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Posts from October 2008

Saturday Evening Visits: October 18

The FireI haven't spent as much time working on my blog this weekend as usual, because I've been consumed by a couple of books. The Eight, by Katherine Neville, is one of my favorite books - an adult thriller/romance/historical epic/mystery. However, it had been several years since I last read it. When the sequel, The Fire, came out this week, I had to sit down and re-read The Eight first, before diving into The Fire. I've felt a bit guilty about neglecting my blog, but I had to remind myself that I started my blog because I love books. And it's really not right for the blog to keep me from being consumed by books, is it? But anyway, here are some links that I saved up from the week.

The Reading Tub website has a gorgeous new look. The Reading Tub is one of my favorite resources for encouraging young readers. They have hundreds of profile pages for books, with details like recommendations for age to read together vs. read yourself, whether to borrow or buy, and read-alikes. The Reading Tub also has related links and reading resources, and an excellent blog that features reading news. If you have a few minutes, do check out their new website.

Over at The Reading Zone, Sarah has a nice post about helping struggling readers to find the perfect book. She warns: "It can take weeks to find something that a reluctant and struggling reader can read and wants to read.  There will be a lot of abandoned books along the way." But she offers concrete suggestions to help. I think this is a must-read post for anyone new to recommending books for struggling readers.

My VerboCity reports (a story originally from Publisher's Weekly) the Simon & Schuster is going to be releasing eBooks for cell phones. Some of the Nancy Drew mysteries will be available at the program's launch, to drive initial interest.

Mary and Robin at Shrinking Violet Promotions (with much help from their devoted readers) have made tremendous progress in drafting their Introvert's Bill of Rights. If you're an Introvert, or you live with one, this is required reading. See also Robin's post about the benefits of spending some time unplugged. I followed her advice, and turned my computer off at noon on Friday. I later checked email on my phone, but wished that I hadn't... I do think there's something to be said for spending more time away from the computer, to provide clear mental space.

Liz Burns writes at Tea Cozy about some important purposes of book reviews, including the reasons why professional book reviews "won't be going away anytime soon." She proposes that "instead of cutting back book reviews, newspapers and magazines should be increasing the book-talk that appears on their websites." Liz's post was quoted on GalleyCat, and sparked some further discussion there.

Trevor Cairney has a post at Literacy, Families, and Learning about a key theme in children's literature: death. He notes that "Literature can helps parents, in particular, to discuss the reality of death with their children. Books that address death can be read with children and by children themselves as a source of insight, comfort and emotional growth." Trevor suggests some books that deal with, but haven't been specifically written to address, death (like Bridge to Terebithia).

Lisa Chellman reports that Cavendish is launching a line of contemporary classic reissues. She says: "This is truly a labor of love. I mean, presumably Cavendish expects to make some money from this line, but they're tracking down all sorts of rights and artwork to make this happen while looking at a pretty strictly library and indie bookstore market." Lisa also shares some books about out of the ordinary princesses.

The PaperTigers blog offers multicultural reading group suggestions for young readers. Janet explains: "At PaperTigers, we are deeply committed to books on multicultural subjects that bring differing cultures closer together. So of course the books on our little list are novels that we think will accomplish that, while they keep their readers enthralled and provide the nourishment for spirited book group discussions."

Laura writes at Children's Writing Web Journal about staying young as a children's book writer. She says: "Whenever I’m feeling more mature than I’d like, I read children’s books. A great book for kids pulls me right back to my childhood. A stellar novel for young adults makes me feel like a teen again, only now I’ve got some perspective on the experience and can actually laugh about it."

The Hunger GamesOn a related note, Gail Gauthier links at Original Content to a School Library Journal article about teen books that adults will enjoy. I can think of lots of other titles that could have been listed in the article (The Hunger Games comes immediately to mind), but right now I'm just happy that articles like this are being written.

The latest edition of Just One More Book! asks how old is too old for reading aloud. Several commenters report that it's never too old for read-aloud, which makes me very happy. Everything I've ever read on this topic suggests that parents should keep reading aloud to their kids for as long as their kids will let them.

Speaking of reading aloud, Cynthia Lord shares a lovely story about reading aloud to her daughter, and a whole waiting room full of other people, around Christmastime. She concludes, speaking to the author of the book she was reading, " As authors we get to do something that very few people get to do. We get to matter in the lives of complete strangers. Barbara Robinson, you've mattered in mine." Isn't that lovely?

ChainsThis has been written about pretty much everywhere, but just in case you missed it, the National Book awards were announced this week. I first saw the short list for Young People's Literature at Read Roger. The titles are: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion); The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum); Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon and Schuster); What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic); The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Knopf). Chains is high up on my to-read list, and I am especially happy for Laurie Anderson.

Justine Larbalestier takes on the topic of editing titles originally published in foreign countries to Americanize them. I hate this, too. As a kid, I loved figure out what British words like lift and pram and jumper meant.

At Greetings from Nowhere, Barbara O'Connor shares "timelines that kids made focused on books that were important to them at various points in their lives." I love this idea (and the examples shown). What a way to celebrate the love of reading!

Sp0112x2Finally, I so want this notepad, which Betsy linked to at Fuse #8. It says "I will do one thing today. Thing:". Brilliant!

And that's all for tonight. I'll just conclude by saying: how 'bout those Red Sox!!

Books Now Available: Paper Towns

Paper TownsEarly last month I reviewed John Green's Paper Towns. I said:

"John Green is a gifted writer, and fans will not be disappointed by his latest effort. Paper Towns is the story of a high school senior named Quentin Jacobsen, who worships from afar a childhood friend named Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is larger than life to Quentin, a perpetrator of elaborate pranks, and an unquestioned social leader. When Margo shows up at Quentin's window, wanting him to accompany her on a night of mischief, Quentin is changed forever. He spends the remainder of the book on a literal and metaphysical quest to uncover and understand Margo Roth Spiegelman."

Paper Towns is scheduled for release today. Don't miss it!

Time Is Running Out for Piper Reed Give-away

Piper ReedLast week I announced a book give-away for five copies of Piper Reed: The Great Gypsy. The deadline to enter is this Friday at noon Pacific time. If you would like to enter the drawing to win one of these copies, you can comment here or on the original post. I will select five names randomly from the entrants. If you are a winner, I will then ask you for your mailing address to pass along to the publisher, Henry Holt. Good luck!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: Cybils Nomination Deadline Edition

Jpg_book007Today 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 400 subscribers.

This week I have three book reviews (two for early elementary school children and one for young adults), a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the past week, a Children's Literacy Round-Up, and a book give-away offer (five copies of Piper Reed: The Great Gypsy - the deadline is Friday at noon Pacific time). I also have three short posts that each link to articles that I published elsewhere this week (at First Book, NCFL Literacy Now, and TypePad). 

CybilslogosmallI also contributed (with Sarah Stevenson) to a couple of link round-up posts on the Cybils blog this week. And I would like to take this opportunity to remind all of you that the deadline for nominating titles for the 2008 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards is TOMORROW (Wednesday, October 15th). Anyone can nominate titles (one per person per category). You can find a list here of posts in which people have highlighted great books that have somehow not yet been nominated. You can find the posts on which you nominate titles (by commenting) here. Sarah has also created a new, downloadable Cybils flyer, which you are welcome to save and print, if you would like to help spread the word about the Cybils. You can also now become a fan of the Cybils awards on FaceBook (just search for "Cybils Awards"), thanks to the efforts of Anne Boles Levy and Jackie Parker

In terms of reading for this week, I've recently finished The Dust of 100 Dogs by A. S. King, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key, and Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten. This last one I reviewed on Amazon, but won't be reviewing on my blog. I will be reviewing The Dust of 100 Dogs when I have more time. My review of Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup has also been generating some interesting discussion in the comments about YA books that push up from the typical boundary of high school. What have you read lately that you have found worth discussing?

Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms!

How My Blog Has Changed My Life

TypePad, the blogging service that I use, is holding a 5th anniversary celebration. The marketing folks asked TypePad users to share stories about: "how my TypePad blog has changed my life." Since my blog has certainly changed my life, I decided to participate. You can find my story on this page (but there's something weird about linking to TypePad from a TypePad blog - here's the full link: Currently it's the fourth story down, though I imagine that other stories might be added. Here's a brief excerpt:

"I was always an informal advocate for children's books and raising readers... My blog has allowed me to take my literacy advocacy to a new and previously unimagined level, in a way that would have been impossible before the advent of blogging."

I do think that this is true. Blogging allows someone like me, someone who doesn't have a formal library or teaching background, to participate in the conversation about raising readers. I feel very privileged to be here.

And, for the record, I've been quite pleased with TypePad as my blogging service. I hope that they'll be around for another five years.

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

Everything You Want: Barbara Shoup

Book: Everything You Want
Author: Barbara Shoup (blog)
Pages: 312
Age Range: 13 and up

Everything You Want

I was in a bit of a reading funk last week (starting books, getting a few pages in, and putting them down, dissatisfied). But I'm happy to report that Everything You Want, by Barbara Shoup, completely took me out of my funk. Everything You Want is about an 18-year-old college freshman, Emma, who is finding life a bit of a struggle. She was emotionally wounded by a falling out with her best friend from high school, a boy who happens to attend the same college, and she feels a bit abandoned by her older sister, who moved to New York. As a result, Emma's been holding herself back from everyone. She likes her roommate, but keeps a distance, and spends her Friday nights working in the lab. She goes home a lot. She uses humor to keep people at a distance, and doesn't consider herself attractive.

Then one day, Emma's parents win the lottery, to the tune of $50 million ($17.5 million dollars after taking the lump sum payment, and paying taxes). What she finds is that the money changes some things, but doesn't really solve her problems. In fact, it creates some new problems. The remainder of the book is about Emma's adventures over the next few months, as she comes to terms with herself.

There's a lot to like about this book. Shoup's writing is beautiful. I flagged passage after passage. Like this one (during a sad moment):

"Dust dances in the shafts of sun streaming through the window. Sun puddles on the carpet. I can hear birds chattering outside. The sky is offensively blue." (Page 191)

Or this one, in which Emma describes her roommate, Tiffany:

"Waiting for her to get decent, I remind myself that although Tiffany's a ditz and we have zip in common, she is truly nice. A perky, small-town girl, her idea of paradise is to drive up to Indianapolis and spend the whole day at Castleton Mall, shopping at The Limited and stocking up on cheery little items from the Hallmark store: cute knickknacks and posters with those floaty, pastel, lightbulb-looking figures spouting words to live by like "Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life." (Page 5)

Or even this simple description of sitting down at the family kitchen table:

"I get my piece of pizza and pop the tab on a Diet Coke, which sounds like a little explosion. I slump into the empty chair: mine. Crazy, how we go to our regular places at the table, no matter what. We'd all probably go right to them if a crazed killer broke in and waved us into the kitchen with a loaded gun." (Page 22)

Emma is fully three-dimensional. Even when she's feeling sorry for herself or sabotaging herself, you feel for her. Her insecurity feels so real that you want to shake her sometimes, like you would with a friend who was selling herself short. I also appreciated the way that Shoup portrayed Emma's relationships with people, especially her family and her roommate. The relationships aren't neat and tidy, but they aren't (for the most part) dysfunctional, either. They feel real, too.

The lottery part of the story drives some of the plot, but it never even comes close to taking over. Readers would be interested in Emma's fate without it, though the idea of a family winning the lottery adds a tinge of fantasy-fulfillment that I think teens will appreciate. (Who doesn't like to think about what they would do differently, if money were no object?)

At heart, and in the best possible meaning of the term, this is a coming of age story. Emma's nostalgia for her happy childhood is palpable, and recurs as a theme throughout the book. But she does makes progress in figuring out who she is, on her own. I think that plenty of adults could benefit from considering some of her eventual insights.

I don't know why more young adult fiction isn't written about the college years. Mostly I see high school graduation, and perhaps the summer following graduation, being as far as books go. But it seems to me that college is, for many teens, the time when they really start to figure things out. I hope that more teens will discover this book. Everything You Want is everything that I want, as a reader, in a young adult novel. Highly recommended.

Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Source of Book: A review copy from the author (at the 2008 Kidlitosphere conference)
Other Blog Reviews: Bookshelves of Doom
Author Interviews: You can learn about about Barbara Shoup in this post at The Well-Read Child (where Barbara has just started guest blogging)

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

The Mammoth Academy: Neal Layton

Book: The Mammoth Academy
Author: Neal Layton
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7 to 10

Mammoth AcademyNeal Layton's The Mammoth Academy is a heavily illustrated, over-the-top title aimed at early elementary school kids. Here's how it begins:

"Oscar was a woolly mammoth, and so was Arabella. They lived a long time ago in the Ice Age.

They used to spend their time making ice sculptures, exploring caves, and doing all the other things that young mammoths like to do. But there comes a point in a young mammoth's life when it's time to grow up a little bit and start school."

The reader quickly learns that Oscar is scruffy and irresponsible, while Arabella is tidy and well-suited to school. (I wonder if Oscar is a bit of a take-off on the Odd Couple). We see Arabella's tidy copy of the map of their school, in contrast to Oscar's stained and crumpled version. At school, Oscar makes friends and has a good time. Soon, however, he discovers the mysterious tracks of some dangerous, thieving two-legged creatures. Could they be human?

Mammoth Academy bears some resemblance to a graphic novel. The illustrations are essential to the story, featuring call-outs, numbered instructions, and sketched examples of what's being discussed in the text. The sketches are black-and-white and highly kid-friendly, with many looking like doodles that a bored kid would make in class. A few others are much more sophisticated, looking digitally rendered, offering a nice contrast.

Layton offers up humor, ranging from subtle to obvious, on nearly every page. Some things that particularly caught my eye:

  • On the "Very Important Letter" about what to bring to school, "6. One or two pairs of ice skates (depending on how many feet you have)".
  • When the kids learn about humans in school, they see examples of what human footprints are like, and what their droppings look like (ok, it doesn't engage me, but I think it's quite early-elementary-school-boy-friendly).
  • The kids also have a lesson about how cliffs can be dangerous, illustrated by a sketch of a mammoth tumbling head-first off of a small cliff.
  • And, of course, the central fact of the humans in the story being the uncivilized savages, while the animals are attending school, and eating fruit so that they don't get the sniffles. What kid wouldn't enjoy that?

In short, Mammoth Academy is a delightfully illustrated, highly entertaining romp, sure to please early readers (especially boys). The author's website suggests that sequels are forthcoming.

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Pickled Bananas (an authentic kid's perspective from an 8-year-old blogger)

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

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank You Notes: Peggy Gifford

Book: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes
Author: Peggy Gifford
Illustrator: Valorie Fisher
Pages: 176
Age Range: 8 to 12

Moxy MaxwellBackground: I'm always on the lookout for high-quality, engaging reads for early elementary school kids. I think that it's important to give kids interesting books when they're first starting to read on their own. And I think that's difficult to do well - to write a great book while using a relatively limited vocabulary and set of experiences.

The Moxy Maxwell books have been on my radar for a while - several people I trusted were excited about the first book, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little (Mary Lee and Franki had it on their best books of 2007 list, for example). Enough so that I had it on my list of books to recommend for elementary school kids even though I hadn't actually read it. I was pleased when the publisher sent me a review copy of the second book, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, so that I could check it out myself.

Review: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, written by Peggy Gifford and illustrated by Valorie Fisher, is the second book the Moxy Maxwell series. 10-year-old Moxy (a girl with considerable Moxie) and her older brother are getting ready to travel to Hollywood to spend the last week of vacation with their father, "a Big Man Behind the Scenes" out there. Before she leaves, however, Moxy has promised her mother that she'll write twelve thank you notes for her Christmas presents. Sure that the thank you notes will take "forever", Moxy expends her energy instead on finding ways to get out of writing them. The results are colossally unsuccessful.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes offers humor for both child readers and their parents. For example:

"Number 3 on Moxy's list of 218 Possible Career Paths was to become a rich and famous movie star and adopt 17 starving children from around the world (she wasn't sure if she would have a husband) and live with them and their 17 nannies in a mansion near all the other rich and famous movie stars who were adopting starving children from around the world." (Page 8-9)


"But Mrs. Maxwell was already walking down the stairs. She was also calling Uncle Jayne on her cell phone. She was also carrying two old ice cream bowls and a plate with a fork stuck to it and Moxy's black evening gown. (Over the years Moxy had observed that a really first-rate mother can do many things at once without messing any of them up.) (Page 23)

The chapters are very short, and feature relatively long titles. Occasionally the chapter titles are longer than the chapters themselves. One chapter even consists of just a title. I suspect that this translates well to classroom read-aloud sessions, and that kids will find it appealing (though as an adult, I found it a little annoying). Valorie Fisher's illustrations consist of black and white photographs taken by Moxy's brother, Mark, often off-kilter, and sometimes blurry. The photos are like little windows into Moxy's life, and make the characters feel more real. Together, the short chapters and photo illustrations should make this book a highly accessible read for second and third graders.

Another nice thing about this book is that Moxy's family is happy, but realistically complex, with her children's book author step-father, half-sister, live-in grandmother (during the winters, at least), quirky uncle, and absent father. I also wonder if Moxy's brother is somewhere on the autism spectrum (he does things like count pieces of paper, and Moxy seems to boss him around more than one would normally see in a younger sister/older brother relationship). There's a lot going on, family-wise, in a relatively short book, though Gifford keeps the family dynamics from overwhelming the immediate story.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes is definitely going on my shortlist of books to suggest for early elementary school readers. Although the main character is a girl, I think that she's enough of a trouble-maker, and her problems are general enough, to appeal to boys, too. Although I'm not quite in love with Moxy the way that I am with Clementine, the Moxy Maxwell series has my strong recommendation.

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: August 12, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Help Readers Love Reading, Book Addiction, Abby (the) Librarian, Kids Lit, A Year of Reading, Becky's Book Reviews, Emily Reads, Best Books I Have Not Read
Author Interviews: A Year of Reading

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

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Hokies, Cheerios, and the Love of Reading

Here is some recent children's literacy and reading-related news from around the wires:

Terry has tons of great stories at Tub Talk, the Reading Tub's Blog, in her October 6th Reading Round-Up. I especially enjoyed a story about how "Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech football coach) created Herma’s Readers in honor of his mother, a teacher for more than 30 years. Herma’s Readers is a “non-profit designed to introduce the power of reading to youngsters Kindergarten to grade 3.”" According to the nonprofit's site, "Walmart has partnered with Coca-Cola to donate 100 books for every Hokie touchdown this season". Virginia Tech was actually on my short list of schools when I applied to college (I really wanted to get away from New England winters), so I got an extra kick out of this story.

The Midwest Book Examiner suggests, in an article by Terri Schlichenmeyer, that people consider giving books as gifts this holiday season. The article also offers "do's and don'ts at the bookstore." I'm certainly happiest both giving and receiving books as gifts, that's for sure. See also the Examiner's article by Diane Petryk Bloom about Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead.

The Calgary Herald has a lengthy article by Roberta McDonald about teen reading. She says: "Life can be treacherous and turbulent during adolescence.... It takes stones and sensitivity to tackle stories about these often awkward and baffling years, and the new breed of writers has risen to the challenge in a way that is pleasing not only their audiences, but parents, librarians and school administrators alike. Here in Calgary, the folks at WordFest are gearing up for another banner year, as they anticipate more than 6,000 junior-high and high-school kids to descend on various events from Oct. 14th to 19th ... Organizers have clued in to the tastes of their younger audience and have booked authors, bloggers, and slam poets who not only engage reluctant readers, but bring unique celebrity panache to the various stages." Did you see that last bit? Bloggers ... who engage reluctant readers. Way cool! The article has lots of detail about various books and authors.

Twilight Speaking of engaging reluctant readers, SW Virginia Today has an article by Stephanie Porter-Nichols about a library's positive reaction to patrons' love of the Twilight books. "“It’s a dream come true for me to see people who don’t read start and fall in love,” (youth services supervisor Tracy) Reed-Armbrister said. She credits the Twilight phenomenon for making her dream a reality." And she's hosting a party at the library to show her appreciation.

According to a recent press release, "Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories is helping parents nurture their children’s love of reading – by putting five million books inside cereal boxes again this fall... This year’s books again hold broad appeal, with entertaining stories about a duck who runs for president, a girl who imitates zoo animals, stores that give out free dinosaurs with every purchase, two friends who blast off and discover another world, and Nickelodeon characters Dora and Diego’s daring adventure to rescue a wolf pup."

According to an October 10th press release, "Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), the nation's oldest and largest children and families' literacy organization, announced today that a six-week promotion held at all Macy's stores has raised a record $3.1 million. The funds from the "Book A Brighter Future" campaign will be used to promote and support RIF's Multicultural Literacy campaign, new volunteer engagement initiatives, and provide free books and literacy resources to children nationwide. "

The Dallas Morning News has a lovely op-ed piece by high-school English teacher Lydia Croupe about the love of reading. She says things like; "How do I spark an interest in reading with only words? Step into a library or bookstore where the choices are endless and captivating stories rest patiently on the shelves for a prospective reader" and "The key is to take pleasure in the story you choose. If you are a parent, let your teen pick the book, find a copy for yourself and then read along. This will give you excellent things to discuss at the dinner table, and it will enable you to learn more about your teen." This is great stuff! It's always fun to discover a kindred spirit, even one who lives 1500 miles away.

The Attleboro Sun Chronicle has a column by Jessica Long about the importance of children's literacy, and the "detrimental effects that television viewing can have upon all children, especially when it comes to literacy rates." The author says that a study (though she doesn't give a reference for this study) found that "In homes with children who had a low interest in books, half to three-quarters of parents spent all their leisure time watching television. Conversely, for children who had a high interest in books, only about one third of their parents spent any of their leisure time viewing television, with the remainder of their time spent reading." I would have liked to see this piece more detailed in the citing of references (several other studies are mentioned in vague terms, such as "California researchers found..."), but I hope that the piece still gives readers some food for thought.

According to an article by Rani Gupta in the North County Times (CA), "Preschoolers in Lake Elsinore and Wildomar soon will be receiving new books each week as part of a program to encourage early literacy among young children. Project Read With Me is a 7-year-old effort to spur parents to read with their children, teach them to use libraries, and develop children's love of reading at an early age."

The Sun Peaks Independent News (Canada) has an article by Lailani Mendoza titled: "Reading creates successful adults." There's a sidebar with tips from Glen Atkinson, Leap Frog Canada’s marketing director, for getting kids reading. For example, "Don’t make it ‘work.’ You have to make it fun. It has to be a time that you share and enjoy".

And that's the round-up for today!

Saturday Afternoon Visits: October 11

CybilslogosmallI'm still distracted by the Cybils and the baseball playoffs (Go Sox!), and my reviews have dropped off a bit, but I have saved up some Kidlitosphere links from this week.

Speaking of the Cybils, TadMack has an excellent graphic at Finding Wonderland. This is a visual, do click through to see it. Also, Sarah Stevenson has put together a gorgeous Cybils double-sided flyer that you can download from the Cybils site and print out. Say, if you were planning on attending a conference, and wanted to be able to tell people about the Cybils. You can find it available for PDF download here.

Lee Wind has a detailed post about the upcoming Blog the Vote event that he's organizing with Colleen Mondor. This is a nonpartisan event - the idea is to encourage people to vote, whatever their convictions.

At In Search of Giants, Aerin announced the winner of the contest that she did during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, based on my Reviews that Made Me Want the Book feature. Congratulations to Alyce of At Home with Books. Alyce chose Graceling as her prize.

At Guys Lit Wire, a. fortis published a list of "not just gross, but actually scary horror books" of interest to teens. My favorite from the list is The Shining by Stephen King. I also recently enjoyed World War Z (about zombies).

The Forgotten DoorJenny from Jenny's Wonderland of Books has a fabulous post about Alexander Key, one of my favorite authors. I recently reviewed Key's The Forgotten Door, and also recently watched the 1975 movie version of Escape to Witch Mountain. Jenny says: "While Key often shows children fleeing villains and in danger, there is always a happy ending with children returning home and winning out over their enemies. He also portrayed children with ESP and from other worlds." She includes a bio and a detailed list of books written and illustrated by Key (I didn't even know that he was an illustrator). For Alexander Key fans, this post is a huge treat. And I join Jenny in hoping that the upcoming (2009) Witch Mountain movie will spark a renewed interest in Key's work.

At I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), Anna M. Lewis writes about VERY interesting nonfiction for kids: Graphic Novels. Anna notes (relaying feedback from a conference session that she attended) "A fifth- grade, reluctant reader would rather not read than carry a first-grader’s picture book… but, give him a graphic novel at his reading level and he reads… and still looks cool!". Good stuff. But I didn't know that graphic novels were classified as nonfiction in libraries.

Also at I.N.K., Jennifer Armstrong writes about the nature deficit: "more and more children staying inside, choosing electronic screens over not only books (our focus here) but over authentic experience of the natural world. It's a mounting crisis with implications for the environment and for children's health, for social networks and political movements, among other things." She'll be working with the Children and Nature network to help find books to combat this problem.

Betsy Bird v-blogs the Kidlitosphere Conference at A Fuse #8 Production.

The Longstockings have a nice post by Kathryne about getting started for very beginning writers. Kathryne offers several tips and also recommends books for writers. There are additional suggestions in the comments.

Liz Burns responds at Tea Cozy to a New York Times article by Motoko Rich about using videogames as bait to hook readers. The article quotes a reading professor who says that we need to do a better job of teaching kids how to read. Liz says: "My knee-jerk response to this is that it's not about teaching kids HOW to read; it's teaching kids to love reading". I could not agree more! Walter Minkel also responds to the Times article at The Monkey Speaks. Walter's interpretation is that "that media companies are now headed down that road that leads to a largely bookless future." This is an idea which I find too depressing to contemplate.

And speaking of the future of books, Audiobooker has a report about a new audiobook download company that sends books to people's cell phones. British novelist Andy McNab is the co-founder of the company, GoSpoken.

I ran across several responses to the recent Duke University study that found a link between reading a certain Beacon Street Girls book and weight loss. Maureen from Confessions of a Bibliovore says "I found it a fundamentally flawed study. Let me say this: it's one book. I'm the last person to say it's impossible that a book can change a kid's life, but this is pushing it." Carlie Webber from Librarilly Blonde says "I'm intrigued as to what it is about this particular Beacon Street Girls book that encouraged weight loss... at what point does a book make kids change their ways and can other books have similar effects? Where does a book like this become didactic?" Monica Edinger from Educating Alice says "Suffice it to say I’m NOT a fan of “carefully” crafting novels this way. In fact I’m skittish about bibliotheraphy in general." I actually did read and review the BSG book in question (Lake Rescue) back in 2006. Although I'm generally quite critical of books that are written to promote a particular message (regardless of whether I agree with the message), I gave this one a pass at the time, because I thought that the characters were sufficiently engaging. But I think it's a very tricky thing.

Newlogorg200Via HipWriterMama comes the news that "In celebration of Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA’s) Teen Reed Week™, readergirlz (rgz) is excited to present Night Bites, a series of online live chats with an epic lineup of published authors." Vivian has the full schedule at HipWriterMama. The games begin on October 13th.

Laurie Halse Anderson opens up discussion on whether booksellers have a "need to further segment the children's/YA section of their stores to separate books that appeal to teens that have mature content and those that don't." If you have thoughts on this, head on over to Laurie's to share.

On a lighter note, Alice Pope is taking an informal poll to see who among her Alice's CWIM Blog readers is left-handed. I am. As will be our next President (either way).

Mary and Robin from Shrinking Violet Promotions are working on an Introvert's Bill of Rights. I'm kind of fond of "Introverts have the right to leave social events "early" as needed." You can comment there with your other suggestions. The SVP post also links to an excellent essay on introverts by Hunter Nuttall, whose blog I'm now going to start reading. Nuttall includes pictures of various famous introverts (I'm not sure who classified them as such, but it's still fun to see). I especially enjoyed a section that he did on "why introversion makes perfect sense to me", starting with "I don’t see the need for untargeted socialization". Hmm... I wonder who the famous left-handed introverts are, and how many of them have resisted "untargeted socialization".

Roger Sutton reports at Read Roger that "The complete Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards ceremony is now up for your viewing and listening pleasure." This, combined with the baseball playoffs, is almost enough to make me wish I still lived in Boston. But not quite...

Happy weekend, all!

Give-Away: Piper Reed, the Great Gypsy

Piper ReedToday I'm pleased to announce, courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, a book give-away. The publisher has offered FIVE copies of Piper Reed: The Great Gypsy, written by Kimberly Willis Holt and illustrated by Christine Davenier to readers of this blog.

I reviewed this title recently (it is the second in a series aimed at elementary school kids), and I said:

"This book had a feel to me of classic middle grade fiction. The Reeds reminded me a bit of the Melendy family (except for the first-person viewpoint centered on Piper, and the presence of email). There's not so much a plot as a series of incidents, as the reader spends time with a family that feels real... Piper Reed: The Great Gypsy has just the right amount of sentimentality - enough to give the book heart, without being sappy... Highly recommended for kids just reaching into middle grade fiction who want day-to-day stories that they can relate to."

If that sounds like fun to you, you can comment on this post to be entered in a random drawing to win one of the five copies. I'll contact the winners via email to obtain mailing addresses, and pass those along to the publisher. The deadline is October 17th, at noon Pacific Time).

Bonus questions (they don't increase your chances, but I'd love to hear your responses):

  1. What other books published in the last couple of years do you think have that classic middle grade fiction feeling, even if they also have more modern trappings? (Think Elizabeth Enright, or Noel Streatfeild, or Mary Norton - books that many of today's adults loved as children. If the question doesn't make sense to you, feel free to ignore it.)
  2. Who is your favorite Melendy family member? (If you don't know who the Melendy family is, then you should ignore this question, too.)