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Posts from December 2007

Some Favorite Reads of 2007

Colleen Mondor was kind enough to include me in her series of Recommended Reads of 2007 from Bookish Folks. She has a post up today listing some of my top picks from this year, for various age ranges. This list is far from comprehensive -- I enjoyed lots of other titles, too -- but these were a few that stood out. You can find reviews for most of the books that I recommended here, and a list of all of the books that I read in 2007 here. So, if you're interested in knowing a few of my top picks, head on over to Colleen's to see the list, plus Colleen's commentary. Happy reading!

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

Betsy Ross's Star: Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon

Book: Blast to the Past: Betsy Ross's Star
Author: Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon
Pages: 80
Age Range: 7-10

Betsy Ross's StarBetsy Ross's Star is the 8th title in Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon's Blast to the Past series. I previously reviewed Book 6: Ben Franklin's Fame. This series is about a group of four third graders who participate in an after school "History Club", organized by their teacher, Mr. C. Theirs is no ordinary history club, however. Mr. C. has a time machine, and every week he sends the kids on a different adventure. Their job is to chase after a woman named Babs Magee, who, using her own time machine, is out to steal a place in the history books from someone more deserving. The kids have to to stop Babs, and ensure that history stays the way it's supposed to. This is a fun, non-didactic way for early readers to get a dose of history. Says narrator Abigail:

"History Club is way better than art projects. Better than mini golf. Even better than eating pizza with sausage and extra cheese." (Page 1)

In Betsy Ross's Star the situation is a bit more murky than usual. Babs is out to take credit from Betsy Ross for sewing the first American flag. The trouble is, one of the four kids (Bo) has done his own research on Betsy Ross. Bo is convinced (as is apparently the case) that "There is NO proof that Betsy Ross sewed the first flag." Being a boy who deals in facts (he wears a t-shirt that bears the Joseph Addison quote: "Reading is the mind what exercise is the body"), Bo finds this quite bothersome.

As a result, the goals of the History Club are, for the first time, split. While some of the kids (Zach especially) want to go back and ensure Betsy Ross's place in history, Bo's goal is to find "the truth", even if he has to change history to do it. With their interests divided, the team has a much harder time than usual accomplishing their task. But they, especially Bo, do learn something unexpected.

Betsy Ross's Star is about much more than the facts surrounding the creation of the first American flag (though those are interesting, and include things I never knew). This book is about the power of teamwork, and about the difference between  proven facts and things that we are willing to accept as part of our history. Pretty big lessons to find in an entertaining, illustrated chapter book aimed at second and third graders. There's a reason why this series won a Teacher's Choice Award from Learning Magazine, and in this 8th title Deutsch and Cohon show that they are not resting on their laurels. I recommend this series for new readers, especially kids who are interested in facts.

Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: May 2007
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Little Acorn's Treehouse (more of a classroom read-aloud discussion than a review)

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

Wednesday Afternoon Visits: December 19

I'm going to be with my family on Sunday afternoon this week, but I find myself with a bit of free time today, so I thought that I would share a few items with you. For some reason, many of today's posts are by and/or about authors.

  • Everlost I don't usually link to book reviews in my round-up posts, but Gail Gauthier just reviewed a book that I read on a plane the other night: Everlost by Neal Shusterman. I'm taking a tiny bit of a break from writing reviews this week (though I have some older ones stored up ready to post over the next few days), so I've decided to cheat by referring you to Gail's review. Gail picked up the book for the same reason that I did. Having seen Shusterman speak recently, we were each drawn by his engaging speaking manner to try the book. Gail and I don't always agree on books (she doesn't see what the big deal is about Clementine, whom I adore). But in regards to Everlost, we agree that (quoting Gail's review): "Everlost is a very good adventure... This world is very well done. Every character in it is just marvelous. We have powerful protagonists of both genders so this is a good read for both boys and girls."
  • As reported at Kids Lit and at Rick Riordan's blog, and originally reported in the New York Times, Scholastic has announced a high-profile new book series. The Times said: "Called “The 39 Clues,” this series will feature 10 books — the first of which is to go on sale next September — as well as related Web-based games, collectors’ cards and cash prizes.... The series ... will be aimed at readers 8 to 12 and offer mystery novels telling the story of a centuries-old family, the Cahills, who are supposed to be the world’s most powerful clan." The first title will be written by Rick Riordan, who has also outlined the story arc for the remaining books. The other books will be written by different authors, including Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, and and Jude Walton. Rick Riordan assures us that work on this project will not affect his continuing to work on his other projects (the Percy Jackson and Tres Navarre books).
  • Becky will be hosting the 7th edition of the Bookworms Carnival at her blog, Reading with Becky, in January. The theme is Best Books of 2007. She says: "You could create your own "best of" list of books you've read and loved in the past year. You might want to make this a list with notes or commentary. But that isn't a requirement necessarily. Or you could submit a book review of the book you think is THE BEST of the year. Your list can be general or specific. Your focus can be looking at all books or just books about pirates in space fighting spiders. :)". The deadline for submission is January 11th. See here for submission details. Becky also weighs in, with characteristic thoughtfulness and detail, on the UK plan to add reading age guidelines to the covers of all children's books.
  • Even if I didn't already adore Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone, I would have become a Susan Beth Pfeffer fan recently, simply because her blog is so funny (a dry, poking fun at self sort of funny that appeals to me). Right now she has a poll up in her sidebar about when "Sue's New Year's Resolution To Be Modest Will End". Options include: "Jan. 3 (Sue rarely blogs on Wednesdays)". This week she has a post with handmade drawings showing how special effects could be used to handle the weight loss that occurs during LAWKI, so that it could be filmed. The last scene is hilarious (in a black humor sort of way). Click through if you dare, though it is a slight spoiler for the first book.
  • At her blog, Notes from the Purple Desk, author Jenny Meyerhoff discusses the advantages of reading children's and YA fiction for adults, musing "Sure there are books that purely kid-centric that wouldn't hold an adult's attention span. But there are so many books that are ageless in their appeal, because of the quality of the writing, the likability of the characters and the level of thought and discourse the book will provoke. Movies and TV programs are cross-marketed, are promoted as appealing to entire families. I wonder why this doesn't work with books." Excellent points, indeed!
  • Miss Spitfire Miss Spitfire author and bookseller Sarah Miller weighs in on last weekend's discussion about "doesn't anybody read at grade level anymore?". She rails in particular against the very use of the word "advanced" to refer to young readers, saying: "It's like the kids are so smart that using anything less than a polysyllabic word to describe their abilities would be insulting somehow." Comments continue to trickle in at Tea Cozy on this topic, too. If you're interested, it's well worth checking back.
  • Chronicle Books, a strong and early Kidlitosphere supporter, has asked people to help spread the word about two new contests. The first asks participants to create their own artwork, using selected pages from Squiggles (reviewed here). Prizes include art materials and a limited edition print autographed by Squiggles creator Taro Gomi. The contest is open to children under 13, and entries must be postmarked by May 15th, 2008. More details are here. The second contest is the Ivy and Bean friendship contest, open to elementary school teachers. The prize is a school visit by author Annie Barrows.
  • Em's Bookshelf is also having a contest, offering one winner a pastel rainbow of seven titles, plus a tote bag from Harper Teen. Entry requirements are not too rigorous - she asks people to "Just leave me a comment and tell me 1) your favorite teen book that you read this year and 2) a teen book that you want to read but don't own."
  • Elaine Magliaro has some nice mini-reviews of Christmas Books in Verse at Wild Rose Reader, complete with cover illustrations and excerpts of poems. A lovely source for inspiration. Meanwhile, over at Chicken Spaghetti, Susan, with some help from various contributors, has compiled a list of Christmas suggestions for slightly older picture book readers. You can also find many holiday titles reviewed at 7-Imp (start here with part 5, and work your way back). See also some Christmas books recommended at Wildwood Cottage (also here for part 1). There have been other lists, too, but I didn't bookmark them specifically because I figured they would be in today's Carnival of Children's Literature at Big A little a.
  • In recent news: Peter Jackson will be directing a New Line Cinema big-screen production of The Hobbit. The best reactions that I've heard about are in this post at Book Moot. Here's the Guardian link from Finding Wonderland, where TadMack's response is less joyous . 
  • Happy One Year Blogiversary to HipWriterMama! In typically unselfish fashion, Vivian is using her anniversary post to ask for suggestions for gifts for teachers, and discussing her attempts to shelter her kids from materialism at Christmastime.

OK, I guess I ended up with quite a bit of spare time. Anyway, happy reading to all. Mheir and I are going to see the Nutcracker tonight, something of an annual tradition that we have (he especially loves it). We splurged on front row balcony seats, and are looking forward to it. Hope that your week is peaceful, wherever you are. 

Congratulations on Little Miss Ladybug's Arrival!

I'd like to congratulate the Kidlitosphere's own Mindy on the birth of her new daughter, aka Little Miss Ladybug. We're all so happy for you, Mindy! I would also like to point out that Mindy valiantly spent time reading for the Cybils MG/YA nonfiction nominating committee during the last days of her pregnancy, and is already back on board with discussions. We are very fortunate to have her on the committee. And Little Miss Ladybug is a very lucky girl to have a mother who is so well-versed in children's books. You can read more at Mindy's baby blog, Due in December.


Carnival of Children's Literature

The December Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Big A little a. The theme is "all about giving our favorite books." I have to say that suggesting this theme at this time of year was inspired on Kelly's part. People have really risen to the challenge, providing tons of amazing posts. Categories include the gift-buying process, book lists (a plethora of those), the Cybils, in-depth reviews of recommended books, and some original content from authors.

So, if you're not quite through with your holiday shopping, Kelly's got you covered. The next carnival will be held at Wizards Wireless, with a focus on children's book awards. Happy reading!

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller: Sarah Miller

Book: Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller
Author: Sarah Miller (blog)
Pages: 240
Age Range: 10 and up

Miss SpitfireBackground: I've been meaning to read Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller for ages. This book is December's pick of the month from Readergirlz (and yes, since I'm a readergirlz postergirl, that means I should have read it months ago). It was also nominated for this year's Cybils award in middle grade fiction, and there are lots of great reviews floating around. Not to mention the fact that although I haven't met her in person, I love Sarah Miller's blog, and will be working with her in January as fellow Cybils Young Adult Fiction committee judges. I can't really say why Miss Spitfire didn't make the top of my to-read list before now (apart from the sheer quantity of other books). But I can tell you that once I started it the other night, I read it within 12 hours.


Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller is a thoroughly researched, fictionalized account of Annie Sullivan's earliest days teaching Helen Keller in 1887. Told in the first person, the story begins as 20-year-old Annie takes a series of trains from her school in Massachusetts to her first-ever job at the Keller's home in Alabama. Annie herself was blind until an operation gave her limited sight. This gives her some insight into the world of blind, deaf, six-year-old Helen. But Annie's true qualifications for dealing with the troubled Helen turn out to be her obstinacy and her temper, which together have already earned her the nickname Miss Spitfire. Annie quickly realizes that her first task must be to exact obedience from Helen, before she can move on to her true goal of teaching Helen about the miracle of words.

I was surprised by many things in this book. By how much Helen Keller was already able to communicate about her needs, even before she learned the concept of words. By how dreadful a childhood Annie Sullivan suffered. By the fact that Helen's father fought for the South in the Civil War, and had owned slaves. But what struck me the most about the book was the fact that Annie needed Helen just as much as Helen needed Annie (though for different reasons). My vague impression of the story was of a determined, but essentially put together teacher seeking to reach a damaged, half-wild child. But the truth, as conveyed by Sarah Miller, is that Annie was herself quite damaged also, and craving of love and affection from a child. For example, after an incident in which Helen rebuffs her, Annie notes:

"Watching her fondle the mimosa and azalea blossoms or press her face into the wide leaves of the ivy should bring me some comfort. Instead I feel as if something in the center of me has sunk like a weight, closing my throat and pulling the corners of my mouth down with it. How can she be so tender with the plants and leave me to wilt?" (Page 143)

In another incident, she mourns her lost younger brother, and cradles a doll instead of the wary Helen, thinking:

"Closing my eyes, I try to imagine away the doll's brittle hands and face, her slight cotton body. I dream of her as a child, my child--perfect in body and mind as Helen is not, and I never was. A child I could nourish, love, and teach with nothing but my own heart and hands.

A child who loves me back." (Page 185)

Of course Annie is not all longing. She has moments of unbridled joy, and a deep-seated stubbornness. In one of my favorite passages, she describes what it was like for her, after being blind for most of her childhood, to be able to see:

"I could see the Charles River, the windows in the school buildings along its shore, even count the very bricks in their walls. When I threaded a needle without using my tongue, I nearly melted with joy. Best of all, I could make out words on a page. Dizzy with independence, I snatched up every bit of writing I could find" (Page 99)

The Helen Keller/Annie Sullivan story captures people's attention all by itself. Annie and Helen are household names. Their story if a triumph of the mind over the limitations of the body, and is the ultimate example of a teacher opening up the world for a student. For that reason alone, this book about the pivotal early days of Annie and Helen's relationship is worth reading.

But Miss Spitfire offers much more than just the basic story. Sarah Miller has clearly immersed herself in her research, and cares about the characters. She shares, with an immediacy strengthened by the first person narration, details of Annie's character. Seeing Annie's vulnerabilities makes her eventual triumph that much sweeter. The book is also chock full of historical detail. Although the detail is kept to the background, Miss Spitfire provides a clear picture of life in the South in the late 19th century. As a small example, the family's kitchen is in a separate outbuilding behind the house, as I believe was common at the time because of the danger of fire. The family's complex relationship with their black servants is also lightly, but realistically, portrayed. 

Sarah Miller's writing is clear and melodic, with just a hint of old-fashioned language, mostly in the dialog. Miss Spitfire should be quite accessible to middle graders, though I wouldn't put any upper age limit on it. An afterword briefly recounts the remainder of Annie and Helen's lives, for those wondering "what happened next". There are also photos, a chronology, and references. This end matter provides excellent teaching material, both about Keller and Sullivan, and about how to write quality historical fiction in general.

Miss Spitfire is the ideal book to offer kids who enjoyed Hattie Big Sky, and are looking for more historical fiction. It's also a book for anyone who loves words, because it brings a fresh appreciation for the power of language to open up the world. Highly recommended for all ages.

Publisher: Atheneum
Publication Date: July 2007
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher. Miss Spitfire is the readergirlz featured title of the month for December, and is on the nominated titles list for the 2007 Cybils award for Middle Grade Fiction.
Other Blog Reviews: Book Nut, Pinot and Prose, My Breakfast Platter, Emily Reads (a review Haiku), Bildungsroman, In the Pages, Ms. Yingling Reads, Kate's Book Blog, Semicolon, Interactive Reader, Fuse #8, Deliciously Clean Reads, and doubtless others
Interviews: Becky's Book Reviews, Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature

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

Eighth Issue of the Growing Bookworms Email Newsletter

Jpg_book008Tonight I will be sending out the eighth issue of my Growing Bookworms weekly email newsletter. If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here. The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's books and raising readers, all in a convenient email format. There are currently 118 subscribers.

This week's issue contains reviews of four books (two picture books and two books for middle grade readers), my weekly round-up of literacy news, and a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the week. I also have a somewhat nostaligic two-year blog anniversary post, and a link to a podcast (audio) interview that I did at Just One More Book!. Content from the blog not included in this week's newsletter includes:

I did have some formatting issues with the newsletter last week - the posts turned up out of order, with the introductory post buried late in the issue. Sorry about that! I even tried re-sending the issue, but it still didn't work right. I'm hoping that FeedBlitz will have sorted out whatever problem it is by this week. If not, I'll be looking after the holidays for a new solution. Meanwhile, thanks for your patience!

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, or 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.

The newsletter will be back after Christmas. Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms.

Podcast Interview at Just One More Book!

I'm honored to report that I was recently interviewed for a podcast over at Just One More Book!, and it's up today. A nice treat, on my two-year blog anniversary.

As I commented over there, I'm generally quite self-conscious about hearing myself speak aloud - I much prefer print, where I can edit, and take more time to think about what I want to say. However, it's a testament to Mark's skill as an interviewer, and Andrea's skill behind the scenes in suggesting questions, that I did enjoy listening to my JOMB podcast interview. Mark made me feel comfortable when we were talking, and Andrea has been a strong supporter of my Growing Bookworms newsletter, and I relaxed because I was chatting with friends. Mark is clearly also an excellent editor, and put together the production seamlessly.

Anyway, if you'd like to hear Mark and I chat about raising readers, enjoying children's books as an adult, and the very preliminary plans for a possible Kidlitosphere portal, tune in to Just One More Book!

December 18th is Bake Cookies Day

If You Give a Mouse a CookieVia the Sylvan Dell newsletter, tomorrow (December 18th) has been declared (by someone) Bake Cookies Day. According to the Holiday Insights website, this is a non-denominational holiday in December, one that anyone can observe and enjoy. All you have to do is bake your favorite cookies, alone or with friends or family members. Stock up on butter, sugar, and chocolate now, that's all I have to say... And be sure you have a copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie handy, too.

Children's Literacy Round-Up: December 17

Here are some children's literacy and reading-related news stories from around the wires.

  • In the UK, 545 authors have signed a letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to tackle illiteracy among children. You can read more in this Telegraph article, which says authors involved include Nick Hornby, Ian Rankin, Joanna Trollope, Kate Mosse, Alexander McCall Smith, Sophie Kinsella, Tony Parsons, Andrew Motion, Tracy Chevalier, Lionel Shriver and Jackie Collins. See also the Times article about this initiative.
  • The South China Morning Post has an article about the importance of raising readers. According to the header, "Workshops and support groups are putting the fun into reading for parents and children alike". However, a subscription is required to read the article in full.
  • According to the International Reading Association, "WGBH Boston Video will debut the first season of public television's highly acclaimed children's literacy series Between the Lions on DVD on January 8, 2008. This set contains all 30 episodes from the show's first season." Thanks to Cheryl Rainfield for the link. I've added the International Reading Association blog to my watch list. On a related note, I just heard positive feedback from a friend whose daughter loves the PBS Kids show Word World, and is proud to be spelling words that she learns from the show.
  • According to the Portsmouth Herald News, the Children's Literacy Foundation (CLiF) has just given a Rural Library Sponsorship Award of $2000 worth of children's books to the small public library in Newington, NH. "The Children's Literacy Foundation seeks to "nurture a love of reading and writing among children throughout Vermont and New Hampshire," according to its Web site." I think it's great that organizations like CLiF are out there to help give kids access to more books. Another article about CLiF is available in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.
  • The Kansas City Star reports on rampant illiteracy among Iraqi refugee children in Syria and Jordan whose displaced parents cannot afford to send them to school. The article adds that "Even refugee children enrolled in school struggle to keep up with unfamiliar Arabic dialects, aid workers said. Being uprooted from their homes in Iraq also diminishes their ability to learn. Most Iraqi children also have witnessed or experienced horrific violence, aid workers said."
  • The Attleboro Sun Chronicle just published a lifestyle piece called: "Read On! 10 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Read". It's actually written by someone from Country Inns and Suites, and has some commercial material mixed in. But the basic ideas are sound. I've actually stayed at a Country Inns and Suites hotel, and I did take advantage of their book loan program (they have a shelf of books in the lobby that you can borrow, including many kids' books).

That's all for this week. Happy reading! I'll be back after Christmas with another Children's Literacy Round-Up.

Two Years and Counting

Jpg_book001Today is the two-year anniversary of the day that I started this blog. I can't imagine my life without it now, and yet I can't believe how quickly the time has gone. I have been waxing nostalgic and looking back over my blog's history. Here are a few highlights:

  • I published My Mission Statement, which really should have been my first post, on January 9th, 2006. It's still one of my favorite posts.
  • My first children's literacy round-up (though I didn't call it that yet) was published on December 29th, 2005. I remember looking up articles at my friend Liz's house while visiting Boston for the holidays. I love that I started writing about literacy news during my very first month, and have kept it up ever since.
  • I received my first comment (of currently more than 2700) on that first Lit Roundup post, from the sister of my most book-loving friend from Texas. My second comment was from my friend Patrick, one of the people who encouraged me to start a blog in the first place. Thanks, Patrick! I guess it was a good suggestion.
  • My first comment from someone with a blog came from Jen Rouse.
  • My earliest links seem to have come from participating in Poetry Friday. I also remember being thrilled when Tasha Saecker wrote about my blog at Kids Lit in May of 2006.
  • But of course what really got my blog onto people's radar was the lists of Cool Girls and Cool Boys of Children's Literature, which consumed my attention in May and June of 2006. It was a lot of fun, and I got to know tons of wonderful bloggers and other correspondents through that process. I still have intentions of going back one day and updating the cool girl and boy lists.

My blogging has expanded over time to include the Cybils, Readergirlz, the SBBT/WBBT and Radar Projects, promoting the Robert's Snow event, and other activities. It's been a tremendous experience. But what I find heartening right now is that the core things that I write about haven't really changed since those first few posts. I think that a lot of my "blog focus angst" from this fall was really about getting myself back to my basic focus, reviewing children's books and helping people who care about raising readers. Many thanks to those of you who have supported me along the way.

There's one other nostalgia thing that I wanted to share. About 2 weeks after I started the blog, I began my blogroll of Children's Book Blogs. There are currently 12 blogs remaining from the ones that I added on that first day (TypePad helpfully stores the date that you added each link). They are:

Now, nearly 2 years later, the blogs on this list remain among my daily must-read resources. And many of their creators (along with others whose blogs I found later) are now friends who I couldn't do without. Becoming a part of this ever-expanding community has been a joy, and it's changed my life.

Looking back over these two years, my only regret is that I constantly wish I had more time to spend on the blog. But if you think about it, that's a pretty good thing to be able to say about anything.

Thanks for a great ride! I wish everyone a joyful and book-filled holiday season.

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

Sunday Afternoon Visits: December 16

There is a plethora of interesting news from around the Kidlitosphere this week.

  • I haven't mentioned this in a while, but every Friday, many Kidlitosphere blogs feature poetry, by including or linking to a poem or by reviewing a poetry book. Anyone can participate, and various blogs take turns publishing a summary of the week's posts You can find a round-up of this week's Poetry Friday posts at The Miss Rumphius Effect, and a schedule of past and future hosts at Big A little a (in the right-hand sidebar, scroll down a bit).
  • Speaking of poetry, Jules and Eisha have their second article up at The Poetry Foundation. They recommend their top 20 books for children from the PF Essential Collection. 
  • The Brown Bookshelf had a nice post this week by Carla Sarratt about how to help kids who don't like to read. In addition to making her own suggestions, Carla links to a variety of other articles on this topic. She also includes a few tips to encourage reading in adults.
  • I think I mentioned before that Liz Burns from Tea Cozy is guest blogging at Shelf Space this month. This week she has a new post up about how to give and receive gift books. This is not a list of books to give, but rather a framework for how to go about deciding what books to give in general. I especially enjoyed the suggestions for how to receive a book, since books are always at the top of my wish list. (In fact, you'll note handy lists of children's, young adult, and adult books that I want to read, in my left-hand sidebar, folks.)
  • Speaking of Liz from Tea Cozy (she had a good blogging week), Liz was recently inspired by reading a comment that "good YA books for males readers are few and between" to start her own list. Bloggers and authors have responded in droves, and the comments on this post provide an excellent resource for anyone looking for reading suggestions for middle school and high school boys. I must add that this is the kind of thing that the Kidlitosphere does best.
  • Kids Lit reports (via the Times) that British publishers are going to start putting age guides on the covers of children's books. Tasha asks people to comment on this development, but as I write, no one has weighed in. I started to, but the truth is that I just don't know. I think it will be almost impossible to put valid age guides on children's books, because children are such varied readers. On the other hand, I know that a lot of parents are looking for more guidance in selecting books, and that "middle grade" consists of a very broad range. What do you all think?
  • In a related story, see this post at Tea Cozy, and this post by Alex Flinn, about how many kids are reading above their official age ranges, and what can happen when the wrong YA book is picked for a nine-year-old. The gist is that many parents are so caught up in how advanced their kids are as readers that they can end up expecting YA books to be appropriate for younger kids. There's a difference between being able to read something text-wise and being ready to read it, content-wise. Kathy weighs in on this topic at Library Stew, as does Maureen at Confessions of a Bibliovore. My personal take is that just because a kid might be able to read above her "grade level", whatever that means in practical terms, that doesn't mean that the child wouldn't enjoy books written for her own age range. Clementine is my current favorite example. Yes, it's a pretty easy read. But it's so perfect for second and third graders. How can you pass it up, just because they can read bigger books?
  • On another related note, Ms. Yingling wrote earlier in the week about whether or not advanced readers should be pushed to read more advanced books, or allowed to read what they enjoy. As above, I come down on the "give them what they enjoy" side. But there's no harm in having some cool, related, more advanced books on offer.
  • Loree Griffin Burns reports that for the first time in the history of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, girls took the three top honors. Sounds like great news to me! And you know, of course, that girls who read more tend to do better in math and science, right?
  • Over at Nonfiction Matters, Marc Aronson has asked readers to share their favorite nonfiction books of the past year. He's received several in-depth comments on this subject. Of course you can also consult the middle grade and YA and picture book nonfiction lists for the Cybils awards.
  • Susan links to two must-read articles for book reviewers at Chicken Spaghetti. She discusses in particular (in her post and in the comments) the question of whether it's ethical for people to review books by authors that they link to. This is something that many bloggers struggle with, as we read the blogs belonging to authors and establish online relationships with them. As I commented at Susan's, I don't have a good answer, but it is something that I think about.
  • And speaking of authors whose blogs I read, Mitali Perkins re-posted, with permission, a list by librarian Lisa Linsday of YA books featuring Latino main characters. She asks readers to add their suggestions in the comments, and there are several additional suggestions there.
  • I'm a bit late with this news (which I learned about from another author whose blog I read), but they have cast the character of Edward Cullen in the movie version of Twilight. Edward will be played by actor Robert Pattinson, best known for playing Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movies. See details here. I must say, I think that this is an excellent choice. Bella Swann will be played by Kristen Stewart, currently on screen in Into the Wild.
  • Little Willow is asking authors for their favorite reads of 2007. Six authors have participated so far. She'll be adding links here as the lists are posted over the rest of the month. Colleen Mondor is also posting favorite reads lists at Chasing Ray, starting with a list from Sharyn November, a senior editor from Viking's children's books division.
  • For a slightly quirky post from author Kirsten Miller (she is very good at finding these things), at Ananka's Diary, there is a Christmas mystery by which ornaments have begun mysteriously appearing on trees along New Jersey's Garden State Parkway. Spooky, but cool.
  • 100 Scope Notes has been perusing various "best of" book lists, and producing compiled lists based on books that appear on multiple lists. Here are the lists of Fiction Picture Books, Nonfiction Picture Books, and Middle Grade Fiction that "received the most love in 2007" from the major lists.
  • Concluding with some sad news, reported everywhere (but that I saw first on Finding Wonderland), 59-year-old author Terry Pratchett has announced that he has Alzheimer's disease. He does seem to be maintaining his sense of humor, but his fans are justly horrified. We tend to think that being intellectually active will protect us, but this is not always the case.

And that's all the Kidlitosphere news for this week. I'll be back tomorrow with my literacy round-up, and a few other tidbits, but will then go on a bit lighter of a schedule for the holidays. Happy Sunday!