It's a beautiful day here in San Jose. So beautiful that I'm sitting out in my backyard this afternoon, with the computer on my lap, because I just can't bear to be inside. It's a bit hard to read the screen, though, so I'm not sure how long I'll last. But it's about 75 degrees, with blue skies, there are occasional prop planes flying by and late roses blooming, and if I lean forward a tiny bit, I can see cows out grazing. Yeah, it would be hard to leave California.
Anyway, there has been a lot going on in the Kidlitosphere this week:
The Comment Challenge is still going strong. MotherReader has the full list of participants here. If you're new to the Kidlitosphere, and looking for a list of active bloggers, this is a great place to start.
There have been lots of great posts at or around the Books for the Holidays blog. If you're looking for motivation or ideas related to giving people books as gifts this season, do head on over to check it out. I especially liked this post by Becky Laney, with mini-reviews of children's and YA titles, from bargains to books to get kids hooked on a series. See also Tricia's post at The Miss Rumphius Effect about gift books for kids who love animals, and Elaine Magliaro's post at Wild Rose Reader with links to various book lists.
Speaking of the gift of books, Tanita from Finding Wonderland shares a lovely Emily Dickinson poem about "precious words". She's also giving some thought to the idea that we can work together to create a culture of reading, and says "anyone can become a reader." I agree 100%. You can find a full Poetry Friday round-up at Yat-Yee Chong's blog.
I already posted the schedule for the Winter Blog Blast Tour (which launches tomorrow). As if that weren't enough organizing for anyone, Colleen Mondor just announced another cross-blog event, in which everyone is welcome to participate. It's called the 2008 Holiday Season Book Recommendation Event. Colleen explains: "If you want to join in then you send me the exact url of your first Holiday Book Recs post. I'll link to that on a master list and then from there, if you want to keep posting for however many days of the 12 (all or part or whatever), then you need to update your own first day post to reflect that."
Over at The Well-Read Child, Jill shares her Cybils nonfiction evaluation criteria. She includes age-appropriateness, layout, writing style/tone, appealing story, visual elements, and (with a nod to Tricia from The Miss Rumphius Effect) references. This is a post that I think would benefit anyone analyzing nonfiction titles for kids.
Speaking of judging books, Carlie Webber from Librarilly Blonde identified a cringe-worthy sentence in a review of John Green's Paper Towns by Monica Watson from the Ithacan. Watson says: "The young-adult genre has been riddled with uninspiring novels that lack any kind of creativity or originality. Shuffling through the mundane “Gossip Girl” spin-offs and “Twilight” rip-offs has made finding a substantive novel as easy as finding a needle in a haystack." How sad is that? See Carlie's rebuttal.
On a lighter note, Kim and Jason over at the Escape Adulthood website are running a tournament to decide the all-time greatest childhood food. They started with 16 options, from mac and cheese to chocolate chip cookies, and voters select the winners in a series of rounds. You can find more details here.
I saw this link first at Guys Lit Wire. Publisher's Weekly shares an opinion piece by 13-year-old Max Leone about what kinds of books teenage boys would like to see published. Here's a brief taste, but you really should click through and read the article, especially if you are an author or a publisher: "The selection of teen literature is even more barren now that the two great dynasties, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, have released their final installments. Those two massive successes blended great characters, humor and action in a way that few other books manage. When they went for laughs, they were genuinely funny, and their dramatic scenes were still heart-poundingly tense, even after I'd read them dozens of times." Other parts of the article are hilarious. And probably true.
Shannon Hale shares the latest installment of her books and readers series, discussing "good book vs. bad book". She says "It would be so convenient if we could classify books as either good or bad, as vegetables or candy, as Literature or Dross. Sometimes I really want to... I think it’s good to question the merit of what we’re putting into our minds. But I also think it’s wise to challenge how we determine the value and quality of a book." As usual, she says smart things, and generates tons of interesting comments. I especially liked this part: "But something happens, some profound chemical reaction, when a reader is introduced. The reader takes the text and changes it just by reading it. The reader tells herself a story from the words on the page. It is a unique story only for her."
Over at A Year of Reading, Franki Sibberson shares the second installment of her "books I could read a million times" feature. Think about the power of a person who does read the same book aloud multiple times a day, to different classes, identifying books that she still enjoys, reading after reading. Those are books that parents should buy.
And while we're on the subject of reading in the classroom, Bestbooksihavenotread shares an idea, originally suggested by Beth Newingham, about bringing a mystery reader into the classroom. She explains: "Parents sign-up for a slot (about 20 minutes) to come in and share a favorite book with the class. The week leading up to their visit, the teacher reads one clue that points to the reader’s identity." The idea is to use the mystery to get kids extra-excited about the read-aloud.
And that's all for this week in general Kidlitosphere news. I'll be back today or tomorrow with the children's literacy and reading news round-up. But now, the cows have gone in for the day, and I believe that I will, too.