction Smackdown, a great idea developed by teacher-librarian Judi Paradis who works at Plympton School in Waltham, MA.

Now that the kidlit community is starting to buzz about contenders for the ALA Youth Media Awards, I’ve decided to modify Judi’s idea a bit to create the Sibert Smackdown.

Here’s how it works. Students in grades 3-5 read two nonfiction picture books from the fantastic Mock Sibert list created by Alyson Beecher, Padadena (CA) Unified School District literacy and curriculum coordinator and highly-respected nonfiction expert, over at Kid Lit Frenzy (See Alyson’s blog posts here, here, and here for more details.):

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko; Illustrated by Sean Qualls (Arthur A. Levine, January 2015)

How to Swallow a Pig: A Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins, Robin Page (HMH Books for Young Readers, September 2015)

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos; Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (Henry Holt and Co., March 2015)

The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea by Brenda Z. Guiberson; Illustrated by Gennady Spirin (Henry Holt and Co., June 2015)

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton; Illustrated by Cathy Gendron (Millbrook Press, September 2015)

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate (Peachtree Publishers, September 2015)

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli (Viking Books for Young Readers, March 2015)

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, Illustrated by Bryan Collier (Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 2015)

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally Walker; Illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss (Henry Holt and Co., January 2015)

Then the children evaluate and compare the two titles, recording their thinking on a worksheet like this one, which is a kid-friendly version of the real Sibert criteria (actual criteria are available here):

When students are done, they can share their responses with classmates. Or the worksheets can be posted, so that other students can use the information to help them make book choices.

If time permits, students could do multiple rounds of this activity to select grade level or whole school winners.

This fun activity gets kids reading and thinking and sharing. It’s great!

Note: You can find a more printable version of the Sibert Smackdown! worksheet on my pinterest Reading Nonfiction Board:


  1. Thank you Melissa for the shout out. :-) And I love this idea.

  2. Thanks for your great list of titles, Alyson.

  3. This looks like a lot of fun! Gonna tuck it into my bag of tricks for the library.