Candor: Pam Bachorz
August Carnival of Children's Literature

Friday Afternoon Visits: August 28: Cybils, Blog Comments, and Themes in Literature

Kidlitosphere_button My blogging time has been limited for the past couple of weeks, due to a combination of guests, travel, and Internet access woes. Fortunately, I had a few reviews stored up, which kept the blog from going dark. But I've missed out on a lot of activities going on around the Kidlitosphere. Today, I've managed to catch up on the past couple of weeks of kidlit blog news.

Cybils2009-Web-Small The call for judges for this year's Cybils Award process went out earlier this week. Here's the scoop: "If you:

  • blog about some aspect of children's or teen books on at least a somewhat consistent basis;
  • or contribute regularly to a group blog about same;
  • know a thing or two about what kids/teens are reading these days;
  • are planning to be reading obsessively over the next few months anyway

...we may have a spot for you. You start by emailing us at cybils09 (at) gmail (dot) com. It's a group email so that our organizers can get excited when they see the names coming in from prospective volunteers." (Do click through to read the full announcement first.) I'll be continuing as Literacy Evangelist for this year's Cybils, and I know for certain that a result of the process is going to be fabulous lists of books. I hope that many of your will participate. Also, have you seen our gorgeous new logo? It's the work of the multi-talented Sarah Stevenson (aka aquafortis). I love it!

Two of the savviest bloggers I know, Mark Blevis from Just One More Book!! and Greg Pincus from Gotta Book and The Happy Accident, are teaming up on a new project. According to the Just One More Book!! newsletter, they're going to "deliver a series of free webcasts that will give book publishers, publicists, authors, illustrators and enthusiasts social media savvy for outreach and promotion." You can find more information here. Congratulations to Andrea and Mark of JOMB on their third blogging anniversary, too.

Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading have started a new "lifetime of reading gallery". Here's the scoop: "Members of the Kidlitosphere are invited to submit stories from their reading lives. Your submission can be an anecdote from childhood, a recent experience around books or reading, a memory from school (good or bad), a vignette about learning to read, the impact of a particular book--anything about your life as a reader. We are looking for a variety of short pieces (think blog post length) from anyone in the Kidlitosphere, including bloggers, authors, illustrators, readers of blogs, etc. Our gallery is open to everyone who is a blogger, blog reader, author, illustrator, blog reader, blog commenter, etc." [And while you're thinking about reading memories, Charles from online children's bookstore Through the Magic Door is also looking for submissions in that area.]

Pam Coughlan (MotherReader) is guest blogging at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space this month. This week she has a new post "about saving time, money, and energy at your library during this difficult economic climate." Dedicated community builder that she is, Pam also wrote a must-read post at MotherReader recently reminding people not to let an addiction to Twitter keep them from taking time to comment on blog posts. She says: I don’t want to come off as angry or peevish, and I hope that those of you who follow me understand that. I do think commenting is important and is something that we are losing in our community to the detriment of all." And she discusses the benefits to the person commenting, in terms of exposure. There is, appropriately, an interesting discussion in the comments, some of which points out ways that Twitter and blog comments can complement each other. Personally, I like Twitter for broadcasting news tidbits, but I find that I prefer my blog or Facebook for back and forth discussion in the comments. It's easier to see the whole thread. But I've found new friends on Twitter, too. It's an interesting balance. But do check out Pam's post, and the comments. See also a getting started guide for Twitter, prepared by Mitali Perkins.

Speaking of people who inspire lots of comments, My Friend Amy has taken on a couple of interesting topics this week. Yesterday, she asked: "what themes draw you in when reading?" Today, she asks "how important are likeable characters?" Both posts have tons of comments. I was particularly interested in the themes question. Here's an abridged version of my response: "My favorite sub-genre is dystopian fiction. I think as a theme I'm drawn to a larger question of identity (as mentioned be Lenore and Alexa). I'm curious about what happens when the traditional constraints of society are removed. How to individuals rise to the challenge? How does society reform? Which values are internal, and which are imposed by society? I'm also drawn to tween books where the characters are just starting to think about growing up, dating, etc. Perhaps this is identity, as framed by separation from the family (just as the dystopia books are identity as framed by separation from society... interesting parallel)."

And still speaking of people who inspire many comments, Shannon Hale published a new installment in her fabulous "How to be a reader" series last week. This one is about book evaluation vs. self-evaluation. Shannon talks specifically about star ratings on reader reviews, and calls the practice into question, saying (among other excellent points) "In my opinion, there are more interesting questions to ask myself after reading a book than what I would rate it... I wonder if book evaluation is trumping self-evaluation. I wonder if we get so caught up in gushing or bashing, shining up those stars or taking them away, that the reading experience is weighed too heavily on the side of the book itself and not enough on the reader." She also includes a quiz for people who review books. Tanita Davis responds at Finding Wonderland. Liz B responds at Tea Cozy, here and here. Like Liz and Tanita, I don't include ratings in my reviews. It just seems arbitrary. I'd rather talk about the book, and what I liked or didn't like, or what I thought was particularly well done. Most of the time, any review from me is an implied "thumbs up" anyway, because I don't tend to spend my time reviewing books that I don't think are worth my reviewing time. Still, there's a lot of great food for thought in Shannon's post, the comments, and Liz and Tanita's responses.

Quick hits:

  • Also from Liz B, a survey about time spent blogging. For me, today, it's going to be something like 8 hours. But that's not typical. Really.
  • Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at Kate Coombs' blog, Book Aunt.
  • Kirby Larson has been hosting a discussion panel on the topic of gender in reading and writing. Here are Part 1 (about the reading histories of the 10 panelists), Part 2 (about "girl books" vs. "boy books"), and Part 3 (books that appeal regardless of gender). (updated to add Part 4)
  • Elaine Magliaro shares an excellent list of links to back to school booklists and other resources at Wild Rose Reader.
  • At Literate Lives, Karen writes about a first day of school author visit from Margaret Peterson Haddix. How great is that for getting kids excited about being back at school?
  • Franki Sibberson shares her reflections, pros and cons, on reading via Kindle. Overall, she sees the Kindle as her primary reading source for the future.
  • Charlotte from Charlotte's Library (with help from various commenters) muses on fantasy books that include girls who like to read.
  • At Confessions of a Bibliovore, Maureen takes on Susan's recent Booklights question about books that you'd like to read again for the first time. Maureen talks about books that she's re-read, and found more the second (or third or tenth) time.
  • Kelly at YAnnabe shares 7 ways to revive your love of reading. She even suggests having a friend or partner read aloud to you, if you need to bring back the fun of reading.
  • Tif from Tif Talks Books writes about books as bridges, saying "I have discovered that books can truly be a bridge . . . a connection . . . something that can help many of us relate despite our differences." 
  • Abby (the) Librarian has more Kidlitosphere links, if you're still hungry for news. So does MotherReader.
  • Last, but not least, don't forget to register for KidLitCon 2009.

I hope to be back this weekend with an installment of my "reviews that made me want the book" feature. That would let me finish cleaning up my Google Reader in quite a satisfactory fashion. And it's an excellent baseball task. Happy reading, all!

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