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February 2007

Posts from January 2007

Children's Literacy Round-Up: January 8

I know I just posted some children's literacy news on Thursday, but I've run across a couple of other interesting articles for you. I'm going to try for Monday or Tuesday schedule for my literacy round-ups going forward, travel permitting.

  • From a press release, I learned that "qubo, the new television and multimedia network for children that champions literacy and positive values, launched its dedicated 24/7 digital channel at 6:00 a.m. ET today..."We are fortunate to be working side-by-side with Scholastic, Corus, Classic and NBC Universal on launching qubo's 24-hour digital platform across our TV station group," said Brandon Burgess, President and CEO of ION Media Networks." I haven't seen this, but it sounds like a good idea to have a television network that focuses on literacy, doesn't it? Or is just an oxymoron, because kids would be better off reading than watching any form of television? Not sure...
  • From another press release, I learned the welcome news that Sovereign Bank donated more than 23,000 books to Reach Out and Read, as a result of their holiday book drive. Think of all the kids getting books as a result of this one book drive!

That's all for today! Happy Reading!


Program with Jim Trelease

I volunteer for the Foundation and Friends of the Santa Clara City Library here in the California Bay Area. It's a wonderful library, and I'm happy to do my small part to help out. For those of you in the area, I wanted to bring to your attention an upcoming program that the Foundation and Friends is hosting.

Jim Trelease, author of the well-known Read-Aloud Handbook, will be speaking next Tuesday, January 16th, at 7:00 pm. The program is for adults only, and should be of high interest to parents and others who work with, and read with, kids of all ages. Jim will be speaking on the subjects of children, literature and television, with an emphasis on the positive benefits of reading aloud to and with your children. You can register for the program at the Library's Youth Services desk, or call (408) 615-2916.

I will certainly be there! I hope to get my copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook signed. It's a new edition, by the way, for you fans of the previous (fifth) edition. I'm a huge fan of this book, and have given it as a gift to many people. I highly recommend both the book and your participation in this program. This may be Jim's last speaking trip to Northern California, and it's not to be missed.


Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie: Jordan Sonnenblick

Here's how much I loved Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick. I was resentful of having to stay up late wrapping presents on December 23rd, because I had started this book, and wanted to keep reading it, instead. Then I snuck away late on Christmas Eve to finish it. Plus I loved the title!

What do you do if you're a thirteen year old boy (Steven), passionate about the drums, struggling to relate to girls, and then your five year old pesky younger brother Jeffrey is diagnosed with cancer? Answer: you pass through numerous stages of denial and rebellion, before coming to terms with your place in the situation. I mean it as a huge compliment when I say that this book feels like it was written by a thirteen year old. Steven's voice is believable and consistent and achingly real.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie brought tears to my eyes, but I found it funny, too. Quite a fine line, to make a book about a five year old with cancer funny, but Sonnenblick is up to the challenge. The book is also well-researched - it's clear that the author really talked with siblings of sick kids, not to mention cancer doctors. The stages that Steven goes through feel real (denial, the bargaining/take me phase, etc.).

Steven's family isn't perfect (especially his closed-off father), but his mother drops everything else in her life to become Steven's champion, as I know real mothers do when the situation (sadly) arises. Jeffrey is an amazing character, too. Annoying yet brave, whiny where any kid would be whiny, and head over heels crazy about his much older brother. This dynamic reminded me, a bit, of my relationship with my much younger brother and sister, and how they would decorate my room when I returned home from college, and beg to help me unpack. This book made me wish I had been a little nicer to them (though they were fortunately never ill).

I did find the introduction of Samantha, a sick girl whose older sister isn't there for her, a bit contrived. But everything else in the story rang true. I couldn't stop reading it, and read every word of the afterword section, too. I also liked Steven's relationship with two girls from his school, and his passion for the drums. The book is about those things, too, not just about the ailing Jeffrey. All in all, I highly recommend this book.

Book: Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Original Publication Date: October, 2004
Pages: 304 (paperback reprint edition)
Age Range: 12 and up
Source of Book: Bought it for myself, because I liked the title
Other Blog Reviews: Propernoun.net, VVMBookBlog, Grace's Ramblings, and A Book Look

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


Five Favorite Posts

OK, I've seen several people do this now (most recently A Fuse #8 Production and Gotta Book, after MotherReader issued the original challenge), and thought that it was time I participated. (Updated to add: Blog from the Windowsill tagged me as I was finishing up the post). Anyway, my five favorite posts (I'm going to extend slightly into late 2005 on this, since I started my blog in mid-December):

  1. One of the reasons that I started this blog was that I wanted to help, in my own small way, more kids to grow up enjoying books. My favorite post towards this goal is "Read the Books that Your Children Read". The idea is that if, as your kids get older, you keep reading the books that they love, either with them or in parallel with them, you show them that you value reading, and you provide both parent and child with wonderful opportunities for discussion. That may be preaching to the choir for most of the people who read this blog, but I still think that it's important.
  2. The other reason that I started this blog was that as an adult who likes to read children's books (even though I have no children of my own to read with), I wanted to provide community and encouragement for other people like me. One of my earliest posts, and still a favorite, is "Why You Should Read Children's Books as an Adult." Again, preaching to the choir for people who visit this blog, but still something that I believe with all my heart.
  3. The thing that probably put this blog on the map was the list of Cool Girls of Children's Literature, which started here in May, and ended here in June, with 200 smart, brave, funny, independent girls from the world of children's literature. I actually have a list of some 50 more that people have suggested to me, and I know there are more, if I revisit my recent reading. This whole idea started with a list of a dozen that I put together. And people started commenting, and emailing, and the list just kept on growing. An amazing thing, and a tribute to the power of the kidlitosphere. There is a Cool Boys list, too, though it never received quite the same level of excitement, perhaps because so many of us who blog in this area are women.
  4. More recently, one of my favorite posts of the year is the list of nominated books for the Young Adult Fiction category of the Cybils. Many thanks to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold for starting up this award, and for trusting me to be the administrator for the Young Adult Fiction category. I keep this post marked as a favorite because it's such a wonderful list, and I expect to refer back to it again and again as I continue reading.
  5. In November I wrote about "How Book Reviewing has Affected My Reading". This generated quite a bit of discussion, and I ended up with a follow-up article about "Better vs. More Enjoyable Reading". I like these posts because they reflect my thoughts about how this blog, and the books that I've been reading and reviewing, have changed the way I read. And, since reading is such a big part of my world, changed my life.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but I will agree with the others who've done this that it's a lot of fun to look back. And now, I'm going to look forward, and make the most that I can of 2007! May it bring new and positive memories for us all!


Saturday Afternoon Visits: January 6

Happy Armenian Christmas / Three Kings Day! As I catch back up on the kidlitosphere after the holidays, I've found a plethora of things to share with you. It's hard to even know where to begin - my tireless colleagues have so much going on. But here's a start:

  • Susan has updated her compilation of "best of 2006" lists over at Chicken Spaghetti. A valuable resource for anyone looking for reading suggestions.
  • Kelly over at Big A little a reminds people that she's hosting the 10th Carnival of Children's Literature. Get your nominations in by January 15th - your best post from December and early January.
  • There is an interesting discussion taking place about age ranges, and the appropriateness of 12 as the cut-off for calling a book "young adult." It starts with Justine Larbalestier, continues at Chicken Spaghetti, and continues again on Mitali's Fire Escape and A Fuse #8 Production. Little Willow weighs in with her comments on why she doesn't use the term middle grade at all, and proposes separate age designations for elementary school, middle school, and high school.
  • And speaking of A Fuse #8 Production, Betsy's Golden Fuse Awards are not to be missed. She offers up awards for 2006 publications in all sorts of categories, including "most misleading cover" and "best villain of the year".
  • Also not to be missed is Franki and Mary Lee's one-year anniversary post "What a Great Year to be a Blogger" over at A Year of Reading. They have a month-by-month listing of the highlights of the kidlitosphere, from the Hot Men of Children's Literature inauguration to the 48 Hour Book Challenge to my own Cool Girls and Cool Boys lists. It's such a nice stroll down memory lane, this post! On a related note, congratulations to Mary Lee and Franki for reaching their personal goal of having 100 Cool Teachers on their list! Nice timing, that it came right at their one-year anniversary.
  • Another recent trend in blog posts is blog resolutions, started, I believe, by Sherry at Semicolon, with an impressive list of 10. Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy also weighs in with her seven blog goals, and MotherReader touches on the issue in her Happy New Year post. Meanwhile, a.fortis offers up her writing resolutions at Finding Wonderland., and the Longstockings tackle writing goals, too. Like MotherReader, I find the idea of resolving to comment more on other people's blogs most appealing. I also would like to increase the number of book reviews that I write, while simultaneously writing better reviews, though the inherent time conflict might make doing both impossible. Maybe I could give up doing laundry or something...
  • Also available at Semicolon, a compilation of bloggers' 2006 reading lists and 2007 reading goals. It's an impressive collection of links to more than 50 lists. There is a wide range in terms of number of books read, as well as in preferences, but I would think most people will be able to identify with at least a few of the lists.
  • Another trend in 2007 reading goals is the alphabet-based list, where you name a book that you would like to read starting with each letter of the alphabet. I learned about this at Booktopia, where Stacy shares her alphabet list
  • And, while we're on the subject of 2007 reading goals, Michele from Scholar's Blog is starting an online book discussion group. She was inspired in part by her enjoyable discussions with the Cybils fantasy and science fiction nominating committee, and she has already generated a groundswell of interest. The first book to be discussed will be Susan Cooper's King of Shadows. It's shaping up to be another great year!
  • It should be a great year for librarians, too. Librarian is one of the 25 "get-ahead careers of 2007", per U. S. News and World Report. Thanks to A Fuse #8 Production for the link. Fuse also reminded me about the Nancy Pearl librarian action figure, which I was slightly baffled (though highly entertained) to receive as a Christmas gift this year from my friend Mark. Thanks Mark!

And that's quite enough for now. My eyes are glazed over. But it's great to feel more caught up with all of you!


Middle Grade Fiction Shortlist

I'm pleased to be a judge in the Middle Grade Fiction category for the Cybils this year. Well, I'm both pleased and terrified, because I'm sure that all of the finalists are amazing books, and that choosing will be very difficult. The Middle Grade Fiction committee is chaired by Betsy Bird, prolific creator of the superstar blog A Fuse #8 Production. The other members of the Judging committee are: Brooke, Eric Berlin, Sarah Beth Durst, and Sherry Early. I look forward to getting to know them all, as we seek consensus on the best book of the five.

So, without further ado, here is the shortlist, with commentary from the hard-working nominating committee (Kelly Herold, Stephanie Ford, Mitali Perkins, Tracy Chrenka, and Betsy Bird):

Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Take a small grey Welsh town. Add great works of art. Stir.

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
WWII serves as the backdrop to this tale of internment, friendship, and growing flowers in the dry desert dust of Arizona.

Heat by Mike Lupica
A heartwarming tale of immigration, baseball and familial love. It's a reminder of what the U.S.A. and Americans can be.

Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller
What's better than Girl Scouts, books, and an underground world under New York City? Absolutely nothing! That's why Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller, is one of the most entertaining books of the year.

A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
This Gothic page-turner features a feisty orphan, a houseful of secrets, and a villain preying on unsuspecting victims.

I'd better get reading... Cybils winners for all eight categories will be announced on February 14th - a Valentine for the winning authors. 


Five Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

Liz B. over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy tagged me for this meme, which I've seen listed here and there, but never participated in. So here goes:

  1. I'm allergic to nickel, and get a rash from any prolonged contact with most metals (which often have nickel added). Except for platinum, which I wear happily.
  2. I have a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering (not so helpful for reviewing children's books, I must admit, but what can you do?).
  3. Red wine makes me sniffly, though this in no way stops me from drinking it.
  4. I have a weakness for teen high school movies and television shows (Clueless, Drive Me Crazy, etc.). Roswell was one of my favorite TV series of all time.
  5. I'm left-handed.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you decide to play along on your own site, leave me a note in the comments. Have fun!

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


What I Read in 2006

In case anyone is interested, here is the list of books that I read in 2006, for a grand total of 198 (mostly children's books, with some adult mysteries and non-fiction thrown in). Next year, I'll get to 200.

Children's and Young Adult Books

  1. Carl Hiaasen: Hoot. Completed 1/13/06.
  2. P. B. Kerr: The Akhenaten Adventure. Completed 1/21/06. My review.
  3. Meg Cabot: All-American Girl. Completed 1/28/06.

Continue reading "What I Read in 2006" »


Children's Literacy Round-Up: January 4th

I've been offline for the holidays, but I'm happy to report that children's literacy-related news stories have continued to proliferate. Here are a few highlights:

  • Fifth grade students in Samatha Jone's class at the Westmore Elementary School in Provo, Utah participated in a Scholastic Book Club program that resulted in a donation of 100 books to disadvantaged children. The kids in the class had to read 100 titles by December 31st, in order to qualify for the donation. They finished in early December. You can read more in this Daily Herald article.
  • The Domino's Pizza franchise in New Bedford, MA held a celebrity pizza night that resulted in 9100 books donated to needy children. Several local celebrities (the mayor, police chief, schools superintendent, etc.) participated by delivering pizzas." More than 100 pizza people, and two dozen celebrities, were involved in this year's effort. Between 5 and 8 p.m., the three stores sold more than 1,000 pizzas to benefit the Neediest Families Fund." Read more in this SouthCoastToday article.
  • Ontario's lieutenant-governor, James Bartleman, is appealing to local residents to donate new and gently used books to aboriginal children living in remote communities of the province. "Bartleman said too many aboriginal children living in remote communities do not know how to read and do not have ready access to libraries that are taken for granted elsewhere in the province", according to an article on the CBCNews website. Mr. Bartleman believes that improving literacy for these children will reduce "the suicide epidemic among children and youth that has been raging out of sight and out of mind in the north of our province".
  • The First Book Blog recently published a thank you email from a group of book recipients in South Carolina. The sender noted that "These books provided us the opportunity to further express the importance of reading to our children."

Here's to wishing that 2007 brings lots of books into the hands of children who need them!


The Top 5 in YA Fiction

I'm a bit delayed in posting this here, but the top five lists for the Cybils have been released. With many thanks to the nominating committee (Sara, TadMack, Jackie, Little Willow, and Mindy), who read through some 80 titles, and engaged in thoughtful and far-reaching discussions, we have the top five:

Above, I've linked to reviews by the nominating committee members, and to my own reviews. Of course there are many other reviews of these books out there, but this should give you enough information to go on. I personally think that the committee did an amazing job. I've read three of the books on the list, and they were all among my very favorites of the year. Of course they had a lot of wonderful books to choose from, but that made narrowing down to five that much harder.

The nominating committee is still actively discussing the books (the winners and others). Be sure to check out the group's listing of the YA Hall of Fame (posted by Little Willow). It's kind of a yearbook-like best of list (homecoming queen, most likely to kick butt, etc.). Another version of the list, with commentary, is available at Finding Wonderland. Special kudos also go to TadMack, who read all of the nominated titles (see all of her reviews at Reader's Rants). We started out with 80 titles, and moved one over to Fantasy/SF mid-way through. See also Mindy's post about What I Learned from the Cybils, and her own Best of 2006 lists.

Many many thanks to Anne and Kelly for organizing this, to the publishers for generously contributing reading copies, and to the nominating committee. The judging committee is already hard at work, reading and re-reading the five finalists. More about them soon. As for myself, I'm collecting copies of the Middle Grade nominees, because I'll be a judge in that category.

Happy New Year!