Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions and the Newbery

As I read the posts of many of the blogs I follow, I've noticed that quite a few bloggers have posted their New Year's resolutions. One of the things I have struggled with since I started this blog is how much personal information to post. I started the blog as a way to share resources about children's literature for the readers of The Joy of Children's Literature and anyone else who happens upon this blog. Surely no one is interested in my personal life.

However, if there is anything I know for sure, it's that for reading to be meaningful, it must be personal. As I wrote JCL, one of my goals was for my passion for children's literature to be palpable. I want the reader to know that I care deeply for children's literature and one reason for that is how it has touched me personally. The way I conveyed that feeling in the book was to share stories from my own childhood and from my work with children as a teacher and a mother that exemplified the affect children's literature can have on our own lives and the lives of others we touch.

Posting personal information gives the reader the opportunity to get to know the person behind the blog. I value the information posted on the blogs I read because I have some idea of the person posting the information. She may be a children's librarian, author, teacher, professor or mother but I read the post because I value her opinion and the only way I know her opinion is because she shares it on her blog.

So, one of my New Year's resolutions is to not only post about children's literature resources, but also about my own life experiences that make me the reader I am. So, here goes:

One of the things I try to do all year long is to have already read the Newbery winner before it is announced. I know this is not a big surprise and lots of others do the same thing, but given the fact that the Newbery will be announced in a few weeks, I wanted to share with you how I'm doing so far.

A few weeks ago, Fuse #8 posted a round-up of mock Newbery winners. The titles that received the most votes were:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (7)
My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath (6)
Savvy by Ingrid Law (6)*
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (5)
Diamond Willow by Helen Frost (5)*
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (4)
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (4)
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look (4)*
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (4)
We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson (4)

I've not always done a good job of keeping track of the books I read throughout the year, but since I started this blog at the end of March, I've posted the titles on the sidebar to the right. So, the three titles with asterisks I still need to read in the next two weeks.

There has been much written in the news and blogs about the Newbery lately. The basic gist is that the Newbery winners are not popular with children. The Newbery is a literary award not a popularity award and that's the way it should be, in my opinion. There are lots of other awards given throughout the year in which children vote for their favorite books. Of the 10 titles listed above and of the 7 I have read, all are of outstanding literary quality, but not all will appeal to children. I will write more about this when I've finished reading the other three.

I am thankful for so many wonderful books that were published this year. As the excitement mounts for the announcement of the Newbery so does the excitement for the 2009 year in children's books. I know it will be another amazing year. I'm not going to delete the list of books I've read on the sidebar until after the Newbery announcement. Then, I'll start documenting my reading for a full year in 2009!

This is my last post of 2008. It's been a great year for me in so many ways as I hope it has been for you. I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Books to celebrate the New Year!

I love the beginning of a new year! It brings with it the sense of a fresh beginning and the hope for all that is to come the rest of the year. I always think about the year of new books ahead (okay, and summer vacation!).

As much as I'd like to be the girl bringing in the new year with champagne and dancing, most often I'm watching the ball drop on TV like many others in the US. However, New Year's Day is celebrated many different ways (and times) around the world. So, below is a list of a few great books that can be shared with children in celebration of the New Year everywhere!

Happy New Year, Everywhere! by Arlene Erlbach (2000, Millbrook Press)

Through interesting text and colorful, dynamic illustrations, this excellent book briefly describes traditional New Year's celebrations and customs in 20 countries. The introduction explains that varying cultures observe different calendars and seasonal celebrations. Each spread highlights a different country, providing the dates of the observance; the name of the holiday; the traditional greeting (with a helpful pronunciation key); and a related game, recipe, song, or craft. Simple, colorful line drawings illustrate the projects and a world map pinpoints the location of each celebration. Festive side borders with stars and fireworks adorn each page. This title's particular strengths are the activities and the lengthy bibliography. (Grades 2-5, review by SLJ)

With delightful charm and simplicity, Demi offers readers a lovely look at the Chinese New Year. The vibrant, colorful double-page spreads are full of small, stylized cartoon drawings of Chinese children and adults dancing and smiling as they prepare for and participate in the festivities. The author clearly explains traditions; the always-fascinating animal zodiac; the vast array of gods and heavenly beings that are honored; and the symbolism behind special foods, signs, and rituals. Primary-grade assignments will be enriched by this jewel-toned picture-book presentation. It's just unfortunate that there is no pronunciation guide for the many words, names, and foods mentioned. (Grades K-3, review by SLJ)

Happy New Year! by Emery Bernhard (1996, Lodestar)

This well-researched, appealing book describes how people celebrate the new year, not only in the U.S., but also in such varied places as Bali, Ethiopia, India, China, and Japan. Discussion of historical perspective and the significance of the holiday in different religions lends authority to the text. Bright, bold illustrations enhance the multicultural theme. (Grades 2-5, review by SLJ)

Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan (Little, Brown, 2001)

A large, loving Hawaiian family gathers to celebrate the new year with Marisa making mandoo, or dumplings, a traditional holiday feast. Told from the seven-year-old child's breathless point of view, the event is also a tribute to diversity. The Yang family, like much of the population of Hawaii, includes members of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, and haole (white) descent. And everyone loves mandoo, especially the funny-looking ones that Marisa makes. Though the text is low-key, the characters and their affection for one another are infectious. Cluttered, lively, full-color illustrations in a style reminiscent of Marylin Hafner's work are packed with detail and children. Domestic groupings of all sorts will keep young eyes busy trying to identify which cousin is which. The pages are so full of activity that they often bleed entirely off the page. Any child who loves family gatherings will identify with this book, and teachers will welcome it for its inclusive approach. (Grades K-3, review by SLJ)

This Next New Year by Janet Wong (Frances Foster Books, 2000)

A Chinese-Korean boy relates how he and his friends celebrate the "lunar new year, the day of the first new moon." One child celebrates the holiday with "Thai food to go," while a non-Asian child likes to get "-red envelopes stuffed with money from her neighbor who came from Singapore." The narrator's mother cooks a special Korean soup, and his family observes the traditions of house cleaning, lighting firecrackers, and being extra good to ensure a lucky new year. Wong carefully and clearly presents the reasons behind the rituals in a manner understandable to young children. She explains in an appended note about her own confusion as a child about the timing and meaning of the holiday. Choi's vibrant, somewhat primitive paintings realistically capture the details of and preparations for this hopeful time of year. Youngsters will enjoy the bright colors and the sense of motion and activity conveyed as the boy helps his mother clean, flosses his teeth, and cringes from the noise of the firecrackers. (PreK-2, review by SLJ)

Tet: A Vietnamese New Year by Dianne MacMillian (Enslow, 1994)

A look at red-letter days from around the world as they are observed by U.S. residents. Chinese New Year presents the history and customs associated with the holiday, concluding with the Golden Dragon Parade. Jewish Holidays describes Passover, the Seder, and lesser feasts such as Purim, Yom Ha-Atsma'ut, Lag B'Omer, and Shavuot. Ramadan and Id al-Fitr looks at the Islamic culture: Mohammed, mosques, minarets, and the Koran. Tet focuses on how the Vietnamese-Americans mark the beginning of their new year. Although the writing is choppy, the texts are well researched and have a great deal of information. A glossary and index as well as notes for parents, teachers, and librarians round out each title. (Grades 3-4, review by SLJ)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Judy Blume's Love, Writing About Kids Ages 9-12

From NPR by Renee Montagne:

Author Judy Blume talks with Renee Montagne about how a suburban housewife in New Jersey turned into one of the country's most celebrated children's writers and how her own childhood inspired her fiction writing.

Listen to the story here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are Newbery books turning off kids to reading?

The Newbery Medal has been the gold standard in children's literature for more than eight decades. On the January day when the annual winner is announced, bookstores nationwide sell out, libraries clamor for copies and teachers add the work to lesson plans.

Now the literary world is debating the Newbery's value, asking whether the books that have won recently are so complicated and inaccessible to most children that they are effectively turning off kids to reading. Of the 25 winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.

An article in October's School Library Journal —"Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?" by children's literary expert Anita Silvey—touched off the debate, now in full bloom on blogs and in e-mails. The Association for Library Service to Children, the organization that awards the Newbery—and several other book prizes, including the Caldecott Medal for best American picture book for children—defends its methods and its record. Read more in The Washington Post online.

Monday, December 15, 2008

IRA launches "Gateway" e-newsletter

The International Reading Association has launched IRA Gateway, a new monthly e-newsletter offering practical tips from IRA publications and links to valuable resources online. To view a sample issue or to subscribe, visit the IRA website.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Interview with Helen Oxenbury

Reading Rockets has a new video interview with Helen Oxenbury! You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, or see a selected list of her children's books. You can also see our exclusive video interview with writer Mem Fox, Oxenbury's partner on Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.