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May 2007

Posts from April 2007

Blogging the Kidlitosphere

Our own Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production has an article about Blogging the Kidlitosphere in the May/June issue of The Horn Book Magazine. I haven't received my print copy yet, but the full article is available online. My favorite quote from the article is this:

"Every day more parents, teachers, librarians, scholars, authors, illustrators, and readers are discovering and creating blogs of their own in an effort to add something to the general discourse surrounding books for kids. You can avoid blogs and suffer few consequences, but this new technology offers a remarkable way to talk about children’s literature while adequately supplementing already existing media."

Way to go, Betsy! The website also include a list of Kid-lit Bloggers to Watch, with short descriptions of each site. Welcome, to all Horn Book readers who have clicked through to visit this page. And thanks, Betsy, for making us all look good with your well-informed piece.

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

April 2007 Reading List

Still on target, and actually slightly ahead of schedule, to read 200 books this year. Despite being behind on my reviews, all of my travels this past month did give me lots of time to read. Here's the April list.

Children's and Young Adult Books

  1. Dian Curtis Regan: Cam's Quest. Darby Creek Publishing. Completed April 1, 2007. My review.
  2. Laura Hillman: I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's List Survivor. Atheneum. Completed April 1, 2007.
  3. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Among the Imposters. Simon & Schuster. Completed April 2, 2007.
  4. Cecil Castellucci: Boy Proof. Candlewick. Completed April 4, 2007. My review.
  5. Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain: Bass Ackwards and Belly Up. Megan Tingley. Completed April 4, 2007.
  6. Karen Blumenthal: Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America. Atheneum. Completed April 5, 2007. (young adult non-fiction)
  7. Tina Schwager and Michele Schuerger (Authors), Elizabeth Verdick (Editor): Gutsy Girls: Young Women Who Dare. Free Spirit Publishing. Completed April 5, 2007
  8. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Among the Betrayed. Simon & Schuster. Completed April 5, 2007.
  9. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Among the Barons. Simon & Schuster. Completed April 5, 2007.
  10. Gail Gauthier: A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat. Putnam. Completed April 7, 2007. My review.
  11. Melanie Watt: Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. Kids Can Press. Completed April 7, 2007. My review.
  12. Tim Egan: The Pink Refrigerator. Houghton Mifflin. Completed April 8, 2007. My review.
  13. Robert Heidbreder (author) and Kady MacDonald Denton (illustrator): A Sea-Wishing Day. Kids Can Press. Completed April 8, 2007.
  14. Jessica Meserve: Small Sister. Clarion. Completed April 8, 2007.
  15. Scott Magoon: Hugo & Miles in I've Painted Everything. Houghton Mifflin. Completed April 8, 2007.
  16. Cece Meng (author) and Janet Peterson (illustrator): The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups. Clarion. Completed April 8, 2007.
  17. Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long. An Egg is Quiet. Chronicle Books. Completed April 8, 2007.
  18. Nick Ruth (author) and Sue Concannon (illustrator): The Dark Dreamweaver (The Remin Chronicles). Completed April 11, 2007.
  19. Crissa-Jean Chappell: Total Constant Order. Completed April 12, 2007.
  20. Dana Reinhardt: Harmless. Completed April 13, 2007.
  21. Pete Hautman: Godless. Completed April 13, 2007.
  22. James Patterson: Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever. Completed April 15, 2007.
  23. Kenneth Oppel: Skybreaker. Eos Publishing. Completed April 23, 2007.
  24. Mitali Perkins: First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover. Dutton Juvenile. Completed April 26, 2007.
  25. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Among the Brave. Aladdin. Completed April 28, 2007.
  26. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Among the Enemy. Aladdin. Completed April 29, 2007.

Adult Fiction

  1. Julia Spencer-Fleming: All Mortal Flesh. Completed April 6, 2007. The latest in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Allstyne series, about a female Episcopal priest who falls in love with a married small-town police chief. They solve mysteries together. I'm a sucker for these star-crossed lover stories. The mystery in this one is a bit too close to home for the pair - the murder of Russ's wife, Linda, for which both Russ and Clare are suspects. This is one of my favorite series, and this one did not disappoint, and even surprised me with a major twist. Best sentence: "Meg's family room was always filled with sprawls of teenage boys, her kitchen overrun with giggles of girls."
  2. Victoria Thompson: Murder in Little Italy. Berkley Prime Crime. Completed April 8, 2007. Eighth book in the Gaslight Mystery series, set in New York during the 1890s (while Theodore Roosevelt was Police Commissioner), featuring Sarah Brandt, a midwife from a wealthy family, and Frank Malloy, one of the few honest police detectives in the city. This series just keeps getting better. The next book, Murder in Chinatown, is due out in June.
  3. Cormac McCarthy: The Road. Knopf. Completed April 9, 2007. A beautifully written tale set in an incredibly bleak post-apocalyptic future. I didn't find it as compelling as some post-apocalypse/dystopian stories because one of the key ingredients was largely missing. There's little wondering what you would do, because the available options have already shrunk down to "scrounge for food and warmth", pretty much. But still an interesting and quick read.
  4. Carol O'Connell: Find Me. Putnam. Completed April 21, 2007. Latest book in the Mallory series, as compelling as the others, and revealing new layers of Mallory's character.

Looking forward to catching up on reviews in May.

Sunday Afternoon Visits: April 29

Another week, another hectic business trip, and once again I've been feeling out of touch about what's going on in the Kidlitosphere. But I did have time to read four books this week, so that's some consolation. I'm almost through Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series (just finished book 6 of 7).

I am woefully behind on writing reviews over the past couple of weeks - please don't take this as any lack of appreciation for the books that I'm been reading. I find that I can't write reviews when I'm feeling rushed and stressed out - I need to write them when I'm in a certain book-focused mental state. So, reviews will be coming soon. The travel should be easing up for a little while.

Meanwhile, I spent some time today catching up on the news while watching the Red Sox / Yankees game (the Red Sox have taken 5 out of 6 so far!), and I have some highlights for you:

  • I'm very late with this news, but MotherReader has announced the date for her second annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. To my devastation, I'm going to be traveling that weekend, so although I'll be reading on the plane, I don't think that I'll be officially participating, and certainly won't be winning any of the way-cool prizes (OK, those prizes are a joke, but there will be prizes.)
  • I'm also late to report a new Kidlitosphere fad - a quiz at the Golden Compass movie site that lets you find your own daemon. You can find the roundup at Wands and Worlds.
  • Betsy Bird got quite possibly the coolest anonymous birthday present ever, a tiny fuseman. You have to click through to see the pictures to understand.
  • Katherine Thomsen writes about five baseball books at This Just In, rating them using baseball terminology. I'm saddened that she didn't enjoy Heat more, but I'm prepared to look into the other "home runs" that she mentioned.
  • Sherry shares her best of the best list, culled from the Carnegie Medal and Newbery Award lists at Semicolon (and inspired by a Fuse #8 post that I mentioned last week).
  • Via h20boro lib blog, the Today Show is launching a Al's Book Club for Kids. From the press release: " On Friday, April 27, "Al's Book Club For Kids" will kick-off and the first of four books that kids can read and discuss over the summer on "Today" will be announced. At the same time, the Scholastic Summer Reading BUZZ! gets underway - a campaign that gets kids reading and champions the important role parents, educators and librarians - and even Al Roker - can play in helping kids find books they will love to read." I say, whatever works to keep kids reading over the summer is a happy thing.
  • Mrs. K at Readathon has a new series of student reviews that have been catching my eye. She says "I often have people ask me for advice on good books for their middle school readers (hence this site). I have my ideas, but it's always nice to hear from such readers themselves! I've been lucky enough to have some students offer their writing talents to this blog."
  • I'm late in reporting this, but Miss Erin (a fellow Readergirlz Postergirl) has issued a new challenge. Specifically, she challenges readers to create some sort of Shakespeare-reading related goal. Hers is to read all of the plays. She already has an impressive list of participants.
  • A winner was announced for the Disco Mermaids' 3-2-1 contest. Congratulations to Natalie for her celebrity children's book title Hop on Pop, by Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn.
  • Leila from bookshelves of doom speaks well of the Georgette Heyer romances, which are one of my personal favorite comfort reading series.
  • Over at Chasing Ray, Colleen responds vigorously and eloquently to some recent new articles that are dismissive towards bloggers. Be sure to read the comments, too, where Colleen says "I just want everyone to co-exist with some mutual respect." I'm so glad to have Colleen out there defending our sphere. See also her second article about review books and reviewing, about where she gets the books that she reviews.
  • Susan has announced the Fourteenth Carnival of Children's Literature, to be held at Chicken Spaghetti on Monday, May 21st. The theme is Fiesta: A Multicultural Celebration. Don't miss your chance to participate.
  • The next Scholar's Blog Book Discussion begins on Tuesday over at Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone, featuring Lady Friday by Garth Nix. See also Michele's thoughts on what's going to happen in the final Harry Potter book.
  • Tricia writes about why she blogs at The Miss Rumphius Effect, and invites commenters to share their reasons. So many wonderful reasons...
  • Kirby Larson has named her second Hot Woman of Children's Literature: the fabulous Jennifer Holm.
  • Lectitans asks her question of the week: "What is the purpose of a book review?" She also links to several responses to last week's question: "How much can we know about the author herself based on the content of the book?"

And now I'm feeling much more caught up. Thanks for listening! I hope to get to reviews and coming up with questions for some upcoming interviews very soon.

The Titan's Curse Release Party in San Jose

As avid fans doubtless know, The Titan's Curse, the third book in Rick Riordan's excellent Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series, is about to be released. A book release party is being held at Borders Books in San Jose (at Santana Row). Sadly, I'm not sure if I'll be able to attend, due to a prior commitment for that day, but I wanted to help drum up support for the event. If you're local to the San Jose area, this is a party that you won't want to miss.

Here's the full invitation (as sent to me by the Riordans):

Please join us for a "Percy party" with Rick Riordan, celebrating the newest release in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series!

Borders Books
356 Santana Row
San Jose, CA 95128    

WHEN: Saturday, May 12; 2 PM

WHAT: Get your books signed, win T-shirts and other prizes, and enjoy lots of Greek mythology fun!

Call ahead to reserve your copy of Titan's Curse, or for more information: 408-241-9100.

Local fans, please help me to spread the word, and show the Riordans that San Jose is a great place for author visits. And if you haven't read the Percy Jackson books, well, it's never too late to start. My review of first book in the series, The Lightning Thief, is here.

A Litty Award!

Just a quick note from the midst of my latest trip to let you know that Jen Robinson's Book Page received a second runner-up award for Best KidLit Blogger from Book Chronicle. Our own A Fuse #8 Production was first runner-up, following the winner: Christian Children's Book Review. They said:

"For providing kidlit opinions since 2006, hosting kidlit Carnival and instilling love for children’s literature in grown-ups, Jen Robinson’s Book Page was awarded second runner-up.

For a quirky librarian look at the ‘ruthless cutthroat’ world of kidlit, and providing multilateral insights, A Fuse #8 Production was deemed to be worthy of the first runner-up award. And…

For the great amount of genuine recommendations for parents, different approaches to the problems of picking the right children’s books for Christian parents, the 2006 Litty Award for Best Kidlit Litblogger goes to…

Christian Children’s Book Review! Congrats!"

Now, we all know that there are many, many great children's literature blogs out there, and that this is just one group's opinion. But it is nice to be recognized for doing something that I love to do anyway. Thanks, Book Chronicle!

Children's Literacy Round-Up: April 23

Just a few literacy-related news stories have caught my eye this week:

  • According to the Chronicle West End Edition in Montreal, an upcoming event called A Boys Day Out will be "an afternoon for boys to be boys while the adults learn more about how to get their boys excited about reading." The idea is to address endangered literacy among boys.
  • SABC News (South Africa) has a belated article about World Book Day, "a yearly event organised by Unesco to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright."
  • There's a column by Janette Rose of the Muskogee Area Literacy Council in the Muskogee Phoenix (Oklahoma) with recommendations for actions that the county should take to improve area literacy. I think the recommendations listed have wider applicability.
  • Reading is Fundamental just announced the winners of their 10th annual volunteer of the year awards. ""RIF could not exist without the efforts of volunteers like this year's winners," said Carol H. Rasco, RIF's president and CEO. "These individuals not only share RIF's goal of fostering children's literacy throughout the country, but they work tirelessly to ensure that we achieve that goal. We are thankful to them and to all of our volunteers for their many hours devoted to helping our youth discover the joy of reading.""

And that's all for now. Happy reading to all!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: April 22

I was home this week, but somehow still wasn't able to keep very caught up on the blogs, or do much reading. I think it was the Carnival, combined with a lot of miscellaneous work-related things. But I spent some time this weekend catching up, while watching the Red Sox / Yankees series (Go SOX!). And I managed to find quite a few things for you.

  • First and foremost, don't miss posts by Meg Cabot and Robin Brande, inspired by the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech, about what to do in a crisis. The short answer: do SOMETHING. But please do read both posts. I don't know about you, but I'm still teary-eyed over the whole thing, and it's good to see some words about action.
  • Kelly asks readers for their top "Am I alone here?" titles at Big A little a. "You know, those books everyone loves but that you end up sorta liking, disliking, or downright hating." There are tons of responses in the comments. Mine was Octavian Nothing. Zee Says extends the question to discuss "am I alone here?" titles for movies (which I found via Kelly).
  • GuusjeM at Of Life, Education, E-bay, Travel & Books writes about efforts to maintain enthusiasm for reading and learning among fourth graders, a dangerous drop-off age for literacy.
  • Praba writes glowingly about the book Mama's Saris at Saffron Tree, calling it "an eloquent and colorful presentation of a story that celebrates the beauty of saris, and the special role they play in an East Indian family."
  • The whole discussion about professional reviewers vs. blog reviewers really took on a life of its own this week. You can find an excellent take on it (beyond what I already mentioned here) at Becky's Book Reviews. Becky also has a comprehensive list of other posts on the topic, so I won't list them all here. But I did especially enjoy Camille's take at Book Moot, in which she discusses the different voices that we all bring to our reviewing.
  • As part of the blogger vs. professional reviewer discussion, Colleen announces the "Summer Blog Blast Tour" that she's organizing at Chasing Ray. I'm pleased to be one of the 18 bloggers who will (collectively) be interviewing some 25 authors. The tour will take place in June. And don't miss Colleen's discussion about exactly what defines a professional reviewer vs. an amateur reviewer.
  • At HipWriterMama, Vivian recaps the 70 books that she's reviewed this year for her wonderful Sunday series about Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature.
  • And on a more frivolous note, LibrariAnne features a set of Scrabble furniture that is simply to die for. You have to see it to believe it.
  • Inspired by the Carnegie of Carnegies list in the Guardian, Betsy offers up her list of "top ten children's books written in the last 70 years that also happened to win the Newbery Award" at Fuse #8. They are both excellent lists, well worth checking out. Also, don't miss your chance to vote for the next Hot Man of Children's Literature.
  • Via Fuse #8, Kirby Larson announces a new, and long overdue series, Hot Women of Children's Literature. Her inaugural selection is our very own Mitali Perkins, who Kirby calls "smart, sassy and hot. Not just on the outside, but on the inside where it really counts."
  • I learned via Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf about a promotion that author James Patterson is undertaking. The third book in his Maximum Ride series is due out this summer, and Mr. Patterson has said that he'll only write a fourth book in the series if he gets one million votes at The counter is already up over 900,000, so another book seems likely. But here's the cool part. He's also donating one book to First Book for every 100 clicks. I haven't seen a lot of reviews of this series around the Kidlitosphere - they are best-sellerish, rather than literary fiction. But the books are action-packed, and a huge hit with reluctant readers, and I for one will be glad to see the series continue.
  • I enjoyed a recent series at Shrinking Violet Promotions (subtitle: Marketing for Introverts) about using positive karma in the Kidlitosphere. Robin LaFevers (author of Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, which I reviewed recently) started with her post The Good Karma Networking Approach. Mary Hershey continued the topic with Karma Kontinued. They both take the approach that it helps tremendously in the long run to do good things for people, and give people positive feedback, when you have the chance. Send good karma out into the Kidlitosphere, and all will be well.

And that's quite enough for one day. Quite a week it's been in and around the Kidlitosphere.    

Two Recent Honors

I've been kept pretty busy this week with preparing the Carnival, and I neglected to write about two tremendous honors that I received.

  • First, Elaine Magliaro dedicated her Poem of the Day #18 at Wild Rose Reader to me! She mentioned especially liking my Sunday Visits and Literacy Roundup posts, which are among my own favorites. The poem is funny a nursery rhyme parody in which Mary conquers a casino.
  • Also, as regular visitors to this blog may know, I've been a volunteer for the Foundation and Friends of the Santa Clara City Library for a a couple of years now. I was just named to the Board of Directors of the Foundation and Friends. It's a wonderfully diverse and active organization, and I'm so pleased to have been asked to be part of it. Some of my efforts with the Board will probably be focused on marketing, which I have some experience in through my paying job.

Thanks Elaine! And thanks to the Library Board members, for being so welcoming.

13th Carnival of Children's Literature

Step right up! Don't be shy. I'm pleased to welcome you (just a couple of hours early) to the Thirteenth Carnival of Children's Literature. The children's literature carnivals were started by, and continue to be organized and promoted by, author and blogger Melissa Wiley. Susan Thomsen also wrote a very helpful introduction to blog carnivals at Chicken Spaghetti. And special thanks to Alkelda from Saints and Spinners for designing and sending me the following graphic:


As you can see below, blog carnivals highlight the tremendous diversity of the Kidlitosphere. Here we'll start with the kiddie rides/picture books, and move on to more sophisticated fare.

Kiddie Rides (Picture Book Reviews)

J0395987The Ferris Wheel (Middle Grade Reviews)

J0399332The Roller Coaster (Young Adult Reviews)

  • Kelly presents a review of Cecil Castellucci's upcoming graphic novel The Plain Janes at Big A little a, saying "I hope that The Plain Janes will put to rest the endless (and fruitless) debate about whether or not graphic novels can be or are as good as "regular books.""
  • Becky Laney presents a review of What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones at Becky's Book Reviews, calling the protagonist "an honest and vulnerable narrator whose voice resonates with readers.
  • Alyssa F. presents Review: Emma Vol. 1 at The Shady Glade, with a review of a historical graphic novel by Kaoru Mori. She notes that "It really reads more like literature than a graphic novel, and it presents a fairly accurate presentation of Victorian London."
  • Gina Ruiz presents a review of Feels Like Home by e. E. Charlton Trujillo at AmoxCalli, calling the story "an interesting and deeply engrossing one with a lot going on."
  • Michele reviews Catherine Webb's book The Obsidian Dagger: Being the Further Adventures of Horatio Lyle at Scholar's Blog, calling this sequel "a much darker book than "Horatio Lyle"."

J0400275The Merry-Go-Round (Booklists)

The Calliope (Poetry)

Performance Artists (posts about authors, including interviews and visits, and about writing)

Fried Dough, Cotton Candy, and Sno Cones (an assortment of KidLit-related fare)

J0384689The Midway (about Prizes and Awards)

And, last but definitely not least, the Entertainers (Humor)

  • Pam Coughlan presents The Dinner Preparation Theory posted at MotherReader. Here MotherReader quotes her daughters and their theory on the relationship between her mood and what she prepares for dinner.
  • Jay presents Penguin Pride! posted at The Disco Mermaids (Robin - Jay - Eve), saying "Being a Disco Mermaid is a lot of fun...unless you lose a bet. Robin and Eve dared me to spend a day in a penguin suit since I'm always telling them the virtues of being a Penguin author."

And that's enough fun and excitement for one day. I hope that you've enjoyed your stay at the 13th Carnival of Children's Literature. The next carnival will be held at Chicken Spaghetti on Monday, May 21. The deadline for submissions is Thursday,  May 17. The June carnival will be held at A Year of Reading. Be sure to tell your friends.

Carnival Submissions Due

Just a quick reminder that submissions for the lucky 13th Carnival of Children's Literature are due by the end of the day tomorrow (Thursday). This leaves me with Friday to assemble the carnival, which will be posted this weekend. Many thanks to all of you who have already contributed. To submit a post, you can email me, or use the form at the carnival site. No special theme, though of course posts about poetry are fitting, given that it's National Poetry Month. And posts about literacy and raising readers are fitting, because that's my thing. But really, the idea is to submit your best children's literature-related post from the past month or so, so that we can bring it, and your blog, to people's attention with the carnival. Thanks!

Children's Literacy Round-Up: April 17

I missed my literacy round-up last week due to travel, so I have lots of tidbits for you this week.

  • There's a new literacy center in Edinboro, PA, according to an article by Jamie Musick in the Meadville Tribune. There were plans mentioned for a specific portion of the center to be focused on parents, but that hasn't been accomplished yet.
  • The University of Texas at El Paso also has a new literacy program. Students attend "a reading program that UTEP education officials hope will foster better literacy practices in the region", according to an article by Gustavo Reveles Acosta in the El Paso Times.
  • Meanwhile, in Morning Sun, Iowa, a new ""Family Storyteller" program at the Morning Sun Library will teach children and their parents how to read together." According to the Burlington Hawk Eye, the idea is to help semi-literate parents to be more comfortable reading in front of their children.
  • According to the Naples Daily News, the local literacy council in Bonita Springs, Florida, "was awarded $15,000 this afternoon to expand its Moms and Tots Family Literacy program, which helps mothers and their children to learn English."
  • This one is about adult literacy, but heart-warming nevertheless. The St. George Sutherland Shire Leader of Australia published a piece about how literacy helped a 67-year-old woman reconnect with her long-lost sister. She wrote letters trying to track her sister down as part of her literacy learning efforts, and these efforts were rewarded. It's pretty neat.
  • And if you would like something even more heart-warming, check out this story by Cindy Krantz from the Cincinnati Enquirer about a schoolwide project to create children's books for kids in northern Uganda.
  • For another international story, check out this article in the New Zealand Herald. After a visit to libraries in Fiji, Tauranga libraries manager Jill Best decided to try to do something about the sorry state of library collections there. She sent out an appeal to her librarian friends for used books, and has received thousands to send to the libraries in Fiji.
  • The Epoch (New York) Times asks readers, in honor of Library Week, to read children's books. It starts: "Why read children's literature? It's surprisingly nuanced and often addresses philosophical or ethical questions. It is often funny. If you'd like a vacation from gore, murder and "language," children's books are your mental vacation spot." The article (by Mary Silver) then moves on to concrete suggestions. It's well worth checking out, if for no other reason than to support this excellent idea. (Though for me it's not so much a vacation spot as a place I want to live, but I'll give them a pass on that.)

Professional Reviews vs. Blog Reviews

In case you've missed it, there's quite a controversy brewing in and about the Kidlitosphere concerning book reviewing. It started with a write-up at Fuse #8 about an article that I mentioned briefly in a recent round-up (which I in turn learned about from Jess). The gist of all of that was, essentially, about the eternal question regarding posting of negative reviews.

Roger Sutton, however, took that topic and went with it over at Read Roger, raising issues about whether people who have informal blogs that include interviews and the like can write unbiased reviews. There are many comments, some of them quite negative towards blogger book reviews (including what I think is a veiled dig at Readergirlz). There are also several well-thought-out responses from people like Mitali Perkins, Kelly Herold, Gwenda Bond, and Colleen Mondor in the comments. Liz Burns has just posted her own response at Tea Cozy. Gail Gauthier has also weighed in, with a reasonable, "not better, not worse, but different" approach.

I think that it's a thought-provoking debate. There are certainly annoying aspects of the "establishment" (traditional publishing) throwing darts at the bold (and mostly female) upstarts from the Kidlitosphere. There are inferences that people who write blogs, because they aren't professional reviewers writing for print publications (though some of them are, actually), are likely to be swayed by free books and "swag" from authors and publishers. For the most part this is nonsense. We're talking about free books, and the occasional cupcake, not things that people who are otherwise employed are going to sell out their integrity for.

But what makes me uneasy about the discussion is that I think that there's a tiny grain of truth to it, in regards to how we can objectively write about books written by people we consider our friends. At least for me. For example, I've been getting review copies lately from people I've had direct interactions with through the Kidlitosphere, and I wrestle with whether or not my opinion of each book is colored by my opinion of that book's author or publisher. It's easy not to review a library book that I liked but didn't love, since I have so many books that I do love that I want to talk about. But what if the author sent me a nice signed copy, and is checking my blog to see if I posted a review? What if I think that the book deserves a little extra notice, and that there's the potential for other people to love it, even if I didn't?

I'm not ever going to write a positive review of a book that I disliked, or didn't finish. I'm confident of that. But I think that I am more likely to go to the trouble of writing a review of a book that I liked but didn't love madly, if I feel some sense of personal obligation to the author or publisher. This is an issue that Wendy has raised, too, at Blog from the Windowsill, and that I know other people must struggle with. It's not necessarily wrong to do it, either, because again, I'm never recommending books that I don't like. And so many of these books do deserve a wider audience.

But the whole debate has me wanting to be more careful about accepting books, and more thoughtful about what I write. I've always tried to be up front about where my books come from, and where I have relationships with the people who wrote or published them. But I think I can do better. I appreciate this debate for forcing me to think critically about what I'm doing, and for whom.

All of that self-doubt aside, I agree with Gail that what the blogs are offering is different from what print media is offering. I know that there are parents who visit my blog looking for recommendations for their kids. Usually they don't need a full critical analysis of every book that's been published lately. They just need help sorting through the many titles in libraries and bookstores. I'm happy to do my small part to provide that. Of course these parents can, and in many cases do, also consult with librarians and booksellers and print publications.

But there's an accessibility to blogs that appeals to people. As Gwenda alluded to in her comments on the Read Roger post, people like to get recommendations from people they feel like they know. My picture is on my blog. My bio is there. People who read the blog regularly know that I care passionately about helping raise kids who love books. No, it's still not the same as talking to a librarian face to face, and a pale substitute. But for today's parents, who are at their computers all the time, knowing someone via blog works, too. And there's an anonymity to reading blogs that I'm sure appeals to some people, the appeal of not having to ask directly for help.

And of course, we all blog because we love the community, and the discussions that we have with each other. Like this one. Sorry that I went on for so long. I really started out just recapping the controversy. But it got me thinking... Thanks for listening.

UPDATED to add: TadMack and a. fortis also contribute at Finding Wonderland. And don't miss Betsy's response at Fuse #8. I think that we can all agree that we don't do this for the free books. We're people who would find copies of books anyway, and review them, even if publishers didn't send us free copies. The free copies are a convenience that lets us write about new books earlier - that's the main benefit, as far as I can see.

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