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Posts from January 2009

Free the Children Rally in Palo Alto

Ftclogo Have you heard of Free the Children? Here's the quick summary from their website:

"Free The Children is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries. Founded in 1995 by international child rights activist Craig Kielburger, Free The Children has a proven track record of success. The organization has received the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (also known as the Children's Nobel Prize), the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and has formed successful partnerships with leading school boards and Oprah's Angel Network... Free The Children has built more than 500 schools around the world and has reached more than one million young people through outreach in North America."

Prof_jonathan_white Free the Children started in Canada, but they've just opened their first US office in Palo Alto, CA. Close friends of ours (Jonathan shown in the front center of the photo to the left) have been involved with FTC for years, and Mheir and I went with them last night to a rally and celebration of the new office. You can read more about it in Palo Alto Online, or watch a short video clip at ABC-7 (we're not in it). 

While not directly related to children's books, I wanted to tell you all about it because the whole thing was a celebration of kids making a difference. There were also plenty of reminders about the importance of education, and the need to spread literacy in other countries. We heard from local kids who took on projects to help kids they'd never met from half-way around the world. Seventh grader Megha Malpami raised $5,000 to build a well in Kenya, so that girls could go to school instead of spending all their time carrying water to their village. She sat outside of her house, giving away cookies and asking for donations. She made and sold earrings. And she made a difference. She said that she learned to "use what you love to do what you want to in this world."

Another young speaker talked about feeling empowered. Others described the $14,000 that their school club raised through unusual fundraising events (there was something about teachers kissing a pig - I didn't really get all of the details). Most of the donations received by Free the Children are under $10, but because so very many kids are involved, the organization's goal is make $20 million in 2009. And I have to tell you, from first hand observation, that the kids who get involved with FTC, the ones we saw anyway, positively radiate poise and self-confidence. It was quite encouraging to see.

Free the Children's founder, Craig Kielburger, started the organization when he was 12 years old. He spoke dynamically and genuinely about the ways that kids can make a difference. Near the end of his talk, Craig said something like "We'd like to challenge all of you, adults and children, to make a difference in whatever way you can." And me, I thought, well, if we, the community of children's book bloggers, can help inspire more people to read with children, I think we'll make a positive difference in the world that way. Don't you think so?

Here's to making a difference.

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

New Blog Feature: ShareThis

Sharethis_logo_new At the suggestion of someone on Facebook, I decided to try a new widget for my blog. It's the ShareThis application. Below each of my posts, next to the Permalink, there's a little logo like the one to the left and words ShareThis. Clicking on the logo or the words brings up a pop-up window that you can use to share the current post via email, or post it as a note or update on other social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. You can even use it to create a short blog post on another service, with a comment and a link back to the post in question, should you ever want to do that. 

I've done some testing of this for the other services that I use, and I think it's pretty cool. Obviously, I have no particular expectation of anyone sharing any of my posts in other places. But if you do try it, and you have any problems with it, please let me know. And I'd recommend that you think about installing the application on your own blog, too. I know it works for TypePad and WordPress.

I'm feeling so cutting edge, all of a sudden! Or, you know, whatever the word is for one who experiments with social networking.

Wednesday Afternoon Visits: January 28

I've received many comments on my recent blog post about encouraging more people to read aloud to kids. Many thanks to everyone who has participated in that discussion, and to the people who posted about it on their own blogs (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for instance). I think there's a tremendous collective energy to at work here, and I find this heartening.

There are lots of other things going on around the Kidlitosphere, too, however. Here are a few quick highlights: 

Becky from Becky's Book Reviews reports that the ALA's Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) list, and top 10 list, have been posted. Also newly available are the ALA Notables list for younger readers, and the 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. These are great lists - a bit more broad than the Printz list, and filled with excellent suggestions.

Graveyard BookSpeaking of the ALA Awards, Just One More Book! scored a real coup yesterday. They interviewed brand-new Newbery winner Neil Gaiman. It's more comprehensive than the Today Show interview, that's for sure. Well worth listening to.

And speaking of interviews, Natasha over at Maw Books recently interviewed our own Becky from Becky's Book Reviews. Here's the part that made me envious. Asked what she does for work, Becky said: "My work is all play. I don’t have a paying job. I just blog full-time. Which is probably why I’m able to maintain three blogs." How cool is that? But seriously, this is what enables Becky to share so many wonderful book reviews, and I'm happy for her. Thanks for a great interview, Natasha!

I'm a bit late with this, but Lee Wind reports that this is No Name Calling Week, "a week of educational activities aimed at stopping name-calling and verbal bullying in schools."

Jennifer Donovan at 5 Minutes for Books has a nice post about encouraging tweens to enjoy reading, so that they'll become lifelong readers. She says, in reference to hear 10-year-old daughter, "Like me, reading is first in her heart, but other interests can easily crowd it out. What trumps things like friends, TV and other hobbies? A good book will do it every time." Her conclusion (after some specific discussion) is that "It's the combination of time set aside for reading and getting the right books in her hands that keep her reading."

I also enjoyed this post by Susan Stephenson at The Book Chook, about the need for finding kid-friendly children's books. She says: "If we want our kids to enjoy reading, we need to give them access to material they want to read. Checking a book to see if it has won a literary prize is probably not the best way to filter books. Rather, let your child choose, and make sure she has plenty of books to choose from." She concludes: "And the very best thing about books? They stay our friends for life." I agree, and am pretty sure I've used that exact wording myself.

ReadicideDonalyn Miller has the latest installment in Kelly Gallagher's Readicide blog tour at The Book Whisperer. I especially like Gallagher's statement that: "If you teach students to read and write well, they will do fine on exams." Seems logical to me.

And finally, Don Tate recently passed along a call to action in light of the "well-intentioned but terribly written law (that) could very well put an end to independent publishing, result in thousands if not millions of books being pulled off store and library shelves across the country, and leave our culture with much less diversity in books for our kids." I really hope that Congress can fix the CPSIA law in time to avoid this crisis.

That's all for today. Thanks for reading! -- Jen Robinson

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 27th

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 565 subscribers. 

This week I have two book reviews (one middle grade and one young adult title). I also have a two-part post with Kidlitosphere news, an installment of my recurring reviews that made me want the book feature, and a link to this week's children's literacy and reading news round-up at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub. I also have an announcement about the winner of the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction, and a post about this week's ALA Youth Media awards (Newbery, etc.). 

Finally, I have a post that I wrote today asking what can be done to encourage more parents and teachers to read aloud to kids. That one has generated lots of great discussion in the comments. It's a topic near and dear to my heart, and I welcome your feedback. All of my posts from this week are included in the newsletter.

This week I read and reviewed Six Innings, by James Preller and Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. I'm currently reading Devils' Breath by David Gilman, and listening to Rumors: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen. I have guests coming in from out of town tomorrow, so my blogging may be a bit sporadic for the next week or so. But I'm sure that by now you know that I'll be reading and reviewing whenever I can. What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms!

How Can We Encourage Reading Aloud?

What do you all say to the idea of some sort of international campaign to encourage reading aloud to kids? A campaign for literacy, if you will, but one focused specifically on the benefits of parents and teachers reading aloud to kids. Personally, I think that something like this is essential. I truly believe that if more adults spent time reading aloud to kids, both individuals and society as a whole would reap tremendous long-term benefits. More kids would grow up to love books. Those kids would do better in school than they would have otherwise, and have enhanced opportunities. Some of those kids would make major contributions to society - solving medical mysteries, inventing alternative energy sources, whatever - contributions that they would not have been able to make if they didn't have those educational opportunities. Not to mention that all of those kids would have positive experiences and increased self-confidence, and would be less likely to end up in our correctional systems. I really believe that we could have all of these benefits if more adults spent time reading aloud to kids.

I've always felt this way, but my most recent thinking on this was triggered by a statement in a Denver Post article by Megan Wilson (identified by Terry Doherty in her most recent children's literacy roundup at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog):

"a study conducted for Reach Out and Read shows that fewer than half of American parents read to their children daily."

I mentioned on my blog that I agree with Terry that somehow, we need to find a way to change this statistic. And I mentioned it on my Facebook page, too. In both places, that remark has inspired quite a bit of passionate and constructive discussion. Terry also has another post today at The Reading Tub collecting input on this topic. I dug into the Reach Out and Read (ROR) statistic a little bit, and found a more detailed reference to the study in a Cape Cod Times article by the founder of ROR, Barry Zuckerman. Dr. Zuckerman said: "a recent study commissioned by Reach Out and Read revealed that the majority of young children — 52 percent — are not being read to on a daily basis. That's 13 million children under 6 years old who are going to bed every night without a bedtime story — without the undivided, loving attention that comes with sharing a favorite book with their parents." (Zuckerman's entire article is a plea for parents to read aloud to their kids, and is well worth reading.)

I don't know what the answer is, but it's simply not acceptable that more than half of children under 6 in the US aren't being read to every day. I agree with Susan Stephenson/The Book Chook, who commented on my blog that by plugging away and making the Kidlitosphere a resource, we are making a difference, one book at a time. But I also agree with Sarah Mulhern/The Reading Zone, who talked with me on Facebook about convincing parents and teachers of the importance of read-aloud. And I agree with Becky Levine, who commented on Facebook about how great it would be to get the importance of read-aloud included as a message in the new President's education initiatives. Terry has also raised several of these ideas in the poll that she's running at The Reading Tub.

I'm struggling a bit with the whole thing, personally, because I feel VERY strongly about this message. But I'm philosophically a live and let live kind of person, someone who doesn't believe in telling other people what to do. I'm trying to balance these two interests in my own head. Still, I can't help believing that if more people just understood how important reading aloud is, they would want to do it. Wouldn't they? Some of them, anyway? 

Perhaps what we need is a public information campaign. This is an idea that I first heard expressed by author Jim Trelease, and I've continued to wonder about it ever since. What if there was a way to spread the following statement (or something like it) around the world?

"Reading aloud is one of THE most important things that parents and teachers can do to promote the happiness and future success of children. Please help spread the word!"

What if Oprah said this to her audience? What if President Obama slipped it into a speech somewhere? What if major sports figures mentioned it in interviews? Would these things make a difference? And if not, what would? What do you all think?

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

Children's Literacy Round-Up: January 26

This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at Scrub-a-Dub-TubTerry Doherty has done her usual excellent job in sharing "ideas for helping families raise readers and ... tools that promote literacy."

I especially agree with Terry on this point raised in an article from the Denver Post. The article said that “a study conducted for Reach Out and Read shows that fewer than half of American parents read to their children daily.” (emphasis mine) I'm 100% with Terry that somehow, some way, that statistic has to change. The article (original source Reading Today Daily) about how libraries are helping bring urban calm to Colombia is also fascinating. But please do click through for the full round-up at Terry's. You won't be disappointed.

ALA Award Winners Announced: Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Geisel, Edwards, etc.

This news is going to be everywhere, of course, but I would be remiss if I didn't share this morning's ALA Youth Media Awards. Here are the winners (I heard them first from Sharon Levin, and then from Susan Kusel) of the Caldecott, Geisel, Newbery, Printz, and Edwards awards. I'm especially happy to see Laurie Halse Anderson win the Margaret A. Edwards award, and to see Ingrid Law's Savvy win a Newbery Honor, and to see a kid-friendly title, a fantasy no less, winning the Newbery. They look like excellent choices overall. I've made notes below on what I've read, and on which titles were shortlisted for the Cybils.

Caldecott Medal:

House in the Night"The House in the Night," illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson, Houghton Mifflin Co.

Caldecott Honor Books:

"A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever" by Marla Frazee, Harcourt, Inc. (I haven't read this one yet, but I'm a big fan of Frazee's illustrations in the Clementine books)

"How I Learned Geography" by Uri Shulevitz, Farrar Straus Giroux

"A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams," illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (This one is a Cybils short list title in nonfiction picture books)

Geisel Award:

Are You Ready to Play Outside"Are You Ready to Play Outside?" by Mo Willems, Hyperion Books for Children (this one didn't make the cut-off for the Cybils, but we have two other books from this series on the Easy Reader shortlist, the category where I'm a judge)

Geisel Honor Books:

"Chicken said, 'Cluck!'" by Judyann Ackerman Grant, illustrated by Sue Truesdell, HarperCollins Children's Books

"One Boy," written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, a Neal Porter Book published by Roaring Brook Press

"Stinky," written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis, The Little Lit Library

"Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator" by Sarah C. Campbell, with photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell, Boyds Mills Press.

Newbery Medal:

Graveyard Book"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins Children's Books (I read this one, but didn't review it because it felt like everyone else in the world had already reviewed it. It is a Cybils shortlist title in fantasy and science fiction.)

Newbery Honor Books:

"The Underneath" by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (My review)

"The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom" by Margarita Engle, Henry Holt and Company, LLC

"Savvy" by Ingrid Law, Dial Books for Young Readers (My review. This is one of my favorites this year. This one is also a Cybils shortlist title in fantasy and science fiction.)

"After Tupac and D Foster" by Jacqueline Woodson, G.P. Putnam's Sons

Printz Medal:

Jellicoe Road"Jellicoe Road" by Melina Marchetta, HarperTeen (This is a shortlist title in the Cybils young adult fiction category.)

Printz Honor Books:

"The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume II: Kingdom on the Waves" by M. T. Anderson, Candlewick Press

"The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" by E. Lockhart, Hyperion Books for Children (I didn't review this one, but I enjoyed it, and bought it for my niece for Christmas. This is also a shortlist title in the Cybils young adult fiction category)

"Nation" by Terry Pratchett, HarperCollins Children's Books (I didn't review this one because I listened to the audio, and it's hard to quote that way, but I LOVED it)

"Tender Morsels" by Margo Lanagan, Alfred A. Knopf

ChainsMargeret A. Edwards (lifetime achievement for Young Adults) recipient: Laurie Halse Anderson (my reviews of Speak and Chains)

You can find the winners in the other categories here.

Secret Keeper: Mitali Perkins

Book: Secret Keeper
Author: Mitali Perkins (blog)
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up 

Secret Keeper

Mitali Perkins has a gift for creating three-dimensional characters, especially girls who aren't perfect, but who want to do the right thing. She also has a gift for making both settings and interpersonal dynamics feel real. She does all of these things brilliantly in Secret Keeper.

Secret Keeper is about a girl named Asha, second daughter of a Bengali family in the mid 1970's. The story begins as Asha and her sister Reet are on their way, with their depressed mother, to live with their father's family in Calcutta. Asha's father is on his way to America to look for work, with the hope of bringing the family over once he finds success as an engineer. In the meantime, however, Asha faces a confined existence at her grandmother's house, unable to go to school, and scarcely able to even leave the house. Her only escape is her diary, in which she addresses entries to "Secret Keeper." Although she has a strong spirit and a quick mind, Asha struggles to keep her promise to take care of her mother and sister.  

Although Asha's environment is quite restricted, it feels like there's a lot happening in Secret Keeper. I read it two quick sittings, eager to know what would happen next. I could practically smell and taste Calcutta in the 1970's, and I loved the characters, especially Asha. Here are a couple of passages to give you a feel for Mitali's writing, and for Asha:

"Coconut and banana trees blocked the sunshine on every side except the front, the windows on the first floor were secured with bars, and the property was completely fenced in. As they waited by their bags, Asha couldn't help feeling she was about to serve a sentence for a crime she hadn't committed." (Page 22)

"If Asha had to choose one word in the Bangla language to abolish, it would be "eesh." That single syllable, pronounced with just the right intonation, brought with it a twist of shame and loss and disappointment that Asha could never fully fend off. Ma, Grandmother, and Auntie wielded it like a knife." (Page 43)

Also, the full quote is a bit long to share, but when Asha reads fairy tales aloud to her young cousins, she replaces all of the references to how beautiful the princess are, talking instead of how "noble, smart, generous, and brave" they are. See why I love her? I also fell a little bit in love with Asha's cousin, Raj (Sarah Rettger feels that way, too), and even found that I liked her initially aloof uncle. I grew to respect her strict grandmother. I was able to empathize with both the restrictions placed on the women in the book and the pressures to produce felt by the men.

And yet, I'm having a hard time reviewing this book, because I found the ending hard to take. Inevitable, perhaps. The right ending for the characters under the circumstances of the book. Absolutely. But ... still hard to take. I think it's a mark of how much I liked the characters that I wanted everything to work out perfectly for them. But this is not that sort of book. Things are resolved. Brave and selfless actions are undertaken. But there are no miracles. Things are only resolved within the particular constraints of Belgali society in India during the economic recession of the 1970's. And that means that everyone can't have everything. Choices must be made.  

I'm going to have to conclude that Secret Keeper is brilliant, though, because, 24 hours after finishing the book, I'm still sad about some of the things that happened. I wonder how the characters are going to manage. I'm working on sequels in my head. It doesn't matter that Asha and Reet and Raj and Jay and the others are fictional. It doesn't matter that their story takes place during my elementary school years, in a country I've never visited, filled with cultural traditions different from my own. I feel like these events happened yesterday to friends of mine. I feel like I've spent time in that house in Calcutta with the fence around it. I pine for things that did happen, and for things that didn't. And that makes Secret Keeper something special. It's well worth your time.

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 13, 2009
Source of Book: Bought it at a recent signing at Not Your Mother's Book Club
Other Blog Reviews: Semicolon and Archimedes Forgets. See also the book trailer at Readergirlz.
Author Interviews: Books 140, MotherReader, Kabiliana

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

Six Innings: James Preller

Book: Six Innings
Author: James Preller
Pages: 160
Age Range: 9-12 

Six Innings

Six Innings, by James Preller, is a middle grade novel set during a little league championship game. The structure of the book mirrors the game itself, 12 chapters, one for each half-inning of the six-inning game, plus very brief pre- and post-game sections. There are line-ups, box scores, and announcer's remarks in bold text. Preller describes every pitch of every inning. You see reviews sometimes that say "there's baseball in it, but that's not what the book is about." But I would argue that Six Innings is about baseball. It's about the purity of the game. The flow and ebb from inning to inning. The dynamics between the players. The role of the pitcher and the role of the coach. This book is a veritable ode to baseball. For example:

"Sam passed the time by thinking about baseball. It wasn't exactly a choice, like an essay topic selected for a seventh-grade English paper. Sam never "decided" to think about baseball, just as he never "decided" to have black hair. He awoke and baseball was there, a hanging curveball in his consciousness, white leather wrapped around a cushioned cork core, hovering in the center of his mind. Baseball was always there." (Page 2)

"Nothing happens without the pitcher's permission. Once he throws, time itself begins." (Page 20)

"And so it goes, typical baseball chatter, the talk that fills dugouts everywhere, the words that occupy the spaces the game provides, those gaps when nothing much seems to happen. To love baseball, to truly love the game, you've got to enjoy those empty places, the time to think, absorb, and shoot the breeze. A ball, a strike, a grounder to short. The slow rhythm of the game, a game of accumulation, of patterns, gathering itself toward the finish, like the first few miles of a marathon, not dramatic except for what it might mean later in the race." (Page 22)

But Six Innings is about more than baseball, too. There's a bit of a mystery over why Sam, a boy who lives and breathes baseball, is announcing instead of playing in the game. There's conflict over Sam's relationship with his best friend, Mike, who is playing. There are parent/child dynamics, and there is sibling rivalry. None of it is high drama, but all of it is the stuff of real life. In fact, I think that the whole book is an example of Preller's second quote, above. The rest of the book takes place within the gaps of the baseball game. And while the game itself is exciting, it's that stuff in the gaps that makes the book special.

Preller provides insightful character sketches of players and announcer, using deft descriptions to get to the heart of each character. For example:

"... he plays like his hair is on fire." (Page 11)

"Everyone calls him Nando. And he is very fast. Everything Nando does, from eating waffles to fielding grounders, is restless and quick. He swings in short, choppy strokes--a slap hitter, not a power threat." (Page 13)

"Unmarried, without children of his own, Uncle Jimmy figured he had love to spare, so he poured it over his nephew like a cooler of Gatorade, just splashed it down on Carter's head." (Page 48)

Don't you love that image? Love pouring over a kid's head like Gatorade?

I really enjoyed Six Innings. It's beautifully written. I found myself sharing passages aloud as I was reading. And the end of the book brought tears to my eyes. I'm not sure that Six Innings will work well for kids who aren't already sports fans. I think that the pitch by pitch detail could be hard to get through for some kids. But that's ok. Six Innings is a great book to give to kids who do like to read about sports, one that will effortlessly take them beyond sports and will have them caring about the characters and the small dramas. This is one that I'll be keeping, and putting on my shelf next to Mike Lupica's Heat (one of my favorites of 2006).

One other point I'd like to make about this book is that it's clearly a labor of love for the publisher. Feiwel & Friends made a little baseball logo to go on the spine of the book. There are little baseballs marking the section divisions within the chapters. And there's a picture of a baseball at the end of the book, with signatures from the members of the publication team. This is a book that's been cared for all along the path to publication, and it shows. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 4, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Literate Lives, Semicolon, Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central Blog

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

Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: January 23rd

Welcome to the latest edition of my recurring reviews that made me want to read the book feature. This one is relatively brief, with six new reviews that have recently captured my interest.

FreefallFreefall by Anna Levine won a 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award honor for teen books. But what made me want to read it was Abby (the) Librarian's review. Abby said "It has a great sense of place" and "I think this is a great book for teens who like to learn about other cultures and who like books that inspire them to think. This would make an excellent book discussion book and it'd make a great conversation starter. It has a premise and characters that will keep the attention of teens and it may inspire them to keep reading and learning about Israel."

Sammy KeyesI'd been hearing about Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes books for a while, but Stephanie Ford from The Children's Literature Book Club made me want to read them. She said: "Hi, I'm Stephanie Ford, I'm an adult, and I'm addicted to Sammy Keyes mysteries. There, I said it. There are so many middle grade fiction series unraveling out there, but this is the one I'm most addicted too." She recently reviewed Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash, and convinced me to check out the series.

Tough ChicksTasha Saecker from Kids Lit recently reviewed a picture book that sounds fun: Tough Chicks by Cece Meng, illustrated by Melissa Suber. She said: "Read this one last in a story time, which is the greatest compliment a book can ever have!  This shouldn't be saved for those chicken story times, make sure you use it as one of those rainy-day books that you pull out to brighten things up."

Where Does Thursday GoAnother picture book that sounds appealing is Where does Thursday go?, written by Janeen Brian and illustrated by Stephen Michael King. Susan StephensonThe Book Chook, reviewed it, saying: "This delightful story has so much kid appeal. Children will love the sounds in the landscape like the "oogle gurgle" of the river; wondering what Thursday looks like; following Humbug and Splodge on their quest; and joining in with the refrain: "'Is that you, Thursday,' called Splodge. But there was no reply." It seems to be out of print, but it's one I'll keep an eye out for.

Black Book of SecretsAmanda from A Patchwork of Books reviewed The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins. She said: "F.E. Higgins has created a dark world of intrigue for the middle grade reading sector with The Black Book of Secrets. Fans of Lemony Snicket and his "Unfortunate Events" series and J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter", will be fully satisfied with the mystery, spookiness, and unanswered questions that fill the pages of this book. Plus the edges of the pages are black and that's just plain cool."

Time of My LifeAnother review that caught my attention was BeckyB's brief In the Pages review of Allison Winn Scotch's Time of My Life. She said: "I got about 3 pages in and from then on I couldn't put it down. I REALLY enjoyed this book - the whole concept was appealing to me - going back in time to redo your life - what would you change and what would you leave the same??" This is a premise that's always intrigued me, too, and I intend to give it a look. 

Happy reading!

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

Thursday Afternoon Visits: January 22nd, Part 2

Earlier this afternoon, I started to share some recent news from around the Kidlitosphere. I had to close that post early, before I was able to write about all of my saved items. Here are the rest:

CybilsLogoSmall There's an updated Cybils flyer available from the Cybils blog, complete with the new shortlist titles. Sarah Stevenson did an amazing job putting this together. As Sarah explains, we made this double-side flyer "so you can get the latest information out to your nearest libraries, schools, bookstores and eager readers. As always, we thank you all for your help in spreading the word!" You can also find a printable version of the 2008 Cybils shortlists, with blurbs for all of the titles, in the upper right-hand corner of the Cybils blog.

The Horn Book Magazine has a new owner, the parent company that owns the Junior Library Guild. You can find the details here. Link from Read Roger.

Cari from BookScoops recently shared a fun idea. At her daughter's birthday party, she gave out Curious George books, with bookmarks, for party favors. She found it a positive experience, and urges: "If you have children and plan to do a party give books out as party favors and/or give books to your friends and family for their birthdays. It can’t hurt the publishing industry and over a whole year of giving books that’s got to do something to help. Most important your sharing your love of books and promoting literacy in the people you care about most."

Butterflyaward Two people were kind enough to pass along blog awards to me this week. Kate Coombs from Book Aunt gave me a Butterfly Award for being "most helpful". Book Aunt is a brand new blog that I've been reading. I love Kate's tagline: "Because OTHER people give you clothes and video games for your birthday!" I've always been the "book aunt" in my family, so this award resonated with me especially. 

Premiodardosaward-703921 As if that wasn't enough for one week, Margo Dill from Read These Books and Use Them gave me a Premio Dardos award. I love Margo's reviews, and this was a lovely compliment. I am very fortunate in my blog friends. Thanks Kate and Margo!!

I know I've mentioned this before, but don't miss Kelly Gallagher's Readicide blog tour. So far he's been to A Year of Reading, The Tempered Radical (where it's been a 4-day conversation, I'm thus not offering direct links), and The Dream Teacher. He'll also be at The Reading Zone and The Book Whisperer next week. I really am going to have to read this book soon. Sarah from the Reading Zone says that the book is so compelling that she read the whole thing online.

Meg Ivey at the National Center for Family Literacy's blog offers "a peek at NCFL’s 18th Annual National Conference on Family Literacy (March 1-3, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Florida)!". Keynote speakers at the conference include Henry Winkler, Greg Mortenson, Peter H. Reynolds, and Lolly WinstonRegistration information is here.  

And finally, Lisa Chellman will be hosting the January Carnival of Children's Literature at Under the Covers. She has no special theme, but suggested (via email) that "some ideas might be ALA media awards, the Cybils, or any of the other children's lit awards... winter books... the Inauguration... Martin Luther King Day... or just your favorite post of the month." Submissions are due January 28th, for the Carnival on the 30th. You can submit posts here.

It feels good to be caught up on the blog news. Hopefully this means that this weekend, I can focus on some reviews. Happy reading!