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Posts from November 2007

Friday Afternoon Visits: Book Plates, Book Reviews, and e-Book Readers

I'm going to be a bit busy this weekend, so I decided to bring you some Kidlitosphere news today. I expect to be back with a few more posts on Sunday, but this should give you a bit of reading material to start the weekend.

  • It's John Christopher week at Sam Riddleburger's blog. John Christopher himself even stopped by for a comment and an interview. I learned for one thing that Christopher's real name is Sam Youd. I was also inspired to add some of Youd/Christopher's other books to my "to read" list. His tripods trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire), which I first read in elementary school, remains one of my favorite science fiction series of all time.
  • And speaking of my favorite science fiction series, Susan Beth Pfeffer shares her preliminary notes about the dead & the gone. This is fascinating stuff, but highly spoiler-filled, so consider yourself warned. She's also started a poll looking for reader suggestions for a nickname for the book, since the dead & the gone is a bit of a mouthful. Several people have expressed to me their eagerness to get their hands on this book. I recommend that you start visiting Susan's blog, because I think she's bound to have more ARCs to distribute at some point. And if not, well, it's still an interesting blog to visit. Just beware of spoilers...
  • The IEA PIRLS report, an international study of reading literacy, was released on this week. You can find responses at The Miss Rumphius Effect and at Jess's blog. Quoting Tricia, "You can read the Washington Post article where they share more U.S. statistics. You can also get your own copy of the report in pdf format." The Post reports that "U.S. fourth-graders have lost ground in reading ability compared with kids around the world, according to results of a global reading test."
  • Marc Aronson has announced a contest at Nonfiction Matters. He wants to pick "the best first sentences in nonfiction for younger readers. He asks readers to submit their top 3 sentences, and say why each was suggested.
  • Over at Original Content there's an interesting conversation going on about negative book reviews, book reviews as part of the broader literary conversation, and book reviews as a genre of writing. Much of the discussion is in the comments, so be sure to read those. I don't have anything to add at this point, but I'm reading closely.
  • Anne Boles Levy takes on "Value" added books at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space blog. She starts: "You know the kind. They’re from publishers gone astray, who’ve led kidlit authors down the garden path of gimmickry. These books are more tease than text, with doodads pouring out of their shrink wrapping like muffin tops over low-rise jeans", and then she really gets into what she thinks.
  • Reading Rockets suggests gift ideas for teachers. And speaking of gift ideas, Susan writes about My Home Library at Chicken Spaghetti. My Home Library is a site where you can download and print bookplates designed by well-known children's book illustrators. Susan repeats a suggestion from Anne Fine, that kids use the bookplates to jazz up thrift shop books, and give them as inexpensive yet thoughtful gifts.
  • Tamara Fisher, a K-12 gifted education specialist for a school district located on an Indian reservation in northwestern Montana, presents A Gifted Child's Bill of Rights at Unwrapping the Gifted (a Teacher Magazine blog).
  • Adrienne talks about How to Ditch Your Summer Reading Program and Find Something More Fulfilling at What Adrienne Thinks about That. She describes the low-key summer reading program that she ran at her library this summer, and her general, and potentially unpopular, thoughts on incentive programs.
  • Cybils-nominated author Laurie Halse Anderson shares How Not to Write to an Author, giving an example of a poorly written (think text messaging syntax) message in which a student asked her for help (despite a clearly stated policy of not doing people's homework for them). Laurie's post generated a flood of comments. Her response to the student is here.
  • I wrote recently about Amazon's Kindle reader. Alvina, a children's book editor, reviews the Sony Reader at Blue Rose Girls, and discusses the environmental implications of using electronic book readers for reviewing manuscripts (a lot less paper). She concludes "I don't know if the Reader will replace actual books for me, at least not for a while, but as for manuscript submissions? I'm ready to get rid of them immediately. The hard copies, I mean. ;)."
  • I found a plethora of interesting links at MotherReader's November Carnival of Children's Literature. I especially enjoyed Becky's post about giving the gift of books at Young Readers, and the Books Together blog's post about making simple books as a way to encourage kids to enjoy reading. I know a certain almost eight-year-old who makes amazing books, so the latter post especially caught my eye.
  • Kim Kotecki writes about choosing a second childhood at Escape Adulthood, in a post eloquently inspired by our own TadMack from Finding Wonderland. The general idea is that if you didn't have the childhood that you wanted, perhaps it's not too late to try again to build a carefree and fun life. Something I'm trying to work towards...
  • For those of you who just can't get enough NCTE coverage, the NCTE website has helpfully provided a list of blog posts about the conference. There appear to be several dozen (but I didn't take time to count).
  • Fuse #8 announces the Christmas edition of the New York KitLit Drink Night. Participants are asked to bring children's books in new condition for donation to the Children's Aid Society of New York. Betsy Bird and Cheryl Klein will take care of the details. Isn't that a great idea? I wish I could attend but a) I live in California and b) I already donated all of the "new condition" books that I could bear to part with to the San Jose Mercury News Gift of Reading program.

And that should tide you over for a few days, I would think. More soon. Happy Friday!

November 2007 Reading List

This is a list of all of the books that I read in November, all children's and young adult books this month. It's not as high a number as I would like (I always want to have more time to read). However, I did do a pretty good job of reviewing the books that I read, with one planned review still pending. I find that for me, the key is to sit down and write the review immediately, if at all possible. And for those keeping score, I'm at 198 books for the year so far, which makes my goal of 200 pretty well within reach. I think that for 2008 I'm going to break out the picture books separately, and go for 200 not including the picture books. But that might be a bit aggressive...

Children's and Young Adult Books

  1. Rose Kent: Kimchi & Calamari. HarperCollins. Completed November 1, 2007. My review.
  2. Gemma Malley: The Declaration. Bloomsbury USA. Completed November 3, 2007. My review.
  3. Sara Zarr: Story of a Girl. Little, Brown. Completed November 4, 2007. My review.
  4. Ellen Potter (ill. Peter H. Reynolds): Olivia Kidney. Penguin. Completed November 6, 2007. My review.
  5. Sara Pennypacker (ill. Marla Frazee): Clementine. Hyperion. Completed November 7, 2007. My review.
  6. Rachel Vail (ill. Matthew Cordell): Righty and Lefty: A Tale of Two Feet. Scholastic. Completed November 10, 2007. My review.
  7. Janet Halfmann (ill. Laurie Allen Klein): Little Skink's Tale. Sylvan Dell. Completed November 10, 2007. My review.
  8. S. A. Harazin: Blood Brothers. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Completed November 11, 2007. My review.
  9. Mitali Perkins: Rickshaw Girl. Charlesbridge. Completed November 11, 2007. My review.
  10. Frank Asch: Gravity Buster: Journal #2 of a Cardboard Genius. Kids Can Press. Completed November 11, 2007. My review.
  11. Susan Beth Pfeffer: The Dead & the Gone. Harcourt. Completed November 17, 2007. My review.
  12. Maryrose Wood: My Life: The Musical. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Completed November 18, 2007.
  13. J. M. Steele: The Market. Hyperion. Completed November 18, 2007. My review.
  14. Jenny Nimmo: Charlie Bone and the Beast (Children of the Red King, Book 6). Orchard Books. Completed November 27, 2007.
  15. Sara Pennypacker (ill. Marla Frazee): The Talented Clementine. Hyperion. Completed November 27, 2007. My review.
  16. Angie Sage: Physik (Septimus Heap, Book 3). Katherine Tegan Books. Completed November 29, 2007, on MP3.

Happy reading to all!

PBS Parents Expert Q&A and Me!

I'm pleased to report that in January I'll be the guest expert at the PBS Parents Expert Q&A site. I'll be talking about "kids' books, past and present, and how to get kids reading by making wise book choices." The way the program works is that I'll put up an initial blog post, and then I'll respond to questions in the comments throughout the month. I hope that some of you will stop by. I'll mention it again here when my stint begins. Other recent Expert Q&As have included:

Pretty cool, I think. I'm looking forward to it. You can read more about the PBS Parents Expert Q&A program here. More soon...

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

The Talented Clementine: Sara Pennypacker

Book: The Talented Clementine
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Pages: 137
Age Range: 7-10

the talented clementine Have I mentioned that I adore Clementine? It's true. I've heard it said that the second book in the Clementine series, The Talented Clementine, is better than the first. I'm not sure I agree that it's better, but I do think that it's just about as good. And since I loved the first book, this is quite an endorsement in and of itself.

In The Talented Clementine, the third and fourth grade classes at Clementine's school are asked to put on a talent show to raise money for the school trip. Clementine, sadly, realizes that she doesn't have any on-stage sorts of talents. She doesn't sing or dance or do cartwheels. She has talents, but they are less conventional talent show material. She runs around trying to get out of the talent show, and when that doesn't work, she tries to drum up some sort of performance ability at the last minute. Eventually, Clementine finds her own special talent, and learns to feel good about herself.

What makes The Talented Clementine a winner, as with the original Clementine, is Clementine's voice. Clementine is matter-of-fact, funny, stubborn, bossy, and insecure. She feels like a third grader. She thinks it will be helpful to take bottle caps off the beer bottles a week before the condo association meeting. She makes preemptive visits to the principal's office. She sometimes makes an elaborate pretense of washing her hands, completely with artificially moistened towel. She calls her little brother by vegetable names (because those are the only names worse than her own fruit name). She is, in short, a joy. Here are a couple of examples:

"And that's when the worried feeling--as if somebody were scribbling with a big black crayon--started up in my brains." (Page 3)

"I walked down the hall, which was very hard because my new sneakers wanted to run, and I knocked on Mrs. Rice's door." (Page 82)

"I gave Mitchell a "See? I'm cheered up already!" smile. But it was just my mouth pretending." (Page 11)

I love that. "Just my mouth pretending." That's a universal feeling. Here's more:

"We live in Boston, and Mitchell is obsessed with the Red Sox. He's going to be one when he's older. If I ever get married, which I will not, I would like to marry a Red Sox player, but not Mitchell, because he's not my boyfriend. Then you could get all those hot dogs for free in the ballpark." (Page 29)

I admit to particularly enjoying the Red Sox references in this series. But what I like about this passage is "which I will not" and "because he's not my boyfriend". (I read both of those in my head with emphasis on "not"). I swear that I could have read that middle sentence in isolation, before reading the book, and I would have know that it was Clementine. That is a successful voice.

If you enjoyed Clementine, I guarantee that you'll like The Talented Clementine, too. And if you haven't read Clementine, all I have to say is: what are you waiting for? I highly recommend this series for seven to ten year olds, especially girls, but I think that adults will enjoy it, too. Marla Frazee's black and white illustrations add tremendously to the fun, and to the reader's understanding of Clementine.

As I said in my review of the first book, "I think that Clementine has what it takes to become a future classic children's book character, right up there with her ancestors: Pippi, Anne, Ramona, and the rest." Don't miss your chance to fall in love with The Talented Clementine.

Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: March 2007
Source of Book: Bought a signed copy at NCTE
Other Blog Reviews: Semicolon, Becky's Book Reviews, 2nd Gen Librarian, Read, Read, Read, Books & Other Thoughts, and Emily Reads. For a dissenting opinion on Clementine's specialness, see Original Content, where Gail calls Clementine "Junie B. Jones with good grammar."
Author Interview: School Library Journal
Illustrator Interviews: cynsations and Just One More Book!

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

A Carnival!

The November Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at MotherReader. And it is amazing! MotherReader asked people to send her links to posts containing tips about reading, writing, blogging, etc. She's categorized the resulting entries according to the audience for each tip, and added her own trademark MotherReader wit. The result is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in children's literature, whether from the perspective of blogger/reviewer, writer, parent, teacher, librarian, or reader. Don't miss it! But make sure you have some time available before you click through, because you won't be able to tear yourself away.

The Market: J. M. Steele

Book: The Market
Author: J. M. Steele
Pages: 336
Age Range: 12 and up

The Market by J. M. Steele (a pseudonym for two New York entertainment industry professionals) is a young adult fiction title due out in April of 2008. It's about Kate Winthrop, who discovers late during her senior year that some people from her class have an underground "market" on the web. They rank the girls from the class, and bid on them like stocks. Shocked by the whole enterprise, Kate is particularly horrified to learn that, out of 140 girls in the class, she ranks 71st. Her best friend Dev, however, pulls her out of a morass of mortification by convincing her that the situation is an opportunity. They, with the reluctant assistance of a third friend, Callie, decide to take on the market. The plan is to buy in (an investment costs $500), and then win the $25,000 year-end pool by dramatically raising Kate's market value. In the process of her six-week makeover, Kate encounters ethical dilemmas, conflicts with Dev and Callie, and romantic entanglements with two best friends, Will and Jack.

In many ways, this is your standard makeover/quest for popularity novel. The authors know this. They poke fun at themselves by having Kate watch movies like Can't Buy Me Love and Sixteen Candles. They have Callie predicting the inevitable problems, as a voice for the experienced reader. They poke fun further by having Kate's mother be even more popularity-obsessed than she is, in a parallel quest to be accepted at a snooty local country club. (Just in case the reader might not see the parallel on her own, the gatekeeper of the club is the mother of the number one most popular girl in the high school market.)

What makes the book work, for me (in addition to my admitted fondness for this genre), is that many of Kate's internal musings are things I have thought about myself, almost word for word. I've mentioned in other reviews the fact that I think that high school makeover/popularity novels speak to some near-universal longing. To be more cool. To be more popular. To get a do-over. My family once contemplated moving to Arizona, because a doctor said that it would be good for my lung problems. I used to fantasize not about being in Arizona, but about going back to Massachusetts, tanned and fit and mysterious from my time away. The authors behind J. M. Steele - they get that. 100%. Here are some examples:

"So how does a girl busy herself for an hour when she has no one to talk to at a party? Well...

She makes no less than three trips to the bathroom, where she leans against the sink and waits until someone knocks.

She studies the tomes on the bookshelves with an intensity bordering on religious.

She keeps moving and makes at least three "laps" around the house, wearing a perplexed expression that suggests she's searching for someone specific who just has to be in the next room." (Chapter 1)

Come on. Admit it. You've done at least some of those things. Probably recently. I still do some of those things at business functions.

"How many people were judging me on a daily basis--breaking down what I was wearing, who I was talking to, how I was behaving? It didn't matter really. There was no escaping it. Maybe once I got to Brown I could change into someone different, someone cool, someone sought after, someone different. Perhaps once I got to a place where my history as a social nonentity wasn't so well-documented, I could shed my old skin, but until then, it was imply better to lay low. (Chapter 6)

Again, admit it. Weren't you excited about starting over in college? Last example:

"The Latebloomer friend: it's a phenomenon that often occurs late in senior year when silly social guards are dropped and a friendship that had been heretofore impossible to imagine blooms in the spring sun... Had the euphoria of actually earning our degrees exploded all the imaginary social barriers we had placed between ourselves and our fellow classmates?" (Chapter 30)

I know that I've experienced that phenomenon, both in high school and again in college. There are other quotes that also hit home for me, but I'm not including them here because they reveal a bit too much information.

So what else made this book stand out for me? Having two boys involved instead of one kept me guessing (though Kate is admittedly slow to catch on to something important). I'm happy that the book has no secret crush on a best friend. The whole stock market thing is horrifying, but it's also an interesting device, codifying rankings that are already, invisibly in place in most high schools. It's even very mildly educational. I like that Kate works in a bookstore, and is friends with the much-older owner of the store. The Market is matter-of-fact about certain realities of high school life (misleading one's parents about social activities, and the presence of beer at parties, for instance), without glorifying those aspects.

All in all, I quite enjoyed The Market. I recommend it for teens, especially those approaching senior year, for adults who are still looking for that "do-over", and for anyone who enjoys teen movies about makeovers.

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Publication Date: April 2008
Source of Book: Uncorrected galley received at NCTE. Note that quotes are from the galley, and may not be exactly reflected in the final printed book.
About the author: According to the publisher website, "J.M. Steele is the pseudonym for two New York entertainment industry professionals, neither of whom aced the SAT’s. They are at work on their next book The Late Bloomer. Both authors live in New Jersey."

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

Fifth Issue of the Growing Bookworms Email Newsletter

Jpg_book007Tonight I will be sending out the fifth issue of my Growing Bookworms weekly email newsletter. If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here (just remember that you have to click the link in the confirmation email from FeedBlitz in order to activate your subscription). The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's books and raising readers. This week's issue contains reviews of four books (one picture book, two early middle grade, and one YA), my weekly round-up of literacy news, and a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the week. I also have an article with ten tips for growing bookworms. Be sure to click through to read the comments on that one, because there are some other excellent suggestions there. See also this post at The Miss Rumphius Effect on the same topic.

Posts from my blog this week not in the newsletter include:

The Growing Bookworms newsletter will continue to contain a subset of content already included on my blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, for readers who may not choose to visit the blog every day. It is also my hope that parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and other adult fans of children's books, people who may not visit blogs regularly at all, will learn about and subscribe to the newsletter. If you could pass it along to any friends or colleagues who you think would be interested, I would be very grateful.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

Final List of 2007 Cybils MG/YA Nonfiction Nominations

Cybils2007white2007 Cybils nominations are now closed. In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the list of nominated titles for the middle grade and young adult nonfiction category.

1607: A New Look at Jamestown
written by Karen Lange
National Geographic
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Across the Wide Ocean
written by Karen Romano Young
Harper Collins (Greenwillow)
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60's
written by Laban Hill
Little, Brown
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Bad
written by Mark Gonyea
Henry Holt and Co.
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art
written by Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Astrobiology (Cool Science)
written by Fred Bortz
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Black and White Airmen: Their True History
written by John Fleischman
Houghton Mifflin
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Dangerous Book for Boys, The
written by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Daring Book for Girls, The
written by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered!: Unscrambling the Clues
written by Lowell Dingus (and others)
Twenty-First Century Books
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Face to Face with Grizzlies
written by Joel Satore
National Georgraphic
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

From Slave to Superstar of the Wild West: The Awesome Story of Jim Beckwourth
written by Tom DeMund
Legends of the West Publishing
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Grief Girl
written by Erin Vincent
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Halloween Book of Facts and Fun, The
written by Wendie Old
Albert Whitman
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer
written by Gretchen Woelfle
Calkins Creek (Boyd Mills
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Let's Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking
written by Deanna Staffo
Lobster Press
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Marie Curie: Giants of Science #4
written by Kathleen Krull
Viking Juvenile
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
written by Danica McKellar
Hudson Street Press
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog
written by Becky Hall
Albert Whitman & Company
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism
written by Ann Bausum
National Geographic Children's Books
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

My Feet Aren't Ugly
written by Debra Beck
Beaufort Books
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Ox, House, Stick: The Story of Our Alphabet
written by Don Robb
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Periodic Table: Elements With Style!, The
written by Adrian Dingle
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials
written by Sneed B. Collard
Darby Creek Publishers
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Real Benedict Arnold, The
written by Jim Murphy
Clarion (Houghton Mifflin)
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Red: The Next Generation of American Writers--Teenage Girls--On What Fires Up Their Lives Today
written by Amy Goldwasser
Hudson Street Press
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story
written by Peter Lane Taylor
Kar-Ben Publishing
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

written by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

written by Alexandra Siy
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Robert E. Peary's Daring Daughter, The
written by Katherine Kirkpatrick
Holiday House
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Social Climber's Guide to High School, The
written by Robyn Schneider
Simon Pulse
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Superfood or Superthreat: The Issue of Genetically Engineered Food
written by Kathlyn Gay
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood
written by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Titanic: An Interactive History Adventure, The
written by Bob Temple
Capstone Press
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Tracking Trash
written by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Ultimate Interactive Atlas of the World
written by Elaine Jackson (and others)
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, The
written by Peter Sis
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin
written by Larry Dane Brimmer
Calkins Creek (Boyd Mills
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Whale Scientists: Solving the Mystery of Whale Strandings, The
written by Fran Hodgkins
Houghton Mifflin
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

What's Eating You?: Parasites--The Inside Story
written by Nicola Davies
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Who Was First
written by Russell Freedman
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Wildly Romantic: The English Romantic Poets: The Mad, the Bad, and the Dangerous
written by Catherine M. Andronik
Henry Holt
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World, The
written by Marc Aronson
National Geographic
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles, Beatlemania
written by Bob Spitz
Little, Brown Young Readers
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

You Can Write a Story
written by Lisa Bullard
Two-Can Publishing, Inc.
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Here are links to the nomination lists in the other seven categories:

If you have a blog, please think about installing the Cybils widget from JacketFlap, with which you can display a new Cybils-nominated title every time your blog is refreshed. You can also customize colors and genres. Special thanks to Tracy Grand for providing this lovely widget free of charge for the Cybils.

Please note that if you purchase any of the Cybils titles by clicking through to Amazon or BookSense from any of the nominations posts (including this one) or from the Cybils widget a small commission will go to the Cybils organization. Proceeds will go towards purchasing prizes for the winners. Thanks for supporting the Cybils.

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Library Cards, Book Exchanges, and Young Readers

Here is the recent children's literacy and reading related news that caught my eye. We begin with two grass roots programs that help with literacy in other countries, take a quick swing over to look at reading in the UK, and then move closer to home.

  • The Sherman Denison Herald Democrat (Texas) has an article about a local Rotary project called the Guatemalan Literacy Program. The GLP "is designed to be a self-sustaining and long-term program to break the cycle of poverty through education. GLP provides textbooks to middle school students, and later puts computer labs in their schools." According to the article, "the majority of students able to take advantage of the literacy project are Mayans living in the Western Highlands of Guatemala", especially girls who are not able to attend school at all.
  • Elizabeth Hochstedler has a feature story in the Chippewa Herald (Wisconsin) about three women from a local family who are starting a literacy non-profit to bring textbooks to students in Nicaragua. According to the article, the "non-profit organization that will be called From Books to Brilliance, with St. Anthony’s Alliance as their financial backer. Maggie (Covill, co-founder) said the non-profit is “dedicated to opening and supporting and maintaining libraries in impoverished countries.” The women will start by supplying books to places in Central America."
  • A BBC News article references Professor Lilian Katz as saying that "Children are too young to learn to read when they first start school in the UK ... (and that pushing) pupils too hard could put them off for life, especially boys". See also the Guardian article on this topic. Both articles mention Sweden, where children do not start formal instruction until they are six or seven. This topic is particularly timely in the UK, where there has been recent pressure to start teaching kids to read before age five.
  • The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier (Iowa) has a feature article by Andrew Wind about a local Family Literacy Program at  Hawkeye Community College. Examples are given of parents who "learned about the important role parents play in a young child's developing literacy skills... Participants have monthly parent meetings to talk about getting their children interested in reading, to review parenting issues and to exchange career resources."
  • Terry Murry writes in the East Oregonian about local children's book week programs. I liked this quote: ""It doesn't matter what they read," McKay School Library assistant Tammy McCullough once said to an interested mother. "They can read cereal boxes. The important thing is they read."" The article discusses the importance of reading aloud to children, and has concrete suggestions for making reading a family ritual.
  • The El Paso Times has an article by Diana Washington Valdez about a local author and musician, Willy Welch, who works to increase children's literacy. The article also quotes "Martha Toscano, literacy coordinator for the El Paso Main Library Literacy Center, (who) said special events at libraries help to make reading appealing to children and adults." She describes one program that involves getting parents to sign up their babies for library cards. The babies get a free t-shirt. "This is meant to show that it's never too early to start reading to a young child, and make it a pleasurable family event."
  • Courier-Life Publications writes about a New York literacy program, The Puppetry Arts Theatre’s (TPAT) Annual Reading Exchange Event. Kids from different neighborhoods get to meet and talk to each other. According to the article, "kids are asked to bring a new copy of a favorite book to the movie theatre to exchange with another student. Inside the book cover, kids are asked to write their name, age, and why they liked the book so much." I like that idea. Kids sharing books, and why they liked them, with other kids from their community.
  • The Elmira Star-Gazette has an article about children's magazine gift subscriptions to give to kids for the holidays. The article recommends some titles, but also suggests that givers contact local librarians, with a list of the child's interests in hand.
  • The American Library Association President, Loriene Roy, has issued a statement regarding the NEA's recent report on American reading levels. According to a news release, the ALA is "is more than happy to take up this cause" (of raising interest in reading). Roy suggests that "An excellent first step is making sure that our libraries are well-funded and staffed by qualified professionals who have a passion for making everyone-child, teen or adult-into a lifelong reader." [This is similar to what Colleen Mondor said on her blog the other day. See also this post of Colleen's about the NEA report. And, for a more "live and let live" perspective, see this post at Educating Alice.]
  • The folks at First Book are kicking off their holiday campaign to raise money for giving kids new books. When you check out at Borders or WaldenBooks, you can make a donation to First Book at the register. Donations will be converted to Borders gift cards and distributed to local organizations to buy new books.
  • And, closest to home of all for me, today's San Jose Mercury News profiles a woman named Jean Witucki. "Grandma Jean" reads aloud to a local preschool class, many of whom are Latino with non-English-speaking parents, every week. She says: "If I had to pay someone so I could keep reading to these kids, I would".

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!

The Second Robert's Snow Auction Starts Today!

Robertssnowimage_2Auction 2 will begin accepting bids today at 9:00 a.m. EST with a starting bid of $100 for each snowflake. All bids must be before the close of Auction 2 on Friday, Nov. 30 at 5:00 pm. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Many thanks to Tricia from The Miss Rumphius Effect for preparing and sharing the text and links of this post.

Sunday Afternoon Visits: Cybils Widget, Fibs, and Lookybook

Cybils2007whiteI hope that those of you from the US had a nice Thanksgiving weekend. It was a bit quiet on the blogs this weekend, because of the holiday, but I do have a few things to share with you:

  • Cybils nominations are now closed. There are roughly 17% more nominated titles, across all categories, than last year. You can find all of the lists of nominated titles at the Cybils blog. You can also download a very cool widget from JacketFlap that displays a new nominated title every time you refresh your page (see my left-hand sidebar for an example). It's very cool. You can even customize the background and text colors, and choose to only display titles from one category, if you like. 
  • Gregory K. has a great tip posted at GottaBook, for the upcoming Carnival of Children's Literature at MotherReader. Greg says "_________ what you love", where you fill in the blank as appropriate for you. Read, review, write, etc. I find it simple but profound, and an excellent guide for focusing activities. And if you haven't submitted a tip-based post to the carnival, you may still have time. The deadline has been extended to Tuesday, November 27th by 9:00 a.m. EST. The carnival will be posted Wednesday (or so).
  • And speaking of Gregory K., Deborah Haar Clark has a feature article at the Poetry Foundation about fibs (the Fibonacci-based poetry form invented by Greg last year). If you've missed learning about fibs up to this point, the article is a perfect introduction. And if you're already a fan, you're bound to enjoy it, too.
  • Jess has a post, quoting Diane Penrod, about ways in which blogging helps students "develop digital literacy (and *normal* literacy) skills". I found especially interesting Diane's comment that "Boys really respond to blogging", though Jess tends to disagree with this "gendering of blogging."
  • Ann Crewdson has a nice post at the ALSC blog about her thankfulness to be a children's librarian. She quotes a poem about success, noting that children's librarians are successful because they "win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children". Yay, librarians!
  • Colleen has some further thoughts on the NEA study about American reading at Chasing Ray. Her take is that if it's true that reading is on the decline, as appears to be the case, what's needed is concrete action to do something about it. Colleen's solution is: "LIBRARIES!!!!! Upgrade the damn libraries in every poverty stricken public school in this country. Upgrade them in every rural community, in every city combating urban violence, on every Indian reservation, on every small dot on the map that is struggling to hold on." As you can see, she feels strongly. This question of what to do about the situation is also addressed in several comments on this post at Shaken and Stirred.
  • ParentDish has a suggested top 10 books for a new baby's starter library. They are all pretty well-known titles, because the author, Nadine Silverthorne, is going for books that have stood the test of time. Thanks to Mindy at for the link.
  • Anastasia Suen (Create/Relate and Picture Book of the Day) is giving away 12 books in 12 days as an early start to the Christmas holidays. She's starting on Monday, November 26th. You can find the complete list, and instructions for entering, here.
  • Also in celebration of the holiday shopping season, see Becky's gift guides for fans of particular books at Becky's Book Reviews. She focuses on Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, the Little House books, Peter Pan, Narnia, Beatrix Potter, Pooh, Anne of Green Gables, Mother Goose, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and has brief links for other classics.
  • The Reading Zone has a post about how teachers do and don't find time for reading and writing, and the author's own experience in talking about personal reading, and sometimes abandoning of, books. My favorite part is this: "Sometimes, when I abandon a book I think it serves as a better advertisement than my book talks! Certain students flock to my abandoned books list because they know they enjoy books I usually dislike." Too funny!
  • Professor Nana has posted slides from a variety of last week's NCTE sessions on her blog (scroll down to find them, they are in various posts), including several sessions about engaging reluctant adolescent readers.
  • Don't miss this post, and comments, at Finding Wonderland about race and ethnicity and books. There is quite the civilized discussion going on around this sometimes difficult topic.
  • I read in Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf about a new website called Lookybook. On this site you can preview entire picture books, flipping from page to page. You can also review, rate, share, put on your online bookshelf, or purchase the books. The site owners say "We'll never replace an actual book in your hands, but we hope to show you new books and help you make informed choices for you and your kids." There are currently about 200 books available on the "preview site", with more to come. Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for reminding me to post about this.

And that's it for this week. Happy reading to all!

Rickshaw Girl: Mitali Perkins

Book: Rickshaw Girl
Author: Mitali Perkins (blog)
Illustrator: Jamie Hogan
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7-10

Rickshaw GirlRickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins is about a young girl growing up in a small village in Bangladesh, wanting to help support her struggling family in a culture where only boys are expected to earn money. Although Rickshaw Girl is fiction, the background about Bangladeshi culture, gender roles, and economic opportunities is real, and draws on the author's own experience living in Bangladesh.

Ten-year-old Naima is an artistic child with a sparkling imagination. She loves to paint alpanas, traditional patterned drawings made with rice paint, and used to decorate homes for special occasions. She loves her parents, and wants to perform her many household chores well to please them. She's a fierce protector of her younger sister.

But Naima struggles with the expectations that her society and her family's poverty place upon her. She wishes passionately that she could have continued in school, which she stopped so that her younger sister could have a turn instead. She wants to spend time with her best friend, a boy named Saleem, but this is not considered "proper" now that she's growing up. She'll soon have to stop wearing the relatively comfortable salwar kameez, with its loose, pajama-like trousers, and start wearing the more confining saree that adult women wear ("They look pretty, but I feel as if I'm wearing a big bandage"). But the thing that really bothers her is that because she is a girl, she can't contribute financially. Instead, she has to watch her overworked rickshaw-driver father and listen to her mother's quiet lamentations on the family not having any boys.

When an attempt to drive the rickshaw herself leads to disaster, Naima's guilt knows no bounds. It's only when she finds a way to use her own strengths to contribute to her family's success that her situation improves. And being herself, a girl, even turns out to be an asset. In less than 100 slim pages, Mitali Perkins take Naima from this:

"If only I HAD been born a boy, she thought. Then I could earn some money. Even a little would help!" (Page 21)

to this:

"It's a good thing I turned out out to be a girl. The words chimed like sitar music in Naima's mind." (Page 77)

In summary, this book:

  • Shows kids what the Bangladeshi culture is like, complete with a handy glossary at the end.
  • Teaches children and adults about the beauty of alpanas, complete with authentic illustrations by Jamie Hogan. At the book signing that I attended, Mitali's mother gave a real-world demonstration of alpana painting. I think that the alpanas are a symbol, too. Alpana painters are restricted to certain patterned responses. However, by staying within and leveraging these patterns, artists can find scope for creativity and beauty. Just as Naima found a way to make a difference, while still being valued as a girl.
  • Shows American girls an appreciation for their relative freedom, compared to girls from developing countries.
  • Teaches kids, with a very light touch (most details are in an Author's Note at the end), about new microlending programs that give women in developing countries previously unheard of economic opportunities.
  • Celebrates a father's love for and appreciation of his daughters, even in a culture where sons are considered more valuable. Mitali said in her book signing that this aspect of the book is based on her own father, who values his three daughters.

Despite these many lessons, Rickshaw Girl doesn't feel message-y. The feel good ending is a tiny bit tidy, but pleasing nevertheless, and containing an unexpected twist. But what makes the book one to return to is that Naima is a three-dimensional character, with strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities. Jamie Hogan's richly textured black and white illustrations make Naima, and her art, even more real (I especially like the illustration in which she sticks out her tongue at Saleem behind his back). The pictures also keep the book accessible for younger readers. Recommended for boys and girls, but especially girls, age seven to ten.

Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication Date: January 2007
Source of Book: Bought it at an author signing
Other Blog Reviews: A Patchwork of Books, Kate Messner, My Breakfast Platter, Semicolon, Fuse #8, MotherReader, Tea Cozy, Literary Safari, The Edge of the Forest
Author Interviews: HipWriterMama, Big A little a
See also: My review of Monsoon Summer, my review of First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, my interview with Sparrow, and Kirby Larson's anointment of Mitali as a Hot Woman of Children's Literature

Also, please see Mitali's post about the recent cyclone in Bangladesh, with a link to a way you can help if you're interested.

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