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Posts from October 2007

A Crooked Kind of Perfect: Linda Urban

Book: A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Author: Linda Urban (blog)
Pages: 224
Age Range: 8 to 12

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban is a book about taking joy in the special things about yourself and your family, even if they aren't conventionally perfect. Zoe Elias is in fifth grade. She has a workaholic mother (a state Controller) and a father who has difficulty coping with the world outside of his home. Zoe returns to school after the summer and finds that her best friend has abandoned her for someone cooler, and become consumed by lip gloss, CDs, and trendy clothes. What Zoe wants is to grow up to be a famous pianist, and play at Carnegie Hall. She dreams of elegant black concert pianos and hushed silences. Her reality, however, is somewhat different from her expectations (and involves a flamboyant organ).

There is much to like about this book. The writing is deceptively simple, with short paragraphs, and plenty of white space. At one point there is a chapter that only has one six-word sentence on the page. This is not a book that would intimidate an eight year old. And yet, Linda Urban manages to pack multiple levels of meaning into every sentence. She is a master of show, don't tell, and of presenting fully realized, three-dimensional characters. Her word selection is so perfect that the book almost feels like a verse novel (though it clearly isn't). Here is an example:

The senior center had one piano, and it was not grand. It was an almost-upright. It leaned to one side. I guessed it had been donated by a school because there were initials carved into its legs, and if you lifted the yellow scarf off the top, you could read all about a Mrs. Pushkin who smelled like fish. The bench was bowed from years of supporting senior citizen backsides. (Page 10)

I love: "It was an almost-upright". Here is another example that shows the short, poetic paragraphs:

"When the balcony people first get to Carnegie Hall, they can't see the stage. All they see is a huge velvet curtain with gold fringe and tassels.
The lights dim.
The curtain rises.
And there is a glossy black grand piano.
Nobody says a word.
They don't even breathe.
They wait.
They wait." (Page 150)

That refrain of "They wait. They wait." is repeated several times throughout the book. I think it speaks to Zoe's deeper longing concerning being a concert pianist, someone to whom people give undivided attention, and for whom people are willing to wait. Zoe's mother is a very busy woman.

One last quote:

"Me and Mom shake our heads (when friends leave to go the restroom). We have really strong bladders. It is one thing we have in common." (Page 185).

I like this quote because the author is doing so much in a small space. "Me and Mom" gives you a fifth grade voice, doesn't it? It's not "Mom and I", it's "Me and Mom." As it should be. And then "it is one thing we have in common." When I first read this I read it in my head as "it is the one thing we have in common." Zoe and her Mom are very different, but Zoe is pretty matter-of-fact about it.

Zoe is also matter-of-fact about her father's shortcomings. Zoe's Dad clearly has some sort of clinical mental condition, by which can't handle driving, or being in a room with a lot of people, or seeing bright lights. He doesn't work - he stays home and does unusual home-based courses like "Make Friends and Profit While Scrapbooking". Zoe's activities are restricted because he can't drive her places. She worries about him sometimes, but she accepts his limitations, without being ashamed of him, or angry with him, because he is who he is. And he has his strengths as a father, too, of course.

This is an excellent book to give to a kids in the third to sixth grades. It's a relatively easy read, but with a lot of hidden depth that I think the kids on the middle school end (and higher) will be more able to appreciate. For example, there is a painful scene in which Zoe attends a party where she brings the wrong gift and wears the wrong clothes. This will resonate with any reader who has ever had such an experience. (And who hasn't?)

Although A Crooked Kind of Perfect touches on like liking between boys and girls, Zoe's experience is at the very earliest stage of that, in which there's no question of much more than a jumpy feeling in your stomach. And although the narrator of the story is a girl, I think that boys will enjoy this book, too. A boy named Wheeler is a major character (though we can't directly know what he's thinking), and issues with quirky parents transcend gender. Plus there are several scenes involving burping, which are sure crowd-pleasers.

I think that this is a book that will receive some serious consideration from the Newbery committee. It's beautifully written, but also quirky and funny and full of heart. I think that kids will enjoy the story, and will laugh out loud at the funny parts (Zoe goofing around with her Dad, and the ironic contrast between her dreams and her reality). I also think that kids who are right at that transitional age between childhood and adolescence will be able to see themselves in Zoe and Wheeler, and will find this validating. I couldn't recommend it more highly.

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: September 2007
Source of Book: Bought it at Hicklebee's, when I went for a signing event by the author.
Other Blog Reviews: The National Writing for Children Center, Pinot and Prose, A Fuse #8 Production, The Goddess of YA Literature, Pivotal Kids' Books, Becky's Book Reviews (among others)
Author Interviews: Kelly Fineman

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

Making a Difference Through Blogging About Children's Books

Colleen Mondor has a post today about her desire to make a difference with what she does, in light of big-picture things going on in the world. I started to comment about this at her site, and my thoughts rapidly grew to the point where I needed a separate post for them. This concept of making a difference is why, no matter how busy I get, I still try to at least do the children's literacy and reading advocacy posts on my blog. It's also why I try to read and review books for all age levels, even though it would simplify my own life if I picked an age range, and focused on that. I truly feel that if, in my small way, I can help people to help the kids that they know to love books, I'm helping them to change the world in a tiny but positive way.

This will not, of course, directly lead to world peace or end world hunger. However, every kid who learns to love books will have that more of an opportunity to do well in school, to learn more, and to be more successful in life (in whatever way he or she ends up defining success). And once you have those kids growing up to make a difference, well, there's no end in sight.

It's because I believe this so strongly that I'm able to justify spending the time that I spend on my blog (and trust me, it's a lot of time). Sure, I enjoy the books (I have always loved reading children's and young adult books). I love talking about books with like-minded people - this makes me feel connected and validated. But for me personally, it's the higher calling about helping people to encourage kids to love books that has me prioritizing my blogging time. This is why I stay up until midnight scouring blog posts, and work on my literacy round-ups when I should be making dinner. [And I'm not at all saying that everyone needs to have a higher purpose about it - blogging is fun and rewarding in and of itself. This is just how it is for me.]

Am I fooling myself? Am I creating this higher purpose to justify spending time on something that I want to spend time on anyway (I mean, making dinner has never been a big joy for me)? Maybe sometimes, but I really don't think so overall. I get emotional when I think about kids and reading. When I talk about this with people, I'm passionate about it (to the point of being annoying). I've always, dating back to long before I started my blog, wanted to spend time reading with my friends' children  (I would frequently choose that over adult conversation, even with close friends). I've always bought books for kids, and donated them to organizations that give books to kids. This is my thing. This is what lights me up.

What I think I need to do now is take another look at my blog, and how I can focus my time better to support my goal. [I've been partly inspired by Kelly Herold on this, too]. I would welcome feedback and suggestions from parents and teachers and librarians - the people who interact directly with kids. Because you've the ones who really have an impact. I'm just here, trying to shine a little light on some great books and some worthy literacy and reading efforts. Because, like Colleen said, even if it's a small thing, I think that's something good to do. Thanks for listening.

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

Books Now Available: Total Constant Order

Crissa Jean Chappell's young adult novel Total Constant Order is scheduled for publication today. I reviewed it from ARC back on May 9th, saying:

Total Constant Order is about coming of age, coming to terms with mental disorders, coping with a life-altering medication, and building newer, more adult relationships with parents and step-parents.

It's well worth checking out, especially for anyone (14 and up) who has coped with any sort of mental illness or depression.

Linda Urban, Susan Taylor Brown, and Hicklebee's

Today I attended a two-for-one author event. Linda Urban was signing her book, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, at Hicklebee's. Local author Susan Taylor Brown, blog friend and Kidlitosphere Yahoo group maven, suggested that we meet there. Although Susan and I live pretty near to each other, we'd never had the occasion to meet. (I'm still disappointed that I missed her book launch for Hugging the Rock because of a business trip). 

Anyway, it was a great experience. I got to chat about books with Susan and the lovely Hicklebee's women, and then I got to hear Linda read from her book. Linda is a wonderfully expressive reader - you could practically see the fifth grade character from the book right there squirming in the chair. She also engaged a little girl from the audience in a discussion of the book, and made it look easy. After that we had more discussion, of books and blogging and the history of Hicklebee's. I could scarcely tear myself away.

Now I'm looking forward to reading my new copy of A Crooked Kind of Perfect, and to continued e-discussions with Susan and Linda about blogging and books and the Kidlitosphere. I really need to start attending more events at Hicklebee's, too. It's a magical place, a living and breathing monument to the love of children's books.

Children's Literacy Round-Up:

Here's the recent children's literacy and reading related news from the wires:

  • The Phoenix Public Library Foundation just had a fundraiser that raised $300,000 for children's literacy programs. See details in this Arizona Republic article. "The goal of the foundation is to help provide children and families with education and a sense of community, said Susan Doria, a co-chair for the dinner and a founding member of the foundation. Foundation-sponsored events also include concerts and speakers. "We want children to get familiar with the library in a way that will carry them for the rest of their life," Doria said."
  • Channel 4 News (London) has an extensive article about the ways in which low literacy achievers are being left behind. The article discusses the low literacy rates among incarcerated youths (with quotes from kids), as well as the seven percent of kids leaving school who can't "read and write properly." The article says that part of the problem is an exam that kids take at age 11. Teaching resources may be too focused on drills for the exam, instead of keeping kids excited about learning. The station has started a campaign called Lost for Words to help get more kids reading. The Times Online has a related article about the Richard and Judy Book Club for Kids.
  • Also in the UK, according to the Guardian Observer, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, is calling for families to help change the reading culture, and to read to make reading with children before bed as much a part of family routines as brushing teeth.
  • The Capital Times (Madison, WI) has a feature article by Katie Dean about a doctor who actually "took a break during his medical studies to earn a master's degree in library and information science, with a focus on children's literature." He know uses children's reactions to books as one of the indicators of their overall health (are they curious, do they know how to hold a book at the right age, etc.). Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatric resident, is of course involved with Reach Out and Read, a program that gives books to children during their well-visits up to age five.
  • This week there were children's book festivals in Portsmouth, NH (see a Foster's Daily Democrat article) and Aiken, SC (see an Aiken Standard article). The former had a "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" theme, and the latter a pirate theme.
  • CIGNA just made a $39,000 grant to the Children's Literacy Initiative (CLI) in Hartford, according to Literacy News. "The Blueprint for Early Literacy ® will bring CLI professionals to pre-kindergarten classrooms at ... (two local schools) to train and coach teachers as effective literacy educators. The end goal is to ensure that a growing number of Hartford pre-schoolers have the skills necessary to enter kindergarten."
  • Whoopi Goldberg has teamed up with Scholastic to support children's literacy. According to a press release, "Whoopi Goldberg and Scholastic Book Clubs today announced the launch of the Whoopi! We're Reading! Sweepstakes as part of the Scholastic Book Clubs' ClassroomsCare program. The actor, comedienne, author of Whoopi's Big Book of Manners and producer and host of the syndicated Wake Up with Whoopi! radio program is inviting classrooms from across the country to read 100 books for a chance to win ten 100-book collections for them to donate to the local charity or charities of their choice. One hundred winning classes will be chosen."

Wishing books and reading time to all!

The 2007 Red Sox...

... are in the World Series!!! With Josh Beckett rightly named MVP of the ALCS. We would certainly never have gotten here without him. Jonathan Papelbon rocks, too (both figuratively and literally - he's a crazy man when he celebrates - go here, click the photo gallery for Celebration, and go to the second photo, if you don't believe me).

And how about Dustin Pedroia? Should he be Rookie of the Year, or what?

And Kevin Millar throwing out the first pitch, in his cowboy boots? So fun!

The Patriots are looking pretty good, too... ;-)

It's a fine day to be a New England sports fan.

GO SOX!!!!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: Cool Girls, Anonymous Bloggers, and Dumbledore

I missed out on a lot of the happenings around the Kidlitosphere this week because I was away on a business trip, and just generally had a lot going on for work. However, I did manage to store up a few highlights:

  • Robertssnowimage_2The Robert's Snow Blogging for a Cure event has been a big success in terms of visibility and interesting content. Hopefully that visibility will translate into dollars in the eventual auction. Kudos to Jules & Eisha, and the 65 other bloggers involved, for a job well done. (I'm not participating directly, but I have been trying to help promote the event, and I hope to score a snowflake once the auction begins.) See also this post at Wild Rose Reader about the logistics around which illustrators are included in the blog event.
  • Cybils2007whiteNominations are continuing to trickle in for the Cybils, though the pace has slowed a bit. We will be accepting nominations until November 21st, but would be happy to have your nominations as early as possible, so that we can get started reading the books. In middle grade and YA nonfiction, in particular, I would love to see more nominations. We've also started featuring reviews by our committee members of some of the nominated titles on the Cybils blog.
  • 31_flavorites_logot_2 The Readergirlz 31 Flavorites Event is also moving along swiftly, and has generated a uniformly positive response. Chats that I've seen have included from 200 to 500 posts, with lots of great discussion between authors and readers. Miss Erin has some highlights from the chats.
  • In honor of Teen Read Week, MotherReader shares advice for booktalking to middle schoolers and also offers a list of recommended humorous books for teens, classified by age. Both lists share MotherReader's trademark blend of useful content and entertaining delivery.
  • Cheryl Rainfield links to Angieville's list of Top 10 Kick-A** Heroines of YA Literature, and includes her own suggested adds. These are like the teenaged particularly spunky cool girls from children's literature. Cheryl also has a roundup of book contests for winning teen fiction or picture books.
  • Congratulations to FirstBook for being selected as a signature charity of the Quills Literacy Foundation.
  • Stacy DeKeyser offers a bit of rant against anonymous bloggers (she calls them cowards) at Reading, writing, and chocolate.
  • Emily Beeson at whimsy shares her son's response to a list prepared by the Public Library of Westland, Michigan of 100 books Your Child Should Hear Before Starting School. There are some wonderful titles included.
  • This week the 7-Imps interviewed Jackie Parker, my fellow readergirlz postergirl and Cybils coordinator. Be sure to especially check out Jackie's response to their question about what she would like to hear God say when she arrives at the Pearly Gates. Her childhood picture is also adorable.
  • Monica Edinger points to a Guardian Unlimited article by Imogen Russell Williams about dystopian fiction. Williams shares her reasons for and guilty pleasure in reading dystopian fiction, and discusses several specific titles in detail. Must-read stuff for fans of this sub-genre of fiction.
  • Via Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect (who in turn learned about it from Don Tate), Lee & Low Books have a thought-provoking article about how diversity helps literacy.
  • Amy from Literacy Launchpad is seeking input on striking the right balance between working on literacy skills and making reading fun in the classroom. If you have any thoughts on this, please share them with Amy, because her stated goal is well worth supporting. She says: "I want these kids to LOVE reading and to WANT to read."
  • Good news from Rick Riordan's blog: "the Fox movie studio has bought the rights to make the Lightning Thief feature film. They’ve had it under option for almost three years while they’ve worked on the script (twice) and negotiated with Chris Columbus, who will direct. Now they’ve exercised that option and bought the rights, which means they’re fairly confident the project is going forward."
  • And, ok, you've probably heard this from a million other sources already. But just in case you missed it, J. K. Rowling has announced that Dumbledore is gay. See reactions at Worth the Trip and Wizard's Wireless (and congratulations there to Susan on her hundredth post). Susan is also compiling a roundup of reaction posts to the Dumbledore news, so let her know if you would like to be included. All I can say is that it hadn't occurred to me that he was gay, but it does explain a lot about Dumbledore's motivations in regards to Grindelwald. And I like the idea that these characters are so real to J. K. Rowling that there are other major facts about them that she hasn't had a chance to share with us yet. (Though lots of people strongly disagree with this view, like Gail Gauthier, for example).
  • Susan Taylor Brown has an impressive roundup of Poetry Friday roundups from 2006 and 2007 on her blog. It's amazing how this little idea of Kelly Herold's has grown and become formalized over the months and years.
  • Anne Boles Levy is starting Gross Out Week at Book Buds, featuring "some good ol' fashioned disgusting fun" (like books about bugs) just in time for Halloween.

And now, I'm signing off in honor of game 7 of the ALCS. Go SOX!!!

Robert's Snow Event: Blogging for a Cure: Week 2

RobertssnowimageAs you know if you've been visiting any children's book blogs for the past week, Robert's Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. The snowflakes will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to cancer research. You can view all of the 2007 snowflakes here. Jules and Eisha from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast have found a way for bloggers to help with this effort, by blogging about individual illustrators and their snowflakes. The idea is to drive traffic to the Robert's Snow site so that many snowflakes will be sold, and much money raised to fight cancer. The illustrator profiles have been wonderful so far - diverse and creative and colorful. And there are lots more to go.

Here's the schedule for Week 2, which starts Monday. Because the posts aren't up yet as I write this, I'm linking to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa's post summarizing snowflake-related contests to date over at Paradise Found.

Monday, October 22

Tuesday, October 23

Wednesday, October 24

Thursday, October 25

Friday, October 26

Saturday, October 27

Sunday, October 28

Please take time out to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And, if you're so inclined, think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

Readergirlz 31 Flavorites: Week 4

31flavoritesposterfinalsmalljpegWelcome to week 4 of the readergirlz 31 Flavorites Event, a special event co-sponsored by YALSA, and taking place every day during the month of October. The readergirlz divas will be hosting 31 authors in 31 days. Every evening will feature a live chat with a different young adult author, with all chats this week to be held at 5:00 pm PST/ 8:00 pm EST.

Here's the schedule for Week 4:

October 21st: Sonya Sones
October 22nd: Lisa Yee
October 23rd: Carolyn Mackler
October 24th: E. Lockhart
October 25th: Janet Lee Carey
October 26th: Gaby Triana
October 27th: Lauren Myracle

All chats will take place at the readergirlz forum. You can also download copies of this 31 Flavorites posts in Large PDF, small PDF, and JPG format, and download and print the 31 Flavorites bookmark.

And don't miss tonight's chat, the last of week 3, with the Kidlitosphere's own Mitali Perkins. Mitali is the author of several wonderful titles. She blogs at Mitali's Fire Escape. This chat takes place at 5:00 PM PST / 8:00 PM EST

Have You Seen These Snowflakes?

RobertssnowimageYou really should, because they are amazing. Here are the direct links to the ones profiled so far:

Monday, October 15

Tuesday, October 16

They're all wonderful, and the bloggers involved have done a great job of interviewing and/or profiling each illustrator. Some of them have even been having contests. So far the snowflakes that have particularly caught my eye for potential bidding are Paige Keiser's snowflake, Reflection, featured at Your Neighborhood Librarian and Barbara Lehman's snowflake, Snow Day, featured at The Excelsior File. Reflection is part of Auction 1, which takes place from Monday, November 19th to Friday, November 23rd. Snow Day is part of Auction 3, which takes place from December 3rd to 7th.

If you're looking for a unique holiday gift, these can't be beat. And you'll be helping to fight cancer at the same time. What a win-win opportunity.

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Marc Brown, Ken Follett, Hockey, and Teacher Pay for Performance

Here's the recent children's literacy and reading-related news that particularly caught my eye:

  • According to a recent press release, "Sixty-one percent of low-income families have no books for their children,* widening the gap in reading achievement among children in communities nationwide. To combat children's literacy problems in Hartford, the CIGNA Foundation will make a $39,000 grant to the Children's Literacy Initiative (CLI) for the Blueprint for Early Literacy (R) pilot project... The Blueprint for Early Literacy (R) will bring CLI professionals to pre-kindergarten classrooms at the Kinsella School, 245 Locust St. and the Little Angels School, 75 Zion St. to train and coach teachers as effective literacy educators." "
    * The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998"
  • According to Literacy News, "The Advertising Council and the Library of Congress have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) developed to inspire young people to "explore new worlds" through reading and to promote literacy in all types of learning, including books, periodicals and cartoons."
  • A Telegraph article by Graeme Paton says that child literacy rates in the UK are below government targets, though slightly higher than last year's rates. The gap between children in poor areas and children in wealthier areas has not narrowed, however.
  • The Tampa Bay Business Journal has an article about a program in which lawyers, judges, and law students tutor children at local elementary schools. "The program is dedicated to keeping kids in school and out of the juvenile system by helping third-graders with below-average reading skills prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and pass the third grade." The idea is that children with below-average reading levels are more likely to end up in legal trouble as adults. The lawyers try to help them early on, so that don't get into trouble later.
  • New has an interesting opinion piece about rethinking pay for performance for teachers. It says: "In NSW (Australia), as in the United States, we need to face up to the issues of teacher quality, performance and remuneration. In other professions, those who are more effective or take on more difficult tasks are rewarded. In the teaching profession, the fixed pay system rewards seniority, not performance, and teachers max out their salary by their mid-thirties." A government report in Australia "recommended that steps be taken to improve the remuneration of teachers so as to raise the profession’s entry standard and retention rates by providing incentives."
  • According to Herts 24 (UK), "BEST-selling author Ken Follett is backing a campaign to link sport with increased literacy." The idea is to have children from primary schools in Stevenage the chance to write, and have published, articles about sports. Follett hopes that the program will get students reading and writing.
  • In other books and sports news, according to the Bakersfield Californian, fans who brought new or gently used children's books to a local preseason hockey game could get terrace sets for a dollar. "All books donated at Saturday's game will go to My First Library, a drive organized by The Californian to provide books for hundreds of children who might not otherwise have books of their own."
  • The Chillicothe Gazette (Ohio) has an article about a local program that works to promote literacy in underprivileged children by encouraging their parents to converse with them more. Current efforts of the program will focus on "storytelling and showing parents how to tell stories to their children, and not just ones in books."
  • The Marquette Mining Journal (Michigan) has an article about a visit by author Marc Brown to Northern Michigan University. Brown "credited his three children, now adults, with inspiring most of the plots of his “Arthur” books... Discussing the importance of reading and literacy, Brown noted that one-third of 4- to 6-year-olds spend an hour or more a day at a computer, often playing video games, and that almost 90 million adults in the United States are functionally illiterate. He said he is disturbed by the declining sales of picture books ... (and) that many parents are more interested in pushing their children to read above their grade level than in teaching them to read for the sheer pleasure of reading." He also "cited the flood of “dreadful” celebrity-penned children’s books as another detriment to literacy." I wish I could have been there.

Happy reading to all!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: Picture Books, Chocolate Chip Muffins, and Pond Scum

I'm a bit groggy today, after staying up too late watching the endless (and endlessly disappointing) Red Sox game last night. (Yes, I live on the West Coast, but we had to watch on Tivo-delay, because of a social engagement.) Fortunately, I have all of the wonderful things that people are doing in the Kidlitosphere to console me. Here are some highlights:

  • Gregory K has an interesting discussion going at GottaBook about the apparent decline in commenting on blog posts. This particular post being an exception, with 17 comments as I write. But people are generally in agreement that commenting is down a bit, possibly because we're all spread thin by the ever-increasing number of blogs.
  • And speaking of blogging, Judith Ridge has a thought-provoking piece over at Misrule about The Uses of Blogging. She touches on many points, but the one that particularly struck me was the idea that there are people who will search the Internet, and find one review, and have no broader context with which to tell if it's a high quality review or not. I thought that this was an interesting parallel to Anne Boles Levy's attempts to get all of us to increase the professionalism of our reviews. I also think that Judith's comments are further justification of the need for some sort of portal by which people who aren't accustomed to finding book information on the Internet can get started.
  • For yet another thought-provoking discussion, check out TadMack's balanced thoughts at Finding Wonderland on "the so-called "urban" or "ghetto" literature." According to TadMack, "Author Terry McMillian has written a scathing letter to the head editors at Simon & Schuster, excoriating them for elevating hip-hop, street culture, for being complicit in the exploitation of African American girls and women, and for allowing poorly written, barely edited street trash to be promoted beyond more literary novels." On the flip side are people who say that anything that gets minority teens reading is good. It's an interesting discussion.
  • I also learned via Finding Wonderland, that "Annick Press has begun an ambitious new online program for grades 4 - 8 - middle school and junior high schools students, teachers, librarians and homeschoolers called the "LIVEbrary." The two-year program is funded by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. The first season begins October 15 with a 5-week program on Media Awareness."
  • Congratulations to Betsy Bird (A Fuse #8 Production) for her book contract with ALA. Her book has the working title "KidLit: Finding Old and New Classics in Your Collection." Read the ALA's reaction here, and Betsy's reaction here.
  • Slightly off-topic, though books are mentioned, Adrienne has a cozy fall fitness regimen that seems to be resonating with readers. It involves a fireplace, a couch, a fuzzy blanket, and chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. See more at What Adrienne Thinks About That.
  • Eisha from 7-Imp has a great piece up at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space about depression in Young Adult Fiction. She reviews several recent titles that feature clinically depressed characters.
  • Susan from Wizards Wireless recently asked people to write about their favorite childhood picture books. Several people have responded, and Susan has a round-up of relevant posts. I have to admit that I don't remember in much detail what picture books I loved as a child, though The Digging-est Dog does come to mind for some reason.
  • Editorial Anonymous urges publishers to provide books that will appeal to children, rather than appealing to adults and what the adults remember about childhood. Or course this is tough, since the adults are the ones who buy the books.
  • Becky takes on the question of what makes a book kid-friendly at Farm School, in the context of the Cybils middle grade and young adult nonfiction category. I am so happy to have her (and her three children, in an advisory capacity) on the nominating committee.
  • Fellow Red Sox fan Alan Silberberg is off on a Pond Scum book tour in Texas. What's of broader interest about his post is his note on self-promotion for authors. He suggests (and gives the Texas tour as an example) that reaching out to say a personal thank you to someone who has recommended your book can pay big dividends. Meanwhile, I hope he enjoys his Texas barbecue.
  • Mark from Just One More Book interviews Esme Raji Codell about "her efforts to help educate people about great children’s books, and her thoughts on what children’s books can do to change the world." Esme talks about her long-term goals, which include the de-segregation of schools, in a financial sense. She says, and I'm paraphrasing a little, that 'children's literature is the promise, the best hope of equalizing education in America, because a great book is the same in the hand of a poor child as it is in the hands of a rich child.' But go and listen to the whole thing yourself. It's inspirational.
  • Via the Old Coot, I learned that Werner von Trapp just died at age 91. Werner was the inspiration for Kurt in the movie The Sound of Music, and was a member of the von Trapp Family Singers.
  • Melissa Wiley brought to my attention (via the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group) a very cool home-schooling course of study developed by LaPaz Home Learning: A Term at Hogwarts. Topics include: Herbology; Care and Feeding of Magical Creatures; Potions, Charms and Spells; and Alchemy. It's highly creative, and looks like a lot of fun. Seems to me that programs like this one really highlight the varied opportunities of homeschooling.

And that's all for this week. Which is just as well, because starting tomorrow everyone will be busy reading illustrator profiles for the Robert's Snow Blogging for a Cure Event.