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Sunday Afternoon Visits: November 9

I had a bit of trouble keeping up with the blogs this week. This was partly because I had a three-day business trip to Colorado Springs (though it is lovely there). But mostly it's Pam Coughlan and Lee Wind's fault. You see, they started this blogger comment challenge. The idea is to increase community within the Kidlitosphere, by encouraging participants to comment more on one another's blogs. Pam says:

"Since it is said that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit, we’re going to run the Comment Challenge for the next three weeks — from today, Thursday, November 6, through Wednesday, November 26, 2008. The goal is to comment on at least five kidlitosphere blogs a day. Keep track of your numbers, and report in on Wednesdays with me or Lee."

I've been participating, and it's been a lot of fun. And since I tend to jump in with both feet to things like this, I'm averaging more like 10+ comments a day. But stopping to click through and comment is wreaking havoc on my ability to skim through lots of blog posts, quickly, in my Google Reader. Ah well. It's still fun. And not too late to join in, if you're interested. Read more here. On to other news.

XmasSwap1 Dewey just announced the second annual Book Bloggers' Christmas Swap at The Hidden Side of a Leaf. It's kind of a Secret Santa thing between bloggers. If you'd like to participate, check out the details at Dewey's.

This week's well-organized Poetry Friday round-up is at Check It Out, Jone MacCulloch's blog.

The International Reading Association blog links to an article about the 10 coolest public libraries in the United States. Is your library on the list?

A Visitor for BearIt's only November, but the "best of 2008" lists are already coming out. I guess this isn't so premature when the people making the lists have access to advanced copies of books anyway. Becky from Becky's Book Reviews shares and discusses Publisher's Weekly's Best of Children's Fiction 2008. It seems like a pretty good list to me. Just about every book is one I've either read and recommended, or have on my radar to read. Amazon has also been coming out with "Best of" lists. I was especially happy to see, on Omnivoracious, Bonny Becker's A Visitor for Bear topping the list of Best Children's Picture Books of 2008. It was certainly one of my favorites of the year.

Of potential interest to mystery fans, Kyle Minor has a guest essay at Sarah Weinman's blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. It's about whether or not mysteries count as literature. He says "If forced to trade, I’ll take one Dennis Lehane, one Richard Price, one George Pelecanos, one James M. Cain, one Big Jim Thompson or Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett—any one of them, any day—over any ten “literary” writers." I agree.

Rose's Reading Round-Up at the First Book Blog links to a National Post article by Misty Harris about how teen books are being read by people of all ages. It's a little bit condescending of a step backwards from what we who read YA all the time might think ("Like many addicts, Paige Ferrari hides her compulsion behind a carefully chosen facade. The 26-year-old has been known to wrap teen novels - her guiltiest literary indulgence - inside an issue of The Economist while reading in public."), but I've seen much worse. (ETA per comments below: And I do get that it probably is news for the mainstream public that adults are reading YA.) I did like this quote: "most of the adults who are reading these books likely already have them in their homes. They're reading what their kids are reading."

At Lessons from the Tortoise, Libby asks readers for help in differentiating young adult literature from children's literature and from adult literature. Both MotherReader and I commented that we thought that the age of the protagonist had a lot to do with it. Pam also remarked on the wide age range of YA books today. Libby wrote a followup post with some other input from her students, but she's still struggling a bit with a formal distinction between YA and adult fiction (beyond "I know it when I see it). Feel free to head on over there and share, if you have input on this.

In related news, The Brown Bookshelf lauds the recent decision by independent bookstore Politics and Prose to configure a separate section of the store for books for older teens. The author (I'm not sure whose post it is) says: "Yay!!!!!! Whenever anyone focuses on teen readers and thus YA literature, I feel like I’ve won a lottery…except without that whole winning a lot of money thing." I feel the same way (except for me it's books for kids of all ages).

November is National Adoption Month. Terry Doherty offers up some resources and personal experience at the Reading Tub's blog. Don't miss the comments, either. At the ESSL Children's Literature Blog, Nancy O'Brien suggests books about adoption, categorized by age range.

Julia's Kitchen Brenda Ferber has a lovely post about the inspiration for her book, Julia's Kitchen, and the way that online connectedness helped her to get in contact with one of the boys whose story inspired her.

At the PBS Media Fusion blog, Gina Montefusco has a detailed article about the ways that the new PBS KIDS Island will help to promote early reading skills. Gina, who was instrumental in the development of PBS KIDS Island, says "reading doesn’t – and shouldn’t – have to be an intimidating process that turns off all but the most gifted students. With online games, kids are introduced to new skills in a light-hearted, silly way, allowing them to learn at their own speed and stay engaged. Everything from the alphabet to phonemes can be fun. Really. We promise." I look forward to working more with Gina in the near future.

Trevor Cairney continues his series on key themes in children's books at Literacy, Families, and Learning, discussing the theme of "being different." He notes that "the struggle the be different is a common theme in children's books from early picture books right through to adolescent novels", and discusses how books can help "parents and teachers to sensitively and naturally raise some of these issues."

Book Scoops is a new blog run by two grown-up sisters, Cari and Holly, who love books. Their about page says: "Our blog focuses on children and adolescent literature (even though we do read a broad range of books) because we are still young at heart." You can see why I added them to my reading list. I especially enjoyed this recent post: Ode to Reading Grandparents. Cari explains: "Part of why we love reading so much also has to do with our grandparents reading to our parents and taking them to the library. So we thought we’d give a thank you to our grandparents (who also let us eat lots of ice-cream)."

CybilsLogoSmall Reviews of Cybils nominees are starting to crop up all around the Kidlitosphere. There are far too many to link to here, but one post that especially stood out for me was this one at Readerbuzz, featuring short reviews of a plethora of nonfiction nominees.

The ALSC blog has a nice post by Ann Crewdson about how "our fondest wish is for our patrons to read together, aloud and often with their children. And don’t forget to suggest that they point out words when they read, put on a play with puppets, and sing the ABC. Here are some tried and true companion books you can recommend without going wrong." There are recommendations by age range.

And finally, if you haven't had your fill yet of children's book information, today's New York Times Book Review has a children's books special issue. I especially liked John Green's article about two of my favorite dystopian novels from this year: The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

That's all for today. Happy blog-reading. And don't forget to comment as you're out and about on the blogs. As Mary Lee pointed out, "The world gets changed by doing something small over and over again." Like telling someone that you paid attention to what they had to say.