312 posts categorized "Children's Books" Feed

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta

Book: Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature
Authors: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta
Pages: 288
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is an insider's guide to the world of children's books and their creators, written by three well-known children's book bloggers. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have known Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson since my earliest days of blogging. While we've only met face to face a few times, I've read their blogs for years, and been on shared mailing lists and the like. I also read the late Peter Sieruta's blog, though I don't believe I ever had any direct contact with him. So you should consider my discussion of Wild Things! more along the lines of a recommendation than a critical review. I very much enjoyed the book. 

Wild Things! reveals the authors' deep affection for and knowledge of the field of children's literature. They discuss everything from the history of subversive children's literature to book banning to the ways that the Harry Potter books have affected the industry. This is the first book I've seen that openly discusses gay and lesbian authors of children's books, and how the outsider status of some of these authors may have affected their work. Like this:

"Unique perspectives yield unique books. It is difficult to be gay and not see the world in a way that is slightly different from that of your straight peers." (Page 54, ARC)

I especially enjoyed chapters on "scandalous mysteries and mysterious scandals" and "some hidden delights of children's literature." There's also an interesting discussion of the books critics love vs. the books that kids love. 

Despite covering a lot of ground, Wild Things! is a quick, engaging read. Though there are extensive end-notes citing sources, and it's clear that much research has been done, the book itself reads like a series of chatty essays written by friends. Wild Things! is full of interesting tidbits, like the extra pupil shown on one page of Madeline, and a rather disturbing claim by Laura that Pa Ingalls may have once encountered a serial killer. There are some resources that may help those new to thinking about children's books, such as a list of publications that review children's books. But for the most part, Wild Things! is a book that's going to appeal most to people who already have a reasonably solid grasp of the industry, and at least a passing familiarity with the key players. 

Wild Things! is not, however, insider-y in terms of the book blogging world. Because I've read so many posts by Betsy and Jules, there were certainly places where I could hear their distinct voices coming through. There are some fun sidebars in which all three authors briefly take on some question or author. But there is scant mention in the book of the authors' blogs themselves. The authors do muse a bit in the final chapter about the impact of cozy relationships between bloggers and authors, but for the most part they keep their emphasis on books and authors, and other people who have been instrumental in the evolution of the larger children's book world (like Ursula Nordstrom). They do include snippets of interviews with many authors and publishers, frequently backing up their own opinions with remarks from leaders in the field. 

Wild Things! is strong on the defense of the importance of children's literature (and fairly strong against message-driven celebrity books). Like this:

"And with every doctor, librarian, and early childhood educator telling us that childhood's importance is without parallel, it is baffling to see their literature condescended to, romanticized, and generally misunderstood." (Page 5 of the ARC)

"Childhood is not a phase to be disregarded; the same should be said of the books children read. They deserve well-crafted tales from the people who have the talent to write and illustrate them and who take their craft seriously. Do they need heavy-handed sermons from the latest celebrity "It" girl's newest children's book? Not so much." (Page 6)

I also loved this quote from A. A. Milne:

"Whatever fears one has, one need not fear that one is writing too well for a child, any more than one need fear that one is becoming almost too lovable." (Page 192)

Wild Things! is a book about the joy and quirkiness that is the field of children's literature. It is a celebration of books and their authors, and a defense of the importance of putting the very best possible books into children's hands. Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta accomplish all of this by sharing stories and opinions, theirs and those of others, with the reader. Fans of children's books, be they authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, parents, or just people who appreciate a good book, are sure to enjoy Wild Things! Recommended for adults and older teens (there is definitely content that is not for kids), and a must-purchase for libraries. Wild Things! is a keeper!

Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

ABC Puzzle and Book: Tiger Tales

Book: ABC Puzzle and Book
Author: Tiger Tales Books
Pages: 24 page paperback book, plus 30 piece puzzle
Age Range: 3-6

I don't normally review non-book items, but this one snuck it's way in as part of a package from Tiger Tales, and became an immediate hit with Baby Bookworm. It's a little box with a carry handle that contains a 30 piece puzzle and a paperback alphabet book. 

The puzzle offers the perfect mix of education and fun. One side has the alphabet (upper and lower case letters, white on black) across the top and bottom. The bulk of the puzzle consists of vivid photographs illustrating each letter, with the word included in small text. The pictures selected are fairly standard (ice cream, xylophone, zebra), but they're also kid-friendly, particularly a huggable-looking teddy bear and set of rubber ducks. Most of the images are overlap across multiple puzzle pieces, so that kids don't need to understand their letters to be able to assemble this side of the puzzle. There's a picture of the full puzzle on the box to help. 

The other side of the puzzle just has the alphabet, in order, with one puzzle piece dedicated to each letter (upper and lower case), plus four blank corner pieces. The pieces all have the same matte green background, making it easy to tell which side of each puzzle piece should be facing up at all times.

I expected my daughter (who will be three shortly, and loves puzzles) to favor the side with the photos. And to be sure, the side with the pictures is the only one that she can complete on her own at this point. But to my surprise, she is fascinated by the side with the letters, too. And she's learning. I've been using the book to help. When she wants to know which piece goes in a particular spot, I'll show her the page corresponding to that letter from the book, and let her pick it out. She's already starting to recognize letters that hadn't quite made it onto her radar yet, like V and K. 

So yes, the puzzle is the exciting part of this package. But the little book that comes with it is quite handy, too. There's a page for each letter. Readers can see the letter itself, as well as a series of photos of things that start with that letter (including the one from the puzzle). This fits well with my child's current fascination with naming people and things that start with a particular letter. (The letter that her name starts with is her favorite for this activity, of course). 

The ABC Puzzle and Book is fun and educational, and comes in a sturdy, bright package. I would recommend it for home or preschool use for kids who enjoy puzzles, and for kids who are starting to learn their letters (bonus when this overlaps, as it does in my house). It would make a nice component to a third birthday gift, too. 

Publisher: Tiger Tales Books (@TigerTalesBooks)
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Publisher's Weekly Article on Moms Who Blog Children's Books

I'm mentioned in a Publisher's Weekly article by Karen Springen that came out today, and wanted to share the news here. The article is about "The Mightly Mom Bloggers" who blog about children's books, and the recognition that these bloggers are receiving from publishers. Here's a snippet:

"Meet the new word-of-mouth publishing powerhouses: mom bloggers who share their online personal journals about motherhood. They post their thoughts and help sell books. And publishers are enthusiastically reaching out to them."

My mention is about 2/3 of the way down (look for a link to "Growing Bookworms"), in the context of most mom bloggers having other day jobs, and also of reaching out to readers via Twitter, etc. Betsy Bird from A Fuse #8 Production is also quoted in the same section of the article, talking about people who consider themselves mom bloggers first vs. people who consider themselves book bloggers first. Since, like Betsy, I started blogging about books long before I became a mom, the latter is where I fall on that classification.

But anyway, the nice thing about the article is that Springen quotes people at various publishers, like Tracy van Straaten from Scholastic, talking about the increasing influence of moms (and dads and aunts and so on) who use blogs to spread the word about books. Here's Springen's conclusion (but do go and read the whole article):

"NPR and New York Times stories will never lose their luster—but they’re no longer the only show in town. For advice, moms turn to their peers. After all, mother knows best."

A nice way to start the week!

Tomorrow (2/14) will be a big day for children's book fans!

Kidsheartauthorlogo It's Kids Heart Authors Day (Mitali Perkins has all of the details here)! Here's a brief excerpt from Mitali's post:

"Over 170 authors and illustrators and more than 40 independent booksellers in Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New York are participating in Kids ♥ Authors Day. Bookstores will provide bunches of books, and authors and illustrators will personalize them, talk about why they do what they do, and answer any and all questions about writing and drawing."

CybilsLogoSmall And the winners of the Cybils Awards will be announced (here). Stay tuned! For now, you can see lists of the finalists in all nine categories here. The winners are great, great selections, I promise. More soon...

December Carnival of Children's Literature: 3rd Blogiversary Edition

20050626-004 Today is the third anniversary of the day that I started my blog. I decided to throw a carnival to celebrate. The photo to the left is from morgueFile, by artist Gary Houston. It's called Carnival Birthday Cake, so it seemed fitting to use.

In the theme of anniversary, I asked Carnival participants to share their best or favorite post of the year relating to children's literature. What I've received is an outpouring of links to amazing posts from the past 12 months.

Please note that certain submissions completely unrelated to the carnival theme, or that seemed to be more about promoting a particular, outside agenda than about children's literature, have been excluded. But don't worry. There is still enough reading material here to last the rest of the year. Enjoy!

Encouraging Young Readers

MILI_LEYENDO__9_ In this section, we start with another morgueFile photo, this one by Virginia Coccaro from Argentina (I really like this site). Isn't that little reader beautiful? We then move on to some lovely articles about raising readers.

Tony Chen presents Literary tykes posted at Savvy Daddy, saying, "Some tips from a dad for dads about making book time more memorable for your kids."

Fin Keegan presents No Second Carnegie posted at Fin Keegan, about "the paucity of books in over 10% of Irish homes" and the importance of reading to children.

TZT presents How to Read a Book without Words (Out Loud) posted at Children's Books: What, When & How to Read Them, saying, "Picture books without words are often beautifully illustrated stories that prove difficult to read out loud to kids. Here are a few great wordless books and ideas on how to get the most out of reading them - out loud!"

Jill at The Well-Read Child presents Reaching Out to Reluctant Readers with Nonfiction posted at The Well-Read Child.

My own favorite post of the year also falls into this category. It's the one from January about helping kids learn to enjoy reading. This post contributed directly to my involvement in the upcoming PBS Parents Children's Book Blog, and I think that it's a useful resource in its own right. Like many of the posts mentioned above, this one was the result of a joint effort, with contributions from many other bloggers.

Book Reviews:ALALoot005

This picture shows a few of my many review books from ALA Anaheim. Here are a few book reviews from other bloggers.

Megan Germano presents Greetings From Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor posted at Read, Read, Read.

Nancy Arruda presents Boogers posted at Bees Knees Reads, a review of a book from the My Body Science series.

Rani presents My Little Golden Book about God posted at Christ's Bridge.

Aline Pereira reviews The Brighter Side of the Road posted at PaperTigers Blog.

Mommy's Favorite Children's Books presents Color Surprises - a pop-up book posted at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books, saying, "pop up books are so special I had to share!"

Becky Laney presents The Composer Is Dead posted at Young Readers.

Ali presents Zorgamazoo--Robert Paul Weston (Book review) posted at worducopia.

Anastasia Suen presents Nonfiction Monday: Real Life Situations posted at Kid Lit Kit, saying, "I love to find books that can help kids cope with real life - and this first book has fictional middle school situations illustrated in graphic novel style followed by practical advice from an advisor and real teens. Dynamite!"

cloudscome presents Review: The Three Little Wolves posted at a wrung sponge.

Z-Dad from Bookie Wookie submitted a review of Wave, by Suzy Lee, consisting of a discussion with his children Gracie (8), Isaac (10), and Lily (5).

Melissa Wiley shares Picture Book Spotlight: Jumpy Jack & Googily at Here in the Bonny Glen.

Book Lists:

BetsyJenJayGreg This section features book lists of all sorts, as well as a photo of a few kidlit bloggers (Betsy Bird, me, Jay Asher, and Greg Pincus) at ALA Anaheim.

Elizabeth Bird presents Most Shameful Non-Reads posted at A Fuse #8 Production.

Susan Thomsen presents Multicultural Fantasy: A List of Books posted at Chicken Spaghetti, saying, "Some of my favorite posts have been those created in collaboration with other children's literature enthusiasts. This one, a list of multicultural fantasy books, was compiled by Craig Svonkin, a literature professor."

Amy Smith presents Favorite Christmas Books posted at Kids Love Learning.

Sarah presents 2007-2008 Class Book Lists posted at The Reading Zone.

Sheila Ruth from Wands and Worlds submitted Books with Bite: Teen Read Week booklists, saying "Teen Read Week is over, but I still think they're great booklists for teens."

Charlotte suggests that readers Give the gift of a very different New York at Charlotte's Library, suggesting several titles that look at the city in different ways.

Other Reactions to Books:

JenRobinsonEarlyReader There are, of course, a wide range of personal reactions to books, starting with an early Christmas photo of me reacting the way I usually do to books - completely engrossed.

Joan presents Saving Santa posted at Mothers on the Brink, saying, "We love the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. Little did my young children and I know that the fourth book in the series spills the beans on Santa ..."

Eva Mitnick presents Eva's Book Addiction: Forever Rose by Hilary McKay - and some musings on Capital Letters posted at Book Addiction.

Jennifer Schultz presents Dogs in Space posted at The Kiddosphere @ Fauquier, saying, "I never expected Laika to affect me as much as it did. Out of all the books I read this year, it was my most (emotionally) surprising read."

Corinne Robson presents Books at Bedtime: Silly Mammo - an Ethiopian folktale posted at PaperTigers Blog.

caribookscoops presents Rapunzel?s Revenge (all Hale breaks loose) by Shannon and Dean Hale illustrated by Nathan Hale posted at Book Scoops.

Jenny Schwartzberg presents A Childhood Treasure Expanded and the Trail of Three Interesting Women posted at Jenny's Wonderland of Books, a detailed post about the history behind a reissue of a childhood favorite, and the women involved with the book's publication.

Farida Dowler presents Our family's letters from Father Christmas posted at Saints and Spinners, saying, "My favorite book related post of the year wasn't even written by me! This link leads you to the three letters my mother wrote for my brothers and me based on J.R.R. Tolkein's Letters from Father Christmas. That book was an integral part of our family's Christmas stories. I suppose the letters my mom wrote could be filed under "fan fiction.""

Sarah presents Observing Personality with Magic Tree House at In Need of Chocolate (one of my favorite blog names).

Marietta from The Bookworm's Booklist submitted A is for Art ~ An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen T. Johnson, complete with gift-giving ideas.

Author Interviews and Experiences:JenwithJonScieszka

I've had lots of great experiences meeting authors in person this year. To the left, me with Jon Scieszka at Hicklebee's. Now, some meetings and discussions by other bloggers:

Lynn E. Hazen presents Imaginary Blog: Looking "Underneath" the Imagination Process of Kathi Appelt, Author of THE UNDERNEATH posted at Imaginary Blog, saying, "One of my favorite things to blog about involves interviewing authors & illustrators I admire about their imagination process, as well as creative and craft techniques for writing."

Children's book illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba presents My First Virtual School Visit! posted at dulemba.com.

Tarie presents Book Review and Author Interview: Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum posted at Into the Wardrobe.

Jama Rattigan presents SOUP'S ON: Grace Lin in the Kitchen Interview! posted at jama rattigan's alphabet soup.

Shelly Burns presents You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy? - Review and Interview posted at Write for a Reader.

Sarah (a. fortis) and Tanita (TadMack) presents Guest Blogger: Sherri L. Smith!! posted at Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog, saying, "We thought we'd submit one of our jointly written posts--we loved working on this one!"

Sara Lewis Holmes shares her experience of meeting Leonard Marcus, who changed her life, at Read Write Believe.

Fun Blog Features:

48hbc There's no post about it, but MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge was certainly a highlight of the year for many people. Some other fun new blog features are highlighted here.

Pam Coughlan presents ABC Storytime posted at MotherReader, saying, "I wanted to highlight my one new feature this year, ABC Storytime, where I share storytime programs based on the letters of the alphabet."

Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading submitted Trading (our favorite) Spaces Round-Up of "great spaces that people create in their classrooms and libraries".

Kneon presents Music of the Spheres | a fantasy webcomic, saying, "Author Ben Avery has started a new webcomic with illustrator Kneon Transitt."

Other Interesting Discussions:

JGS_mF_CurrentEvents This section begins with a morgueFile photo by Gracey from Ontario, of a child keeping up with current events. The bloggers certainly keep up with current events, and discuss a wide array of topics related to children and books.  

Libby Gruner presents Again with the literacy debates! posted at Lessons from the Tortoise, a response to debates about teaching the "canon" of literature in high school.

Janet Brown presents Children and Books in Times of War and Conflict posted at PaperTigers Blog.

Becky Laney presents The Sunday Salon: Finding Yourself in Books posted at Becky's Book Reviews.

Wendy Betts presents through the eyes of a child posted at Blog from the Windowsill, about the "connections between voting and children's books".

Susan Kusel presents Context is everything posted at Wizards Wireless, about the ways that the context in which a book is read can affect the reader's perception of the book.  

Lee Wind presents Donating Gay (&LBTQ) books to a Junior High School Library? How to Honor the Memory of Larry (Lawrence) King. A Negotiated Solution... posted at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read?, saying, "I really liked this post on how I tried to donate books with gay characters and content to the junior high school library where a student had been murdered for being effeminate and gay."

Terry Doherty writes about National Adoption Month at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub: The Reading Tub blog, in a post that includes statistics about the shortage of adoption-related children's books in community libraries.

Christine Burt from The Book Bench contributes Reading T-shirts, a post about the lack of children's books with information about breast cancer, and the education to be found in reading t-shirts at a race for the cure.

Clare Bell writes about a book, idealism, and a children's book-related charitable auction in The 6th Ratha Tale and Brightspirit at The Scratching Log.

Laurel Snyder shares Further ranting on the snobs who diss kidlit at bewilderblog.

Gregory K. from GottaBook shares his detailed recap of the 2008 Kidlitosphere Conference.

Speaking of the Kidlitosphere Conference, Jone Rush MacCulloch from Check It Out shares A Poem Regarding My Absence at a Book Challenge Hearing (in the spirit of National Poetry Month and in the interest of supporting a colleague and a challenged book).

Sheila from Greenridge Chronicles discusses the sharing of story in the context of Taking the kids to the movies.


CybilsLogoSmall And last, in a category by itself, we have Anne Levy's thank you post at the Cybils blog: A big, fat shout-out with pom-poms and megaphone to our panelists. In case you didn't find enough links in this Carnival, Anne has some others.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of children's literature using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Happy reading, and thanks for another great year of blogging!

UPDATE:  The January Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Chellman of Under the Covers. Submissions are due on Jan 28th and the carnival will go up on the 30th. As always, the BlogCarnival submission form is the best link to use: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_209.html

2.5 Million Copies of Brisinger Released Tonight

BrisingerI don't usually announce book releases, unless it's a book that I've previously reviewed. However, I received the following announcement from Random House, and thought that I would share it here. Whatever you think of Christopher Paolini's Eragon and Eldest, the fact that Knopf is issuing 2.5 million copies on the first printing (the largest in Random House Children's Books' history) is truly remarkable. Especially when you consider that the first book was initially self-published. Here's the press release:


New York, NY (September 19, 2008)—In a national laydown at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, September 20th, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, will release BRISINGR, the third book in Christopher Paolini’s phenomenally bestselling Inheritance cycle. The first two novels in the series, Eragon (2003) and Eldest (2005), have sold 15.5 million copies worldwide. With a first printing of 2.5 million copies, BRISINGR is the largest first-print run of any book in Random House Children’s Books’ history and the largest for Random House, Inc., this fall. Inheritance fans young and old will celebrate across the U.S. and Canada this weekend as more than 2,000 book retailers have planned midnight-release events to mark its publication. 

24-year-old Christopher Paolini will kick off his 10-city tour tonight in New York City and will spend the next several weeks meeting his North American fans. 

“It is an honor to be part of this extraordinary publishing phenomenon, and a pleasure to watch Christopher develop as a writer and a prominent literary figure,” said Chip Gibson, Random House Children’s Books, President and Publisher. “We are thrilled that the day is here to share BRISINGR with readers around the world.”

There are over 50 foreign-language licenses for BRISINGR, which is being simultaneously published by Random House’s sister companies in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH will publish the novel in Germany on October 25th. BRISINGR will also be released simultaneously in the U.S. and Canada as an audiobook by Random House’s Listening Library division.

To build early buzz for BRISINGR, Random House developed a team-based immersive online game, Vroengard Academy (www.vroengardacademy.com) (often referred to as an ARE, or Alternate Reality Experience), offering players the opportunity to interact with a brand-new Inheritance cycle storyline by competing in weekly challenges and searching for online and offline exclusive clues. Over 50,000 players in the U.S. have already participated since the game’s launch in June. This marks the first time Random House has created an ARE to market one of its books. The game concludes next week. The grand-prize winner will have the opportunity to meet Christopher Paolini.

Paolini grew up in Paradise Valley, Montana, where he and his younger sister were homeschooled. He began writing Eragon when he was just 15, after graduating from the accredited distance-learning high school the American School. Paolini’s family self-published the novel in 2002, and it was soon discovered by Knopf. The company acquired the series and published Eragon in hardcover in 2003, when Paolini was just nineteen years old. It quickly went from self-publishing obscurity to worldwide publishing phenomenon. 

Paolini will write a fourth book to conclude the Inheritance cycle. A publication date has not yet been planned.

Personally, I enjoyed Eragon (though I didn't review it - I read it before I had started my blog), but thought that Eldest dragged a bit. I'm interested to see how this one turns out. And it does please me that Random House's biggest fall release is a children's book. 

Soapbox: Communicating the Wonder of Modern Children's Literature

Colleen Mondor has suggested that this week be dedicated by the litblogosphere to "posting loud and long about those things that have been driving them crazy in the publishing world." A number of people chimed in yesterday on various topics, and Colleen has a round-up of excerpts here. (Speaking of Colleen, did you see that she got Jules, Eisha, and me mentioned on GalleyCat?)

Just to get the ball rolling for the soapbox discussions, Colleen listed a variety of issues that have percolating. The one that is currently getting under my skin (also discussed briefly in yesterday's Sunday Visits post) concerns the lack of broader knowledge about modern-day children's and young adult literature and the blogs that focus on that literature. This post stems partly from a post that Carlie Webber (Librarilly Blonde) recently linked to on the parenting blog Babble, and partly from my recent experience attending the BlogHer conference in San Francisco.

The blog entry that Carlie cited is Where Oh Where is Superfudge by Rachel Shukert. And the gist of Shukert's post is that "Kids' books aren't what they used to be". She waxes nostalgic for several thirty-year-old books about "average kids with real-world problems" and suggests that "the Young Adult section has become ... downright aristocratic." She seems particularly bothered by the amount of press that Gossip Girl has received in the mainstream media, and the message sent by the Gossip Girl books and other similar titles. She laments the lionization of privilege, and says that "in the New Children's Literature it's the hapless middle-classes — the normal kids — who ruin the fun, through either graceless social-climbing or trenchantly decrying the excess and shallowness that make being wealthy so delicious, so desirable, so sympathetic." Her proposed solution is to "By all means, give them (kids) Gossip Girl, but rescue all those Carter-era stories of latchkey kids and public school and Native American girls abandoned on islands off the coast of California as well. For the littler ones, dust off Free To Be You and Me."

Seriously? The best solution she can come up with to counteract the messages in Gossip Girl is to go back to 30-year-old literature? I have nothing against offering up the occasional classic to today's kids (if they enjoy it), and I am certainly in favor of providing kids with a diversity of literature about people of all races and classes. But ... hello! There are hundreds of current books that fit the latter description in bookstores and libraries today.

Just ask any children's librarian or independent bookseller for suggestions. They will offer you books like the Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker (illustrated chapter books aimed at early elementary school kids). Clementine lives in an apartment in Boston, where her father is the building super. She sees her parents worrying about paying the bills. When she wants to buy her mother a present, she has to work and save and borrow to come up with the money. The books aren't about the fact that her family is working class - they are about her, and that happens to be her background. It's just the kind of thing that Rachel Shukert seems to be looking for, and anyone in the Kidlitosphere could have told her about Clementine in a heartbeat. (See also Liz B's post on this subject at Tea Cozy, in which she asks readers to help compile a "List of YA/middle grade books, written in the past few years, that do not have Rich Kids as the main character".)

I don't mean to criticize Rachel Shukert. I think she's trying to do something good. She sees all of the books in the bookstore and on the NY Times bestseller lists that feature unattainable wealth, and she wants something more realistic for kids. The thing that frustrates me - that keeps me up at night -is that people like Shukert are steering their children towards older books (however lovely those books are) because they don't know about what's available today. While at the same time the children's book blogging community is filled with people writing in-depth, thoughtful reviews of current titles, and jumping up and down to help parents find these titles for their kids. There's a disconnect here that simply MUST be addressed.

This past Saturday I attended one day of the BlogHer Conference in San Francisco. It was a lot of fun - you get a great energy going when you have 1000 women in one place who are all passionate about blogging. I met a few nice people, with whom I will be be following up, and some of those people were interested in the idea that I blog about children's books. But I have to admit that overall I felt marginalized at BlogHer. There seemed to be forums for mommy bloggers (by far the biggest sub-group), craft bloggers, personal bloggers (people who share their thoughts and/or details about their lives), and tech bloggers. But I certainly didn't meet any other book review bloggers (children or adult), and I didn't find a whole lot in the sessions that spoke directly to the type of blogging that I do. (Anne-Marie Nichols was there, but by the time I learned of this, it was too late to try to meet her, and too big a conference to find her at random). It was a far, far cry from the Chicago KidLit conference, and even from ALA (although ALA is a much bigger conference). The place I was most comfortable, people-wise, was the PBS table in the exhibit hall.

I'm not blaming the BlogHer organizers for my ... disconnection with the larger conference. I think that they do a great job of organizing. I was probably not there long enough to really get comfortable (I was unable to stay for the evening social event), and I didn't try hard enough to meet people. I also think that if I want the Kidlitosphere to be part of the larger blogging discussion, then perhaps next year I need to get some people together for a panel (or someone does). Because here again, similar to the situation with the Babble post, we have a whole bunch of people who blog, many of whom are passionate about how they are raising their kids, and as far as I can tell, they have only the vaguest notion that children's book blogs exist. And that's a shame. Because we do have some amazing resources here in the Kidlitosphere.

I don't have the answers, in terms of making the Kidlitosphere more broadly known. I think that the general issue is that doing that is going to require time, and many of us are already spending all the time we can on our blogs. We're hardly looking to take time away from the blogs themselves, to reach out to other people, people who don't seem that interested anyway.

I feel like I have this magical room full of free stuff, wonderful stuff that gets automatically replenished every day. And people are walking by outside of my room, people who would love this stuff if they knew about it. But they don't happen to look inside, and I don't have time to stand by the window to ask them to come in.

What do you all think?

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

48 Hour Book Challenge - Wrap-Up Post

48hbcIt's 2:00 on Sunday afternoon, and I've just finished my 48 Hour Book Challenge. (You can find links to other wrap-up posts here.) Here are my stats:

Books read and reviewed: 11 (plus I started and didn't finish a 12th)

  • Running Out of Time - Margaret Peterson Haddix (review)
  • The Willoughbys - Lois Lowry (review)
  • Cicada Summer - Andrea Beaty (review)
  • Neptune's Children - Bonnie Dobkin (review)
  • Saffy's Angel - Hilary McKay (review)
  • 100 Cupboards - N. D. Wilson (review)
  • All the Lovely Bad Ones - Mary Downing Hahn (review)
  • Eleven - Patricia Reilly Giff (review)
  • Underwater - Debbie Levy (review)
  • Steel Trapp - Ridley Pearson (not finished, only read 17 pages)

    Time spent reading: 18 hours, 35 minutes (2.13 pages/minute)
    Time spent reviewing: 5 hours, 20 minutes (29 minutes/book)
    Total time spent: 23 hours, 55 minutes
    Total pages read: 2370

    Observations: I was very dedicated. I spent as much time as I possibly could on this challenge. I didn't do laundry, unload the dishwasher, or cook at all during the 48 hours. I did sleep, and I did shower, but I ate most of my meals quickly, and Mheir was severely neglected (he rented himself some violent movies, and played golf). Sadly, I had to attend a dinner event on Saturday which, though lovely, cut out my reading time after 5:00 pm that day. I tried to read when I got home, but the combination of an early day and wine at the dinner made this largely unsuccessful. But apart from that, I read and reviewed just about as much as I could. I ended up spending just slightly under 24 out of the 48 hours on the project. Not a bad ratio, if you take sleeping into account.

    The thing that kept me from reading more books was that for the life of me, I couldn't give the reviews short shrift. I normally spend about an hour per review, and I did manage to cut that in half, but I just wasn't willing to cut it any further. These were great books! They deserved to be talked about. And it does please me immensely to know that, after the past couple of months of writing fewer reviews than I would like, I was able to publish 11 of them this weekend. They aren't quite as full-fledged as I would normally do, but I feel like they're good enough to give people an impression of each book, and help people decide which ones might be a fit for them.

    So how do I feel about the challenge? It was stressful, a bit, concentrating so much on one thing, at the expense of others. (Of course it didn't need to be stressful, but my competitive spirit came to the surface). But it was also exhilarating and validating. Too often, I let all of the other responsibilities in my life push reading and reviewing aside. There are many days in which the only reading I do is in bed, before I fall asleep. And when life is busy, that sometimes amounts to barely a few pages.

    This weekend reminded me how much I love to sit down and read a book cover to cover, in one sitting. It reminded me of how much easier it is to write reviews if you write them immediately, while the book is still fresh. It reminded me of how many amazing and different books I have on my shelves, and how important it is for me in terms of my own happiness to make time to read them. Immersing myself in stories is what I love to do. I also love to share those stories, the best of them, with other readers through my blog.

    This weekend has convinced me that I need to make reading more of a priority all the time, not just on 48 Hour Book Challenge weekend. I'm thinking of setting aside one day a month to have my own personal 24-hour Book Challenge (because 48 hours in a row is a bit tough on Mheir). I'm not sure if I'll really be able to do it, without the additional motivation of a "contest". But I'm going to try.

    Pam, I can't thank you enough for the gift of this weekend! I don't need any prizes (though I wouldn't really refuse one) - my stack of 11 read and reviewed titles feels like quite enough. I'm already looking forward to next year.

    © 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

  • 48 Hour Book Challenge - Launch Post

    48hbcI got off to a bit of a later start than I intended, for various reasons, but I'm now officially announcing my launch of MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. It is 2:00 pm , Pacific Time. I've got my little reading study all set up, with water and tissues and a blanket and pillow, and of course a big stack of books. My current top 11 list of candidate books is:

    And I plan to start with Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit.

    Here are the basic guidelines:

    1. The weekend is June 6–8, 2008. Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the sixth and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday. So, go from 7:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday... or maybe 7:00 a.m. Saturday to 7:00 a.m. Monday works better for you. But the 48 hours do need to be in a row.
    2. The books should be about fifth-grade level and up. Adult books are fine, especially if any adult book bloggers want to play. If you are generally a picture book blogger, consider this a good time to get caught up on all those wonderful books you’ve been hearing about. No graphic novels. I’m not trying to discriminate, I’m just trying to make sure that the number of books and page counts mean the same thing to everyone.
    3. It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it. If you want to skip sleep and showers to do this, go for it. If you want to be a bit more laid back, fine. But you have to put something into it or it’s not a challenge.
    4. The length of the reviews are not an issue. You can write a sentence, paragraph, or a full-length review. The time spend reviewing counts in your total time.
    5. For promotion/solidarity purposes, let your readers know when you are starting the challenge with a specific entry on that day. Write your final summary on Monday, and for one day, we’ll all be on the same page, so to speak.
    6. Your final summary needs to clearly include the number of books read, the approximate hours you spent reading/reviewing, and any other comments you want to make on the experience. It needs to be posted no later than noon on Monday, June 9th.

    Happy reading to all!!!

    May Carnival of Children's Literature

    For those looking for a bit of enjoyable weekend reading, the May Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Here in the Bonny Glen. Melissa Wiley is the original creator of the Carnival of Children's Literature, and when she put out a last minute call for submissions this week, people responded promptly and enthusiastically. Melissa has put together an entertaining collection of links about children's literature, with particular emphasis on reviews. Head on over and check it out!