When You Reach Me: Rebecca Stead: Middle Grade Fiction Review
Children's Literacy and Reading News Round-Up: February 1

Saturday Afternoon Visits: January 30: Kidlitosphere News and Views

There's been lots going on around the Kidlitosphere this week. Here are some highlights:

Liz B has an interesting post at Tea Cozy about the ways that blogging shifts the way the blogger reads. I've certainly noticed this in my own reading. Much as I enjoy most of the books that I review, I find I need to mix in ever-increasing numbers of books that I read purely for my own satisfaction (with not thoughts of writing a review). Otherwise, reading, which has always been my solace, and necessary for my mental health, starts to feel like work.

BkBrownBear Did you hear about how the Texas Education Board accidentally banned popular children's author Bill Martin, Jr. (author of the much-beloved Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?). It seems that the board confused Mr. Martin with a different Bill Martin, who wrote a book on Marxism. Elaine Magliaro has the details and links at Wild Rose Reader. Ridiculous! Almost as ridiculous as the school system in CA that banned the Merriam-Webster dictionary in certain classrooms. I can't even bring myself to comment on that one, but Leila has the details at Bookshelves of Doom.

Sadly, Brown Bear, Brown Bear is currently missing from Amazon's website (except for purchases from third-party sellers), because Amazon is in the midst of a battle of wills with publisher Macmillan, and has pulled all of Macmillan's titles. Here is the NY Times article about the situation. I learned about this from Charlotte's Library.

Farwalker Regular readers may be aware that dystopias and post-apocalyptic stories are one of my favorite genres of recreational reading. Joni Sensel (author of Cybils finalist The Farwalker's Quest) has an interesting post up at The Spectacle about pinning down the definition of a dystopia. I think she makes some good points - it's easy to use "dystopia" as shorthand for a wide range of stories (and I'm sure that I've done that), but something can certainly be post-apocalyptic or speculative without being dystopian. That's why the full title of my booklist in this area (which needs to be updated) is Futuristic, Speculative, Science Fiction and Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults. See also Tanita Davis' thoughts on, and recent list of, young adult science fiction.

However you want to classify them, I find dystopian and related novels fascinating. So does Lenore at Presenting Lenore. So much so that she'll be dedicating all of February to discussing them. She says: "I have lots of fun planned including reviews, interviews, guest posts and of course prizes! If you like speculative fiction, then Presenting Lenore is the place to be in February." I will surely be staying tuned.

Last week I mentioned Kelly's celebration of unsung young adult books at YAnnabe. She ended up having 73 bloggers participate. She also took the time to compile some statistics on the recommended titles, coming up with lists like the "top 10 unsung YA heroes". This whole thing is truly a labor of love of the genre. YA fans will find this post a wonderful resource. Now if only I had time to read all of the books...

Speaking of YA heroes, Justine Larbalestier shares her thoughts on Amazon's list of most influential young adult authors of the decade. Although she calls it an excellent list overall (and I agree), she suggests a couple of omissions, questions a couple of additions, and invites discussion.

As reported by Betsy Bird at FuseNews, the Cuffies have been announced. PW hosts these entertaining awards, based on input from booksellers from around the country. They include your typical "favorite picture book" etc., but also categories like "book you couldn't shut up about", "most overdone subject" and "happiest to see back in print" (Blueberries for Sal, of course).

28DaysLater2010 The Brown Bookshelf's 28 Days Later, 2010 kicks off Monday, February 1st. This annual celebration of African-American children's book authors and illustrators is not to be missed. Don Tate says: "my work here at the Brown Bookshelf, specifically the 28 Days Later campaign, always inspires me. Whenever I find myself getting down, when I start to feel that the cards are stacked against me — and believe me, they are — I look at all the faces on the posters from past and current campaigns, and I feel hopeful." 

The Sydney Taylor Award blog tour also starts Monday. You can find the full details at the Association of Jewish Libraries blog. The tour "will be celebrating and showcasing its 2010 gold and silver medalists and special Notable Book for All Ages." More than a dozen blogs will be participating.

Middle school librarian Ms. Yingling has been working hard at finding books for boys. In this post she shares several recommendations of funny books for boys. Then in this post she shares a bit of a rant about the need for more boy-friendly books for her library. There are some great comments on that post, with suggestions. Then, apparently deciding to take action, she launched a "super-secret evil plan" to put "girl books" into the hands of boys. It was apparently quite a success, too. All I can say is, if you care about getting middle school kids interested in books, you really should be reading Ms. Yingling's blog.

The latest controversial topic making waves in the Kidlitosphere concerns book piracy. Cheryl Rainfield linked to an article at The Millions in which an anonymous e-Book pirater discussed his motivations. Then Laurie Halse Anderson took on the topic, and sparked a host of responses and rationalizations from people. Her first post is excellent, and her second, in which she debunks the arguments of the book thieves, is even better. Sara Zarr responded, putting it simply: "Piracy is stealing, and stealing is wrong". Mary Pearson added her thoughts, discussing how reading pirated books is also bad for the reader. These are all must-read posts for anyone who cares about books and reading. Personally, my views on this are influenced in part by the fact that I own a software company, and sell a product, the result of much hard work, that could be copied electronically. I think that anyone who tried to steal my product would be just as guilty of outright theft as the people who steal the work of hard-working authors like Cheryl, Laurie, Sara, and Mary. Like Sara said: stealing is wrong.

If you're looking for new blogs to follow, and an incidental example about strengthening social networks, check out Gregory K's 1000th post at Gotta Book. Speaking to his blog's audience, Greg says: "A lot of you know each other, but it's always seemed unfair that so many of you DON'T know each other. So I want to turn over the comments of this post to introductions. I want you all to say hello, link to your blog or website, and, if you want, give a one sentence "blurb" about you/your blog/whatever." There are currently 83 comments and counting. Me, I wish Greg 1000 more posts, and thousands more followers.

Quick hits:

And now, my reader is clear, and I'm off to dinner. Hope you find some material of interest for your weekend web reading.