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Posts from April 2008

Sunday Afternoon Visits: April 13

It's a beautiful weekend here in San Jose - summer arrived all at once yesterday. I wish I could say that we were here relaxing and enjoying it, but we spend yesterday working on "window treatments", and today we're off to buy a new mattress and some patio chairs. And the bookshelves still aren't fully set up, after I kind of lost heart earlier this week (Many thanks to those of you who shared your support and your own stories about lost books. You helped a lot). But I saved a bit of time for my Sunday blog visits, nevertheless.

  • First up, for those of you who contributed reading suggestions for my young friend Matthew (who recently discovered the first books that really hooked him - the Wimpy Kid books), thanks. In the comments of the original post, Matthew's Dad expresses his appreciation, and gives us an update on Matthew's next set of selected books. Encyclopedia Brown appears to have the edge, but he's going to also try Holes by Louis Sachar and one of the Shadow Children books by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I like to think that we've done our small part in encouraging Matthew as a reader (though of course his parents are the ones making a real difference).
  • Via Read Roger, the E.B. White Readaloud Awards were announced recently. "For picture books, the winner is When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach and David Small (Simon & Schuster) and for older readers, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (Little, Brown)." The Mysterious Benedict Society, which I reviewed here, just came out in paperback, and would make an excellent spring break or summer trip book for middle grade readers (and up).
  • Read Roger also took up Colleen Mondor's recent lament from Chasing Ray about the shortage of mysteries written for young adult audiences. There is an extensive discussion in the comments of the post. That discussion thread prompted Colleen to throw out a few plot ideas for realistic teen mystery series. Take heed, aspiring young adult mystery authors. Also, don't miss Colleen's musings on the literary purpose of the Internet, and how the soon-to-launch Guys Lit Wire will differ from Nan Talese's planned publisher-funded review effort.
  • Jenny from Wildwoood Cottage shares "links to a lot of the websites where (she) find(s) ideas about books." Many of the resources she lists are familiar to me (not least my own blog - thanks, Jenny!), but I found interesting the No Time for Flashcards blog, "a resource of activities for young children that promote learning, play, and discovery". Many of the activities discussed include books.
  • Over at Wizards Wireless, Susan asks readers: do you remember the first book you ever read? I can't say that I do - I pretty much remember reading for as far back as I have memories. But the first books that I clearly remember choosing, and then sitting down to read them, were the Little House books, from the classroom library of my third grade teacher, Miss Fodera. Meanwhile, Aerin at In Search of Giants has put up a list of books that she doesn't like that other people seem to love, and asks readers to share their unfavorites.
  • Saffron Tree is launching a new project. They "plan to bring to you a newsletter of events called "Bloomwatch" centering around children's books and diversity each month on the first Sunday." They proclaim "Together, let's grow our little bookworms and sprout their tastebuds by reading an eclectic variety of books!" Now there's a goal worth supporting! The newsletter issues will be available as blog posts (the first one is here).
  • Jules and Eisha from 7-Imp have been guest blogging this week at School Library Journal's Practically Paradise blog. They have three posts (self-described): "Intro post about what 7-Imp does and why; Jules interviews Eisha (in which Eisha may or may not tell you about her robotic past); and Eisha interviews Jules (in which Jules may or may not reveal the secret to karate)." Do read them - it's an excellent opportunity to learn more about Eisha and Jules, who are usually busy interviewing the rest of us.
  • A collection of bloggers, organized by Liz Garton Scanlon, has undertaken a collaborative poetry project. They've written a string of seven interconnected sonnets, called a Crown Sonnet, called Cutting a Swath. You can find the Crown Sonnet, and the links to the other six participants comments, here. It's a very brave and impressive project, not to be missed. Yay Poetry Princesses! See also Elaine Magliaro's recap of week 2 of National Poetry Month at Wild Rose Reader.
  • Mélanie Watt and Scaredy Squirrel finished up the US leg of their blog tour this week at MotherReader, where we learn WhenWhereWhoWhatWhyHow. The tour continues in Canada. "On Monday read about the progression of Scaredy at KidsSpace Blog, on Tuesday check out kids’ questions at HRM Parent, and on Wednesday learn about Mélanie’s creative process at Shelf Elf Reading Blog." (links copied from MotherReader's post).
  • Lisa Chellman explores the origins of "rainy day" nursery rhymes at Under the Covers. She has lots of great links for those who wonder "where did that come from?"
  • And, just in time for summer, Abby (the) Librarian has a post her favorite books about cows. Cows do seem to be quite the universal hit. I can actually see cows from some of my windows where I live now (sometimes, they move around a bit). It is oddly fascinating to watch them. I might need to stock up on cow-related books, so I'll keep Abby's list handy.
  • Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) has a lovely post about books as a light in the darkness. In the presence of a power failure, she and her family read books by flashlight and candlelight, and she recommends the experience. She then broadens her topic, to discuss the way that "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are". She says "Books are a candle of solace when we suffer, a warm friend when we need one, and a neon sign marking exits from the confines of our mundane existence." Do read the whole post - it will brighten your day (and it just might make you get a flashlight out for reading tonight).
  • Following up on yesterday's Drop Everything and Read Day, Becky from Becky's Book Reviews shares a list of reasons to read aloud to your child, along with links to books on the topic. It's a great list, well worth checking out.
  • Jill from The Well Read Child just reminded me that the Readergirlz/YALSA community event Operation Teen Book Drop is this Thursday. Ten thousand books will be donated to teen patients in pediatric hospitals. Want to participate: "You can contribute to Support Teen Lit Day by donating your own YA book(s). Just download a bookplate (get them here), paste it in the book, and drop it off in a place that teens frequent on April 17th." Don't miss it!

And that's turned into more than a few posts, hasn't it. Thanks, everyone, for providing such interesting posts to link to!


One More Note about the Move

For those keeping score, I finally found the last kitchen box, with my jar of cooking utensils and potholders. The movers hadn't labeled it, and had used the same boxes that I used for the DVDs and such, so it was in the family room with those unopened boxes. I was actually using it as a footrest (because my sofa isn't here yet, and I'm sitting in a patio chair). So now, after three weeks in the house, and one ruined towel (turns out those lint free wine glass towels melt when you use them as potholders), the kitchen will be fully functional. Now for that sofa... Ah, moving!


Drop Everything and Read Day

DearlogoTomorrow (April 12th, Beverly Cleary's birthday) is Drop Everything and Read Day (D.E.A.R.). Here are the highlights, from the D.E.A.R. website:

What is National D.E.A.R. Day?
D.E.A.R. stands for Drop Everything and Read. National D.E.A.R. Day is a special reading celebration to remind and encourage families to make reading together on a daily basis a family priority.

Who Is Leading the National D.E.A.R. Day Celebration? The National Education Association (NEA); Parent Teacher Association (PTA); the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association; Reading Rockets; The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC); the Newspaper Association of America Foundation (NAA); First Book; HarperCollins Children’s Books; and Ramona Quimby.

What I say is: this is a wonderful holiday. Use D.E.A.R. day as an excuse to read with your family tomorrow. Find the time, in the midst of all of the other obligations that come up on spring Saturdays, to spend a little time reading. And if you can accomplish that, you can probably find ways to drop everything and read every day.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary! Thanks for this timely reminder of what this blog is all about.


The Lost Books

Today I am in mourning for some lost books. Here is the story. In 1991 when I left Boston for graduate school in Texas, I packed up all of my beloved books into boxes. I carefully made a list of exactly which books were in which box, and took that with me. I would have liked to take the books with me, but it just didn't make sense - I was moving cross-country in my car, and I barely fit everything in as it was.

Over the next 15 years or so I moved several times - back to Massachusetts, back to Texas, and finally to California. I was always moving from apartment to apartment, and it just never made sense to take on those boxes of books (though of course I was accumulating other books over time). My parents also moved several times during those years, and they and my poor siblings were stuck with the task of moving "Jen's books" from place to place.

Early last year my parents moved out of state, and they re-packaged my books into smaller boxes and shipped them to me. For which effort I was very grateful. However, they told me that a few had been badly water damaged, through inadvertently being left in an unfinished basement, and I said that they should throw those away. No point in paying shipping costs to send books that are too damaged to read. But I didn't ask exactly which books were involved - I didn't want to face it. Boxes of books arrived in California, and I left most of them unopened because I didn't have any space to shelve them, and because I was so busy.

Finally, here I am in a bigger house (still not that "permanent" house I would have though I'd be in by now, but that's another story). I have my lovely new bookshelves, and last night I finally unpacked all of those boxes from Massachusetts, along with my own more recent acquisitions. I sorted through everything, purged a few duplicates, and alphabetized by author. As I got to the end of this process, I had to admit a sad truth. More of my childhood books were missing than I had expected. Much loved, sometimes irreplaceable books.

My lovely old copy of Emily of New Moon? Gone. My Little House books, most of my Madeleine L'Engles and Elizabeth Enrights? Gone. The gorgeous old editions of the Louisa May Alcott books, with gilt text on the covers? Those are gone, too. The copy of Little Women that my dad gave me for some early birthday, inscribed? Nope. The Bobbsey Twins books that were mine, and the ones that were my mother's when she was young, some dozen in total? Only two survived. Also missing: Tuck Everlasting, The House at Pooh Corner, Look Through my Window by Jean Little, Ginnie and the Mystery Doll by Catherine Wolley, my first copy of The Wizard of Oz, eight YA books by Phyllis Whitney, Paddington, Katie John, Miss Osborne the Mop, The Children of the New Forest, and various others, some classic, some obscure, but all loved.

Many important books did make it through. My precious Maida books. The two books that my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Tuttle, gave to me, with lovely notes inside, after I volunteered every morning at the library before school in sixth grade. My Lois Duncans. The Children of Morrow, a book that I loved, and have never been able to find elsewhere. A few of the Noel Streatfeilds made it through, as did most of my Enid Blyton "Five" books and Zilpha Keatley Snyders. My Trixie Beldens seem to all be here ... I don't think I ever had a complete set. There are a handful of books that belonged to my mother, father, or grandmother when they were children. And I did find some miscellaneous favorites like The Trolley Car Family, Nantucket Summer, The Snow Ghosts, a couple of Willy Folk St. John mysteries, and two by Ruth M. Arthur. And, thankfully, all of my yearbooks are here. Perhaps some others will magically turn up - in a mis-labeled box somewhere. But I don't think so.

The fact is I'm a bit of a glass half empty kind of person. I'm having a hard time looking at the books that I do have without mourning the loss of the ones that aren't there. I blame myself, no one else. I should have taken the books back years earlier than I did, even with having to move them around the country. I'm sure that my parents and siblings made a heroic effort to care for the books through various moves. This is on me. I had other things like grad school and starting a company on my mind, and I didn't take the responsibility for my books. I didn't cherish them enough, and now there's a hole inside of me where they used to be.

Even though I hadn't had them with me for 15 years. Even though I have hundreds of other books. Even though many of them can be replaced, probably by copies in better condition (and some I already have purchased newer copies of). I'm still sad today. I always had this knowledge in the back of my mind that they were there. That I didn't need to buy another set of Little House books with the Garth Williams illustrations, because I had one in storage. That those Alcott books would look lovely on the shelves one day. And now, I have to accept that they are truly gone.

The new bookshelves look even more beautiful with books on them, but my feelings about them right now are bittersweet. I am trying to maintain perspective on this. I know that I'm being self-indulgent. I know that there are much bigger problems in the world than the loss of a few books. The important thing is to have the people that I love still available to me. But still... I am mourning my lost books today.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever lost or had to throw or give away beloved books from your childhood? I know that Brenda Ferber recently had her diaries stolen, and of course that's worse, because those can't be replaced.

I had to write about this here because I knew that you, my blog readers, would understand. The moral of the story: keep the books that you love close - don't leave them in boxes or basements for longer than you absolutely must. Because if you do, they might not be there when you're ready for them. And their loss will break your heart.

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


Scaredy Squirrel Blog Tour: How the Scaredy Stories Work at Different Age Levels

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Today I am pleased to welcome Mélanie Watt for the third stop on the Scaredy Squirrel Blog Tour. I've been a fan of Scaredy since the first book, Scaredy Squirrel, and I liked the second, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, even better. I haven't had a chance to review the third book, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach, yet, but I have read it, and I promise that fans will not be disappointed. Without further ado, here is my interview with Scaredy's creator, Mélanie Watt:

I have a young friend who is nearly one. His parents read Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend to him every night (a gift from his Auntie Jen), and he has a particular page on which he likes to give Scaredy a little kiss. He doesn't seem old enough to have Scaredy's fears of the unknown, so there's something else that's resonating with him. I think it's Scaredy's endearing expression, that timid, toothy smile. And I know that the humour is what works for me as an adult, and that some of the humour is kid-friendly, and some of it is more appealing to adults.

Mélanie: That's SO sweet but I absolutely need to know what page…I'm curious!.

My young friend's Dad reports: "the page that (our son) never fails to kiss everytime we turn to it is the layout on pages 5-6 from "Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend." And his mom (a dentist) also appreciates the dental references and dedication of the book to a dentist." Yes, Scaredy is a big hit in that household.

Continuing with the interview, what aspects of the books do you think particularly appeal to very young children? To preschoolers?

Mélanie: The colourful cartoons and the simplicity and the cute little squirrel has something hopefully to so with it!

To elementary school children?

Mélanie: I think they like the pacing of the book and how the story is told through graphics and cartoons. I have been told by kids that they enjoy when Scaredy is capable of doing braver things. They like the humour and I heard that the Playing dead page is really popular! I think they can relate to Scaredy because he's discovering the BIG world and doing his best to deal with the unknown and Scaredy's not perfect.

To parents?

Mélanie: I hear it's the humour and the interaction they get while they read with the kids. Also I think the book has many levels and it pokes fun at our society and exaggerates our sometimes excessively overprotective behaviours.

I would also like to mention that surprisingly teens are picking up the Scaredy books as well. There seems to be a ¨cool¨ factor about Scaredy. And grandparents are writing to me as well! Scaredy seems to have captured the hearts of many age groups!

Is there a perfect age range for a reader of the Scaredy Squirrel books? If I'm going to buy the books as a gift, what's the very best age for Scaredy appreciation?

Mélanie: I'm not sure what to say, but I think it's between 3 and 8, but as I was saying I am getting feedback from people from all ages!

Does it just vary by the individual?

Mélanie: It does. And I think that's great!

I've noticed that some of the vocabulary used in the books is actually fairly advanced (like when Scaredy contemplates "venturing" into the unknown. Have you seen any difference in the response to Scaredy from boys vs. from girls? Or are Scaredy's fears universal?

Mélanie: I think they are universal. And the response has been great from both girls and boys. They write to me with story ideas for the next Scaredy adventures and it's fun to see how imaginative they are and how they want Scaredy to face up to new fears.

Did you consciously set out to write books that would be appealing to parents, as well as to their children, or is that a happy side-effect?

Mélanie: Well, when I start writing a book, I try to make it appeal to me first (I'm 32). I want to feel like the story is saying something about a topic I feel is interesting and that I can relate to. I also keep in mind that kids enjoy images that they can discover as they read over and over. I like to keep my texts simple and light and provide drawings that can fill in the blanks or that kids can interpret in their own way.

I adore the bold lines, and the personality conveyed in even the tiny icons (like the killer bees and the germs) of these books. How do you think that your background as a graphic artist has helped you to create books that appeal to such a wide range of readers?

Mélanie: My design background plays a HUGE part in my work. And in my opinion, being both an author and illustrator is pretty much the only way I can make my ideas come to life. When I start working on a new book, I start with visuals and sketches and build the story in my mind, then I actually write then rework my drawings and pages to allow good pacing. I go back and forth with the text and images to get the perfect merge.

I thought that Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend was especially suited to kids about to start school for the first time (whether preschool or kindergarten). Have you heard from parents who have used the book in this way? Is it finding a place in classrooms?

Mélanie: I have and the message I hear from kids with the Makes a Friend book is that it's about understanding that not everyone is perfect and not to judge a book by its cover and that friendships can be made in unexpected ways.

I hear Scaredy is a big hit in classrooms especially for writing activities. I think that the fact that the Scaredy stories are broken down into graphics and pros and cons and maps help kids kick start their imagination when it comes to writing their own story. If you think about it, you do need and plan when it comes to writing stories and Scaredy is a good example to inspired kids because it's a simple and direct storytelling style.

I really love Scaredy. I want to pick him up and hug him. Are there any plans for merchandising, like a Scaredy stuffed animal? I would certainly buy one (well, probably two, one for me, and one for my one-year-old friend).

Mélanie: I would LOVE that too! I always imagined a stuffed Scaredy toy Playing Dead and you could just leave him lying around in a room somewhere! There is talk about merchandising and stuff… I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

He's left his tree. He's made a friend. He's been to the beach. What can we expect next from Scaredy Squirrel? Will he ever find romance?

Mélanie: Who knows but as a kid I would probably think…GROSS!! In the next adventure I will focus on the nighttime fears. That's all I can say and I can't wait to get started!!

Thanks, Mélanie, for this reminder of how much I love Scaredy.

Please visit Scaredy Squirrel on his other blog tour stops:

Monday, 4/7
Big A, Little a
Featured Topic:  An Interview with Scaredy Squirrel

Tuesday, 4/8
Book Buds
Featured Topic: Scaredy Squirrel past, present and future

Wednesday, 4/9
Jen Robinson's Book Page (here)
Featured Topic: How the Scaredy stories work at different age levels

Thursday, 4/10  [2 blogs]
Hip Librarians Book Blog   
Featured Topic: Talking with Mélanie Watt about writing

Metrowest News
Featured Topic: Kids' questions for Scaredy Squirrel

Friday, 4/11
MotherReader    
Featured Topic: Mélanie Watt talks about Scaredy Squirrel

This blog tour was organized by Raab Associates. I hope that you'll stop by all of the stops on the tour. Scaredy and I would love to see you.

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(Images (c) Melanie Watt. Used with permission)

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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: April 8, 2008

Jpg_book007This afternoon I will be sending out the new issue of the 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. There are currently more than 240 subscribers.

This month I have one new book review, of the Maggie Valley trilogy, a middle grade series by Kerry Madden. I also announce the publication of another book that I reviewed recently. I have a children's literacy and reading news round-up, a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the week, an announcement about the March/April issue of the online journal The Edge of the Forest, a charming story about a young boy showing his first sign of the love of books, and an installment of my Reviews that Made Me Want to Read the Book feature. Recent posts not included in this newsletter include:

I hope to bring you more reviews next week. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!


My New Bookshelves

For those interested, here are my new bookshelves:

Bookshelves009cropThis is the main set, seen from an angle. Click on the photo to see a larger view.

Bookshelves002_2 This is the same shelves face-on. This is without most of the shelves put in, but you can imagine it. I'm going to start putting books up soon, and I'll take some more pictures.

Bookshelves019 This last one is a little standalone shelf under the stairs. There are also a couple of other standalone three foot wide, tall shelves, but they are next to uncurtained windows, and I can't get them to photograph right. But they all match! It's so nice.

The person at the furniture store seemed to think that we were getting too much shelving - more than anyone would possibly need. We'll see how it works out once I start shelving the books, but I don't think one can have too many bookshelves. We just kept saying "we have a lot of books."

I look forward to filling these up, and organizing along the way. More pictures once they are loaded up.

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


Sometimes It Just Takes the Right Book

Diary of a Wimpy KidA friend sent me the following story about his son, and gave me permission to share:

"Matthew is a good reader but hadn’t caught the bug for reading for fun despite his mom's and my best efforts. He would do his homework and whatever else we made him do but he wouldn’t seek it out on his own. We read to him but pleasure reading wasn’t his thing.

The worm turned last week when he went to the school book fair. He used his own money and bought two books (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, both by Jeff Kinney) at the fair.   

When I picked him up at his after school program, he wasn’t running around and playing as normal. Instead, he was over in a corner reading his book.

On the drive home, he was strangely quiet. I looked around in the back seat and he was reading his book.

If Matthew has been good, we let him watch Survivor on Thursday nights -- during the commercials, he would pull his book out and read.

On Friday morning, my wife said he took his hand crank flashlight with him so that he could read while they waited for the bus.

He is close to finishing the second book. 

We are working on finding some similar follow-on books to keep the momentum going."

Is that a great story, or what? Here we have parents who have wanted their son to enjoy books, and have kept reading to him, but they had to wait until, on his own, he found the right books, in order for that spark to light.

So, does anyone have suggestions for follow-on books that Matthew might like, after enjoying the Wimpy Kid books? I suggested the Owly books by Andy Runton. Of course Matthew will want to pick for himself - after he had such good luck with his recent purchases - but we could perhaps offer some ideas. Thoughts?

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


Rare Scaredy Squirrel Interview at Big A litle a

08_scaredy_image_blogDon't miss today's Scaredy Squirrel interview over at Big A little a. It's a rare thing for our nervous young friend to put himself out there for an interview, but he seemed quite comfortable with Kelly's questions. My favorite was about whether or not children make Scaredy nervous (you'll have to read the interview to find out). Scaredy Squirrel's author, Mélanie Watt, will be here for an interview on Wednesday. 


Children's Literacy Round-Up: April 7

Welcome to this week's children's literacy round-up, highlights of children's literacy and reading-related news from around the world.

  • According to 24 Hour Museum, UK Schools Secretary Ed Balls recently launched the National Year of Reading, "a year-long celebration and promotion of reading in all its forms... Run by the Department for Children, Schools and Families the National Year of Reading is designed to encourage people to read in businesses, homes, and communities around the country, and to provide new opportunities to help people access reading help and support through schools and libraries." Quite a few celebrities have also turned out in support for the Year of Reading, as detailed here. More details can be found at the National Year of Reading website.
  • According to this press release, the WrestleMania Reading Challenge just crowned  national reading champions at the middle school and high school levels. "This is the second year of the national competition held by WWE and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) to reach reluctant readers and get more teens reading beyond Teen Read Week".
  • Here's a fun literacy fundraiser. According to the Sarnia Observer (Ontario, Canada), "The Organization for Literacy in Lambton has just completed a new and successful fundraising event that saw area bakers cook up their favourite children's books. The event, held Tuesday at Sears, was based on the International Edible Book Festival held every year to promote literacy. Cakes are baked in the shape of books to celebrate the ingestion of culture and the written word's nourishment."
  • The Boston Globe has an article by Tracy Jan about the importance of talking to young children "as much as possible". In Boston, "(l)iteracy coaches have begun fanning out among housing developments in the city, urging parents of infants and toddlers to embrace the unnatural role of a sportscaster. They should narrate a play-by-play of their actions, the coaches say, while bathing and dressing their little ones, riding the bus with them, preparing meals, and running errands - even if the babies respond with nothing more than a blink, smile, or coo."
  • The Wanganui Chronicle (New Zealand) has an article by Merania Karauria about the importance of rhyme in literacy development for children. The article quotes "phonic consultant Yolanda Soryl. Ms Soryl was in Wanganui to speak to teachers and parents last week about literacy, and how phonics helped children." 
  • For another intriguing literacy program, check out this Miami Herald article by Lisa Bolivar about the Black Stallion Literacy Program. The program is "named after author Walter Farley's famous children's book, The Black Stallion. The students from Davie and Flamingo elementary schools were given Farley's book, Little Black, A Pony, in December and were promised if they worked hard, they could come to the rodeo grounds and read to real horses -- even brush one." Participants say that the program really works in getting kids excited about reading.
  • According to Inverclyde Now, "children are being urged by ScottishPower and Friends of the Earth Scotland to swap Nintendos for Narnia in a bid to help save the planet. The energy company and the environmental charity launched the sponsored reading challenge “Read for the Future” to mark International Children’s Book Day. The national sponsored-read, which raises funds for Friends of the Earth Scotland, takes place in the autumn and is now in its fourth year".

Happy reading!


March/April Issue of the Edge of the Forest

The March/April issue of The Edge of the Forest is now available. Via Kelly Herold, here are highlights from the new issue:

The next issue will be out in early May. The Edge of the Forest is a can't miss publication for all fans of children's literature.


Sunday Afternoon Visits: April 6

Still getting settled in from the move. The big news is that my new bookshelves finally came yesterday. They look amazing! I'll get pictures up this week.

  • 48hbcMost important news first. MotherReader has announced the date for her third annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. For those who missed the first two, the idea behind the 48 hour book challenges is to see how much continuous time participants can spend reading and blogging about books over a 48-hour period on the same weekend. I participated in the first one (and even won a prize!) and I much enjoyed it. I was able to prioritize reading in a way that I'm generally not able to (or not willing to, I guess), and feel a sense of community with the other participants doing the same thing. Plus Pam really makes the whole thing fun. I missed the challenge last year because I was traveling, but I have high hopes of participating this year. Click here for details.
  • Big news from Rick Riordan this week. The first printing of the fourth Percy Jackson book, Battle of the Labyrinth, will be one million copies. How amazing is that? Publication is one month from today. And I just checked Rick's calendar, and learned that he's going to be at Hicklebee's, my local children's bookstore, on May 15th. I don't care what else comes up - I intend to be there. Anyone care to join me?
  • This week's Poetry Friday round-up can be found at Becky's Book Reviews. See also another Becky's plan for and links about celebrating National Poetry Month at Farm School. As commenter Tara said, "It’s an embarrassment of riches." Also, as a nice companion to poetry, Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup is hosting a tea party. Jama says "This month, I'll be posting my favorite tea recipes, along with some tea trivia, folklore, and history, as well as excerpts from children's and adult literature that mention tea." She's also looking for audience participation (shared recipes and experiences and such).   
  • At Chasing Ray, Colleen Mondor laments the dearth of straightforward mysteries aimed at the young adult audience. There are lots of mysteries out there for younger kids, and for adults, but Colleen identifies a gap for the YA audience. Something to heed, all you aspiring authors out there.
  • Over at Destined to Become a Classic, Mme T writes about the power of series books. She says "It's hard when you come to the end of a book you love. You mope around for days and there's a big hole inside. Today's youth don't have to deal with that pain. There's always another book in the series, the trilogy turns out to be five books, or the characters turn up in another series."
  • At The Longstockings, Daphne Grab asks readers: what kind of Madeleine L'Engle girl are you? Meg, Vicky, or Polly? Daphne says that you can only truly identify personally with one of the three (and she pooh-poohs the other YA L'Engle heroines, such as they are). As for me, I'm Meg all the way, right down to the glasses and the red-headed love of my life who I met while still in my teens. How about you?
  • I learned from Stephanie at Throwing Marshmallows that you can, in fact, use your regular Audible credits to make purchases at AudibleKids. This isn't obvious - the AudibleKids site doesn't show you how many credits you have available when you log in - but if you put a book into your shopping cart and go to check out, you have the option of paying with any credits that you might have available. Good news, I think, for those of us who have been concerned for the future of Audible's subscription model. Though it's still clear that they are downplaying the subscriptions on the kids' site.
  • Inspired by the start of baseball season, TheHappyNappyBookseller, a new blog, has a post this weekend about sports books for kids, and what she thinks is missing from the genre (namely, "books featuring female athlete/sport fans" and "books starring extreme sports athletes").
  • Maureen writes about books with a strong sense of place at Confessions of a Bibliovore. She says "I'm not talking about the guidebook kind of location-- "She walked down 5th Avenue and stopped at [insert landmark store here]." I mean the kind of location chosen because it reflects the characters and the story. In some cases (like Meg Cabot, who obviously loves NYC) it reflects the author as well." For me, a strong sense of place is one of the big four things I look for in a book - not 100% necessary, but something that, paraphrasing Maureen, adds a lot when done right. (The others are well-rounded characters that I care about, a plot that keeps me reading to find out what happened, and the effective use of language, including dialog).
  • Congratulations to Daphne Lee from The Places You Will Go for getting her long-hoped for children's reading room off the ground. It will open May 3rd, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. She has a lovely column up now about why she started this project, based on how books give dreams validity, and how important that is for disadvantaged kids. For example: "Books say it's OK to have an idea or opinion that doesn't match everyone else's, or even deliberately challenges what's accepted and established. Call it creativity, imagination, contrariness or thinking out of the box - it's what leads people to invent amazing machines, discover cures, climb mountains, find lost lands and, indeed, write good books." But do read the whole column. I think you're making a difference, Daphne.

And that's all for today. Happy reading, all!