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Posts from September 2007

Sunday Afternoon Visits: September 16

Today's Sunday Visits will be relatively brief, because I posted about a lot of the recent news on Friday. Still, a few new things of interest have come up this weekend:

  • Over at Library Stew, Kathy (a fellow Red Sox fan, and "a school library media goddess") asks: "what kind of program could I instill at my school that would motivate those kids who really HATE to read. Those kids who really struggle to read and because of that HATE to do so." In Kathy's case, with her position, she's looking for programs that will motivate the masses, and she doesn't think that author events are the best lure for the struggling readers. She's going to use this school year to do some research into this question, and I, for one, am looking forward to hearing her results.
  • Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub has been interviewed again, this time by Jewel Sample for Sharing with Writers and Readers. Terry talks about what motivated her to start The Reading Tub (a nonprofit dedicated to promoting reading and literacy), and how authors can submit their books for review. Since I first mentioned The Reading Tub last week (in the literacy roundup) I've spent a bit more time checking out what they do. And I would like to point this site out as a resource for parents looking for book recommendations for kids. The site is very well-organized and has simply tons of book profiles (more than 800). You can search for a keyword, like baseball, and it will return results for you, classified by age range.
  • Susan Beth Pfeffer (author of the compelling dystopian title Life As We Knew It) has started a new four-part series on her blog about writing. The first entry is about coming up with an idea. Her main thesis is that instead of writing about what they know, writers should write about what they feel. She suggests that you think about your favorite stories, and then "melt those favorites down to their bare essence. What we're looking for is the themes you are most responsive to." Makes sense to me!
  • Via Becky, the next Carnival of Children's Literature takes place at Charlotte's Library on September 26th. The theme is "Take a Ride on the Reading Railroad". The deadline to submit entries is Friday, September 21st. You can submit entries here.
  • Kimberly Pauley has a disturbing post at Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central about the response that she received (a "torrent of hate and name calling") when she posted at about GLBT month. For a more positive view of GLBT month, see Tea Cozy.
  • Mary Lee and Franki will be promoting Constitution Day tomorrow (Monday) at A Year of Reading. They share a variety of books and links, and discuss why we should celebrate this day.
  • At Farm School, Becky shares highlights from a Guardian interview with The Dangerous Book for Boys author Conn Iggulden. I love this book, partly because I agree with it in spirit, and partly because bunches of people have clicked through from my site and purchased in from Amazon, giving me lots of referral money to use to buy more books (and my most recent purchase: the wonderful BBC/Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice).

Happy reading to all!

"Could You? Would You?" Questions

Jules and Eisha have started a contest at 7-Imp this week, inspired by questions from Australian illustrator Trudy White. If you answer the following questions, you could (courtesy of Kane/Miller Book Publishers) win a copy of Trudy's book: Could You? Would You? Even though I'm drowning in picture books, I like the questions, so I decided to play.

How would someone find you in a crowd? I don't think that I stand out much in a crowed, but I am likely to be wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt. Or maybe a New England Patriots shirt. 

If your house had a secret room, what would be in there? Books, books, and more books. And a comfortable couch to lie on to read them. Next to the couch would be a big box of Swiss chocolate. And in the corner, a wine refrigerator, filled with excellent red wines. I could hide out in this room for a long time.

Where do you like to walk from your house? There's not much of interest within walking distance of my house. Probably the best thing is being able to walk to Blockbuster.

How will you change as you grow up? I'll probably continue to become ever more introverted. But I'll get better at knowing what I need to do to protect my recharge time.

What sort of animal would you like to be? None. I prefer to stay a person. Even as a kid, being an animal never interested me much. Animals can't read books.

If you'd like to play, post your own answers to these questions. And leave a note at 7-Imp.

Mama's Saris: Pooja Makhijani

Book: Mama's Saris
Author: Pooja Makhijani
Illustrator: Elena Gomez
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

Mama's Saris, written by Pooja Makhijani and illustrated by Elena Gomez, is on the surface a very simple story. The young narrator, on her seventh birthday, watches her mother dress for the occasion in a sari, a brilliant contrast to the ordinary clothes that Mama normally wears. The daughter pleads with her mother to be able to wear a sari, too, just this once. She pulls out all the stops, and in the end, her mother gives in, and dresses her in a beautiful blue sari with gold flowers. Mother and daughter look alike in their traditional clothing, and the daughter is heartbreakingly proud to be like her mother.

It's funny. I just reviewed another book that I referred to as "sentimental". But this is the one that brought tears to my eyes. Mama's Saris is a love letter to mothers and daughters, and to the Indian culture that people preserve, wherever they live. Reading the end, when the mother has lovingly dressed her daughter in sari and bangles and bindi, and they look into the mirror together, I sniffled. I think it's because the feeling in the book is so genuine. As is clear from an Author's Note, Pooja Makhijani is writing about her own mother, and her own childhood. She perfectly captures the love and longing of the mother-daughter relationship. Not to mention the wonder of grown-up clothes.

Elena Gomez's acrylic illustrations bring the splendor of Mama's saris to life. Every page is filled with deep colors and vivid patterns. We can practically feel the texture of the different saris. We can also see every mood crossing the face of the daughter (her sulky face when her mother initially says no is especially realistic). The resemblance between mother and daughter comes across, as do the differences in age and degree of polish. For example, the mother's eyebrows arch sleekly, while the daughter's are visibly coarse. The patterns in the wallpaper and bedspread and mirror frame are also gorgeous and detailed. I wanted to bury my face in the comforter.

I highly recommend Mama's Saris, especially for mothers and daughters, and people looking for a window into the Indian culture. Pooja includes a handy mini-glossary of Hindi words, with pronunciation, at the front of the book. Her author's note includes background about saris, as well as about the story itself. I'm certain that her mother loves this book. In fact, I think that mine would, too.

Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the author
Other Blog Reviews: Saffron Tree, Big A little a, Tea Cozy, Book Moot, Chicken Spaghetti, Fuse
Author Interviews: SAJA Forum, Mitali's Fire Escape

The Baby Shower: Eve Bunting

Book: The Baby Shower
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Judy Love
Pages: 28
Age Range: 3-6

The Baby Shower, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Judy Love is the sequel to The Wedding, in which a series of animals travel with Miss Brindle Cow to what turns out to be her own wedding. As The Baby Shower begins, Ms. Brindle Cow and her husband are awaiting the birth of their first calf. Upon learning of the imminent event, the other animals join up in a scattered procession to wish Ms. Brindle Cow well. Some bring prayers, some bring presents, and some bring children, but they all bring their good wishes and joy. When they arrive, they find a surprise.

The text is written all in gentle poetry, two rhyming couplets on each page. For example:

"The moon and stars lit up the sky.
Fireflies came dancing by.
They kept repeating to each other,
"Brindle's going to be a mother!"

I think that The Baby Shower would make a good bedtime book, and a nice read-aloud for pre-schoolers. It would also be a lovely introduction to poetry and rhyme for younger children.

Judy Love's illustrations, done in transparent ink on watercolor paper, add considerable delight and humor. The animals in particular are clearly rendered, with expressive features and plenty of detail. In many cases the illustrations reveal a layer of meaning not entirely evident from the text. For instance, Pig is reading to her three piglets, and they report that the book is "the best they'd ever read." We learn from the picture that she's reading them The Three Little Pigs. Of course. On another page, the reverend Duck carries one of the sleeping piglets. He's looking askance at his sleeping burden, as though wondering how on earth he got himself into the situation. It's priceless. Also not to be missed is the page in which Rabbit learns the news of the expected arrival:

"Rabbit said, "I quite remember
I had babies last September.
The first one born was such a blessing,
but more and more can be distressing!"

We see poor Rabbit simply inundated with babies, trying to bottle-feed four at once, while a fifth pleads to be read to (Peter Rabbit, of course), and a slew of others fight, play, and seek attention. Rabbit's face gives new meaning to the word overwhelmed. I think it's worth the price of the book just to see that page.

Underlying the humor, there's a hint of a religious parallel to this title, too. This is especially evident when the animals walk at night, under the stars, and sing about their joy regarding the new arrival. I think it would be interesting to read this title to a young child around Christmas, and see if the child notices the parallel. There's nothing overt, however, and those not wishing to see this parallel should be able to safely ignore it.

Overall, I think that The Baby Shower is bit sentimental. However, the vivid and engaging illustrations keep it from being sappy, and make it a treat for pre-schoolers. This book would also make an excellent baby shower gift (perhaps this idea was anticipated by the publisher - the frontispiece has a built-in "a gift for"... section). 

Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication Date: June 1, 2007
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher

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

A Mountain of Mittens: Lynn Plourde

Book: A Mountain of Mittens
Author: Lynn Plourde
Illustrator: Mitch Vane
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

A Mountain of Mittens drew me in from the colorful, busy cover, and the fun title. Written by Lynn Plourde and illustrated by Mitch Vane, A Mountain of Mittens is a mad-cap romp about an out-of-control elementary school lost-and-found box. The protagonist is young Molly, a cherished apparently only child of loving parents. When mitten season arrives, Molly's parents remind her to bring home her mittens. And Molly cheerfully promises to do so. But, well, things get in the way. And one pair of mittens after another end up added to the ever-growing mountain of left-behind mittens. Eventually, the mountain of mittens reaches a crisis point, and professional help is required to save the day.

This book is a happy marriage of text and illustration. Both are laugh-out-loud funny. The teachers are named Mr. Jolly, Miss Holly, Mr. Golly, and Mrs. Folly. All of them are pretty grouchy about having to dispose of left-behind mittens every day. At one point Mrs. Folly yells: "Holy mittens!". It is also her folly that leads to the book's crisis. Molly is heard to say at one point, "Oh golly, Mr. Golly." (An amusing echo of "good golly, Miss Molly" from the song.) There's also a regular, cheerful refrain throughout the book:

"Mittens, Mittens. My, oh, my! A Mountain of Mittens. Piled up high."

All in all, the book has plenty of rhyming and alliteration to please young readers. I also enjoyed the occasional sound effects, rendered in a different font, like the sneeze of a cold turtle (who clearly needs some mittens for warmth).

The illustrations are hilarious. They're done in watercolor and dip pen in India ink, in a wide array of colors. The ever-increasing mountain of mittens is a triumph, a jumble of colors showing the endless variety of mittens that kids might wear. Molly is quite likable, with scraggly auburn braids, an elf-like hat, and a happy smile. Her teacher, Mr. Jolly, wears a purple shirt and pants with bizarre saw-toothed stripes - quite a character. The funniest picture, I think, is one in which Molly's parents decide to attach her mittens with Velcro. She walks out of the house with several toys, and the dog, also Velcro-ed to her jacket.

With fall approaching, I think that A Mountain of Mittens will be an excellent choice for preschool and early elementary school kids (especially those living in colder climates, and familiar with mittens). The inventive wordplay and entertaining pictures are sure to please kids. The book also offers enough detail and humor to keep adults on board through multiple readings. 

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication Date: June 1, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: 4IQRead, Main Street Matters, A Readable Feast

How Do Dinosaurs Go To School: Jane Yolen

Book: How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Mark Teague
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3 to 5

How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? is the latest book in the How Do Dinosaurs series, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague. The series started with How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, and now includes some eight titles. These books are very popular, and have, collectively, sold more than 3 million copies. I found this one a bit message-y for my personal taste, but I can see why people like the series.

In How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?, Yolen and Teague use dinosaurs to illustrate how not to behave in school. Each page features a different kind of dinosaur doing something inappropriate. These behaviors are phrased as questions: "Does he tease all the girls? Does he pick on the boys?", etc. And in the end, we learn that of course good dinosaurs don't behave like that. Instead, they help their friends, stand up to bullies, tidy their desks, and so on. While I found the text a bit paternalistic, I can imagine that three and four year olds will be howling with delight over the antics of the dinosaurs.

I do like the illustrations of the dinosaurs. Brightly colored, and over the top, the pictures make each dinosaur unique and interesting. The dinosaurs are very active in the pictures, positively leaping from the page, and are sure to please restless preschoolers. Their large size, relative to the smaller children and classroom elements, makes it easy to keep focus on the dinosaurs, and adds humor.

I also like the way the name of the type of dinosaur is written in tiny letters somewhere in each picture, so that the kids who want to know can find them. In one notable case the name of the dinosaur is written in stacked blocks - very cute. The selection of less well-known varieties of dinosaur also adds to the book's interest. The bird-like Segnosaurus is particularly engaging.

Fans of the How Do Dinosaurs series will find that this installment does not disappoint. Also recommended for dinosaur fans (especially those with an interest in lesser known orders of dinosaurs), and for teachers looking for humorous models of classroom behavior.

Publisher: The Blue Sky Press (Scholastic)
Publication Date: July 1, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from Raab Associates
Other Blog Reviews: The Imperfect Parent, BooksForKidsBlog, 5 Minutes for Mom, What Adrienne Thinks About That
Author Interviews: DownHomeBooks, Writers Write, Strange Horizons (among many others)

You'll Be Sorry: Josh Schneider

Book: You'll Be Sorry
Author: Josh Schneider
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3 to 8

It's somewhat surprising that I requested a copy of Josh Schneider's first book, You'll Be Sorry. Because I'm not a fan of "message" books, written to teach children some sort of lesson. And the lesson here is clear from the first line: "Don't hit your brother or you'll be sorry." But what lifts this book away from the legions of message books, and makes it irresistible, is the combination of over the top story and humorous illustrations.

Samantha's parents warn her not to hit her younger brother. They tell her that she'll be sorry. But she doesn't believe them. And she wants to hit him. So she does (though the actual violence takes place off-screen). Her brother starts to cry. And cry. And cry. His voluminous tears unleash a flood of Noah's Ark proportions, with inconveniences large and small.

Sitting in a rowboat, eating soggy crackers, Samantha reflects on the damage that she has wrought:

"Her parents were ignoring her. Her mother had a headache from all the crying, and her father was crabby because he had missed his favorite television program. Still her brother was crying.

He looked so sad."

And Samantha is finally sorry. What makes the lesson work is that it's so ridiculous. Of course a child can't cry enough to flood the town. But the flooding is the epitome of consequences for ill-advised actions. I also like the way that Samantha's parents react. They tell her ahead of time not to do hit her brother, but then they wait the whole thing out. They don't try to comfort the brother. Instead they concentrate on digging out the rowboat. They wait for Samantha to learn, and take, personal responsibility, even at considerable inconvenience to themselves. I love it.

But what really makes this book are Schneider's watercolor and pen and ink illustrations. From the small sketch of a water-filled upside-down umbrella (complete with fish) and recently-emptied boots on the dedication page, we know that we're in for something special. The pictures, in muted colors with lots of watery light green and purple, fill each page, with only small blocks of text for contrast. Every page has some sort of humorous treat. As the house starts to flood, a portrait floats through the hall, face-up, the subject holding a small sign that reads "SOS". The soccer game is canceled because the water is 10 feet deep, and a below-the-surface picture shows sea horses guarding the hidden goal. Samantha's mother looks wistfully at the roof of the house, as she bails out rowboat. And a bird rests on a ruler, floating near the closed school.

You'll Be Sorry is a fun treat for pre-schoolers, a quick read with limited text and wonderful illustrations. It does get a message across about how not to treat younger siblings, but the message is conveyed with humor and sympathy. I think that kids as young as three will be entertained by this title. And I look forward to future offerings by Josh Schneider (who, according to his bio, has never hit his brother).

Publisher: Clarion
Publication Date: September 17, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

Dodsworth in New York: Tim Egan

Book: Dodsworth in New York
Author: Tim Egan
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5 to 8 (a very early chapter book)
Sequel to: The Pink Refrigerator (a picture book, reviewed here)

I adored Tim Egan's picture book The Pink Refrigerator. So much so that it made the short pile of picture books that I keep for myself, instead of giving them away. The Pink Refrigerator ends with Dodsworth hopping on his bike, setting out for adventure. Thus when I read that the sequel, Dodsworth in New York, was coming out, I requested a copy from the publisher immediately.

Unlike The Pink Refrigerator, Dodsworth in New York is a chapter book. However, rest assured that it is a very early chapter book, just the tiniest step up from beloved picture books. Each page has a picture that takes up the bulk of the space, in most cases accompanied by four or five short lines of text. Kid-friendly, accessible text, with a subtle, philosophical underpinning.

On the first page of Dodsworth in New York, our hero, a somewhat frumpy-looking mouse in hat and jacket, prepares to set out on his trip:

"Dodsworth wanted adventure.
He wanted to fly in a plane.
He wanted to sail on a ship.
He wanted to see the world.
But first, he wanted breakfast."

Dodsworth stops for breakfast at Hodges' Café, where Hodges' crazy duck throws pancakes at him. This is not enough to destroy Dodsworth's mood, however, and he sets off on the train for New York. To his astonishment, however, he finds that the duck has stowed away in his suitcase. It seems that the duck is also looking for adventure. Dodsworth tries to send the duck home, but the duck runs away into New York City. Dodsworth is briefly tempted to wash his hands of the duck, but knows how worried Hodges will be. So he scours New York in search of the now elusive creature.

And the duck takes Hodges on quite a tour of the city, from Washington Square to the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. To movies and museums and tony shopping districts. Following the duck, Dodsworth sees things that he never would have found on his own. And repeatedly he sees the duck enjoying himself with careless abandon. The duck is not very well-behaved (throwing popcorn in a movie theater, for instance), but sure is good at having fun. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I hope that Dodsworth and duck have many further adventures.

Dodsworth in New York is a manual for letting go and enjoying life, as well as a love letter to New York. But more importantly, it's a delightful early reader, sure to please kids and adults. I think that it takes a gifted writer to convert the short sentences and limited vocabulary of an early reader into something with tone and substance. Egan accomplishes this feat admirably. The personalities of Dodsworth and the duck both come through clearly. And the short sentences function as understatement, allowing the reader to fill in details of mood and subtext. For example (Chapter 3):

"The next morning, the train pulled into New York City.
Dodsworth bought a ticket for the duck to go home.
He turned to give the duck the ticket.
He saw the duck getting onto the subway."

So simple, but we see Dodsworth's plodding, responsible nature juxtaposed against the insouciance of the duck.

The illustrations are ink and watercolor on paper, with muted colors that suit Dodsworth's nature. Occasionally, they add detail to the story. The funniest is when Dodsworth is searching the Museum of Modern Art for the duck. The text just says that he can't find the duck. But the picture shows the duck camouflaged as part of a sculpture. The illustrations also add to our understanding of Dodsworth's personality, sometimes because of his expressions, and sometimes because of his small size compared with the people around him. His determination to find the duck is evident in every line.

I highly, highly recommend Dodsworth in New York for early readers, especially those who already love Dodsworth. And who, having met him, could help loving him? Certainly not me.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: September 24, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

How To Be A Spy: Justine Smith

Book: How To Be A Spy in 7 Days Or Less
Author: Justine Smith
Illustrator: Jan Lewis
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5 to 9

Who can resist a children's book called How To Be A Spy in 7 Days Or Less? This Kingfisher title, written by Justine Smith and illustrated by Jan Lewis, is SO much fun. It looks like a picture book, but, I would say, one for older kids who can read it on their own. There are lots of small pictures, with text in lists. The outer edges of the covers, as well as the end pages, are decorated with a circuit board-like pattern, suggesting modern-day spying techniques. The book comes tied shut, with ties that look like shoelaces, as though to keep the contents inside a secret. In the back of the book is a large envelope, containing:

  • Sunglasses
  • Fake mustache
  • Cypher wheels (for created coded messages)
  • Spy notebook

See what I mean? So much fun. The text is broken into six one-day lessons, each consisting of two full-page spreads, followed by a single graduation day spread. Each day's lessons are broken up into multiple related sections, each about important activities like disguises, body language, and secret messages. After years of reading spy books, I didn't personally find many new ideas, but I think that kids who are around six or seven years old will be utterly captivated.

There are also lots of activities to keep kids busy - like making a secret sign to identify your spy headquarters, writing secret messages in lemon juice, and cutting holes in a newspaper to use it for surveillance. And of course there's a section on ciphers, complete with sample message to decode.

There are a few humorous nods (and some serious "we want to avoid liability" nods) to parents. Like in the section on tailing people, the book suggests: "Choose your target. Your mom or dad is a good choice--they'll be distracted and busy." Other passages are just plain funny, with a dry humor  that made me giggle. For example, in the section on disguises it says: "Remember that your goal is to blend in. A woolen hat and scarf in the summer will just look suspicious." This is accompanied by a picture of a muffled person, sweating, walking along a beach, being pointed at and laughed at.

The illustrations are closely tied in with the text, and add both humor and detail. Most scenes feature Agent 001, code name Ace, a sandy-haired boy who wears a trench coat and sunglasses. Ace is supported by Agent 002, code name Charlie, a black girl in a lab coat, with glasses and striped tights. They also work with Agent 003, code name Mike, a very cute little bug, billed as "a tiny robot spy with attitude." It does stand out to me, as an adult reading the book, that the minority-race girl is in a clearly supporting role, while the white boy has most of the actual adventures. At least with her lab coat and leggings Agent 002 does portray a hip female scientist. And she has cool gadgets to work with. But still... I did notice it.

Quibbles about racial and gender roles aside, I do think that both boys and girls will enjoy reading this book and participating in the activities. There is something eternally intriguing about spies, from Harriet M. Welch to James Bond. How To Be A Spy in 7 Days Or Less covers all of the trapping and cool activities associated with spying, in a handy, user-friendly package. I think that it would make an excellent gift for first and second graders. I have a deserving home in mind for my copy already.

Publisher: Kingfisher
Publication Date: September 15, 2007
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher

Friday Afternoon Visits: September 14

31_flavorites_logotThere's a lot going on in the Kidlitosphere right now. The Cybils are starting up, and looking for volunteers. Teen Read Week is approaching. People (thanks to a tremendous initiative by Jules from 7-Imp) are starting a huge, interconnected project in support of Robert's Snow. Spots are still open for volunteers to help with that, too. The readergirlz are gearing up for a multi-author "31-Flavorites" extravaganza in October. Not to mention that the team that brought you the Summer Blog Blast Tour is hard at work on interviews for the Winter Blog Blast Tour. (This last event is closed to new blogger participants, for logistical reasons, but I promise you that it's going to be spectacular.)

However, none of the above should overshadow the other wonderful things that people are writing about on their blogs. Here are some recent highlights:

  • Sherry contributes an annotated bibliography of Madeleine L'Engle's titles at Semicolon.
  • Tasha was the first up that I saw with the Quills winners at Kids Lit. The kids winners were Flotsam (picture book), The Invention of Huge Cabaret (middle grade) and Sold (young adult). Looks like three good choices to me.
  • Mindy reports at that kids at her old public library were able to talk last week with people on the International Space Station. How cool would that be for a kid?
  • And I know, I know, I've been talking about Shrinking Violet Promotions a lot lately. But they started a really fun contest this week. And I've had such great feedback to my recent introvert posts that I thought that some of you would be interested. The idea is to "Take the title from a favorite book or song, and rewrite it from the Introvert's perspective." I had quite a bit of fun with it, myself. And, for all you writers out there, one of the prizes that you can choose if you win is a 10 page manuscript critique. The deadline to contribute is Wednesday.
  • Melissa Wiley has a lovely write-up and response to the book A Child's Delight, by Noel Perrin, at Here in the Bonny Glen. The book is a series of 30 short essays about minor children's classics which the author, and his editor, felt had been neglected or ignored recently. Remind anyone of Recommendations from Under the Radar?
  • Sara Lewis Holmes aggregates an array of recent discussions about middle grade (vs. middle school) literature at Read Write Believe. She also throws in a hint of discussion for all you middle children out there.
  • Kathryne Alfred asks at The Longstockings how to get kids to read, and how make reading more cool. There are lots of great comments, though no definitive answer.
  • Liz Garton Scanlon writes about the difficulty of staying productive while also staying balanced, and enjoying life. This is something we're all struggling with, I know, but I found that Liz's words helped. I especially liked her conclusion: "There was a poet once who said something about time being "the coin of your life." I'd like to become even more mindful of how I'm spending mine. How about you?"
  • Robin Brande also addresses the question of how we spend our time, noting that "those long periods of thinking and goofing off are part of what I enjoy about my life." I know for me that the time I spend at home reading books, reading blogs, and even watching certain television shows, is what recharges me, and keeps me able to do my work in between.
  • Did you see the See-Saw Bookshelf at Generate? It's completely impractical, but very funny. Link via Bookshelves of Doom.
  • Justine Larbalestier has a well-thought-out post about the difference between writing about something (like teenage pregnancy) and condoning it. She concludes: "I see my duty of care in writing for people who are not yet adults like this: 1) Entertain; 2) Do not condescend; 3) Be honest." And that, people, is how you get books that kids want to read. (There is quite a discussion going on in the comments, too.)
  • The second part of Donalyn Miller's excellent three-part article about creating readers is now available on the Teacher Magazine website. Thanks to Don for pointing it out to me. "In this second installment of her Ask the Mentor column, Miller answers readers' questions on motivating reluctant readers and encouraging parent involvement. Next week, in Part III, she will share “Thirteen Books You Have to Read Before You Turn Thirteen,” a list compiled by one of her former students." Thanks again to Tricia for the link to Part 1.
  • If you live in LA, now is the time to get your tickets to the play Spring Awakening, featuring our own Little Willow. I mean, really, aren't you curious to see what she looks like?
  • Nancy has a new contest at Journey Woman. The contest theme is "High Culture meets Pop Culture". Nancy is looking for "examples of TV shows, popular songs, or movies that used references or quotes from famous poets or authors in a way that may have caught people by surprise." Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
  • At Becky's Book Reviews, Becky comments in-depth on Read Roger's latest question about pros and cons of reviewing, and whether or not there should be a "blind" review process. While I'm a fan of blind tasting of wines (also touched on by Roger), I think that blind reviewing is impractical. Sure, I want my reviews to be semi-blind, in that I try very hard not to read promotional material, blurbs, other reviews, etc., before I write my own review. And, like Becky, I happily review lots of books from authors that I've never heard of before. But the fact is that people, myself included, have favorite authors, and want to hear news about those favorite authors. Blind reviews would also not work very well with sequels, of which we have many in the fantasy genre. But it's an interesting question.
  • There's another new blog from the folks at Read Alert. It's called Boys blokes books. It's a companion to a reading program taking place in Drouin, Melton and Melton. Their first question is about what book you would save from a fire, if you were on a deserted island.

Hmmm, I noticed that I linked to lots of posts by writers this week. Purely a coincidence - I just collect the posts as they catch my eye, and then write them up at the end of the week. But it sure shows that kid lit writers have a lot to say about things besides their own books.

I'll be back on Sunday with the news from the weekend. I was going to hold off on this until Sunday (my usual round-up day), but I've included a couple of deadlines for contests, and wanted to get you that info right away. I wish you all a happy weekend. Me, I'll be watching the Red Sox / Yankees series.

Teen Read Week: October 14 to 20

YALSA's Teen Read Week is coming up in mid-October (14th to 20th). According to the YALSA site (and via a more detailed post by Liz B. at Tea Cozy):Trw_tattoo_2

"Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. It began in 1998 and is celebrated the third week in October."

The theme for this year's Teen Read Week is Laugh Out Loud (LOL) at your Library. Although Teen Read Week won't be celebrated for about a month, the deadline to register for Teen Read Week is September 17th. Why should you register? The YALSA site says:

"YALSA is a non profit organization that depends on its members for support. By registering, you are letting us know that teen literacy is a concern and you are willing to do something about it! By registering, you are telling YALSA that this program is worthwhile, and we will continue to sponsor the week."

You can also find lots of great ideas for celebrating Teen Read Week at the Teen Read Week Wiki. I'd like to join Liz in encouraging kid lit bloggers to register for Teen Read Week, and I'd like to encourage you to blog about books for teens during the week of October 14th to 20th, if that's something that you do).

31_flavorites_logoYALSA is also partnering with readergirlz for the upcoming 31 Flavorites extravaganza. October is going to be a great month for teen reading. You can show your support by registering at the YALSA site, and by visiting the readergirlz group forum. Thanks!

Call for Cybils Panelists

Cybils2007whiteKelly Herold, our tireless and esteemed Cybils Co-Founder and Director, has just posted a call for volunteers for 2007 Cybils panelists. In case you're missed it, the Cybils are the Children's and YA Bloggers Literacy Awards. They take into account both merit and popularity, because we, the Cybils team, believe that there are many books out there that are both well-written and well-loved.

Sound like something you might be interested in? Check out the call for volunteers, where Kelly says:

"Wanted: Nice bloggers who wish to give up any semblance of a personal life to help us select 2007 Cybils winners. We go through two rounds of judging, so we need lots of bodies.

Rules for volunteering are more persnickety than the rest of the contest, since there’s a mountain of books awaiting you and we need to know you're both willing and able.

Your reward -- some free books and global fame."

Click through to the full post for more details, including how to volunteer. I'll be coordinating the Middle Grade and Young Adult Non-Fiction category, and I really hope that some of you who have interest or expertise in non-fiction for kids will participate. Thanks!

P.S. The beautiful logo shown above, and in my right sidebar, was designed by Scott E. Franson. Thanks so much, Scott!