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Posts from July 2008

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 7

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 300 subscribers.

This week I have several short Kidlitosphere round-ups with links to useful posts from the past two weeks, a round-up of recent children's literacy and reading news, and an interview and discussion of early chapter books with author Gail Gauthier. I also have an installment of my reviews that made me want to read the book feature, and a post inspired by a recent rant on musty summer reading lists from The Reading Zone. Recent posts not included in the newsletter include:

I'm hoping to start catching up on reviews later this week. I've been reading some great books, and will share some with you next week. Meanwhile, you can find several early reader recommendations in the Gail Gauthier interview. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!


Summer Reading Rant at The Reading Zone

Sarah over at The Reading Zone has just posted a rant on the subject of musty summer reading lists that I wish every school administrator, teacher, media specialist, and parent of school-aged children would read. Inspired by the summer reading lists that her family and friends have put in front of her, Sarah discusses the reasons why classics often don't make good summer reading ("Most of the classics require a good deal of scaffolding- the vocabulary is difficult, the situations are usually unfamiliar, and the context of the stories has not always been explained."). She laments the short, often boring lists that kids are confronted with, and in particular the fact that the lists are frequently dated, and don't highlight newer titles that are more relevant to the kids' experiences. She offers concrete suggestions for the updating of summer reading lists.

Sarah closes with a passionate defense of the joy of summer reading, and a warning. She says, "I firmly believe that miserable summer reading experiences are just one of the reasons we are raising a generation of bookhaters instead of booklovers." I agree with the whole post, but especially with this last sentence. Why do schools put practices in place that actually kill the joy of reading? Why are we not, as a population, doing everything we can to make sure that kids LOVE to read? Why are kids being asked to read books that they don't like, when they could be reading The Battle of the Labyrinth, or Audrey Wait!, or Cicada Summer, or any of dozens and dozens of other wonderful and engaging titles? This makes me crazy.

Sarah is not the first to decry musty summer reading lists (the Book Whisperer also has a must-read post on this topic, for instance), and she surely won't be the last. But I think that her post covers the subject well, with the right combination of passion and reason. I wish that I could put it into the hands of everyone who has influence over the development of summer reading lists. Of course it's already too late to change the formal lists for this year. But maybe we could start a campaign to take back the joy of summer reading for next year. And in the meantime, perhaps Sarah's words will inspire a few parents to take their kids to the bookstore in search of fun, inspiring, can't-put-them-down titles. Those books are out there. It's up to adults to make sure that kids have a chance to read them. Thanks for listening. Now go read Sarah's post at The Reading Zone.


Sunday Afternoon Visits: Holiday Weekend Edition

It was a pretty quiet weekend on the blogs, what with the July 4th holiday in the US and all. Still, I ran across a few things that I wanted to share:

  • Jill is hosting a Family Reading Challenge and Giveaway at The Well-Read Child. After discussing her reasons for starting this challenge, she says "Would you like to spend more time reading and challenge yourself and your family to read a bit every day? If so, I'd love it if you joined me! The only rule is that you try to fit in time every day." Sounds like a worthy goal to me. Jill also has some excellent books that she's going to give away to participants.
  • Over at the Reading Zone, Sarah asks readers for book recommendations for her nine year old sister, "a voracious reader." There are tons of suggestions in the comments (including a few from me), so if you are looking for ideas for the nine year old in your life, this post is worth checking out.
  • And, if you're looking for recommendations for slightly younger readers, check out the conclusion of Gail Gauthier's Three Robbers blog tour, with links to all of the interviews/early chapter book discussions.
  • At Shrinking Violet Promotions, Mary Hershey and Robin LaFevers have an event going on in honor of the launch of Mary's new book (10 Lucky Things that Have Happened to Me Since I Nearly Got Hit by Lightning) that will get books into the hands of young girls who need them. Explains Robin, Mary "has invited her friends and family to purchase a gift card (by phone if that’s easier) from our local independent bookstore, Chaucer’s, and then in turn designate that it be used to buy a copy of our books (yes we're doing a buddy signing!) to be donated to Girls, Inc. so that a girl that might not otherwise have a chance to read or own the books might do so." How cool is that?
  • Shelf Elf is celebrating her upcoming one-year blogiversary. And she is seeking presents. Not to worry, though. All she wants are your book recommendations. If you read Shelf Elf, and would like to show your support, just head on over to this post, and leave a link to one of your reviews in the comments.
  • Speaking of showing support, congratulations to Mitali Perkins, whose Rickshaw Girl (reviewed here) was recently named to The Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association's list of 25 Notable Books for a Global Society. She's in some excellent company, too. If you're looking for some globally diverse book recommendations, do check out the full list.

And now, for the first time since I left on June 19th to go to my brother's wedding, I'm feeling caught up with what's going on in the Kidlitosphere -- reviews, literacy news, and other general happenings. Next up -- catching up on my own reviews. I've read some great stuff lately, and hope to have time to write a bunch of reviews later this week.


Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: July 6

It's kind of crazy for me to be highlighting reviews that made me want the book when I just came back from ALA with a stunning number of books. And yet, these reviews deserve my attention, and deserve for me to add the books to my list. (And actually, I already have copies of three of these titles, so I'm only adding two new titles to my TBR list).

The Eyes of a KingJill T. got my attention at The Well-Read Child by titling her review "The next JK Rowling?". She says: "Nineteen year old Catherine Banner’s debut novel, The Eyes of a King, the first in a trilogy was just released. I ... stayed up way too late last night finishing the book. And all I have to say is “WOW WOW WOW.” I don’t remember feeling this excited about a book and such anticipation for the next in the series since, well, Harry Potter." OK, Jill, good enough for me. And actually, I have a copy on my shelf - so it's just a matter of moving it up in the queue.

The CrossroadsJill also reviewed The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein. I've read and enjoyed a couple of Grabenstein's adult mysteries, and had already suspected that his writing would transfer well to writing for kids. Jill confirmed this, saying: "A great new summer read that boys and girls alike will enjoy. Chris Grabenstein's first children's novel, The Crossroads will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time you're reading the book." This one is in my pile, too (it seems that Jill and I received the same box from Random House).

The Knife of Never Letting GoHere is as far as I read into Monica Edinger's review at Educating Alice of this title: "After reading that review of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go I requested an ARC from the publisher. I casually started reading it and then was unable to stop till I was done. Boy oh boy; it is one hell of a read. The Knife of Never Letting Go is a dystopic novel involving settlers who created a New World because they wanted a simpler life (a la those Mayflower passengers of our yore)." And that, from Monica, is enough for me. Plus I was able to score an ARC of this title at ALA.

ObernewtynThis one has no full review, but Emmaco from There's Always Time for a Book recommended a series as part of my The Adoration of Jenna Fox give-away that caught my attention. She said: "I can offer some Aussie futuristic/apocalyptic SF type books: Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn series that are set in a post-nuclear disaster world and feature characters with a host of psychic powers (I loved these as a child but warn readers that although I'm hitting my late 20s the series hasn't been finished yet! But there are firm plans for them to be wrapped up soon I believe)." Sounds fun to me!

The Door to TimeAnd speaking of fun, Darla D. from Books & other thoughts reviewed The Door to Time (the first book in the Ulysses Moore series), by Pierdomenico Baccalario. It was really Darla's whole description of the book that caught my attention, but I was sure after reading her conclusion: "This first installment in the series sets the stage nicely, raising all kinds of intriguing questions, full of danger and excitement, and ends with a scene that is sure to have readers clamoring for the next book in the series. I enjoyed listening to the audio version of this very much - it was a gripping, well-told story with evocative music at key moments. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series."

And that's all for now - but I'm sure I'll add some more books to my wish list once other people start reviewing their ALA conference finds. Happy reading!


Children's Literacy Round-Up: July 6

I missed last week's round-up of children's literacy and reading news, and have lots of things to share with you this week:

  • The Baltimore Sun reports, in an article by Liz Bowie, that "Although the nation's lowest-performing students have made great progress in the No Child Left Behind era of testing, the top students are not making similar strides, according to a report by the Fordham Institute... While the report's authors are careful to say they found no evidence that the landmark education law passed in 2002 has hindered the progress of talented students, the report does raise questions about whether the law is putting too much emphasis on bringing up the bottom tier of struggling students." Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Tribune reports mixed results in Utah schools from the Reading First program, in an article by Lisa Schencker.
  • A former children's librarian, Carol Sue Snowden, recently left more than a million dollars to the public library and several local schools in Columbus, Ohio, according to an article by Debra Lau Whelan in School Library Journal. "“We all knew that she was dedicated to expanding children’s love of reading, but I don’t think anyone expected this amount of money,” says Kim Snell, spokeswoman for the library." My favorite part is that "Snowden also left money to the libraries she used growing up in Illinois, including $10,000 to her grade-school library, $10,000 to her high-school library, and $10,000 to her local library." I have such fond memories of the libraries that I used growing up that this is a joy to see. See also this SLJ Extra Helping article about the benefits of reading aloud to kids.
  • According to another SLJ article by Whelan, "Despite last-ditch efforts by library supporters, the Mesa Public School Board in Arizona voted this week to eliminate all teacher librarians over a three-year period." So very sad.
  • And, in another sad story, Literacy and Reading News recaps a study that found "that almost 1 in 5 parents do not see the benefit of reading to a child before they are at an age when they can sit up or talk and 1 in 4 parents struggle with reading and so do not read to their children at all." This UK-based study found that "over 50% of parents only spend a maximum of 8.5 minutes reading to their children each day and, more surprisingly, over 34% of parents spend no time reading to their children at all. Only 3.9% of parents spend the recommended maximum2 3.5 hours reading to their children each week, an average of 30 minutes every day." Doesn't it just make you want to jump up and down in front of parents and encourage them to read to their kids?
  • The Tuscaloosa News reports, in an article by Harriett Burton, that the Hale County Hospital in Greensboro is the first hospital in Alabama "where every pediatrician has signed on with Reach Out and Read, a national children's literacy program for poor children."
  • A middle school jazz band in Coral Springs, FL has written a song "to inspire their fellow classmates with a love of literature." The NBC-6 website has the scoop. ""We wanted this song to kind of express that reading is important and will really help you succeed, because without reading, you’ll fail -- guaranteed, as the song lyrics go,” said lead singer and writer Russell Hall."
  • A Maryland education panel has suggested a longer school day, in an effort to raise test scores for middle school students. School administrators, however, have indicated that such a plan would be very expensive. Read more in this Washington Post article by Nelson Hernandez. In a similar vein, the Newark Advocate reports in an article by Seth Roy that all-day kindergarten boosts children's literacy skills. Thanks to the International Reading Association blog for the link.
  • The Independent has a fun 5-minute interview with Henry Winkler. Thanks to Kelly Herold for the link. Henry Winkler is a major advocate for "kids who learn differently", and it's always a pleasure to read his interviews. I would like to meet him someday.
  • The Galesburg Register-Mail (IL) has a nice article by Michelle Anstett about ways to keep kids, including reluctant readers, reading over the summer. It concludes (with words from librarian Kari Smith)" "No matter what, though, Smith says parents taking time out to read with their children is crucial to building a love of reading. “The most potent thing that you can give you child as a parent is your undivided attention,” she explained. “If they know they’ll get your undivided attention for a period of time,” reading might not seem like such a chore."
  • According to an article by David Robinson in the Scotsman, J.K. Rowling has dealt a blow to UK plans to age-band children's books, by coming out against the proposal. "The writers’ rebellion against age-banding is spearheaded by Philip Pullman, the best-selling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. “Declaring that a book is for any group in particular means excluding every other group, and I don’t want to exclude anybody,” he said." 
  • The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has an article by Lorinda Toledo about a newly built literacy school to help students in distressed areas of Rochester.
  • According to the Post-Chronicle, "Dolly Parton has been forced to set up a U.K. office in a bid to cope with the demand for free books from her children's literacy scheme."
  • According to AllAfrica.com, "Ready to Read, a programme aimed at enhancing the pre-literacy skills of pre-schoolers, has been introduced at 65 city libraries. It entails lending books to day-care centres, creches and nursery schools, according to the city's official website."
  • For more children's literacy news, see The Reading Tub's very comprehensive June 30th Reading Round-Up. Seriously, don't miss it - Terry covers a few of the articles that I covered here, but has lot's more, too.

And that's it for this week. Hope that you all had a lovely July 4th weekend!


Wednesday Afternoon Visits: July 2

I'm finally feeling a bit caught up after last weekend's ALA Conference, and I have a few links to share with you.

  • MotherReader posts about the first meeting of her Mother-Daughter Summer Book Club, in which the participants read Jenny Han's Shug (which I reviewed here). Pam said: "Most interesting for me was finding out that the realistic flavor of the book that I find so appealing was actually a turn-off to some of the girls. I loved the book because it took me back to that transition so clearly and represented that age so accurately. But these particular girls felt like they’re already living this life of friends and crushes and popularity — why would they want to read about it?" Fascinating, isn't it? Something for we adult reviewers of children's and young adult books to keep in mind. (hmmm .... do you think the acronym ARCYAB would catch on?)
  • Speaking of summer reading, The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller, writes about the dichotomy by which summer reading for adults consists of "fast-paced thrillers..., weepy beach blanket reads, and thick historical epics" while young adults are required to read improving fare. She says: "We must remind ourselves that readers who leave school and keep reading are those people who discover reading is personally valuable", suggesting that kids should be left to read what they enjoy during the summer. I know I did.
  • If you're looking for summer reading lists, here are a few good choices. Esme Raji Codell reviews We Are the Ship, and shares various other baseball books at PlanetEsme. Els Kushner suggests several "magical, timeless, enchanting novels for children are set during summer vacation" at Librarian Mom. In contrast, Charlotte has a list of "cool books with which to escape summer" at Charlotte's Library. Summer reading options for all! I have to say that personally, I find the summer vacation list the most enticing - it's nice to see The Penderwicks on the same page as their literary antecedents, the Melendy Family.
  • Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup has an illustration-filled interview with Marla Frazee (the talented illustrator who makes Clementine spring from the page). I especially enjoyed a photo of Marla's work studio, which looks like a secret little cottage in the woods.
  • For all you writers out there, Laurie Halse Anderson has issued a challenge for July. She says: "1. Commit to write for 15 minutes a day for the entire month of July. 2. Just do it." Sounds almost achievable, doesn't it? Laurie will have encouraging/check-in posts every day on her blog.
  • And, for anyone thinking about writing as a career, you might want to check out TadMack's recent post (OK, rant) at Finding Wonderland about the financial side of being a children's book author. She says: "Don't get me wrong: I love what I do. And if you want to, may you find the courage to write, too. Just understand that it may not be blindingly lucrative, and please be nice to the writers you know, who are sometimes taken for granted as the one in the group who should treat everyone to dinner or coffee because they're "rich." OK. Point taken.
  • Cheryl Rainfield has rounded up a huge list of contests by which you can win books for children and teens, as well as a couple that have e-book readers as prizes.
  • Via Sarah Weinman's blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, I learned that someone is publishing a Treasure Island prequel. It's not going to be a children's book, however. According to the Independent, "The author John Drake, a former biochemist and freelance TV producer, has spent years studying Treasure Island line by line, together with books and essays on 18th-century shipping and piracy. The book, Flint & Silver, is the first in a scheduled series of six, snapped up last year by Harper Collins. Mr Drake is currently negotiating with a US publishing house for the American rights."
  • Anna from the Literacy is Priceless blog recently recapped some family literacy activities from the PBS Kids Raising Readers site, including a shout-out to the WordWorld show. And speaking of public broadcasting, via my friend Alex, WBUR and NPR's On Point broadcast today was about "A new history of children's literature, and what it tells us about growing up". The program featured guest Seth Lerer, professor of English and comparative literature at Stanford University and author of Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter.

It's good to be back home, hanging around in the Kidlitosphere. Happy reading!


Gail Gauthier's Early Reader Blog Tour

A Girl, A Boy and Three RobbersWelcome to the latest stop on Gail Gauthier's early reader blog tour, in honor of the release of her latest book: A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers  (which I reviewed here).

I don't usually do blog tours these days. However, Gail approached me about a specific tour to celebrate the launch of her second Hannah and Brandon Stories book, while also discussing and promoting early chapter books in general. She raised issues related to the quality of the books available for this age range and the lack of reviews that are published of books in this category. I agreed with Gail that this was a worthy thing to talk about. Instead of a traditional interview, I've chosen to participate in the form of a conversation with Gail about early readers. That is, I'm sharing my not-so-brief thoughts on this topic, and also asking Gail to share hers. Gail's responses are indented and in bold text.

I personally think that early chapter books are among the most important of all books published. These are the first books that most kids read on their own. If they are dull, or talk down to their readers, then kids learn that reading on their own is boring. How will they ever move on to the wonderful variety available for middle grade readers if they think that books are dull or annoying?

Gail, any thoughts on what the problems are with this genre, in terms of the kid appeal of what's out there?

I think that because these readers are so young and so different from the adults who produce books, it's difficult for adults to know what works for them. While a lot of grown-ups are carrying baggage from their teen and pre-teen years, it's harder for us to remember what our day-to-day life concerns were when we were six or seven years old. You get a lot of silliness in early books, a lot of word play, a lot of funny-sounding names. Presumably the adults producing them think young kids like that sort of thing. The gimmicks often seem more important than creating a story. I just don't know how the average child reader feels about that.

In addition, I know back when I had children this age, parents encouraged their kids to move on from these books as soon as they were reading fluently. I think treating chapter books as mere stepping stones to something better discourages their development as their own category or genre. I wonder if there are themes and situations important to kids under eight or nine years old that they could benefit from exploring in books directed specifically to their age group. If they hurry on to middle grade books, are they missing something?

So why don't reviewers talk about these books more? I think that the problem is that they offer the least stimulation for adult readers. Picture books have lavish illustrations, and often feature poetic text. Because picture books are written to be read to children by adults, many of them are adult-friendly. Middle grade and young adult novels have all sorts of benefits for the adult reader. They remind us of the books that we loved when we were kids. They are filled with adventure, and often feature larger than life heroes. But early chapter books? They tend to feature limited vocabularies, have short chapters, and focus on events relevant to early elementary school kids. These events are usually not wildly exciting for adult readers. (Though I do think that the best of these books have humor going for them.)

Gail, anything to add on why this category of books tends to get neglected in reviews? Do you try to read these books yourself?

This would be a good question for some review journal editors, Jen. While I definitely agree with everything you're saying, I don't know if individual reviewers get to choose what they review. My guess is that editors make decisions about the mix of reviews for different age groups.  Back in the 90s, I was advised to direct my writing to a middle grade audience because those were the kids who were really into reading. That was what was selling at that time. Then YA exploded and that's selling well now. Many of the kidlit review journals exist to help librarians, booksellers, and other professionals make decisions about what to purchase. Do editors decide how many reviews will be published in any particular category on the basis of how that category is selling because that's what their readership is going to need to know about? Do the number of nonpicture book reviews favor middle grade and YA for that reason? In addition, many books for younger kids are parts of series. I used to hear that some publications didn't review sequels, and so subsequent titles in a series wouldn't get a lot of attention. I don't know if that's the case anymore. I do see reviews for new Junie B. Jones and Clementine books, for instance.

I do think writers should be aware of what's being published in their field, so, yes, I've been trying to read these books since I first became interested in writing a book for younger kids.

Regardless of the causes, I think that we have to find a way to evaluate and publicize and write excellent books for this age range. Because otherwise our young readers won't learn to love books, and they'll never get to that magical middle grade reading stage of their lives. And that will be a huge loss.

I had an experience recently in which I read an early elementary school title and though "eh", and didn't review it. My visiting 8-year-old niece, on the other hand, sat down to read that book the moment she arrived, read it again later in the visit, and asked to take it home with her. Obviously, she saw something in that book that I didn't see.

This made me think about the other early readers that I've enjoyed recently. Sara Pennypacker's Clementine books are ones that I learned about from the teachers at A Year of Reading. Mary Lee and Franki have both talked about how much their students love Clementine. I also enjoyed The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, by Alexander McCall Smith. That book was recommended to me by an eight-year-old friend from Boston. He pointed out a humorous section from early in the book, and I trusted his judgment enough to get it for myself. Then there was Pa Lia's Big Day, the first of the Jackson Friends books. That recommendation came from Kelly Herold, or, I think, from her son. I'm also content to recommend, sight unseen, Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books, on the recommendation of Jules from Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast and her daughters.

I like books with real stories that don't involve some kind of improving lesson. I understand that there's a long history of stories with some kind of moral in children's literature, but it's not something I can get behind. I recently read Jack Bolt and the Highwaymen's Hideout by Richard Hamilton. It's a time travel adventure with a well developed storyline, humor, and a number of illustrations. I like the Ivy + Bean books by Annie Barrows, which I think I first heard about through a blog. They're realistic stories about younger girls without a lot of adult characters helping the girls out. I also liked Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros, which I think I stumbled upon at the library. Violet is an anxious child, portrayed realistically. While browsing at the library I also came upon a couple of books in the Moose and Hildy series by Stephanie Greene, which would be appropriate for kids on the younger end of the range we're talking about. I didn't find the books as funny as I expected them to be, but they seemed very comforting and reminded me of the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel. I particularly dislike books that rely on low gimmicks—funny words, humor related to bodily functions, etc. I have no objection to toilet humor and bodily function jokes when they are used to define character or are part of a real story. But when that's all there is, I feel the authors don't respect their audience and believe they don't have to do legitimate work to hold readers. 

It seems to me that a pattern is emerging here. More so than with books for middle grade and YA readers, the recommendations that have interested me in early readers have come, even if indirectly, from kids themselves. Sure, I've then vetted the books, made sure that the plot flows, and the dialog feels natural, and things like that. But they've first caught the eye of kids.

But how can we depend on kids for the initial recommendations? We can't very well give every new reader a big stack of these books, and make them weed through to find the best ones. That would be turning the whole thing into homework. And yet... kids are much more qualified to make the first pass assessment of these books than we are. They know what they like. They know what books capture their attention, and make them want to read.

You are talking about an issue that I've been thinking about for years, since soon after I started writing for children. To a great extent, children don't get to choose their own reading. That's done for them by adult authors, editors, reviewers, librarians, teachers, and parents. Realistically speaking, there's not a lot that can be done about that. The vast majority of children haven't learned enough about communicating and communicating in writing, in particular, to be able to write a book. They haven't acquired enough knowledge to edit a manuscript. It really does take a long time to learn how to do these things. So they can't provide a reading experience for their peers the way adult writers and editors can provide a reading experience for their peers, for other adults. There is no other group that doesn't have a hand in creating their own reading material. For instance, men don't have to read books that are written, edited, and reviewed only by women. Within every ethnic group there are writers who write of their cultural experiences. But that doesn't happen with kids. I can't think of any way to change that situation, but I am most definitely aware of it. I don't know that there is any way we can be sure that we're identifying books that will have the most appeal to kids. Personally, with books for younger kids I look for the same things I look for in books for any age reader—a logical, preferably unique, story and good characters. On top of that, I look for a story that is as child-oriented as possible with adult characters dominating the show as little as possible. Quite honestly, I can't be sure that that overlaps with what kids are looking for.

What do you focus on when you write books for early readers, Gail? How do you keep the writing interesting for yourself, while also keeping the book accessible for the newest readers?

With the two books I've written specifically for this age group (and the Aliens books, which were for the low end of the middle grade reading group), I tried to create situations in which the kids could be on their own without a lot of adult involvement even though they are under the care of an adult. In our culture, most children six to eight or nine years old are under adult supervision of some kind. It wouldn't be realistic to have children that age wandering all over town by themselves. So I have to find a way to get the grown-ups out of the scene while keeping them nearby. With the two most recent books, I've also tried very hard to make the cultural references appropriate to the generation of my readers. For instance, if I'm going to have the kids play with Legos, I go to the Lego website to see what kinds of sets are available now. Brandon watches Animal Planet because while I was having lunch in an elementary school cafeteria a few years ago, I learned that the kids at my table were into that cable channel. 

Now, let's talk about the Hannah and Brandon books. Will there be other books in the series? I know that early readers often enjoy series books.

My original contract was for two books. It will be up to the publisher whether or not there are more books.

Can we expect further character development in this series? Will Brandon develop his imagination more? Will he stand up to Hannah? Will Hannah ever stop being so bossy? Will the kids get older, and have a bit more leeway from Mrs. D?

My kneejerk reaction is that we'll never see Brandon develop his imagination. He is Mr. Practicality, Mr. Real World. He may have opportunities to use that. I would like him to have opportunities to become the hero he wants to become. As far as traditional character development is concerned, that's a hard question. The Hannah and Brandon Stories are all about one particular situation—a girl with a hopped up imagination who uses the books she reads as the jumping off point for games she imposes on a reluctant companion. If the characters develop too much, then the situation changes and we have a totally different story. The Hannah and Brandon Stories are not parts of a serial. We're not talking one massive storyline that's so big it needs multiple volumes in order to be completed and you see all kinds of changes over the time span of the story being told. This is a traditional series. The books are each new adventures but following the same pattern. Though I do have one birthday story in mind, if the kids get too much older, we no longer have books about kids in the primary grades. I was thinking of Sherlock Holmes and Watson when I created Hannah and Brandon—a powerful, dramatic protagonist with a more run-of-the-mill sidekick who narrates.  I don't remember a great deal of character development in the Holmes stories or changes in the relationship between Holmes and Watson.

How do you get Brandon's voice so right? Are you channeling some sort of inner 8-year-old boy, or do you spend time listening to kids in this age range?

I tried a draft from Hannah's point of view, and she just sounded like one more stereotypically smart girl. I tried a draft from a third-person point of view, and it sounded very instructive. Brandon's point of view was the one that worked. I have no explanation for why that happened other than to say that I am the mother of boys. My yard was full of boys for many years. Little boys are very close to my heart. 

I love the way many of Hannah's games seem to be inspired by books. Is this something you set out to do, or do you just think about what imaginary games kids would enjoy, and some of them happen to match up to books that you've read? If the former, are there games that the reader might not recognize, but that are also inspired by particular books (like the Vampire game at the start of A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers)?

Yes, all the games are supposed to be inspired by books. All the stories are built around book "types" I recall from my lifetime of reading, and they are all types that exist in kidlit, though maybe not in early chapter books. At the Hannah and Brandon site, you can find a page called What's Hannah Been Reading? that lists age appropriate books related to the stories in the Hannah and Brandon books. It's a work in progress, and I haven't gotten to the Three Robbers book yet. There are many vampire books for kids. I just haven't yet found one I think Hannah could have read that strikes me as just right for the page.

The pirate chapters in the first book came about because I had just seen one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I knew there were pirate books for kids, so I ran with it. Last week I saw Seven Samurai. I wondered about a samurai story for Hannah and Brandon, but I'm not aware of much in the way of samurai books for young kids, so I'm not too interested in pursuing that line of thought.

I also like the way that Mrs. D is as a parent, flexible about the imaginary games, but strict when it comes to staying in the yard, wearing boots in the rain, etc. But then I love the scene where Brandon and Hannah manipulate her, by suggesting that another parent has insulted the family cat. Is this something that you deliberately provide for kids of this age range, the combination of a firm parent with the occasional kid triumph?

I don't think of it so much as kids triumphing as I do giving them the best lines and the opportunity to solve the problems. I never want adults to be the problem solvers or clear heroes in my books. Children will always be the center of everything in the children's books I write.  However, I want the adults to be realistic, too. Those ineffectual, bumbling parents you see in a lot of kids' books really set my teeth on edge. I also do nurturing parents because I feel monster moms and dysfunctional dads are pretty well covered by other writers. There's nothing wrong with them appearing in kids' books. The world just doesn't need me to be creating any more of them.

Do you have any plans for other books for this age range, not part of this series?

I have been thinking for many years about a 365 Bedtime Story book that I was very fond of when I was a child. I'd like to do something contemporary along that line, but it would involve 365 one-page stories. I'm finding that pretty overwhelming. Nonetheless, I've been thinking this year about the families and characters that might be involved and some story arcs.

Do you have any advice for other writers working on books for this age range?

    1. Search for good stories and original characters, just as you would if you were writing for any other age group.
    2. Try to avoid doing what everyone else is doing. There seems to be a lot of duplication out there, lots of far-fetched superhero stories, lots of cute girl stories.
    3. Avoid gimmicks. Treat your readers with respect.

And that's all for today. Thanks so much for stopping by, Gail.

Gail's full tour schedule for this week is below:

Be sure to stop by Original Content, too. Gail has not been leaving the work of posting to the interviewers. She has been featuring other early reader titles and commenting on the interviews.

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


Books Read So Far in 2008

This is a list of all of the books that I've read so far in 2008, broken up into Picture Books, Middle Grade Books, Young Adult Books, and Adult Fiction. The total is 96, including 27 picture books. My goal was to read 200 books this year, not including picture books. Clearly, I'm way off from that goal at this year's half-way point. I didn't anticipate how much my move in February and March was going to take away from my reading time. But I think I'll get to 200 total, including the picture books. And I think that the second half of the year will be better for reading than the first half of the year.

Picture Books

  1. Alice B. McGinty (ill. Nancy Speir): Eliza's Kindergarten Surprise. Marshall Cavendish. Completed January 12, 2008. My review.
  2. Charles Santore: The Silk Princess. Random House. Completed January 20, 2008. My review.
  3. Karen Katz: Princess Baby. Schwartz & Wade. Completed January 20, 2008. My review.
  4. Timothy Knapman (ill. Gwen Millward): Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood?. Bloomsbury. Completed January 23, 2008. My review.
  5. Kate Bernheimer (ill. Nicoletta Ceccoli): The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum. Schwartz & Wade. Completed January 24, 2008. My review.
  6. Michael Sandler: Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox. Bearport Publishing. Completed January 24, 2008. My review.
  7. Michael Sandler: Pararescuemen. Bearport Publishing. Completed January 24, 2008. (A picture book, but more suitable for older kids). My review.
  8. Meish Goldish: Smelly Stink Bugs. Bearport Publishing. Completed January 24, 2008.
  9. Jon Scieszka (ill. David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon): Smash! Crash! (Trucktown): Simon & Schuster. Completed January 25, 2008. My review.
  10. Barbara Park (ill Viviana Garofoli): Ma! There's Nothing to Do Here! A Word from Your Baby-in-Waiting. Random House. Completed January 26, 2008.
  11. Andrea Beaty (ill. Pascal Lemaitre): Doctor Ted. Margaret K. McElderry. Completed January 30, 2008. My review.
  12. Jack Lechner (ill. Bob Staake): Mary Had a Little Lamp. Bloomsbury. Completed January 30, 2008. My review.
  13. Sallie Wolf (ill. Andy Robert Davies): Truck Stuck. Charlesbridge. Completed January 30, 2008. My review.
  14. Dianna Hutts Aston (ill. Frank W. Dormer): Not So Tall for Six. Charlesbridge. Completed January 30, 2008. My review.
  15. Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso: Otto's Orange Day. Toon Books. Completed January 31, 2008. This is a graphic novel for younger kids, not technically a picture book, but aimed at the same audience.
  16. Felice Arena: Sally and Dave, a Slug Story. Kane/Miller. Completed February 1, 2008. My review.
  17. Melanie Watt: Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach. Kids Can Press. Completed February 23, 2008.
  18. Chris Monroe: Monkey with a Tool Belt. Carolrhoda Books. Completed March 1, 2008. My review.
  19. Tomie dePaola: Strega Nona. Editorial Everest. Completed March 7, 2008.
  20. Arlene Mosel: Tikki Tikki Tembo. Square Fish. Completed March 7, 2008.
  21. Heather Amery: The Naughty Sheep. Usborne. Completed March 7, 2008.
  22. Bonny Becker (ill. Kady Macdonald Denton): A Visitor for Bear. Candlewick. Completed April 16, 2008.
  23. Barbara Lehman: Trainstop. Houghton Mifflin. Completed May 10, 2008. My review.
  24. Tim Myers (ill. Ariel Ya-Wen Pang): The Outfoxed Fox. Marshall Cavendish. Completed May 10, 2008.
  25. Daniel Pinkwater (ill. Jill Pinkwater): Sleepeover Larry. Marshall Cavendish. Completed May 10, 2008.
  26. Eugene W. Field (ill. Giselle Potter): Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Schwartz & Wade. Completed May 10, 2008. My review.
  27. Caroline Lazo (ill. Krysten Brooker): Someday When My Cat Can Talk. Schwartz & Wade. Completed May 10, 2008.

Middle Grade Books

  1. P.J. Haarsma: The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1. Candlewick. Completed January 10, 2008.
  2. John Christopher: The Prince in Waiting. Macmillan. Completed January 10, 2008. My review.
  3. Michelle Edwards: Pa Lia's First Day: A Jackson Friends Book. Harcourt. Completed January 12, 2008. My review.
  4. Alexander McCall Smith (ill. Laura Rankin): The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean. Bloomsbury USA. Completed January 13, 2008. My review.
  5. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm: Babymouse: Puppy Love. Random House. Completed January 20, 2008. My review.
  6. John Christopher: Beyond the Burning Lands. Simon Pulse. Completed January 25, 2008. My review.
  7. John Christopher: Sword of the Spirits. Simon Pulse. Completed January 25, 2008. My review.
  8. P. G. Kain: The Social Experiments of Dorie Dilts: The School for Cool. Aladdin. Completed January 28, 2008. My review.
  9. N. D. Wilson: Leepike Ridge. Random House. Completed January 30, 2008. My review.
  10. Linda Buckley Archer: The Time Thief (Book 2 in the Gideon Trilogy). Completed February 3, 2008. My review.
  11. Emma Young: STORM: The Infinity Code. Dial. Completed February 8, 2008. My review.
  12. Kerry Madden: Gentle's Holler. Viking Juvenile. Completed February 24, 2008.
  13. Kerry Madden: Louisiana's Song. Viking Juvenile. Completed February 29, 2008.
  14. Nancy Springer: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (Enola Holmes). Philomel. Completed March 19, 2008.
  15. Kerry Madden: Jessie's Mountain. Viking Juvenile. Completed April 4, 2008. See my review of all three Maggie Valley books.
  16. Jeanne Birdsall: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed April 29, 2008. My review.
  17. Trenton Lee Stewart (ill. Diana Sudyka): The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. Little, Brown Young Readers. Completed May 15, 2008. My review.
  18. Rick Riordan: The Battle of the Labyrinth (Book 4, Percy Jackson and the Olympians). Hyperion. Completed May 25, 2008. My review.
  19. Sara Pennypacker (ill. Marla Frazee): Clementine's Letter. Hyperion. Completed May 28, 2008. My review.
  20. John Hulme and Michael Wexler: The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Completed June 2, 2008 (audio edition).
  21. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Running Out of Time. Aladdin. Completed June 6, 2008. My review.
  22. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel: Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit. Little, Brown. Completed June 6, 2008. My review.
  23. Hilary McKay: Saffy's Angel. Aladdin. Completed June 6, 2008. My review.
  24. Bonnie Dobkin: Neptune's Children. Walker Books for Young Readers. Completed June 6, 2008. My review.
  25. Andrea Beaty: Cicada Summer. Amulet. Completed June 7, 2008. My review.
  26. Lois Lowry: The Willoughbys. Houghton Mifflin. Completed June 7, 2008. My review.
  27. N. D. Wilson: 100 Cupboards. Random House. Completed June 7, 2008. My review.
  28. Patricia Martin: Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for True Blue Love. Schwartz & Wade. Completed June 7, 2008. My review.
  29. Patricia Reilly Giff: Eleven. Wendy Lamb Books. Completed June 8, 2008. My review.
  30. Mary Downing Hahn: All the Lovely Bad Ones. Clarion Books. Completed June 8, 2008. My review.
  31. Debbie Levy: Underwater. Darby Creek Publishing. Completed June 8, 2008. My review.
  32. Gail Gauthier: A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers. Putnam. Completed June 13, 2008. My review.
  33. Charise Mericle Harper: Just Grace. Hougton Mifflin. Completed June 15, 2008. My review.
  34. Ruth McNally Barshaw: Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School. Bloomsbury. Completed June 15, 2008. My review.
  35. Margaret Peterson Haddix: Found (the Missing). Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. Completed June 16, 2008. My review.

Young Adult Books

  1. Ellen Emerson White: Long May She Reign. Feiwel & Friends. Completed January 1, 2008. My review.
  2. Julie Bertagna: Exodus. Walker Books for Young Readers. Completed January 4, 2008. My review.
  3. Carrie Jones: Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend. Flux. Completed January 13, 2008.
  4. Nancy Crocker: Billie Standish Was Here. Simon & Schuster. Completed January 14, 2008.
  5. Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Little, Brown Young Readers. Completed January 15, 2008.
  6. Laura Resau: Red Glass. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Completed January 19, 2008.
  7. Charlie Higson: Blood Fever (The Young James Bond, Book 2). Miramax. Completed February 6, 2008.
  8. Malcolm Rose: Blood Brother (Traces). Kingfisher. Completed February 9, 2008. My review.
  9. Gary Schmidt: The Wednesday Wars. Clarion. Completed February 12, 2008.
  10. Carrie Jones: Love and Other Uses for Duct Tape. Flux. Completed February 20, 2008.
  11. Susan Vaught: Big Fat Manifesto. Bloomsbury. Completed March 19, 2008.
  12. Libba Bray: A Great and Terrible Beauty. Completed April 9, 2008. (On MP3)
  13. S. A. Bodeen: The Compound. Feiwel & Friends. Completed April 21, 2008. My review.
  14. Robin Benway: Audrey, Wait! Razorbill. Completed April 28, 2008. My review.
  15. Jennifer Ziegler: How Not To Be Popular. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Completed June 1, 2008. My review.
  16. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch: Daughter of War. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Completed June 5, 2008. My review.
  17. Ridley Pearson: Steel Trapp: The Challenge. Disney. Completed June 11, 2008. My review.
  18. Mary E. Pearson: The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Henry Holt. Completed June 12, 2008. My review.
  19. Tanita S. Davis. A La Carte. Knopf. Completed June 16, 2008.
  20. Cory Doctorow: Little Brother. Tor Teen. Completed June 22, 2008.
  21. Allegra Goodman: The Other Side of the Island. Razorbill. Completed June 23, 2008.
  22. Cylin Busby and John Busby: The Year We Disappeared. Bloomsbury USA. Completed June 23, 2008.

Adult Fiction

  1. Laura Lippman: What the Dead Know. William Morrow. Completed January 23, 2008.
  2. Mameve Medwed: How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life. Avon. Completed February 6, 2008.
  3. Georgette Heyer: Cotillion. Casablanca Press. Completed February 10, 2008.
  4. Georgette Heyer: Venetia. HQN Books. Completed February 11, 2008.
  5. Deborah Crombie: Water Like A Stone. William Morrow. Completed March 8, 2008.
  6. Louise Penny. A Fatal Grace. St. Martins Minotaur. Completed March 9, 2008.
  7. Shirley Tallman: The Cliff House Strangler. St. Martin's Minotaur. Completed March 11, 2008.
  8. Max Brooks: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Three Rivers Press. Completed April 21, 2008.
  9. Nelson DeMille: Wild Fire. Vision. Completed May 3, 2008.
  10. Julia Spencer-Fleming: I Shall Not Want. St. Martins Minotaur. Completed May 20, 2008. My review.
  11. Tana French: In the Woods. Penguin. Completed July 1, 2008. (Listened on MP3)
  12. James Rollins: The Judas Strain. Harper Collins. Completed July 1, 2008.

ALA Update - The Illustrated Edition

I'm back from ALA, and have finally managed to tame my inbox, and now I'm ready to share a bit more detail about my trip to the American Library Association conference in Anaheim.

I drove down to Anaheim on Friday, and had a convivial dinner Friday night with Sondra LaBrie from Kane/Miller and Betsy Bird from A Fuse #8 Production. Sondra has the details, and Betsy has promised to share the photo that she took of the three of us at some point. Betsy is also video blogging the whole conference, so do go check that out. The service was, as Sondra noted, ridiculously quick, and we had to fight hard to keep the bus person from taking away our chips so that we could continue talking. But we were up to the challenge.

Saturday morning I visited the exhibit hall, where I scooped up so many books in the first hour that I had to make an unplanned trip back to my car to drop off books. Mary Pearson was signing at Henry Holt, and I picked up a couple of extra copies of The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Then I met up with Liz Burns from A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy for the Edwards Award luncheon, where we heard Orson Scott Card's acceptance speech. I don't agree with Card's views on gay rights (which did not come up in any public way at the ceremony), but I did like what he said about children and books (here I am paraphrasing from my notes):

  1. No amount of bad writing will keep a kid away from a great story.
  2. No amount of good writing will make a kid interested in a book.
  3. You can't make a kid like a book (or even pretend to like a book).
  4. There's no such thing as children's literature.

I'm not so sure about #4, but I do agree with the first three. Card also lamented the way that we as a society have been conditioned to be ashamed of the books that we like, thinking that if we enjoy a book it must be "trash." But mostly he talked about the importance of story, and how kids won't slog through a bad story, and how children allow stories to change their lives. He suggested that everyone should write novels as if they were writing for impatient children. (This importance of story was echoed in both the Newbery and Caldecott Award speeches, too, the next day.)

LayapaloozaAfter the luncheon I attended the LAYAPALOOZA, a fun event hosted by the LAYAs (a group of Los Angeles-based young adult authors). Their MySpace page explains that they "concoct gameshows which are performed live at various gatherings of the literary industrial complex, which is rarely showered with the same amounts of money as certain other "industrial complexes." They are really fun. And brave enough to sing in front of a group of people, and pull people up from the audience to play quiz show games.

Lisayeeatlayapalooza_3This is where I got to meet Lisa Yee and Peepy (for many more photos of the latter, see Lisa's ALA wrap-up post).

MewithnealshustermanI was on a team with Neal Shusterman, who I had seen speak at NCTE last fall, and so I got a picture with him. Those are noisemakers from our game. I won a signed copy of Cecil Castellucci's Beige for playing. And I got a way cool bracelet, too. But it would have been worth it even without the prizes.

Mewithmarypearson002After that I headed over to the Grand Californian, where I had lemonade and a nice chat with Mary Pearson, before the kidlit blogger event hosted by Feiwel and Friends at the same hotel. They had a beautiful suite, and they gave us food and drink and left us on a balcony with a table and a view of one of the Disney parks. It was lovely.

I got to hang out with Maureen from Confessions of a Bibliovore, Susan from Wizards Wireless, Tasha from Kids Lit, Laura from Oops ... Wrong Cookie, Wendie Old, Gregory K. from Gotta Book, Jay Asher from the Disco Mermaids (his conference post here), Betsy from Fuse, and another woman who is just starting to blog. Plus the people from Feiwel and Friends, who were gracious and interesting.

BetsyjenjaygregTo the left is a picture of Betsy, me, Jay, and Greg. I also got another photo with Greg because I really liked his t-shirt (click to enlarge - it says "Real Men Read"): Gregpincusgreatshirt 

JenandlaurieandersonOur event ended up overlapping with another event that followed, and I was able to finally meet Monica Edinger in person (though I didn't get a photo). I also got to chat briefly with Laurie Halse Anderson (she ducked in the picture - she is way taller than me, but very gracious about it).

LauriebetsyjenshoesHere are Betsy's shoes, my shoes, and Laurie's shoes. Can you guess which is which? We were charmed by the contrast. You can't really tell, but the red ones are heels, and the one on the left is funky high-tops.

JayandgregshoesAnd here are Jay and Greg's shoes, which provide less of an interesting contrast. But I wouldn't want them to feel left out.

JenlauraandbarakAnd finally (for that party), this is Laura and me with Barack. He does love a party. We left with nice gift bags from Feiwel and Friends, and several of us went to dinner at a local pizza place (where the service was somewhat lacking, but the food was good). We were joined there by Jim Averbeck, who I hadn't met before, and another blogger that I sadly didn't get to talk to. It was nice just being able to sit in one place and chat for a while. Thanks to Susan for organizing!!

BbyaauthorsSunday I started the day by attending the YALSA Coffee Klatch, a chance to meet some of the Best Books for Young Adult authors. They had us sit at tables, and the authors moved from table to table, spending about five minutes each. I sat with Gina from PBS Parents, and it was great to meet her in person. The authors who came to our table included Terry Trueman, Dana Reinhardt, Eleanor Ramrath Garner, Stephanie Hemphill, A. M. Jenkins, David Levithan, Jay Asher, and Meghan Sayres, and Adrian Fogelin. There wasn't really enough time to talk with them, but it was still fun to get a face to face snapshot. The photo above is a group shot of all of the participating authors.

MewithsuepfefferAfter the breakfast I did manage to snag a quick meeting with Susan Beth Pfeffer. I'm constantly raving about Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone, and I love Sue's blog, so it was a treat to finally meet her in person. She had a very impressive manicure, too. You can see Sue's entertaining post about the conference here.

After that Gina and I walked the exhibit hall for a while, attended the Random House Fall Preview, and then sat outside and chatted about children's book blog ideas for the PBS Parents website (I'm sure to be talking about that more down the road). Then Gina had to go, and I went back to the exhibit hall, and by random luck, managed to stumble across various books and signings.

DanareinhardtwendylambThis is me with Dana Reinhardt and Wendy Lamb, at Dana's signing. How cool is that? That Sunday afternoon walk around the exhibits was also when I managed to snag a copy of the much-coveted Inkdeath, largely by being in the right place at the right time.

WendieandsusanSunday night I went to the Newbery/Caldecott banquet with Susan from Wizards Wireless. I was feeling self-conscious in my dress, but I did get pictures of Susan with Wendie ...

Betsyandsusan_2and Betsy. If you click to enlarge the photo you can see Betsy's way cool tattoo of the Newbery Award covers.

It was a treat attending the event with Susan - we talked and talked, and people-watched, and were moved by both Brian Selznick and Laura Amy Schlitz's acceptance speeches. I was too enthralled to take notes, but they both gave fabulous, if very different, speeches. Brian did this slide show in the style of The Invention of Hugo Cabret about winning the Caldecott Award, and it was amazing. He wore a snazzy sparkly shirt that I really wish I had photographed (I think Susan will have a picture to put up of that). Laura stood up there without a podium, as though she was talking to a bunch of kids, and told us stories, from the heart. As Susan pointed out, each speech was in the style of the book that won, and you could not help but be happy for everyone involved.

And that's it. Monday I drove home, exhausted, and in pain from lugging around so many books. I did manage to get my suitcase into the trunk, but it was a very near thing. 

Alaloot001Here is my loot. There are too many titles to list, but if you're really interested, you can peek at the following close-ups of the piles (click to enlarge):

Alaloot005These are finished titles, mostly signed, mostly purchased from the publishers, except for a couple from Feiwel and Friends and Kane/Miller, and a copy of Ender's Game that they gave us at the Edwards Award lunch.

Alaloot004The rest are ARCs. There are many. They are very tempting. Some of them are signed, too, and a few are adult titles that I picked up.

Alaloot003

Alaloot002Mheir looked at these piles and asked if this would provide me with at least a week of reading material. But I think it's more like six months worth, if I don't read anything else (which, of course, I will, so this is probably a year's worth of reading material). But I doubt I'll be at a conference like this, with my own car to fill up with books, any time soon. And so I justify my gluttony.

And that's it. If anyone has read this far ... I'm impressed. Hope to see you at the Kidlitosphere conference in September.

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