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Non-Kid-Lit Blogs

Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading tagged me for the non-Kid-Lit blog meme back on Saturday. I'm still catching up from a long weekend away, but I am finally responding. A meme, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, is a kind of online quiz, where people respond individually to a standard set of questions. This one asks participants to name five blogs not related to children's literature that they visit. It's difficult to choose, but here are five:

  • The Never Eat Alone blog. This blog is an offshoot of the book Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, which helped inspire me to start my blog. It's not really about never eating alone, but more about increasing connectedness in one's life. Which, of course, is what blogging is all about.
  • The Escape Adulthood and Swingset Reflections blogs by Jason and Kim Kotecki. Kim and Jason are all about encouraging people to find and maintain a childlike sense of joy. They sell lots of fun stuff at their Lemonade Stand, too.
  • The Truth About Writing, by Fred Charles. Fred is a writer of fantasy novels, as yet unpublished, and explores the writing and creative processes on his blog. I like his down-to-earth writing style.
  • Jess's Blog. Jess looks at blogging and other digital communications media from an academic perspective, and is especially interested in the role of women in this new media. Her lab at DeMonfort University is planning a Women, Business & Blogging conference in Leichester, UK in June.
  • Occidental Tourist. The personal blog of a graphic artist currently staying at home to raise her daughter. She writes openly about the challenges of her new life vs. old.

I'm not going to tag anyone else, because this has been around for a while now, and I would imagine that most people have already participated. But if you were somehow missed, consider yourself tagged.

Five Favorite Posts

OK, I've seen several people do this now (most recently A Fuse #8 Production and Gotta Book, after MotherReader issued the original challenge), and thought that it was time I participated. (Updated to add: Blog from the Windowsill tagged me as I was finishing up the post). Anyway, my five favorite posts (I'm going to extend slightly into late 2005 on this, since I started my blog in mid-December):

  1. One of the reasons that I started this blog was that I wanted to help, in my own small way, more kids to grow up enjoying books. My favorite post towards this goal is "Read the Books that Your Children Read". The idea is that if, as your kids get older, you keep reading the books that they love, either with them or in parallel with them, you show them that you value reading, and you provide both parent and child with wonderful opportunities for discussion. That may be preaching to the choir for most of the people who read this blog, but I still think that it's important.
  2. The other reason that I started this blog was that as an adult who likes to read children's books (even though I have no children of my own to read with), I wanted to provide community and encouragement for other people like me. One of my earliest posts, and still a favorite, is "Why You Should Read Children's Books as an Adult." Again, preaching to the choir for people who visit this blog, but still something that I believe with all my heart.
  3. The thing that probably put this blog on the map was the list of Cool Girls of Children's Literature, which started here in May, and ended here in June, with 200 smart, brave, funny, independent girls from the world of children's literature. I actually have a list of some 50 more that people have suggested to me, and I know there are more, if I revisit my recent reading. This whole idea started with a list of a dozen that I put together. And people started commenting, and emailing, and the list just kept on growing. An amazing thing, and a tribute to the power of the kidlitosphere. There is a Cool Boys list, too, though it never received quite the same level of excitement, perhaps because so many of us who blog in this area are women.
  4. More recently, one of my favorite posts of the year is the list of nominated books for the Young Adult Fiction category of the Cybils. Many thanks to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold for starting up this award, and for trusting me to be the administrator for the Young Adult Fiction category. I keep this post marked as a favorite because it's such a wonderful list, and I expect to refer back to it again and again as I continue reading.
  5. In November I wrote about "How Book Reviewing has Affected My Reading". This generated quite a bit of discussion, and I ended up with a follow-up article about "Better vs. More Enjoyable Reading". I like these posts because they reflect my thoughts about how this blog, and the books that I've been reading and reviewing, have changed the way I read. And, since reading is such a big part of my world, changed my life.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but I will agree with the others who've done this that it's a lot of fun to look back. And now, I'm going to look forward, and make the most that I can of 2007! May it bring new and positive memories for us all!

Doreen Cronin Podcast at First Book

Katie B. from First Book (an excellent organization that gives new books to underprivileged children), sent me the following announcement:

"This is a special invitation to download a FREE podcast interview with bestselling children’s book author, Doreen Cronin! Doreen is the author of nine wonderful, bestselling picture books, including Duck for President; Diary of a Worm; Wiggle; and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, a Caldecott Honor Book.  This interview is made possible by Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories, in celebration of their 5th year of getting award-winning books into kids’ hands. To listen to the interview, please go to the First Book blog

First Book is an award-winning international non-profit organization dedicated to providing new books to the most disadvantaged children in thousands of communities. First Book is reaching out to those who understand the power of great books to help us celebrate authors like Doreen who are making a difference in the lives of children.

We hope that you will listen in to the latest in the First Book podcast series. For more information about First Book, please visit our homepage at http://www.firstbook.org and our blog at http://blog.firstbook.org."

As a fan of Doreen Cronin and of First Book, I suggest that you give this podcast a listen. Because I spend all day on the computer, I especially like Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Did you know that Doreen was a lawyer when she started writing kid's books? To me, this gives hope for those of us who are love children's books, but do other things full-time, that full-time immersion in thekidlitosphere could come our way.

Happy reading!

Mid-Week Visits: November 16th

I finally had time to catch up with what's been going on in the kidlitosphere for the past week or so (or most of it anyway - after going back about five days in Google Reader my eyes glazed over, and I had to stop). Here are some things that caught my eye:

  • This is pretty cool. Meet the Author USA is a website where you can find (at current count) 807 video clips of authors describing their own work. They assure us that "(t)he video clips are NOT reviews, they are NOT written by the marketing departments of publishers - these are authors speaking from their heart - to YOU." Three of the top 10 are children's or young adult authors, beginning with Markus Zusak talking about The Book Thief. I learned about this from A Fuse #8 Production, who learned about it from bookshelves of doom.
  • There's a report from Temple University that finds that traditional print books provide more parent-child interaction than electronic books, and are thus better for promoting early literacy. This isn't surprising, but it is nice to see someone studying the issue. Here's a highlight: "Parish-Morris noted that parents who read traditional books made more comments that related pictures or themes in the book to their child's real life in a way that might spur the child's imagination, or their short- or long-term memory. This is significant because children are more successful in school when they spend their pre-school years reading with their parents." I learned about this report from TadMack at Finding Wonderland (one of the tireless Cybils YA nominating committee members who are plowing their way through some 70-odd accepted nominations so far).
  • And for pure fun, Gotta Book's Gregory K. posts about a particular search phrase that brings people to his site, and it's ridiculously perfect. I'm not going to spoil it, though. You'll have to click through.
  • I also enjoyed Greg's post about reading to kids. If I can ever tame my travel schedule, volunteering to read with kids somewhere is very high up on my priority list. I appreciate Greg's reminding me of that. Tasha also comments on this topic at Kids Lit. Tasha is also a member of the Cybils YA committee, but her work won't start until judging time in January.
  • Nancy is well-known for posting quotes of the day over at Journey Woman, and they are always fun. But I especially enjoyed the ones that she posted in honor of Children's Book Week. I love the Madeleine L'Engle quote. Nancy is also a member of the Cybils YA judging committee.
  • E. Lockhart has a post about holiday gift books for teenage girls. I especially like this suggestion: "give the teenager something with a positive girl-power vibe". She also includes a list of recommended titles, most (or all?) of which are Cybils nominees. I would add Kiki Strike to her list, too. It definitely has that girl power vibe.
  • MotherReader has a new look and tagline to her blog. And the tagline is absolutely 100% perfect for her. Check it out.
  • Monica Edinger has an interesting post about the recent spate of Holocaust novels for children over at Educating Alice. She notes: "Why this urgency to introduce the Holocaust to young children? The plethora of picture books and middle grade fiction on the topic seems never ending. Book after book about horrible events with little to anchor them historically." She argues that kids aren't ready "to even begin to understand the Holocaust in history, in the way it really needs to be understood." There's some thoughtful discussion in the comments, too.
  • There are lots of fun memes going around, about which of the top 100 books people have read, and their early reading history, and so on. But personally, my attention was caught by The Question of the Week at The Longstockings: What is your favorite use of food in a children's (or YA) book? you can read answers here and here, and in between. I particularly bonded with Lisa Greenwald's reference to the cocoa and sandwiches in A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Just in time for fall, PJ Librarian talks about book jackets at The Magic of Books, asking "have you done anything different with a book jacket other than read and enjoy it?"
  • Bookseller Chick writes about books that are "gateway drugs". The idea being that with books "it is often the big-name, popular types that act as the gateway to get people to read." Her focus is on adult books, but there are clearly gateway books in the kidlitosphere, too. What are your favorites?
  • Did you see Mary Lee and Franki's interview in the School Library Journal blog? In case you don't know them, Mary Lee and Franki are two teachers who read a lot, and have hopes of having read this year's Newbery winner by the time that the awards are announced. They started the blog, A Year of Reading, to document this, but soon became hooked into the whole kidlitosphere scene. Their blog is home to the 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature. The interview tells how they got from a vague idea of a blog to where they are today.
  • And, just off the wires, M. T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. 1: The Pox Party won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Thanks to Kelly at Big A little a for the information. I have to confess that just last night (before learning this news) I decided that I couldn't get through it. Something about the style, something about the pace - I don't know, but I fell asleep immediately every time I tried to read it, and I have abandoned it at page 100. I just have too many books in my to read pile to continue slogging through one that I'm not enjoying. So, I congratulate M.T. Anderson, but I've moved on to An Abundance of Katherines.

And that should be enough to keep anyone busy for a time. Happy reading!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: September 17, 2006

I spent the weekend down in beautiful Newport Beach, CA (the heart of the O.C., for those of you who follow the television show)). Mheir had a conference, and I tagged along because it was in such a nice place. I read three books from the young adult chick lit genre: Twilight (The Mediator, Book 6) and How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot, and Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman. I also went for a couple of excellent walks around Balboa Island - there's a nice boardwalk that goes all the way around the island. All of that means that I didn't have time to do as much as usual in the way of Sunday blog visits (and that I have several book reviews to write). However, here are a few things that you might find of interest.

  • Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy takes up Shannon Hale's discussion of reading the classics, quoting Laurie Halse Anderson's reaction to low reading scores. Liz asks how and when non-fiction/technical reading is even being taught in schools. She notes: "Because while I love literature, and books, and reading fiction for pleasure, I want the people running companies, voting, diagnosing diseases, arguing legal cases, doing my plumbing, etc., to be able to read and understand information."
  • I learned from A Fuse #8 Production that some of Steve Irwin's fans are apparently venting their frustration at his death by killing stingrays. Boy, talk about missing the point of the whole way that Steve lived his life.
  • I enjoyed Camille's post over at Book Moot about her recent gig as a substitute elementary school librarian. She brought back such fond memories of my own elementary school librarian, Mrs. Tuttle.
  • Congratulations to Susan at Chicken Spaghetti who was chosen as Typepad's featured blog earlier this week. Much deserved recognition, for sure.
  • A Borders books promotion at the end of August raised more than $270,000 for First Book (an organization that gives book to kids who need them). Think of how many books for kids that is! Very cool!
  • Nancy's list of great antagonists of children's literature over at Journey Woman is up to 193. Help her to get the list to 200, and you could win a Starbucks gift certificate.
  • Rick Riordan reports that the dates for next summer's Camp Half-Blood in Austin have been announced. Session 1 will be held May 28th to June 1st, and session 2 will be held June 4th to June 8th. Definitely worth checking out! And in case you're new to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books, Michele has a new review of The Lightning Thief over at Scholar's Blog.

Happy BlogDay

I was tagged by Nancy at Journey Woman for BlogDay 2006. I'm a bit late, but it's still August 30th in California for a bit longer, so I decided to slide my entry in under the wire. The rules are:

  1. Find five new blogs that you find interesting.
  2. Notify the five bloggers that you're recommending them on BlogDay 2006.
  3. Write a BlogDay post today with a short description of each blog, and a link back to each one.
  4. Add a BlogDay 2006 Technorati tag and/or link back to the Technorati BlogDay 2006 page.
  5. Link to the BlogDay website.

So, here are five blogs that I've run across recently that I think are worth your time (and that as far as I know haven't already been tagged for this):

  • Snapshot, a blog by Jennifer from Connecticut, is about parenting, cooking, religion, and children's books. I really enjoy the look of this blog (format, colors, beautiful setting off of quotes). I also like Jennifer's regular "Works for me Wednesday" features, in which she blogs about some practical tip or suggestion (this is apparently a wide-spread phenomenon, but Snapshot is the first place that I've encountered it).
  • I've been visiting it for a little while now, and I simply love Shannon Hale's blog, Squeetus. Shannon is the author of several young adult novels, including The Goose Girl, which I recently read and enjoyed. What I like about her blog is that she's a passionate advocate of kids being able to read what they want, and, consequently, enjoying what they read. She also gets lots of thoughtful comments on her posts, many from young adults.
  • Alan Silberberg, author of the middle grade novel Pond Scum, has come to blogging fairly recently. His blog, Adventures in Pond Scum, provides a window into the writing process, as well as occasional funny drawings. This blog makes me laugh.
  • Buried in the Slush Pile is the is the blog of "an overworked editor" living in Texas. It features tips for writers to make their contributions stand out from the others in the slush pile. There are also contests, and my personal favorite feature, the discussion question of the week (e.g. "How important do you think author websites/blogs are?"). It's fun and useful.
  • OK, this one isn't new exactly, but Louise from Students for Literacy Ottawa is back publishing after a summer hiatus, and I would like to call this blog to your attention. Louise, along with a team of other occasional contributors, blogs about children's books, with a particular emphasis on literacy news. She also does an excellent job of keeping up on interesting stories from around the kidlitosphere.

Of course there are many other blogs that I enjoy and visit on a regular basis. If you read my Sunday Afternoon Visits posts you can get a pretty good idea of which are my long-term favorite blogs. Thanks!

BlogHer Conference Report

I'm on my way out the door for a flight, and I simply don't have time for a full BlogHer conference report. But it was a lot of fun. It was well-organized, with interesting sessions, and tons and tons of time for informal network and more structured conversations between participants. I made many great women, and I look forward to following up with them, and visiting their blogs.

What really struck me about this conference, coming from a semiconductor industry background was the difference in the feel of the conference, and how people related to one another relative to tech conferences. First of all, of course, the gender breakdown was reversed. Usually I'm one of a handful of women. Here there were a handful of men. Then there was the energy level at the conference. People were very friendly and outgoing, and really looking to connect with one another. I think that some of this was a gender thing, and that some of it was a blogger thing. I mean, people who choose to blog, and care about it enough to go to a conference about it, are by definition people who are trying to put themselves out there, and connect with other people. I had been a bit intimidated to go to this conference, where I didn't know anyone, but it really turned out to be fine. I met a lot of great people. it would have been nice if there were more bloggers from the kidlitosphere there, of course, but you can't have everything.

In terms of content, I personally got the most out of today's opening session, in which various attendees talked about how blogging has changed their worlds, and in some cases the world as a whole. The women who started a Katrina relief agency overnight were particularly inspirational. I also enjoyed the "Is the Next Martha Stewart a Blogger?" session (about using blogs to help with commercial ventures, with an emphasis on craft blogs), and the "From Here to Autonomy session" (about making a living from blogging).

After I get back from my trip, I'll have more time to visit the new blogs that I learned about this weekend. I'll definitely keep you posted.

More Responses to the WSJ Piece

Yesterday I wrote about Shannon Hale's response to a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece that trashed current summer reading lists as compared to "the classics". Not surprisingly, people around the kidlitosphere, especially the librarians among us, have some things to say about that. Here are some well-thought-out responses to the article:

  • Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy includes her criteria for creating summer reading lists. She in particular points out that books that are already popular don't need to be on reading lists, because kids will find them anyway.
  • A Fuse #8 Production urges you to read the WSJ article only "Should you wish to feel the delightful taste of bile rising to the back of your throat."
  • Leila at bookshelves of doom says: "The WSJ is dead to me." Personally, I never liked it much anyway, and I agree with Leila.
  • Chasing Ray asks: "When did reading become another assignment?", and urges people to give kids a break in terms of summer reading, and let them read what they enjoy.
  • TadMack at Finding Wonderland and MotherReader both defend the reading material on the back of cereal boxes. TadMack sounds off in particular about the classics ("the so-called 'canon' is made up of a.) old b.) Caucasian and c.) male writers and characters, to a large degree"). MotherReader asks how classics handle multiculturalism, and also makes the point that her library system picks NEW books for summer reading programs on purpose.
  • There are also 26 comments now on Shannon Hale's original post. What's nice about reading the comments there is that they include input from actual young adult readers (or so it appears). Imagine if the person who wrote the original WSJ piece had asked a few kids what they thought...
  • UPDATED to add: Michele at Scholar's Blog takes the positive road, and posts two poems about the joys of reading and books (for Poetry Friday). She also links to a third. I think that they're alll excellent, and a perfect way to start the day.

If you're at all interested in children's books, summer reading lists, or the question of modern children's literature vs. classics, then you really should take a few minutes to read the above posts. These are thoughtful comments from people who work with children and children's books every day. They clearly have a much more balanced perspective on the issue than that of the writer from the Wall Street Journal (who didn't even take the time to read the "non-classic" books in question). Thanks for listening!

American Idol

This is not children's book related, but my friend Miles Crakow was profiled today on one of the American Idol blogs. No, he's not a contestant. But he is the Supervising Producer of the American Idol website. It's a great website, and the profile is pretty entertaining, too. Miles was one of the people who inspired me to start this blog, and he has been ever-supportive of it. Read more about Miles here. You can also visit Miles' blog here.

BlogHer Conference This Weekend

Later this week I'll be attending my first BlogHer conference in San Jose. If any of you are planning to attend, let me know. It would be great to meet in person! I'll be attending the cocktail party on Friday, and the sessions on Saturday. BlogHer's mission is to create opportunities for women bloggers to pursue exposure, education, and community. The conference will be held at the Hyatt in San Jose.

I hope to see you there!