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Posts from May 2006

Summer Reading

Via Kelly at Big A little a, we have summer survival advice from Daniel Handler (the "representative" for Lemony Snicket, author of the highly popular Series of Unfortunate Events books). In a recent L.A. Times article, he says, given the dangers of the summer, that "it's best to stay indoors and read". I love it! This is part of a Barnes and Noble summer reading promotion, by which kids can get free books.

Of course, I don't really think that kids should stay indoors all summer, but I do think that kids should read as much as they can. I know I did when I was a kid (o.k., so things haven't changed much since then). As I've mentioned previously, I used to read up in a tree in our front yard. I was also known to climb out onto the roof and read there (don't try this at home, kids!). Or in the attic of the garage. Or by the pool. I distinctly remember swimming out to the wooden raft at a lake that we visited in New Hampshire, one hand held way up out of the water to keep my book dry. And I never went on a car trip without a book in hand.

So I say, to adults and kids alike, go everywhere you can this summer! But take your books with you.


I Am Elizabeth Bennett

I couldn't resist a quiz that Liz wrote about at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy. The quiz is: What Classic Female Literature Character Are You? You can find the quiz here. Both Liz and I, as well as Wendy Betts, who commented, all ended up being Elizabeth Bennett. As Wendy said, who else would you want to be? I was quite pleased. Especially since I just saw, and loved, the new Pride & Prejudice movie. One could do a lot worse than to be Elizabeth Bennett, that's for sure.

UPDATE: As I'm visiting some other sites, I notice that Kelly from Big A little a is ALSO Elizabeth Bennett. Notice a pattern, anyone? But, proving that the whole thing isn't completely rigged, Gail Gauthier is Beth March from Little Women.


Book Swapping

I read a short article in this month's Pages Magazine about an online system where members trade books among themselves. It's called Paperbackswap.com. There's no cost to join, but when you join you have to list 9 books that you're willing to swap. In return, you get three credits that you can use to acquire books that others have listed. After the first 9 books, other books that you swap are on a one-to-one basis.

The sender pays the cost of sending each book along using media mail (average cost is $1.59), and that's the only cost incurred. It's cheaper than buying a used book most places, and you get to clear books that you don't want from your own shelves. I haven't tried it (I usually just donate my books to the library, or send them to friends), but I think that it's a neat idea.


Two New Websites for Dyslexia Organizations

The 35-year-old Dyslexia Foundation of Memphis has recently set up a website. "The Foundation offers remediation for children with average to superior intelligence who have been founded to have one of the forms of Dyslexia." Their website has lots of useful publications about dyslexia, ADD, and other learning disabilities. I particularly enjoyed their list of famous people who are reported to have or have had dyslexia. It almost makes you wonder if you have to be dyslexic to accomplish anything. They also have an extensive set of links to other useful websites.

The Golden Triangle Dyslexia Foundation started more recently, when a group of parents from Columbus, Mississippi decided to start a program similar to the Foundation in Memphis, but closer to home. Their list of resources and links isn't quite so extensive yet, but they have a nice sidebar with links to recent news articles about dyslexia.

Both of these programs are excellent resources for information about dyslexia and other learning disabilities, especially for people in the Memphis or Columbus areas.


Carnival of Children's Literature: Broken Toe Edition

Just in! The 4th Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Here in the Bonny Glen. Melissa Wiley, despite some family turmoil sparked by her husband's toe injury, has put together a gorgeous collection of links this month. I can't wait to check them all out! Next month's entry will be hosted by Kelly Herold at Big A little a, and features a convenient Carnival Submission Form. Happy browsing!


Sunday Afternoon Visits

I am once again out visiting around the blogs on a Sunday afternoon. Here are some things that especially caught my eye from the past few days:

  • Susan at Chicken Spaghetti links to the new First Book Blog. I've written about First Book before, but hadn't heard about their new blog. First Book is a national organization that collects books and distributes them to underprivileged children. To date, First Book has distributed more than 43 million books to kids! On Friday, First Book celebrated its 14th birthday. What I like about the blog is that the enthusiasm of the people who work for First Book really shines through. They also have several video interviews with children's book authors and illustrators. I highly, highly recommend visiting the First Book blog, or finding a way to help them to put more books in the hands of children.
  • Little Willow has another booklist this week, this one on Young Adult Fantasy titles. I don't know how she keeps coming up with such great lists, but fantasy lovers of all ages should definitely check this one out. She also has some thoughts on the many sub-genres of fantasies. I've noticed for myself that I like best fantasies that start out (and sometimes remain) in our ordinary world, and then either have a doorway that people go through, or have an overlapping world of magic, or something like that. I find it easier to get lost in books like this than in what Little Willow calls "standard fantasy novels" that are set in some unspecified place and time. Finally, Little Willow also has a new booklist on Summer Reads. I was happy to see The Penderwicks on this list - what a wonderful summer story.
  • Wendy Betts of Blog from the Windowsill has published a new issue of her electronic publication Notes from the Windowsill. How can I resist this tagline: "celebrating children's books loved by adult readers"? Wendy reviews some classic reprints, several new books, and several that are new to paperback. As I did, she recommends Dana Reinhardt's A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (which I reviewed here). She also likes Scott Westerfeld's So Yesterday, which I read recently, but didn't review (I was a bit more lukewarm on this one, though I have liked other Westerfeld books).
  • MotherReader has a Louie-themed list of children's picture books. You'll have to go read the whole post on her site to understand it. I have to tell you that I think this woman should be a writer. She can write about anything, and I find it funny. Here's an example: "it is one of my favorite words to use — but I digress (I like digress too)." She said, digressing. I can't explain it, but I think it's off-handedly hilarious.
  • The Disco Mermaids unravel their first set of clues to The dePaola Code, deciphered from looking at the cover of Tomie's favorite of his books: Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs. Well worth a visit!
  • Camille from Book Moot got to hear Rick Riordan speak recently, and pronounces him "a true "gentleman"." She also links to Rick's report from this week's Book Expo America, which is pretty funny. Take-home message from Rick's report: "if Dave Barry asks you to donate a vital organ for a worthy cause, say no." Now there's advice that would be difficult to live without, don't you think? Camille also reviews Alice Alone by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and is pleased to report that her family has been unharmed so far by having this frequent censor target in the house.
  • Becky from Farm School has a fun post on books about the locations of children's books. That is, books about the real-life places that lie behind famous, and not-so-famous, children's books. For instance, did you know that there's a children's book walking tour guide to New York City? Becky has the links.
  • PJ Librarian strongly recommends library summer reading programs. What's not to like, I say, in programs that encourage kids to keep reading over the summer. The one at my local library is quite popular.

Thanks for visiting with me on this Sunday afternoon! I'll be in touch.


The Edge of the Forest, May Issue

The May issue of the online children's literature journal The Edge of the Forest is now available, and I think that you'll find it an excellent issue. You can find a list of highlights on editor Kelly Herold's blog.

I'm proud to be a contributor to this issue, with a review of Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations. This review is only available at The Edge of the Forest, so you'll have to head on over there to see what I think about the book.

There are many other great reviews and features this month, too. I tell you, this publication is getting better and better with every issue. I'm so impressed by the work that Kelly and the others on the Edge of the Forest editorial board have been doing! Waste no more time here - go visit The Edge of the Forest immediately.


BlogHer Conference

I learned from Susan at Chicken Spaghetti about a blogging conference for women that takes place right in my own backyard. BlogHer 2006, the second annual BlogHer conference, will be held in San Jose, CA on July 28th and 29th. As someone who has started blogging fairly recently, about a topic that's always been important to me, I found the conference theme of "how are your blogs changing your world?" particularly resonant.

According to the conference website: "Day One is a day of hands-on instruction on a variety of topics, most technically-focused... Day Two focuses on community, conversation and the culture of blogging. Day Two also includes our Room of Your Own sessions. Room of Your Own sessions are sessions that were created, staffed and proposed by BlogHer Conference attendees."

Organizers are expecting approximately 350 attendees each day, and Day One is already sold out (though they may be in the process of adding more seats). I signed up for Day Two (and the Day One cocktail party). If any of my blogging friends decides to attend the conference, please get in touch with me. It would be great to meet face to face! I believe that men are welcome to attend the conference, but that last year they represented a distinct minority.

Thank you again to Susan for bringing this conference to my attention.


Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 19th

Here are some community literacy-related stories that caught my eye and warmed my heart this week:

  • Canada.com published a nice feature article by Camille Bains on Saturday, May 13th, about how popular reading is among Canadian teens these days. "Brenda Halliday, a librarian at the Canadian Children's Book Centre, said books for young people are hotter than ever these days." The article particularly notes the proliferation of Canadian children's authors, a big change from 30 years ago. "This year, the book centre's annual book week will be held between Nov. 18 and 25 and will feature 29 authors and illustrators who will tour the country to read to young adults. "It's just like bringing in a rock star," recalled Halliday from her days as a school librarian." Isn't that great! Young adult authors being treated like rock stars.
  • An elementary school in Nebraska recently sponsored a family literacy night called "Books and Basketball Before Bed". According to the May 15th La Vista Sun, "Each student was given a free book, had the opportunity to talk with players from the Bellevue University basketball team and shared some reading time with parents and friends." Parents were also given a book about the importance of reading aloud.
  • Julia Randall Elementary school in Payson, AZ recently held a Young Authors Day. According to a May 16th article by Carol La Valley in the Payson Roundup, "local teachers and other authors helped bring the magic of story telling to students." The idea is that kids enjoy writing stories, and that by writing, they improve their skills, and also learn to love books more. Sounds good to me!
  • In Kenton County, Kentucky, the public library gets kids excited about books by sending the Read Racer around to day care centers, pre-schools, and Head Start programs. "The Read Racer, a NASCAR-inspired RV loaded with books for children, is the trademark of the Library's Racing to Read program... The goal of this program is to enhance each child's readiness for reading before they enter kindergarten by providing books and enrichment activities". And they do it with such flair! You can read about it a May 18th Community Press article by Elaine Koenig and Lisa Tewes.
  • In New Jersey, 16-year-old Eagle Scout Andrew Rullo "is expanding the children's library at the South Brunswick YMCA by holding a book drive and organizing all the donated materials he receives." In a write-up by Stephanie Brown in the South Brunswick Post, there's a quotation from Andrew about why he chose this project: ""They had all these things set up for the kids, but no books," he said, explaining that the children's library consisted of only one magazine-rack worth of literature. "I thought, 'I've got to get these kids some books.'"" This is a kid after my own heart!

Have a great weekend!


Poetry Friday: J. Alfred Prufrock

I realized the other day that when I'm deciding whether or not to do something, I frequently think "Do I dare? Do I dare disturb the universe?" And so I thought that I would share this poem that has been stuck in the corners of my mind ever since I studied it in 11th grade English class.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot

"S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;         
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—         
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—         
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
  And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?
      .      .      .      .      .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
      .      .      .      .      .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—         
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:         
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”
      .      .      .      .      .         
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

You can find J. Alfred Prufrock in many places online, including at Bartleby.com, UMass-Amherst (annotated), and here. I'll update to share some other people's Poetry Friday entries later in the day.

UPDATE: This Poetry Friday thing is really catching on. Other Poetry Friday entries this week:

If I missed you, just let me know. Happy Friday!


Mid-Week Visits

For once, I've been able to keep up with visiting other blogs during the week, instead of having to wait until Sunday afternoon. Here are a few things that caught my eye today:

  • A Fuse #8 Production links to a Guardian article by D. J. Taylor that explores the question of whether or not book reviews still sell books. The author notes that "In the 21st century - the age of the reading group, the website and the chatroom - the reviewer can sometimes look like a threatened species." Happily, he does conclude that the book reviewer "still matters in a way that many of the more exalted guardians of our culture do not." All I know is that my humble reviews have, in some cases, encouraged people to read the books that I recommend. I'm sure that it doesn't translate in any measurable way to the sales statistics of these books. But if the people who follow my recommendations enjoy the books that they read, then I think that the reviews have made a positive difference.
  • Kelly at Big A little a links to an entertaining post by Bookseller Chick about the impact on book sales of authors who behave badly at book signings. The comments thread on this post is quite extensive. It certainly seems counter-productive to me for authors to alienate booksellers, who have the power to put the books into customers' hands. But a couple of the commenters do offer defense, or at least explanation, for occasional "snarky" behavior.  There's a lot of interesting discussion.
  • Michele at Scholar's Blog has posted a call for papers for Phoenix Rising New Orleans, a Harry Potter symposium being held next May. I must admit to a certain bemusement at this news (that the phenomenon of a children's book series can spread so far), but I'm sure that there will be some fascinating discussions at the conference.
  • Emily at Swarm of Beasts has a rant about literature teaching. Specifically, she takes exception to the idea that poems must have some deeper meaning, suggesting instead that "a poem should not mean, but be." I'm not certain that I completely buy into this, but I liked what Emily said about literature: "Literature is pleasure. Literature is playfulness. Literature is twenty different games of sounds and pictures and memories. Literature is a good friend...." Very poetic indeed.
  • And finally, something that I've been meaning to mention for a couple of days now. The ever-entertaining Disco Mermaids have launched a new literary puzzle, The dePaola Code. This idea is that the legendary children's book illustrator Tomie dePaola, who once explored becoming a Benedictine monk, has a secret. The Disco Mermaids will explorer this secret through a series of clues over the coming weeks. You can read more about it here.

Cheers! -- Jen


Congratulations are in Order

Three of my fellow kid lit bloggers are due for congratulations today.

  • Tasha Saecker, the creator of the wonderful Kids Lit blog, has just accepted a new position as the next director of the Menasha Public Library in Wisconsin. The Appleton Post-Crescent news article about her appointment, while not directly mentioning Kids Lit, does feature this quote: "She's a high-energy person with very good technical skills," said James Englebert, chairman of the library director search committee. "She's been on the cutting edge of technology as it pertains to libraries." You can read Tasha's thoughts about her new position here. I learned about this from A Fuse #8 Production. Congratulations, Tasha, on your new job!! I'm sure that they made an excellent choice.
  • Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen made this announcement today: "Starting in the next few weeks, I will actually be getting paid to blog, which is both very nice and hard to believe." Melissa will be blogging about homeschooling and special needs children for a new set of blogs at ClubMom.com. You can read more about it here. I'm just so impressed! How cool is it to be paid for blogging? Congratulations, Melissa! Thanks for being such an inspiration to other bloggers.
  • And finally, Chris Barton announced yesterday that his seven-year-old son for the first time has declared a love for history. Chris loves history himself, so this is both an achievement and a validation. Congratulations, Chris!

If anyone else has occasion for congratulations, do drop me a line! Cheers!