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Sunday Afternoon Visits: Pirates, Book Reviewing, and Blog Angst Flu

Last week kind of got away from me, blog-wise. Which is a shame, because there's been a lot of great stuff going on in the Kidlitosphere. This is my attempt to catch you all up.

Via lots of people, yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day. Me, I've been wanting to watch the Pirates of the Caribbean movies all weekend. Or at least Goonies... I recommend, for those of you interested in a different perspective on pirates, a reading of The Dust of 100 Dogs, by A. S. King.

Cybils2009-150pxLiz Burns has a post about the Cybils up today at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy. She discusses the origins of the Cybils, as well as the transparency of the Cybils award process. If you've seen the term "Cybils Awards" floating around, and you're not sure what that means, do check out Liz's post. And if you're already a fan of the Cybils, I'm happy to report that you can now buy Cybils-themed items (mugs, etc.) at CafePress. I just got two gorgeous Cybils mugs in the mail this week. See also the introduction post for Liz Jones, this year's Graphic Novel Category Organizer. And did you hear that the Cybils Award now has a Wikipedia page?

Despite general excitement about the Cybils, another round of Blog Angst Flu (loosely defined as a periodic phase of questioning the purpose of and time required by a blog) is going around. Andrea and Mark from Just One More Book!! and Lenore from Presenting Lenore have both written recently about their struggles. Outside of the Kidlitosphere, Megan from Velveteen Mind has a post about the phenomenon in general (thanks to Liz B. from Tea Cozy for the link), reporting on blog closures after big conferences. Blog Angst Flu is surprisingly contagious (considering how rarely we're all in the same room). What I find helps fight it off is focusing on my larger goals for the blog (to help people who are growing bookworms, in whatever small ways I can). My stack of unread review titles taunts me sometimes, but I try to think of every review that I DO have time for as a little candle that I'm lighting in the darkness. It works for me, anyway.

Speaking of reviews, in this weekend's Around the Interwebs post, Abby (the) Librarian pointed me to an excellent post by author Jackson Pearce about the different types of reviews. Pearce offers an ode to bloggers who write "thoughtful, meaningful reviews" (she calls us rock stars!). She also discusses the problems with reviews that offer just a ranking, with no explanation, and other equally unsatisfactory types of reviews. Everyone who blogs about books should read and think about this post.

Speaking of authors and bloggers, Colleen Mondor has a post at Chasing Ray directed at authors with suggestions for ways to interact with the literary blogosphere. She's not talking about authors like Jackson Pearce, of course, but to those who send blog reviewers mass, impersonal emails about participating in blog tours, and the like. The conversation in the comments is well worth reading, for authors and bloggers. Colleen also has another new post, one that I'm going to talk about at length separately.

Getting back to review books, Greg Pincus has been collecting photos of people's to be read stacks (or, in some cases, bookshelves and closets). He's posted a compilation of photos at The Happy Accident. Some of these have to be seen to be believed. I didn't get around to sending mine in (I have a six-shelf bookcase, double-stacked, plus a growing pile of picture books on a nearby table), but seeing everyone else's made me feel a bit better about my own.

Another post with great pictures is from What Adrienne Thinks About That. Librarian Adrienne shares photos of her library's welcoming new Tween Center. I LOVED her opening paragraph: "Lately, I’ve been thinking that my philosophy of librarianship could best be summed up, “Embrace your inner nerd.” I want every child who walks in the doors to find something of interest in the Children’s Room, but, what’s more, I want children to know that this is the place where we love books and thinking and art and creativity and logic and problem-solving. This is the place where you can go to figure out the world or get a little respite when figuring out the world is wearing you out."

KidLitCon-badge One conference that I vow will NOT lead to anyone feeling discouraged about their blogging is the Third Annual Kidlitosphere Conference (now affectionately known as KidLitCon09). Pam has come up with a handy conference badge, which I'm proud to display. I'll be working on my panel session this week, about "Coming Together and Reaching Out: Building Community, Literacy and the Reading Message".

Booklights The PBS Parents Booklights blog is pleased to welcome two new guest contributors. Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub and Susan Thomsen from Chicken Spaghetti will be alternating weekly guest posts for a bit, while Susan Kusel takes a temporary break from posting. You can read Susan and Terry's welcome posts here and here. Pam, Gina, Ann, and I are thrilled to have them both on the team! Of course the real question is, will Susan be able to get Elmo's autograph?

Mitali Perkins has an interesting theory, after much discussion on her blog, about whether kids look for themselves in what they read, or not. She says: "Elementary-aged kids and upper high-schoolers are more open to fiction with protagonists who are markedly different than they are when it comes to race, class, or nationality. During early adolescence, fifth through ninth grade, most young readers buzz about and share books featuring protagonists they hope to resemble. Also, if everybody's reading it, or watching it, or playing it, odds are they'll want to, also." Sounds reasonable to me. Read more at Mitali's Fire Escape.

Quick Hits:

  • Color Online shares a recommended reading list for Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15). There are some additional suggestions in the comments, too.
  • Bill from Literate Lives has a fun post (with pictures) about how NOT to treat a library book.
  • Sherrie from Write About Now has a lovely little post about her second grade daughter looking around the house for "secret portals", after reading The Doll People. This is what it's all about, people! Kids finding magic in what they read.
  • This weekend's Poetry Friday roundup was at Becky's Book Reviews.
  • Jill T. from The Well-Read Child recently put out a call for guest hosts for her weekly "what my children are reading" roundups. Quite a few people have already volunteered, but there are still slots available. I think that including other hosts is a great idea to strengthen this event.
  • Congratulations to the Kidlitosphere's own Monica Edinger from Educating Alice, who just sold her book Africa Is My Home (a book 10 years in the making) to Candlewick Press. Details here.
  • Inspired by a recent experience with having an author visit canceled because of censorship, Author Ellen Hopkins offers a stirring defense of the First Amendment (and a criticism of banning books). She says things like this: "NO ONE PERSON should be able to tell other people what their children can or can't read... Why not instead, parents, read the books with your kids, open the lines of communication, and TALK TO THEM!"
  • Middle school librarian Ms. Yingling (a frequent source of book suggestions for me) asks a philosophical question about what books she should be providing for middle school readers. In a depressing kind of reverse censorship, she gets pressured to push middle school kids to read YA, in many cases reading above their interest levels. See also Robin La Fevers' thoughts about older middle grade fiction.
  • Kelly from YAnnabe has a post about how to ban books the right way. OK, that's a provocative title. What she really talks about is banning oneself from buying more books, before they take over one's life. It's pretty entertaining.
  • At The Spectacle, Parker Peevyhouse asks whether authors should try to create more female secondary characters.
  • Charlotte from Charlotte's Library made me laugh out loud with this post.
  • Another fun post comes from Bri Meets Books, about "Top Five Kidlit Characters Who Were Infinitely Cooler Than Me When I Was Younger". She mentions one of my favorite characters, Sara Crewe from A Little Princes. Bri also had a nice post about last weekend's Roald Dahl Day.
  • Becky from Becky's Book Reviews recently read Tarzan for the first time. Check out her fun interview about the book, here.
  • The deadline to submit articles for TBR Tallboy (which Tanita Davis says is "a hip, low-tech, chapbook style fiction 'zine, successful after only one issue, filled with stories from atrociously talented writers, if I do say so myself") is September 30th.
  • Maureen from Confessions of a Bibliovore reports that the next big thing in young adult fiction is going to be angels. I say, sure, why not?
  • Did you hear about the Harry Potter Theme Park being built in Orlando? I heard about it from Educating Alice.

Five hours after starting this post (I kid you not, though I've also been working in parallel on tomorrow's Children's Literacy Roundup and watching the Red Sox), I am thrilled to report that all that's left starred in my Google Reader are an assortment of book reviews. (I'm saving those for the next "Reviews that Made Me Want the Book" column, of course.) Maybe you guys could all take next week off from writing interesting things, as a little favor to me? Kidding ... kidding! Thanks for tuning in!