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Posts from May 2008

Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 21

Here's some recent children's literacy and reading news from around the wires. You'll find plenty of thought-provoking material this week:

  • Via the International Reading Association Blog, I learned that PBS is planning to air a new version of the Electric Company. Here's the AP story, which says that "The series, aimed at reducing the literacy gap between low- and middle-income families, will promote the idea that "reading is cool" with help from online and community-based activities, Sesame Workshop said in an announcement Monday." Way cool!
  • Via my friend Cory, the Columbia Journalism Review has an article by Ezra Klein about the future of reading. Klein notes: "I consulted my conscience, which is as much gadget-head as bookworm, and quickly came to a decision: I would simultaneously support reading and the introduction of expensive new electronic devices by buying a Kindle and proudly toting it around town for a month. That would give me time to determine whether this really was the future of reading, or whether the nation remained threatened by grave and unnamed consequences." Check out his detailed results and observations about the future of reading (don't worry: "content is (still) king").
  • The L.A. Times recently had an opinion piece by Esther Jantzen about the importance of what happens at home in children's literacy development. Via the IRA blog. Taking a page out of Jim Trelease's book, and citing the 10-year-old study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children", Jantzen calls for communication to parents on the importance of helping kids to hear more words. She says: "I contend that the interventions that must be made if we are to improve academic achievement in America need to happen in the home. And young, inexperienced, multi-tasking parents and caregivers need assistance, encouragement and clear information. Please don't look at this point of view with disdain and say, "That's been tried. We've tried parental involvement. We can't reach the parents who really need it." Parental education has not been tried the way it could be tried. How about an out-and-out, 10-year culture-change effort to assist parents in doing the things that help kids become better readers and learners?" Sounds smart to me. Maybe Esther Jantzen and Donalyn Miller should talk... (Updated to add: See also Tasha Saecker's response to the L.A. Times piece)
  • And while Esther and Donalyn (and Tasha) are talking, they should have a chat with Jill T. from The Well-Read Child. In a must-read post, Jill recently wrote about how fighting illiteracy is a community effort. She discusses the benefits that stem from reading with children, and the importance of reading for a productive adult life. She discusses literacy as a "basic survival skill", and the way that a focus on tests leaves some kids, who are given up on as expected failures, in the lurch. Click through to read her conclusion and passionate call to action.
  • In contrast to the above articles expressing concerns about literacy, this week Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post wrote about a study that found "no crisis for boys in schools". "The report by the nonprofit American Association of University Women, which promotes education and equity for women, reviewed nearly 40 years of data on achievement from fourth grade to college and for the first time analyzed gender differences within economic and ethnic categories. The most important conclusion of "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education" is that academic success is more closely associated with family income than with gender." Now, personally I think that it can be true that family income plays a stronger role than gender in literacy, while also being true that boys are having a harder time in school than girls are. But the study found that "Over the past three decades, the reading gap favoring girls on NAEP has narrowed or stayed the same." I don't know - it seems to me that there's a lot of work to be done to increase joy in reading for boys and girls, and that programs that give books and literacy education to lower income families are critically important.
  • LcbbogoOn that note, Cheryl Rainfield writes about The Children's Book Bank, newly opened in Toronto. Cheryl describes it thus: "It’s like a cross between a children’s book store and a library, only they give books away for free to children from low-income families, help children find the books that fit them, and read with the children. Children are allowed to take one book per visit, and there is no limit on the number of visits a child can make. This encourages low-income children to read, and allows them to experience the joy of owning their own books."
  • For another article about giving people the chance to own books, see Tasha Saecker's post about the recent Fox Cities Book Festival at Kids Lit. Tasha says: "One event that I helped most with was a children's area at the Book Fair where School Specialty donated children's books for us to simply give away to children who came in. The books were lovely, shiny, new and so were the children who came in. What joy to be able to tell people that they could have a book to keep.  Just because of someone's generosity, because they cared, and because we care. It was a powerful message and I just couldn't get tired of delivering it over and over again." How great is that?
  • The Public School Insights blog shares a round-up of "five new public school and district success stories in the past weeks". For example: "Pateros School District, a small rural district in north central Washington, is working with a regional arts group in an indirect approach to improving student achievement. By increasing access to arts education, the community and schools are increasing students' understanding of other cultures." Pass rates on the state reading test were up significantly in 2007 for fourth graders in the district.
  • According to Alexandra Frean in the Times Online, "An influential panel of experts set up to advise on (UK) government policy for the under-5s is demanding radical changes to literacy targets for preschool children, which they describe as “overly ambitious for most children”."
  • The Evening Sun (Chenango County, NY) has a short but sweet article by Jessica Lewis about a teacher-organized literacy project. "In order to give children a jump start on some of the skills they need to be successful in the class room, teachers in the Sherburne-Earlville School District have put together literacy bags that will be distributed to the incoming kindergartners and pre-kindergarten age students in the district."
  • recently published an extensively referenced article by Grace Hui-Chen Huang and Kimberly Mason about the motivations of parental involvement in children's learning. The article describes "strong positive correlations between parental involvement in their child's learning and academic achievement, better behaviors, accountability, social skills, and attendance", but discusses findings that suggest "that African American parents are often uninvolved in urban school settings". Family education programs that foster parental involvement are discussed.
  • A new University of Minnesota research center will be studying "ways to improve early childhood literacy development", according to a UMN news release. The idea is to "improve lifetime academic success by monitoring and providing intervention to promote children's reading skills as early as age 3. The project is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education."
  • As described in another news release, Justin Tuck of the New York Giants is teaming up with First Book to start a new literacy initiative. ""I have always felt passionately about literacy and now I am able to do something about it," said Tuck. "I cannot be more excited to partner with First Book and help thousands of children throughout the years through education and literacy."" Personally, I'm in favor of programs by which sports figures go out and tell kids how important they think reading is. I think they can reach kids who might not be interested in more conventional literacy programs.
  • And finally, if you need more literacy news, check out these two recent round-ups, by Terry, at The Reading Tub's blog, What Happens Next. If you're interested in children's reading and literacy, and you aren't reading What Happens Next, you really should start. Today.

Wednesday Afternoon Visits: May 21

I didn't have time to finish up my visits post yesterday. So here are a few more Kidlitosphere-related links for your possible attention:

  • I'm very late with posting about this one, but early last week, Sarah wrote at the Reading Zone about censoring classroom books. She quotes a conversation between two teachers that she overheard recently. The conversation involved the non-selection of The Higher Power of Lucky due to that one anatomical reference, and the outright whiting out of a word in the classroom copies of the last Harry Potter book. I think it's quite a sad story.
  • I'm also late with this one, but Susan Beth Pfeffer is offering to send readers signed stickers to put in their copies of Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. I've already received mine, and they are quite lovely. You can find the details here. Don't miss Sue's SBBT interviews, either. Here and here.
  • I enjoyed this post by Peter at Collecting Children's Books about his childhood fandom for a publisher (Atheneum), and the letter that he received "from Jean Karl, the famous editor who had started the children's department at Atheneum, discovered and guided the careers of so many famous authors, and had edited dozens of my favorite books." I can't say that I was like that about specific publishers (I was all about the authors), but I was enough of a book obsessed kid to appreciate now how cool that letter must have been for Peter. See also his recent post about literary comfort food (and see some of my comfort reading listed here).
  • Speaking of comfort reading, check out Justine Larbalestier's recent post about authors who write the same book over and over again. She muses on the fact that sometimes she finds this completely fine (as with Georgette Heyer, one of my favorite comfort authors), while other times she gets bored and stops reading. There's quite a discussion going on in the comments about this. I said (and this was prior to running across Peter's post above): "re-reading those books amounts to comfort reading. I read them in a particular mood, looking for a particular thing, and it pleases me immensely that every single book that she (Heyer) wrote in this class fits the bill."
  • Cynthia Leitich Smith has a great interview with Brazos Price, a member of the leadership team for Austin's Second Chance Books program. Brazos says: "Second Chance Books is collaboration between the Austin Public Library and the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center that results in books, book talks, book clubs and readers' advisory to youth who are incarcerated in either a pre- or a post-adjudication facility here in Austin, Texas." He calls the program "a win win win (win win win win win ad infinitum)." Certainly sounds like it to me.
  • On a lighter note, Kelly Herold suggests at Big A little a that "someone needs to start a blog devoted exclusively to celeb children's books. Just think, you could post each new publishing deal and even review their product." Sources (ok, the comments) report that MotherReader is thinking about it. Seems like a blog that would generate both traffic and controversy.
  • Over at PaperTigers, Janet Brown has a request for readers of The Tiger's Bookshelf. She's looking for input from kids about what kinds of books they enjoy, so that she can keep what they do at PaperTigers relevant to the true audience: kids. And honestly, the questions are great stepping off points for discussion between parents or teachers and kids. So, if you have a child in the middle grade age range that you could pass along Janet's questions to, please consider it.
  • Stepping down a bit in age levels, Jenny shares a preschool train unit at Wildwood Cottage. Since this is often a popular topic with kids, I thought that I would share. Jenny also seems to be in that blog focus angst stage that many of us have been through - and I wish her well, and hope that she'll continue blogging.
  • Over at Chicken Spaghetti, Susan T's 8-year-old son shares an insight that you probably never noticed about T.S. Eliot's name.
  • Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer, has a must-read post about the failures of the Reading First program, including comments by reading researcher and activist Stephen Krashen. Donalyn feels, and speaks, quite strongly on this issue, saying things like: "The children cannot wait. They do not have more time. Students, who entered kindergarten in 2000, the year the National Reading Panel report came out, are in high school now. While Washington policymakers fumble to figure out what is best practice in getting children to read and crafting program after program claiming to have the answers, these children are graduating and breathing a sigh of relief that they never have to read a book again." She also discusses the financial agendas of the people behind the testing industry, as compared to the parents and librarians and teachers who just want kids to read. Something has to be done - but I don't know what to do, personally, besides continue helping parents and teachers to find books that appeal to individual kids.
  • I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) has a new post by Anna Lewis about nonfiction books that promote strong women. She says: "Here are some really cool books that show girls that they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to and the possibilities are endless". Do check out Anna's list, especially if you have young girls in your household.
  • Speaking of strong women, Sherry from Semicolon linked to an interesting article by Elaine McArdle in the Boston Globe about the role of women in science and engineering fields. The article says: "Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else." Let's just say that I can relate to that notion, and found it a compelling read. 
  • Ellen Emerson White also has a post that I found interesting. She wrote about this week's no-hitter by young Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, a cancer survivor. Ellen says, and I agree, that Lester's backstory makes his accomplishment all the more special. She also uses the opportunity to highlight the many other people, famous and not, who are fighting cancer. But oh so happily, Kelly Herold's son is not one of them.

Can I just tell you that if time permitted, I would spend all day reading and writing about things like this? Hope that you find some food for thought.

Tuesday Evening Visits: May 20

It is amazing how quickly I can fall behind on my blog updating. For the past week I've been saving links as I run across them, and I have a boatload stored up. Not to mention literacy links, and reviews for my "made me want the book" list. And yet time keeps slipping away from me... But I'll get what I can up for you now, and hope for the best.

  • Susan Tyalor Brown is having a contest at Susan Writes. She has three autographed copies of In a Blue Room, by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa. (Harcourt, 2008), and she gives readers three different chances to enter the contest. But you'll have to click thorugh for details.
  • Shannon Hale has an inspiring post about gateway books "that will help that reader fall in love with stories, with the written word, and that will lead to more and more books". She shares examples of reluctant readers finding that one book that works for them, that gets them reading. And her visitors share other examples, too.
  • MotherReader shares her progress to date on her blogging goals for the year. She also asks readers how they are doing with their goals for the year, and several people share in the comments.
  • The Cybils organizers are looking for help in locating some of the 2007 Cybils winners. Anne ordered some gorgeous pens for the winners, but there are five winners who can't be found. If you know Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano, Shelley Jackson, Paolo Lamanna, or Eoin Colfer, please let them know they have a great prize waiting for them.
  • Congratulations to Mark and Andrea for reaching their second anniversary and 400th episode of Just One More Book!
  • Mitali Perkins is looking for suggestions for books about fathers and daughters. If you have any suggestions, please head on over and share them with her.
  • Over at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space blog, Jackie Parker shares a list of unexpected similarities between 2007 Cybils winning YA titles. For example, "Ucky Mothers", "Adults who Fail to protect kids in a Spectacular manner", and "The "responsible" adult doesn't tell mom where he's taking the kid". Fun stuff!
  • Via Gail Gauthier, I found an interesting article in the Denver Post about the positives to online book reviews. The gist is "the web to the rescue" in the face of the difficulty of getting new books reviewed. Meanwhile, Chris Barton writes about the "echo chamber" that is the community of people involved in children's book publishing. He asks "When my books are finally available, will most of the people who know about them be other folks in the local or online children's literature scene? Will the news of my publication be just one of many near-identical pieces of good news bouncing off the walls of one fairly self-contained community?" He suggests that we try branching out a bit.

OK, I have more, but I'll have to get back with you in the morning, because the sleepy wave is taking over. Happy reading! This week's Growing Bookworms Newsletter will be delayed (until, you know, there's something to actually send out). 

Summer Blog Blast Tour: This Week

I'm late in posting about this, due to yet another trip, and some difficulty in keeping up with work, but this week is the second annual Summer Blog Blast Tour, organized by the talented and tireless Colleen Mondor from Chasing Ray. The SBBT is an organized collection of author interviews, with several authors visiting multiple sites, and several sites interviewing multiple authors. I'm not participating, but I have been part of Blog Blast Tours in the past, and I think that they are a wonderful way to generate excitement about children's and young adult authors across the Kidlitosphere. Here is the complete schedule for the week, organized by Colleen, copied from Bildungsroman, with links coded by Little Willow and Kelly Fineman):

SBBT 2008 Schedule

Monday, May 19th
Adam Rex at Fuse #8
David Almond at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
R.L. LaFevers at Finding Wonderland
Dave Schwartz at Shaken & Stirred
Elizabeth Scott at Bookshelves of Doom
Laurie Halse Anderson at Writing & Ruminating
Susan Beth Pfeffer at Interactive Reader

Tuesday, May 20th
Ben Towle at Chasing Ray
Sean Qualls at Fuse #8
Susane Colasanti at Bildungsroman
Robin Brande at HipWriterMama
Susan Beth Pfeffer at The YA YA YAs
Debby Garfinkle at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Jennifer Lynn Barnes at Writing & Ruminating

Wednesday, May 21st
Delia Sherman at Chasing Ray
Ingrid Law at Fuse #8
Polly Dunbar at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Tera Lynn Childs at Bildungsroman
Siena Cherson Siegel at Miss Erin
Barry Lyga at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Thursday, May 22nd
Elisha Cooper at Chasing Ray
Dar Williams at Fuse #8
Jennifer Bradbury at Bildungsroman
E. Lockhart at The YA YA YAs
Mary Hooper at Miss Erin
Charles R. Smith, Jr. at Writing & Ruminating
Mary E. Pearson at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Friday, May 23rd
Varian Johnson at Finding Wonderland
Jincy Willet at Shaken & Stirred
John Grandits at Writing & Ruminating
Meg Burden at Bookshelves of Doom
Gary D. Schmidt at Miss Erin
Javaka Steptoe at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Don't miss the SBBT! The interviews have been amazing so far.

May Issue of the Edge of the Forest

Sheesh! I go one day without reading any blog posts (because of, you know, that whole work thing, plus taking 3 hours out to go to the event at Hicklebee's). And that's the day that Kelly Herold publishes the new issue of The Edge of the Forest (THE online children's literature journal). Isn't that always the way? But seriously, it looks like another great issue. Here are the highlights (borrowed from Big A little a):

Happy reading! The Edge of the Forest will be back in early June.

Rick Riordan at Hicklebee's

Rickriordantalk001All I really have to say is: Vivian (HipWriterMama) was right. Seeing Rick Riordan speak is an inspiration. I was fortunate to be able to attend Rick's event yesterday at Hicklebee's Children's Books in San Jose. And OK, I do have a bit more to say. It was 100 degrees out, and didn't seem that much cooler inside the store, which was completely packed (see photo below). But it was completely and totally worth it to see so many kids so excited to hear from an author. 

Rickriordantalk002God bless the people at Hicklebee's. The event extremely well-organized, despite the heat and the crowds. They gave out numbers as you arrived, so that people didn't have to stand in line. Being compulsively early by nature, and not having to wait for any kids to get out of school, I was fifth. (To the young woman who was first, if you're reading this, I hope it was worth the trip, and I look forward to seeing your books on the bestseller list one day in the future). So I got to meet Rick, and get a photo taken, and have a couple of copies of the new book signed. He knew who I was right away, which was very cool. Of course my Hunters of Artemis shirt was a bit of a clue. But still, it was great to finally meet Rick in person, after interviewing him last year and all, although the crowd was too big for much of a chat.

[My Hunters of Artemis shirt was a source of considerable admiration among the kids, and the adults, in the audience. If you ever want to meet people, wear something related to the Percy Jackson books while in a crowd of children's book lovers. That's my advice.]

He spoke for a half hour or so. And because the Hicklebee's team cares passionately about kids, the kids were all on the floor in front, where they could see, with the adults standing in the back and around the sides of the store. Rick read from the new book (and man, can he ever channel Percy - you can tell he's spent lots of time with middle school boys in his life). He also spoke a bit about the background of the book, and then he mostly just took questions. I can't even express how great it was to see all of those kids, eager and excited and asking great questions (like, could a God and a demi-god ever have a child together? Answer: well, that would be interesting, wouldn't it, but the demi-gods don't usually live that long). As Vivian noted, there was much rejoicing about the prospect of the movie version of The Lightning Thief (scheduled for release in fall of 2009, and being directed by Chris Columbus). The kids were also very excited to learn that there will be another series after the Percy Jackson books wrap up, featuring the same world, but different, younger characters. Rick also talked a bit about his upcoming 39 Clues books, and the kids were pretty keen on that, too.

Honestly, you had the feeling that if his schedule permitted (and if it hadn't been so crazily hot), Rick would have stood there in front of the room until every kid had every question answered. He clearly loves seeing kids excited about books. And he doesn't talk down to them, or let the attention go to his head in any way. For me, it was a validating experience, to see how much of an impact one person with a passion can have on kids and reading. Of course he had a lot of help, especially from his family and his publisher. But still, one person sat down and wrote these books - and kids all across the country and around the world are enthralled, engaged, and READING. That, my friends, is how you make a difference in the world. I'm so glad that I went to the event!

Making the afternoon even better - I was able to hang out with Becky Levine and her son. Becky and I had a great chat, and it was wonderful to finally meet her in person, after exchanging blog comments for ages. Her son wasn't much of a conversationalist, because, you know, he had the book in his hands, but it was fun to see him completely tune out the crowd, in favor of the real reason we were all there - the wonderful Percy Jackson books. Becky's thoughts on the event are here.

The Battle of the Labyrinth Mheir came, too. He was a bit late, and wasn't able to meet Rick (because he - Mheir - had to go back to work), but he was able to hear the talk, and see the buzz. And now we have two copies of The Battle of the Labyrinth to read. So, if you don't hear from me for a bit, you'll know that I'm reading.

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

A Meme about Various Things

Okay, okay (as Kelly put it). I don't usually do memes, especially if they aren't directly book related. But both Megan Germano from Read, Read, Read and Sarah from The Reading Zone tagged me for this one. And they're both very nice people, who comment on my blog, and whose blogs I appreciate. And this meme does seem to be everywhere. And I don't really feel like working, after a very long day yesterday. So here I go:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Okay, now the heart of the meme:

What were you doing ten years ago?

10 years ago I was living in Boston, consulting and working on my Ph.D. in industrial engineering, while Mheir was in medical school. In June of that year we moved to Houston, Texas.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Follow up with sales contacts (for my paying job)
2. Send out my work newsletter (in process as I write, it takes a long time to send)
3. Go to the grocery store, and put steaks in to marinate (done)
4. Fill out my absentee ballot for some small-scale election that's coming up (in CA you can do a permanent absentee ballot that lets you vote by mail for everything - for me I find that it makes me more likely to vote for these smaller elections than I would be otherwise). (done)
5. Post about several recent book award announcements (done)

What are some snacks you enjoy?

- Chips and salsa (the hotter the better)
- Cheese and crackers (or bread)
- Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Retire from my job so that I could work full-time on things related to children's books and literacy. Buy houses on the East and West Coasts (to live where I want, but be able to visit with family and friends back east frequently). Start some sort of foundation that gives books to kids (though I would want to hire someone to deal with anything administrative). I would probably still have to travel a lot, but I would at least be able to fly first class.

What are three of your bad habits?

1. I don't exercise enough (this is partly because I hurt my knee, but I know that it's an excuse).
2. I email or write people who I should just call, because I don't like talking on the phone.
3. I sometimes make decisions too quickly, without thinking through the consequences.

What are five places where you have lived?

1. Boston (Lexington and Chestnut Hill)
2. Durham, North Carolina (for undergrad at Duke)
3. Austin, Texas (for grad school at UT)
4. Houston, Texas (2 years at the start of Mheir's residency)
5. San Jose, CA (with one year in Menlo Park when we first moved out here)

What are five jobs you have had?

1. Clerk in a hardware store
2. Clerk and deli person in a convenience store
3. Ticket seller for a box office on campus
4. Intern for a town engineering department
5. Founder and COO of a software firm

(There were some other steps between 4 and 5)

What six people do you want to tag?

If I rarely do memes, I even more rarely tag other people. But I will give a nod to Nan from Anokaberry, Jenny from Wildwood Cottage, Patty from Capturing Joy, Kathy from Library Stew, Aerin from In Search of Giants and Anamaria from Books Together Blog, because I've commented back and forth with all of them recently, and I haven't seen any of them tagged yet. Truly, though, my friends, feel free to skip the meme if you aren't interested.

That was more fun than I expected. Thanks, Megan and Sarah! 

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

Seeing People Who Love What They Do

In light of recent bleak world events, MotherReader shared some news that brightened her day, and asked: "What’s lightening your heart these days?" In the comments, I posted a link to this post at Cynthia Lord's journal, in which Cindy expresses her joy at winning a kid's choice award (the Great Stone Face award) in her home state of New Hampshire. You can't help but be happy for all of the accolades that Rules has won, if you read Cindy's blog, because her joy and gratitude are so genuine.

I wanted to share another example here too. This past weekend Mheir and I went to a talent show sponsored by St. Andrew Armenian Church (where Mheir is on the Parish Council). It was a much higher-end production than I expected when I heard the phrase "talent show", featuring both home-grown and professional talent. We saw a number of great performers (I especially liked the Gypsy Dance). But the act that brought down the house was by Felix Amirian and Nasser Bobmoradi, two members of the band Gypsy Tribe. Felix played guitar, Nasser played rhythm guitar, and they did two songs initially, plus an encore later. It was a simple act, really. Two guys on guitars, no lyrics, up on the stage. The music was great, but what made the act special was the sheer joy that both Nasser and Felix brought to the performance. They started out sitting down, but eventually they were standing up at the front of the stage, audience clapping along, as though they simply couldn't help it. The music and the audience drew them forward. They were laughing and smiling throughout - and it just had to be genuine enthusiasm shining forth. I can't tell you how much that resonated with and energized the crowd. Mheir and I liked the music a lot, but I think that we bought the CD because we wanted to hang onto that joy a little bit longer.

Seeing people who truly love what they do is inspirational. I wish you all the opportunity, and the determination, to find that joy in your own lives.

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

Three Book Awards

Today I have three book award-related announcements. First up, from Skipping Stones Magazine, and via Mitali Perkins, I found the following press release. I was especially pleased to see a book by friends Ken Beller and Heather Chase (Great Peacemakers) on the list. Way to go Ken, Heather, and Mitali! It's wonderful to see you all making a difference through books.

The 15th Annual Skipping Stones Honor Awards recognize 26 exceptional books and teaching resources. Together, they encourage an understanding of the world's diverse cultures, as well as nature and ecological richness. The selection promotes cooperation, nonviolence, respect for differing viewpoints, and close relationships in human societies. We present these great books to you as the summer season stretches before us. It's a time of year when many travel to explore new places in the world, or to revisit meaningful ones. Reading books is another way you can explore cultures, places and even other time periods. The winners are featured in our summer issue. Welcome to the wonderful world of words!

Download the official
press release here

Multicultural & International Awareness Books:

One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith, illustr. Aurélia Fronty. Barefoot Books; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-1-84686-042-3

When The Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustr. David Kanietakeron Fadden. Tricycle. Picture Book. ISBN: 978-1-58246-192-2

Armando and the Blue Tarp School by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, illustr. Hernán Sosa. Lee & Low; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-1-58430-278-0. See also the Blue Tarp School website.

I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story / Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito: Un Cuento del Dia de los Muertos by Janice Levy, illustr. Loretta Lopez. Albert Whitman; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-0-8075-3516-5

The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustr. Laura Jacobsen. Boyds Mills Press Picture Book. ISBN: 978-1-59078-431-0

Romina's Rangoli by Malathi Michelle Iyengar, illustr. Jennifer Wanardi. Shen's Books; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-1-885008-32-9

Sky Sweeper by Phillis Gershator, illustr. Holly Meade. Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-0-374-37007-7

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway, illustr. Eugenie Fernandes. Kids Can Press; Picture Book. Ages 7 and up. ISBN: 978-1-55453-028-1

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustr. Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge; Ages 7-10. ISBN: 978-1-58089-308-4

Great Peacemakers: True Stories from Around the World (Teacher's guide available) by Ken Beller & Heather Chase. LTS Press; Ages 12-80. ISBN: 978-0-9801382-0-7

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner. Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press; Ages 10-15. ISBN: 978-1-59078-498-3

Chess Rumble by G. Neri, illustr. Jesse Joshua Watson. Lee and Low; Ages 11-15. ISBN: 978-1-58430-279-7

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer, a biography by Gretchen Woelfle. Calkins Creek/ Boyds Mills Press; Ages 11-17. ISBN: 978-1-59078-437-2

Tasting The Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, a memoir by Ibtisam Barakat. Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Ages 11-15. ISBN: 978-0374-35733-7

The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with others to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis. Free Spirit; Ages 12-17. ISBN: 978-1-57542-266-4

A Shout in the Sunshine, a novel by Mara W. Cohen Ioannides. Jewish Publication Society; Ages 12-17. ISBN: 978-0-8276-0838-2

Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives, ed. by Sarah Cortez. Piñata Books; Ages 13-18. ISBN: 978-1-55885-482-6

The Ocean in the Closet, a debut novel by Yuko Taniguchi. Coffee House Press; Ages 15 to adults. ISBN: 978-1-56689-194-3

Nature and Ecology Books:

Nature's Yucky! 2: The Desert Southwest by Lee Ann Landstrom & Karen I. Schragg, illustr. Rachel Rogge. Mountain Press; ISBN: 978-0-87842-529-7

River Song with the Banana Slug String Band by Steve Van Zandt, illustr. Katherine Zecca. Dawn Publications; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-1-58469-093-1

The Bee Tree by Stephen Buchmann and Diana Cohn, illustr. Paul Mirocha. Cinco Puntos Press; Picture Book. ISBN: 978-0-938317-98-2

The Inuit Thought Of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations by Alootook Ipellie with David MacDonald. Annick Press; Ages 9-12. ISBN 978-1-55451-087-0

The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon. Scholastic Inc.; Ages 8-13. ISBN: 978-0-439-02494-5

Teaching and Parenting Resources:

2008 World Diversity Calendar, Orison Publishers; This interfaith, multilingual calendar belongs on every classroom wall! ISBN: 978-0-9763800-5-4.

What Kids REALLY Want to Ask: Using Movies to Start Meaningful Conversations -- A Guidebook for Parents and Children Ages 10-14 by Rhonda A. Richardson, Ph.D. and A. Margaret Pevec, M.A. VanderWyk & Burnham; ISBN: 978-1-889242-31-6

My Imaginary Friend by Shirley Ann Povondra and Kathryn Andrew. Llumina Kids; For parents and educators to read with children. ISBN: 978-1-59526-669-9

I also received the following notice from the Association of Jewish Libraries that the Sydney Taylor Book Awards are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

Cleveland, OH - May, 2008 - The Sydney Taylor Book Award, established in 1968 by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL), commemorates its fortieth anniversary this year. Authors, publishers, and librarians will gather to celebrate Taylor's legacy during the Association's annual convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series, the Sydney Taylor Book Award recognizes the best in Judaic literature for children and teens. Medals are awarded annually for outstanding books that authentically portray the Jewish experience. 

The celebration will kick off on the evening of Tuesday, June 24 with the presentation of the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Awards during the convention's annual banquet. Winners Sonia Levitin (Strange Relations), Sid Fleischman (The Entertainer and the Dybbuk), and Sarah Gershman and Kristina Swarner (The Bedtime Sh'ma) will be honored at the banquet.  Honor Award winners will also be recognized. A full-day program on Wednesday, June 25 includes panels on the history of Jewish children's literature, teen fiction, picture books, illustrated non-fiction, trends in publishing, and a keynote address by Sid Fleischman. A book signing and dessert reception will conclude the festivities.

Organizer Rachel Kamin says "Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family books changed the way American readers viewed Jewish literature. Readers of all backgrounds embraced these characters, and continue to connect with the Jewish characters in our award-winning books. It's so exciting to have reached the forty year milestone, and we look forward to another forty years of top quality Jewish literature!"

Click here for a full-color PDF listing of the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award winners. Additional information about the award and the celebration may be found at

And finally, via Goodman Media, the Children's Choice Awards were announced this week.

Frankie Stein, Big Cats, and Encyclopedia Horrifica Voted Favorite Reads by Kids - J.K. Rowling Voted Favorite Author and Ian Falconer Voted Favorite Illustrator - Close to 55,000 Votes Received

NEW YORK, NY May  13, 2008 – The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with the CBC Foundation, announced the winners of the first annual Children’s Choice Book Awards  at a gala in New York City, hosted by Jon Scieszka, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Children across the country voted for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and at Close to 55,000 votes were received.

The Children’s Choice Book Award winners are as follows:

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year: Frankie Stein written by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (Marshall Cavendish Corporation)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year: Big Cats by Elaine Landau (Enslow Publishers)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year: Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee (Scholastic)

Illustrator of the Year Award: Ian Falconer, Olivia Helps with Christmas (Simon & Schuster)

Author of the Year Award: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic)

The Children’s Choice Book Awards program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read. The program is a new component of Children’s Book Week, the longest running literacy event in the country. 

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: May 13, 2008

Jpg_book007Tonight 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 260 subscribers.

This week I have two picture book reviews, a young adult review (The Compound), an installment of my "reviews that made me want to read the book" feature, a children's literacy and reading news round-up, a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the week, an announcement about RIF's Reading is Fun week, and a post about the six criteria that I use in selecting and evaluating books (my 6 P's of Book Appreciation). Recent posts not included in this newsletter include:

  • An announcement about an article that I recently had published in Escape Adulthood Magazine (about why adults should continue reading children's books), together with some links about finding your passion.
  • An announcement about a book previously viewed (the dead and the gone) now available for purchase.
  • A link to a post well worth reading asking why our kids don't read more.

It's great to feel like I'm finally getting the blog back on track. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: May 11

Happy Mother's Day, to all of the Moms out there. It's a beautiful day here in California, though I'm feeling a bit under the weather. Still, I managed to get some reviews written, finally. And for once I'm feeling relatively caught up on the doings of the Kidlitosphere. This makes me happy. And you know what? It makes my Mom happy, too, because she knows it's how I want to spend my time (and she's 3000 miles away, so I can't spend it with her today). And that's what Moms are all about, wanting their kids to be happy and fulfilled and all of that. Anyway, here is some news from around the Kidlitosphere:

  • Newlogorg300First off, congratulations to Readergirlz for winning a James Patterson PageTurner grant!! Here's a bit from the press release: With recent reports showing a decline in reading among adults and teens, and federal budget cuts reducing book distribution, the promotion of books and reading is more important than ever. James Patterson's true passion has always been to get people of all ages excited about books and reading, and for years he has proudly supported people and organizations who dedicate themselves to keeping the fun and excitement of books and reading alive. This year's PageTurner Award winners are the cream of the crop..." Well, certainly if they include Readergirlz, they must be!
  • At The Places You Will Go, Daphne uses her Tots to Teens column to vent about celebrity and child authors. She writes, sarcasm evident, "I'm certain celebrity authors write for children because it's something that they've worked on for years and years, and are willing to continue to work at until they have perfected their craft or died in the attempt. Yes. Of course." She also says: "I have nothing against child authors per se, but I don't think children should be published simply because they are children (just as celebs shouldn't be encouraged to write and publish books simply because they've recorded and sold millions of CDs). If a child's work is published I feel it should be judged (reviewed) without consideration for the age of its writer/illustrator." I agree! The author's age makes for interesting backstory, if and only if the book can stand on its own in the first place.
  • Shelf Elf shares a SMART List of Gripping Greek Mythology. As noted in the comments of the post, this list could be an excellent jumping off point for young fans of the Percy Jackson books.
  • At Big A little a, Kelly Herold shares a post of special interest to writers of young adult and middle grade fiction for boys, linking to a conversation between two real-life teens and their mother at Writing as Jo(e).
  • Meanwhile at Educating Alice, Monica Edinger shares her thoughts about the recent Renaissance Learning study about kids' reading habits. Her post title pretty much sums it up: So What? But you should go read the entire post, and the comments, which give perspectives from people in the trenches, teaching. See also Susan's follow-on post on the subject at Chicken Spaghetti. She also links to a variety of recent discussions on reading.
  • At the Reading Rockets Sound It Out blog, Joanne Meier shares 5 ways to appreciate a teacher AND build literacy skills. The ideas are quite practical and inexpensive, starting with: "Donate a copy of your favorite read aloud to the class. Teachers are always looking for tried and true read alouds. If a book worked for you, it might work for the class too!"
  • At I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), Vicki Cobb writes about the selling of books at an author's school visits. I found this interesting, because it's not something I've ever given thought to (not working at a school, or having kids). Vicki makes the point that "If an author excites and interests kids, the author is invariably asked, "Where can I get your books? If the books are not at hand, the moment is lost. What baffles me is why a school that has spent some of its limited resources to bring an author to the school, obviously caring about "enrichment," does not understand how to optimize the educational experience it has created." Sounds reasonable to me.
  • At Confessions of a Bibliovore, Maureen writes about the trust that she has in certain authors, which makes her pick up their new books, even if she doesn't know anything about them. She adds: "The deepest author trust is when you hear the synopsis and go, ". . . Huh. I dunno about that one. If another author were writing it, I'd pass it over, but it's X. So I'll give it a whirl."" She also shares an off the cuff list of some of her most trusted authors, like Meg Cabot and Eva Ibbotson, and asks readers to share their trusted author lists. I touched on this myself, in my recent "six P's of book appreciation" post, when I said that there are certain authors who I'll read, even if I'm skeptical of the premise of a book. Kindred spirits, Maureen, kindred spirits. 
  • Elaine Magliaro shares some links for Children's Book Week (May 12-18) at Wild Rose Reader. She also links to a variety of book lists. 
  • Lots of people have sent greetings to their mothers on their blogs this weekend, but do check out Vivian's letter to her mom at HipWriterMama. Any mother would be proud to have her for a daughter. See also Peter's extensive post at Collecting Children's Books: "a mamacentric collection of thoughts, opinions and information dedicated to all the mothers out there -- especially mine!"

And that's it for today. Happy reading!

The Compound: S. A. Bodeen

Book: The Compound
Author: S. A. Bodeen
Pages: 256
Age Range: 14 and up

The CompoundThe Compound by S. A. Bodeen is a fast-paced, compelling read with an exceptionally creepy premise. It grabs the reader from the very first page:

"T.S. Eliot was wrong. My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the Compound and that silver door closed behind us.
The sound was brutal.
An echoing, resounding boom that slashed my nine-year-old heart in two. My fists beat on the door. I bawled. The screaming left me hoarse and my feet hurt."

The book begins as nine-year-old Eli, his parents, and two sisters enter the family's secret, underground Compound, fleeing the start of a nuclear war. As though entering an underground lair, where you'll have to spend the next fifteen years, weren't drama enough - Eli is particularly traumatized because his beloved twin brother and grandmother didn't make it in time to join the rest of the family. They are left on the outside, presumed dead. And Eli is left drowning in guilt for the part that he played in their ending up on the wrong side of the door.

After a brief prologue describing the family's first day in the Compound, the book fast forwards six years. Fifteen-year-old Eli is damaged goods, refusing to let anyone touch him, and downright hostile to his two sisters. He still misses his twin brother, Eddy, every day. And he chafes against the control imposed by his father on absolutely everything. He also worries because the family is starting to run out of food, and blocks his mind from a truly terrible family secret, hidden behind an innocuous door. Then Eli starts to snoop around a bit, and learns that the situation is even more precarious than he had expected.

I read this book in one sitting - I simply couldn't put it down. The premise is fascinating, the setting is unique, and the action moves forward quickly, with layers of suspense that kept me turning the pages. Eli himself isn't the most likable character at the start of the book, but I found myself pulling for him anyway, because he was in such an impossible situation. And he does improve. Eli's younger sister, Terese, is also a strong character, functioning a bit as Eli's conscience. She watches a video of Mary Poppins at least once a day, and speaks with an affected English accent. Of course one would expect characters who have lived for six years underground, with no outside contact, to be a bit quirky.

I read this book so compulsively that I didn't even stop to flag any passages to share with you. But in truth, I don't want to give too much information away here, anyway, because I don't want to spoil the surprises of this book. I highly recommend this title for readers age 14 and up, especially for teen boys who crave suspense and like books with a dark atmosphere. I would hesitate to give this book to younger kids, however, although the writing style is quite accessible, because some of the concepts addressed are more than a bit disturbing. Overall, The Compound is an emotional roller-coaster of a book. It had me on the edge of my seat, made me contemplate certain philosophical questions, and also brought tears to my eyes. Don't miss it!

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: April 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the advance review copy, and may not reflect the final, printed edition of the book.
Other Blog Reviews: Worlds of Wonder, Charlotte's Library
Author Interviews: The Story Siren, Cynsations

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