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Posts from August 2006

Happy BlogDay

I was tagged by Nancy at Journey Woman for BlogDay 2006. I'm a bit late, but it's still August 30th in California for a bit longer, so I decided to slide my entry in under the wire. The rules are:

  1. Find five new blogs that you find interesting.
  2. Notify the five bloggers that you're recommending them on BlogDay 2006.
  3. Write a BlogDay post today with a short description of each blog, and a link back to each one.
  4. Add a BlogDay 2006 Technorati tag and/or link back to the Technorati BlogDay 2006 page.
  5. Link to the BlogDay website.

So, here are five blogs that I've run across recently that I think are worth your time (and that as far as I know haven't already been tagged for this):

  • Snapshot, a blog by Jennifer from Connecticut, is about parenting, cooking, religion, and children's books. I really enjoy the look of this blog (format, colors, beautiful setting off of quotes). I also like Jennifer's regular "Works for me Wednesday" features, in which she blogs about some practical tip or suggestion (this is apparently a wide-spread phenomenon, but Snapshot is the first place that I've encountered it).
  • I've been visiting it for a little while now, and I simply love Shannon Hale's blog, Squeetus. Shannon is the author of several young adult novels, including The Goose Girl, which I recently read and enjoyed. What I like about her blog is that she's a passionate advocate of kids being able to read what they want, and, consequently, enjoying what they read. She also gets lots of thoughtful comments on her posts, many from young adults.
  • Alan Silberberg, author of the middle grade novel Pond Scum, has come to blogging fairly recently. His blog, Adventures in Pond Scum, provides a window into the writing process, as well as occasional funny drawings. This blog makes me laugh.
  • Buried in the Slush Pile is the is the blog of "an overworked editor" living in Texas. It features tips for writers to make their contributions stand out from the others in the slush pile. There are also contests, and my personal favorite feature, the discussion question of the week (e.g. "How important do you think author websites/blogs are?"). It's fun and useful.
  • OK, this one isn't new exactly, but Louise from Students for Literacy Ottawa is back publishing after a summer hiatus, and I would like to call this blog to your attention. Louise, along with a team of other occasional contributors, blogs about children's books, with a particular emphasis on literacy news. She also does an excellent job of keeping up on interesting stories from around the kidlitosphere.

Of course there are many other blogs that I enjoy and visit on a regular basis. If you read my Sunday Afternoon Visits posts you can get a pretty good idea of which are my long-term favorite blogs. Thanks!

A Good Week for Books

In the past few days I've received two shipments from Amazon (related to some binge-buying around my birthday, and gift certificates from two friends), and a box of my old books from my most excellent parents (who are moving, and cleaning out the house). And when I went to library, there were three books that I couldn't resist checking out. And Mheir got me books for my birthday, too. I'm now simply drowning in new books. Now if I could only find the time to actually read them... But it's nice to have such a feeling of plenty. Here's some of the new (and newly rescued) loot. All are children's or young adult books, unless otherwise noted. Yes, I'm definitely a rejuvenile.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

A Bit More about Adults and Young Adult Books

I wrote a bit last week (as did many others) about adults reading young adult books (here, for instance). I don't have anything new to say on it myself at the moment. But I do want to call two new posts to your attention:

  • Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray weighs in on the discussion over at The Elegant Variation concerning whether or not young adult literature is equal to adult literature. She concludes, regarding genre classification: "it means nothing people. Or at least, it means nothing to those of us who choose to ignore it." As a long-time mystery reader, I appreciated Colleen's comments in defense of the genres.
  • Wendy Betts at Blog from the Windowsill takes up a point made by Roger Sutton that young adult readers to need to transition at some point to reading adult books. She shares her own experiences in moving on as a reader, and asks: "If you're an adult, how did you transition? What will you help your young adult kids find to read?"

Both posts make some excellent points, and are well worth your time.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Saturday Afternoon Visits: August 26

Usually I don't get around to this until Sunday, but I seem to be a bit ahead of schedule this week. Here are a few tidbits for you from around the kidlitosphere:

  • Nancy over at Journey Woman brings us a new term to describe (among others) those of us who are technically adults, but who enjoy reading children's and young adult books: rejuvenile.
  • Via Book Moot (and also commented upon by A Fuse #8 Production), Brendan Fraser will be playing Mo (Meggie's father) in the movie version of Inkheart. I read in an interview a while back that author Cornelia Funke actually based the character of Mo on Brendan Fraser, and that she's long advocated for him to play the role. I personally found Fraser's narration of the second Inkworld book, Inkspell, distracting. He did a good job - it was just that I kept thinking "that's Brendan Fraser", and it distracted me from my immersion in the story. But maybe this will work better with the movie...
  • Continuing the discussion of required summer reading books, Franki over at A Year of Reading discusses her daughter's summer reading, in the absence of a required books list. She concludes, after watching her daughter choose and read books for pleasure all summer, "I am now 100 percent sure that I would rather my child spend the summer being a reader than reading required books on a school list. I want her to read for more than a course requirement." This made me think that maybe what schools should do is put together a list called something like "Really, really great books that other kids have enjoyed", and then make the list optional. Thus giving the kids who do need a push some ideas, but leaving the kids who already enjoy books to make their own choices. But of course I'm not there in the trenches, so I don't really know what would work.
  • An excellent list of books for reluctant grade school readers is developing over at Big A little a, in response to a plea for suggestions from Kelly's Mom. Definitely check out the comments.
  • Fred Charles has a great post on his blog titled: The Truth About Writing: It's a Pain in the Ass. It's a bit cynical (as Fred admits), but filled with useful advice and universal truths about writing as art, craft, and job. I also enjoyed Fred's follow-up post about why Bloggers are Writers Too. You should definitely check it out! It brightened my day.
  • Annette Simon was pleased to learn that her picture book Mocking Birdies was used as a prop in a recent Pottery Barn catalog. You can see a picture here (right column, midway down). My review of Mocking Birdies is here.
  • Chris Barton publishes, with a sigh, a listing of books about the planet Pluto.
  • A Fuse #8 Production links to LibriVox, a site that posts free audio recordings of books that are in the public domain. The audios are created by volunteers, so the quality is likely mixed. But you can't argue with the price! Here is the link to the LibriVox Children's Literature section.
  • Tasha Saecker from Kids Lit has started a page where she is "compiling a list of those of us who blog about children's literature." It's a great link list, growing all the time, and includes many blogs that I wouldn't have found on my own. You can also likely find some new to you kid lit blogs at JacketFlap, which currently indexes 131 blogs related to children's books and publishing.
  • The Boulder Public Library Teen Web team has compiled a bunch of great lists of non-frumpy recommended reading for teens. For instance: "Classics That Won't Kill You: Boring? Dusty? Not these" and "Don't Know Much About History. Historical fiction that won't make you snore....". Such fun! I found this link at Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog, Cynsations.
  • Liz B. has an interesting post at Pop Goes the Library about where certain books for teenage girls are shelved in bookstores. She recommends sources for booksellers looking to shelve the books, to help determine appropriate age ranges. She also offers this advice for parents, who don't know which are the right books for their kids: "use me. Use my young adult colleagues. Come in, ask for me, tell me what your child is reading and what she likes and let's see what we have to make you both happy. We can exchange emails, I'll look out for books she may like, we'll talk about what worked and didn't."
  • Anne-Marie at A Readable Feast calls on readers to help kids get the books that they need. She includes some alarming statistics about the number of books that children living in poverty have in their homes (or rather, don't have in their homes). For example, "Sixty-one percent of the children in low-income families have no books at all." No books at all. How sad is that? She suggests some programs that you can support to help, if you're interested.
  • If you're prepared to read something disturbing, I refer you to Jackie's post over at InteractiveReader. She writes of a recent incident with a 9-year-old bully at the library, with the kid having just returned after a one-year ban from the library. What kind of an 8 year old is so out of control that the library has to ban him? Scary stuff.

Hope that you're all having a great weekend!

The Edge of the Forest, August Issue

The Sixth Issue of the online journal of children's literature The Edge of the Forest is now available. The Edge of the Forest is the creation of editor Kelly Herold, of Big A little a fame, and includes contributions from many excellent bloggers and writers. Regular features include Blogging Writer (Melissa Wiley this month), Best of the Blogs, Kid Picks (absent this month, but with links to past columns), In the Backpack (featuring an interview with Betsy Bird this month), and lots and lots of great reviews. This month's issue also features Kelly's interview with author Linda Sue Park, and features by Pam Coughlan (MotherReader), Adrienne Furness (What Adrienne Thinks About That), and Allie (Bildungsroman/Slayground). While I didn't contribute directly this month, I was very pleased to see that some of my recent lists rated a mention.

So, if you're interested in children's books, and children's book writers, you should definitely head on over and check out the new issue of The Edge of the Forest. And if you're not interested in those things, you probably shouldn't be reading this post anyway. Happy Saturday!

The Door Within: Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson was kind enough to send me a copy of The Door Within, the first book in his The Door Within fantasy trilogy. I found the blue/purple color of the text a bit hard to read, and it took me a little while to get into the book. But once I got into it, I read the rest in about a day, and ceased to notice the text color.

The Door Within is about Aidan, a high school boy who is a bit of misfit. Aidan starts out frustrated because his family has just moved to Colorado, far away from his only friend, to care for his elderly grandfather, Grampin. Aidan soon learns, however, that there's more to Grampin, and the world, than meets the eye.

Strange scrolls appear out of nowhere in the basement, and Grampin encourages Aidan to believe that the scrolls are real and magical. He finds himself drawn into a story of knights and kings, bravery and betrayal. When Aidan, despite disparagement from his father, finally believes that the world in the scrolls is real, he finds himself able to walk through "The Door Within", into the other world.

In this alternate universe, Aidan encounters a strange race of people called the Glimpses, who live in the Kingdom of Alleble. The Glimpses there are ruled by King Eliam, whose glory is so pure that Aidan can't even look upon him without being temporarily blinded. It turns out that King Eliam has called Aidan to help his people in a battle against an evil rival, Paragor. In short order, Aidan finds himself training to be a knight, learning to be part of a team, setting off on a series of adventures, and finding the strength within himself. 

The Door Within offers plenty of adventure to keep things moving, as well as several interesting fantastical creatures (dragons, unicorns, cute little moonrascals, and a very cool multi-legged serpent). I especially liked the character of Gwenne, a beautiful young Glimpse who befriends Aidan and has a good sense of humor. The brave Captain Valithor is also touching yet humorous, prone to creative epithets like "Halt, thou reeking, fly-bitten bootlickers!". As for Aidan, he starts out a bit whiny, but is transformed by his experiences into someone well worth knowing.

I personally found the Christian overtones to be a bit strong in this book, because that's not so much my thing (note the name of the person who betrays Aidan and his friends and the sacrifice of the King for his people as two of many examples). But I think that for people who are fans of Christian fantasy, perhaps those who have finished the C. S. Lewis books, and want something else in the same genre, these books will be a huge hit. And I think, as with the Narnia books, that these Christian overtones may go right over kids' heads, manifesting instead as strong positive messages about loyalty, trust, and believing in yourself. I think that the story will keep kids reading, especially young fantasy fans.

Book: The Door Within
Author: Wayne Thomas Batson
Publisher: Tommy Nelson
Original Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 316
Age Range: 10 to 14

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Young Adult Books that Adults will Appreciate

In response to the Philadelphia Inquirer article about adults reading children's books, Leila has started a list of Young Adult Books that Adults Will Appreciate (and Hopefully Love) at bookshelves of doom. She's already received numerous suggestions. Her initial list includes 3 of my relatively recent favorites: How I Live Now, The Golden Compass, and Twilight, with several others that I've enjoyed in the comments. I continue to find it refreshing to see how many adults there are who are interested in children's literature.

The Inquirer article has also been taken up by TadMack at Finding Wonderland, Roger Sutton at Read Roger, the Powell's Book Blog, Memphis Reads, and I'm sure by others. I found the original link at Big A little a

UPDATE: And on the topic of adult appreciate of young adult books, there is a fascinating debate going on at The Elegant Variation ("A Literary Weblog) about the literary merits of young adult fiction (and other genre fiction such as mystery and SF) compared with literary fiction. Cecil Castellucci in particular stands up in defense of young adult literature. Thanks to Gwenda at Shaken & Stirred for the link (Gwenda also has some insightful comments on the TEV post).

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Poetry Friday: English Nursery Rhymes

In a quest to find poems for this week, I turned once again to my trusty The World Treasury of Children's Literature, by Clifton Fadiman (I have the single-volume paperback edition put out by QPBC in 1995). I was charmed by several of the English nursery rhymes listed, and have included two of them below.

Betty Botter bought some butter,
But, she said, the butter's bitter;
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter,
But a bit of better butter
Will make my batter better.
So she bought a bit of butter
Better than her bitter butter,
And she put it in her batter
And the batter was not bitter.
So 'twas better Betty Botter bought a bit
       of better butter.


There was a crooked man,
  And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
  Against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat,
  Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
  In a little crooked house.


Aren't those fun? In double-checking, I found that Kelly included the Crooked Man poem on her site back in June. However, since I had already typed it up, I decided to share it with you again. Have a great weekend!

UPDATE: Here are links to some other Poetry Friday entries for the day. If I missed you, please let me know.

Adults Reading Young Adult Literature

Kelly at Big A little a linked to this article by Katie Haegele in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. The article is about the growing readership of young adult and children's novels by adults. Of course that's part of what my blog is about ("the continued reading of children's books by adults"), so I simply had to bring the article to your attention. Several adult readers are quoted regarding the reasons that they read young adult books, or why they think that other adults do.

  • They're "more imaginative"
  • They have "more upbeat endings"
  • A good young adult book "makes you think"
  • They offer "more of a resolution than in literary fiction for adults" / "more satisfying"
  • And, for parents, they offer a way to "stay informed of what their children are reading"

I particularly enjoyed the discussion about mother-daughter reading groups. I think that there are tons of benefits to parents who read the same books that their kids read: increased closeness, demonstrating that reading is important, ability to talk about things in the books, etc. I wrote more about that in an earlier post.

But check out the full article for more details about adult reading of young adult books. Thanks again to Kelly for the link!

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Kids in Need - Book In Deed

Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen wrote recently about a new charity that puts books into the hands of kids who need them. Her enthusiasm for the project inspired me to also spread the word. According to their website, Kids In Need - Books In Deed:

"is bringing FREE books and FREE author visits to underprivileged schools and community organizations. How? In addition to private funding, schools that hope to inspire generosity and service in their students can sign up to sponsor a Write-A-Thon and the money raised will bring free books and authors to kids who need them most."

"The fund is housed by the Florida State University Foundation. Proceeds go to buying books for underprivileged children in the state of Florida where high level matching funds are available. The FSU Foundation requires only 2.4% for overhead and .6% for investment fees. Books are purchased directly from publishers to receive the greatest discounts. Prizes for participating schools are funded mainly by donations from organizations. Our authors volunteer their time--as do our web and materials designers, founders and board of directors."

It sounds like a pretty cool program to me. I like the way they get kids who are better off involved in the Write-A-Thons, and hence get them thinking about helping less fortunate kids.

The Experience of Falling in Love with a Book (Or Not)

There are several posts out from the last day or so concerned with required summer reading, and how the Newbery awards are selected and applied. I find these discussions irresistible, because I'm so concerned that kids are able to find books that they enjoy.

  • Rick Riordan has a follow-up to his earlier post about his son's summer reading blues (which I mentioned in my Sunday visits post). In the previous post, he lamented the fact that his son's school assigned the Newbery-award-winning, but 50-year-old, Ginger Pye as a required summer reading book. Rick wrote yesterday that he's had more responses to the earlier post than to any other blog post. He also set down his personal requirements for what makes up the "best" children's books, saying "When it comes to children’s literature, I tend to be a populist. My primary concern is youth literacy. What will appeal to the most children? What will get them reading? What will inspire them to pick up more books? A book that can do this is, to me, a “best book” for children." I couldn't agree with him more, and I think that he absolutely holds to these ideals in the kids books that he writes (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters). See Rick's blog post here.
  • Camille at Book Moot also shares some insightful comments about required reading and Newbery titles (here and more recently here). In today's entry she ponders the difficulty that parents face when they have to choose books for their kids from among the Newbery titles (because of school requirements). She says: "I know curriculum committees fall back on these lists because they are supposed to be "good literature" and consider them safe picks. I wonder though if they actually read these books before they assign them?" An excellent question, that.
  • Camille linked to another Newbery-related post at Oz and Ends. J. L. Bell looks at some earlier Newbery winners, both of which proved to have far less staying power than their Honor Book runners up (Secret of the Andes vs. Charlotte's Web and Shadow Of A Bull vs, Harriet the Spy). He speculates that the librarians on these earlier Newbery committees may have been striving to select multi-cultural books, but notes that "young Americans ended up preferring instead ... Mostly stories about other young Americans."

Personally, I think that I have a pretty kid-like taste when it comes to choosing books to read. And if I look at a title, whether it's a Newbery-winner or not, and the mere description causes me to snore, then I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to expect kids to like it. I find myself more and more drawn to books that are magical (though not necessarily about magic) and compelling and keep the reader turning the pages.

I've also found that while some older books seem to me to hold up well (I've recently re-read The Railway Children and The Four Story Mistake, and enjoyed both), that doesn't necessarily mean that my 11-year-old nieces will like them. So, to come full-circle in the discussion, it seems a bit implausible that a book chosen more than 50 years ago by the Newbery committee (Ginger Pye) would necessarily appeal to all of the kids in a modern elementary school classroom.

What I'd personally like is for every boy out there to be able to find the book that makes him read under the covers with a flashlight, because he has to know how it ends. And for every girl out there to find the book that makes her not come when you call her to dinner, because she's so deep into the book that she can't even hear you. I'm still that girl (my vague "What?" is well-known in my house, when I barely know what's going on around me). While I know that not every kid has it in them to become a bookworm, for one reason or another, I'd still like them all, at least once, to have that experience of completely falling into and in love with a book.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

States I've Been In

Regular visitors to this site know that I frequently complain about travel. Today, however, I actually found a very cool travel-related graph. I learned about this from Snapshot. You can make a map that shows all of the states that you've visited (visited states are in red):

create your own visited states map

This is a service from Douwe Osinga's blog. I've been to 70% of the states. Guess I'll have to do a heartland trip one of these days. Back to my regularly scheduled discussions of books and literacy soon.