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Posts from August 2008

5 Minutes for Books

Books125x1251I mentioned this yesterday, but wanted to confirm that the link is now live. I have a guest post up at 5 Minutes for Books, a new affiliate of the 5 Minutes for Mom parenting site. The post is about reading the books that your children read. Many thanks to managing editor Jennifer Donovan for the invitation. Jennifer was a judge for the 2006 Cybils, in the MG/YA Nonfiction category (read an interview on the Cybils blog), and also blogs at Snapshot.

Welcome, 5 Minutes for Books readers. I hope that you enjoy my book page!


Children's Literacy Round-Up: August 10

Here is some recent children's literacy and reading news from around the wires.

  • Literacy and Reading News reports that "Teaching children to enjoy reading rather than just to read is vital in improving literacy, according to two leading authors appearing at the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) international conference in Liverpool". It's a great article, written by Brian Scott, with links to two UK publications on reading for pleasure. The site also has a nice article about why parents should read aloud to their kids.
  • Via Big A little a, I learned that Oprah's Book Club has added a "Kids Reading List". The recommendations come from the American Library Association, and are broken into five age categories. They are mostly current titles, with a few classics thrown in for balance. The site also includes a section on 10 Ways to Make Reading Fun for Kids, with some good suggestions. I hope it helps!
  • Franki from A Year of Reading writes about a program called Reading Village that focuses on bringing books to children in Guatemala. Their byline is "transforming lives through literacy."
  • You can find lots of other children's literacy news at The Reading Tub's August 8th Reading Round-Up. Most worth repeating here (to me): "Lightning struck the Swans Island (Maine) Library in late July and it burned to the ground. The library lost everything, including historical records. Rock City Books and Coffee in Rockland, Maine is coordinating a book drive, as the library needs all types of books … but especially children's books. You can email Rock City Books for more details." That announcement originally came from Jules at 7-Imp. But seriously, click through, because Terry has found tons of interesting links.
  • Now, I would have been happy to go to summer camp when I was a kid if I could have gone to Reading Camp. Check out this article by Monica Wolfson in the Windsor Star (Canada). According to the article, "This was the inaugural year of the literacy camp that was funded by a provincial grant. Of the 80 students who attended the program at Our Lady of Mount Carmel elementary school, all but one showed reading improvement". I can see how this idea might backfire, if it wasn't made fun, but it sounds like this one worked.
  • The Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania) recently published an article by David Mekeel about kids and reading. The article says that "many children say their busy schedules and increased entertainment options make it hard to keep the passion for reading alive," and includes interviews with several local kids. The article concludes with suggestions for parents to encourage readers.
  • The Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio) published an article by Melissa Rayworth about using audiobooks to deliver bedtime stories to reluctant readers. The article focuses quite a bit on the new AudibleKids venture, but does include a dissenting opinion about bedtime audiobooks as "another gadget for outsourcing parenting".
  • According to a recent news release, "On Thursday afternoon, while many players were studying their playbooks or resting between practices, Buffalo Bills Linebacker Angelo Crowell was reading a book …T is for Touchdown. As part of the St. John Fisher College Literacy Program, nearly 40 young children from the city and suburbs of Rochester and Greater Monroe County were treated to a book reading by Angelo Crowell... Crowell told the kids that being able to read and have an education was an important part of being a football player in the NFL. He described the large playbook that he has to read and understand for his position on the team." I think it's SO great when people that kids look up to take the time to do things like this. I believe that Angelo Crowell may have made a real difference for kids this week.
  • See also this article by Jesse Baumgartner on the Seattle Mariners MLB website about a children's book drive being held today at Safeco Field. Now I really want to see the Mariners beat the Rays today...
  • The Hagerstown Morning Herald (Maryland) has an article by Catherine Hall with the agreeable title "Children are never too young for books." According to the article, ""It's Never Too Early" is the slogan chosen by the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services for their birth-to-5 literacy campaign. Never too early, that is, to introduce children to the library and to the joy of books."
  • According to Sal Pizarro's column in the San Jose Mercury News, Mayor Chuck Reed will be celebrating his 60th birthday later this month by participating in a literacy event at the San Jose Public Library. I do love living in a city where books and literacy are a priority (you would not believe the number of new library branches that have opened in the past few years).
  • La Presna San Diego has a commentary by teacher Susan J. Hobart about why she hates the No Child Left Behind act, and how it leaves her feeling demoralized.
  • An article by Stephanie Psaila in The Times of Malta asks about the future of reading in an Internet-dominated world. "Doreen Deguara, a Maltese teacher who has been teaching in Canada for the past nine years, says that since the World Wide Web became available to the public in the early 1990's, an information revolution has taken place which has changed the way people access and process the written word.... Ms Deguara says students are still reading books, but they are also reading texts in formats other than the traditional hardbound or paperback book."

That's all the literacy news that I have for you today. Happy reading! It's great to be back.


Saturday Afternoon Visits: August 9

My blog vacation ended up lasting a bit longer than I originally planned. Turned out I kind of enjoyed just reading and relaxing and not trying to keep up with reviews and other blog posts. I've been reading some great books. But several things have cropped up that I simply must highlight here.

  • Sheila Ruth recently put out a call for help at Wands and Worlds. She's hoping to encourage authors and illustrators, and other interested parties, to donate books as prizes for The Brightspirit Relief Fund's upcoming auction. The fund was started in honor of 10-year-old Emmy Grace Cherry, who died, along with her parents, in a tornado in February. There's a whole connection (including the name Brightspirit) with the Warriors series, by Emmy's favorite author Erin Hunter, but I'll let Sheila tell you the whole story. Please do click through and read Sheila's moving words about this young booklover, who didn't get to read nearly enough stories.
  • BlogsawardWhile I was away, I was nominated by several wonderful people for blog awards. Abby (the) Library nominated me for the Brillante Weblog Premio Award (which I had also received previously from Andrea and Mark at Just One More Book!). And then Lenore also awarded this to me at Presenting Lenore.
  • PremioarteypicoStacey from Two Writing Teachers and Megan Germano from Read, Read, Read then each awarded me the Arte Y Pico Award, "based on creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community." I was overwhelmed by this outpouring of support, especially during a time that I was not even blogging. This Kidlitosphere is such an amazing place to be. I know that I'm supposed to pass on the awards, but I'm sticking to my standard response - if I mention you in one of my Visits or Literacy Round-Up posts, then I admire your blog, and feel that it makes an important contribution to the blogger community. Many, many thanks!
  • Getting back to business, I enjoyed this post by Bill at Literate Lives, about creating lifelong readers. Bill says "I think sometimes we're too hard on ourselves as teachers and parents. I also think some of what is seen as best practice sometimes does more harm than good." He follows up with some concrete examples from his own experiences, about what does and doesn't make reading a pleasurable experience. This is must-read stuff!
  • I'm late in pointing to this, but there are many interesting posts in this month's Carnival of Children's Literature, hosted by Jenny at Read. Imagine. Talk. Jenny offers personal comments regarding many of the posts, making this one a fun, chatty version of the monthly carnival. Next month's carnival will be hosted by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti
  • Speaking of the community of children's and young adult book bloggers, have you registered yet for the Portland KidLit Conference? The conference will be held on September 27th, at the Sheraton Portland Airport. I know that airfares are high these days, but the conference fees and hotel fees are quite reasonable. If you can at all swing it, do come! I promise that you'll be glad that you did.   
  • Our very own Liz Burns from Tea Cozy has a book coming out this week (with Sophie Brookover). It's called Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Whole Community. There's also a new companion blog to the book, and a wiki with tons of resources. And, as if that wasn't enough, Pop Goes the Library (the blog) got a recent shout-out from NPR. Congratulations, Liz!! I look forward to celebrating with you at the KidLit Conference.
  • Speaking of NPR, our own Gwenda Bond from Shaken and Stirred was recently featured in NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, talking about Anne of Green Gables. She says, among other things, "It's almost impossible to imagine what children's books would be like without this book and its history".
  • Online Education Database recently published a list of 100 Places to Connect with Other Bibliophiles Online. The list includes 10 sites for Children and Teens, though the list doesn't seem to distinguish between which are truly sites for kids, and which are site about books for kids (as Tricia also pointed out at The Miss Rumphius Effect). 
  • Rick Riordan recently linked to a Wall Street Journal article about engaging boys as readers. The title of the article is: Problem: Boys Don't Like to Read. Solution: Books That Are Really Gross. Rick concludes: "I'm not sure I agree that a "boy-friendly" book has to be gross. I think plot, humor and action are a lot more important, although as a male reader, I certainly don't mind a little grossness now and then. Still, this article is definitely worth a read!"
  • The latest pick in Al Roker's Today Show Book Club for Kids is Rapunzel's Revenge, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation). You can read Shannon's response here. Seems to me that they've done a nice job picking fun, kid-friendly titles for this book club.
  • Open Education has an interesting post about how "our risk averse culture continues to undermine the development of children."
  • And finally, tomorrow (Sunday) I'm scheduled to have a guest post up at 5 Minutes for Books, with thanks to Jennifer Donovan from Snapshot. It's a republication, slightly edited, of my Read the Books that Your Children Read post, one of my all-time favorites. I hope that you'll check it out, along with the other great resources at 5 Minutes for Books.

And that's all for today. I hope to get to reviews of some of my vacation reads tomorrow.


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 5

Jpg_book007This morning 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 330 subscribers.

This week I have four book reviews (two middle grade and two young adult), a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the past week, and an installment of my Reviews that Made Me Want to Read the Book feature. There are no posts from the past two weeks that are not included in the newsletter, and this issue is lacking the usual Children's Literacy Round-Up. I've been taking a blog vacation for the past 10 days or so, and am only slowly getting back up to speed. But I have been getting some great reading done!

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Hope that you're all having a great summer.


The Year We Disappeared: Cylin Busby and John Busby

Nonfictionmonday_2Book: The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
Author: Cylin Busby and John Busby
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

The Year We DisappearedBackground: The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir first caught my eye when I saw it in Bloomsbury's catalog. Not long after that, I included it in my Reviews that Made Me Want the Book feature after Sarah from The Reading Zone gave it a rave review. I read it on the way back from a recent trip to Boston, in one sitting. 

Review: The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir is the true story of a family forced to go into hiding after the police officer father runs afoul of the wrong person. The story is told in alternating first person chapters by the cop, John Busby, and his daughter, Cylin. Cylin was nine when the events of the book took place, and although she writes about them as an adult, she describes them as she experienced them, from a child's perspective. In a sense, it seems arbitrary for this book to be published as young adult nonfiction, since neither John nor Cylin is a young adult during the story. But I do think that the book will be compelling for teens (and adults), while it would be too scary for nine-year-olds to read.

The story begins on August 31st, 1979, on Cape Cod, in Falmouth. Officer Busby is shot in the face on his way in to work for the late night shift at the police department. Cylin shares her memories of what was, until late in the night, a relatively ordinary day. They happened to take some photos that day, and at the end of the first chapter she notes:

"But most of all, I'm happy to have the picture of Dad's car. Because the next time I saw that car, it was in a black and white photo of the Cape Cod Times, shot full of holes. The front window was shattered, the driver-side window completely knocked out. And the driver-side door, freshly painted green, was riddled with shotgun pellets."

There's an immediacy to this description, and to Cylin's subsequent chapters, that makes it hard to believe that the events described took place almost 30 years ago. John's chapters are a bit less direct  - he sometimes explores events further back in his past, events which led up to the events of August 31, 1979. But his emotions are even more vivid than Cylin's. For example, describing the moments after he's been shot, he says:

"I'm a big fan of horror movies and Stephen King books, but this kind of scared didn't feel like that. "Scared" isn't the right word for it. There is no word for it. It's a gut feeling when you know you're about to die, and it's horrible."

But he didn't die. He lived, though he was in the hospital for a long time, and required extensive experimental surgery to reconstruct his face. And his family's life changed forever. Even though John knew who had shot him, even though he told his fellow officers who the person was, the perpetrator was not arrested (read the book to understand why). The Busby family had to live in hiding, for fear that the man would come after them again. The remainder of the book describes the aftermath of the shooting, and the changes in the family's life over the next year. A "where are they now" section at the end of the book fills in some details.

The Year We Disappeared is a memoir. As such, there are details that would perhaps not be included in a novel - real life doesn't always lend itself to a tidy tale. For John, especially, writing this book seems to have been a cathartic process. But the book overall is fascinating and frightening. The idea that this happened to real people - that they knew who was after them, but still had to hide - I found terrifying. It's also important, I think, in a world filled with headlines about violent events, to be able delve deeply into the aftermath of a violent act - to explore how it affected the people involved. The Falmouth Police Department certainly doesn't come off looking very good in the book, but that's real life. Corruption exists. I think that The Year We Disappeared is an antidote to the glamorization of violence and corruption, showing the human side. It's must-read stuff. Give this to teens who like thrillers, but also to teens who shun fiction and want books that are true. This book will broaden readers' perspective of the world.

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Publication Date: August 5, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: The Reading Zone, Charlotte's Library, Becky's Book Reviews

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