Thursday, October 30, 2008

Second Annual Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature Conference

Save the Date for the Second Annual Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature conference to be held in Columbia, SC on April 24th and 25th, 2009. This exciting, two day conference includes performances and appearances by several Latina authors/illustrators including Maya Christina Gonzalez, Lulu Delacre, Lucia Gonzalez, and Irania Patterson. The keynote address will be delivered by nationally-recognized, Puerto Rican Children's Literature and Multicultural Education scholar Dr. Sonia Nieto. Conference participants will have a choice of over a dozen breakout sessions on topics related to Latino children's literature and literacy.

As part of the theme "Connecting Cultures and Celebrating Cuentos," the conference will host an El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day) family and community event on the evening of April 24th at one of the local public libraries. Festivities will include storytelling and intergenerational art exploration.

Registration for the premiere National Latino Children’s Literature Conference is limited and begins January 2009. For additional information, please consult the conference website ( or contact conference co-chair.

Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo (; (205)348-1518.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Focus on Native American Heritage

From the NCTE inbox:

National American Indian Heritage Month is recognized each November as a time to learn more about the history and heritage of Native American peoples. These resources provide strategies to explore Native American literature and heritage in your own classroom.

The Language Arts article "Proceed with Caution: Using Native American Folktales in the Classroom" (E) explains the importance of selecting texts that include realistic and accurate presentations of Native American peoples. The article includes guidelines for evaluating and selecting Native American literature.

Examine two speeches by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh with the ReadWriteThink lesson Battling for Liberty: Tecumseh's and Patrick Henry's Language of Resistance (M) and ask students to consider Tecumseh's politically effective and poetic use of language. See the ReadWriteThink calendar entry for National American Indian Heritage Month for links to additional lesson plans and resources.

"Contemporary American Indian Life in The Owl's Song and Smoke Signals" (S) from English Journal explores how to teach the novel and film together in a unit that "paints a realistic picture of contemporary American Indian life" while inviting students to identify with protagonists who grow in both self-awareness and their appreciation of others.

The English Journal article "Hoop Dancing: Literature Circles and Native American Storytelling" (S-C) explores strategies teachers can use to address the misrepresentations of Indian culture through the study of Native American oral traditions and literatures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Connecting kids and book galleys can boost reading

Children's book publishers and school librarians are trying a new strategy to build the buzz about forthcoming titles: sharing Advance Readers' Copies (ARCs) or book galleys. "The kids' enthusiasm for a title then creates in-school, pre-pub buzz about the book that can, in some cases, have a positive effect on sales," writes Sally Lodge in Publishers Weekly. "It's a chain reaction that is beneficial to all concerned--and one that appears to be happening with increasing frequency."

At Coppell Middle School West in Coppell, Texas, library media specialist Rose Brock runs five separate student book clubs using ARCs. Suzanne Fox, library media teacher at two middle schools in Napa, California, brings ARCs into classrooms and asks students to read and review the books. "Kids love reading a book that no one else knows about, and it's even better if it's a sequel to a book that other kids do know about," Fox says.

For further information, read the full article.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Snicket Redux

Article by Sue Corbett in Publishers Weekly (10/27/08)...

The Baudelaire orphans' sad story may be over but, like a post-apocalyptic cockroach, Lemony Snicket persists—to the great delight of booksellers, children, HarperCollins and Daniel Handler himself.

“I miss them,” Handler admits of Violet, Klaus and Sunny, whose adventures concluded in 2006 with The End—60 million copies from his Unfortunate Events series have sold worldwide. “Every so often I instinctively jot down notes about more bad things happening to them before I remember, 'Oh, that series is over.' It's disorienting.”

Never fear, readers. This fall Snicket returns with A Lump of Coal (HarperCollins), a companion title to last year's Hanukkah-themed picture book, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. In his trademark glass-almost-completely-empty fashion, Handler writes about Christmas by anthropomorphizing the traditional gift left by Santa for very bad children. He'll visit eight cities, as Snicket's representative of course, but Handler terms this tour “unplugged.”

The last few tours have been quite elaborate, traveling with musicians and orchestras, but this will be relatively muted,” he says. “I will be signing books and confronting children on an individual rather than a mass level.”

These “interim” books, as Handler calls them, keep Snicket's persona alive. He has another series idea (still under wraps) simmering, but up next is the February 2009 release of The Composer Is Dead (HarperCollins), a picture book-cum-police procedural that uses a murder investigation to explain the orchestra to children.

Read the rest of the article...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Parenting Neil Gaiman-Style: It Takes A 'Graveyard'

NPR, October 17, 2008 · The night a mystical killer murders his family, a child toddles off into a graveyard, where he's adopted by a loving, even-keeled ghost couple. The premise for The Graveyard Book is macabre, but author Neil Gaiman has a strange ability to make otherworldly characters quaint — loveable, even — and the story is anything but grave. Children as young as 9 will enjoy this sweet, funny and gentle tale; adults will appreciate its deeper undertones.

Gaiman is the author of the ground-breaking (rocked-my-world) comic Sandman and the best-sellers Anansi Boys and Coraline. (The latter is being made into a stop-action animated motion picture, with Dakota Fanning voicing the lead.) In the past, he's personified Death as a punk-rock chick and the Dream King as her brooding, self-conscious brother. Among Gaiman's fans are Tori Amos, who sang the line, "…me and Neil'll be hanging out with the Dream King" on her breakout album, Little Earthquakes. The invention of immortal folk who readers feel they might like to kick back with may be this prolific, tousle-haired, ex-pat British author's contribution to world literature.

Dave McKean, an artist famous for comic-book and CD covers, provides excellent, off-kilter inkbrush illustrations. Showing us the graveyard through the boy's eyes, he makes rows of lonely tombstones seem safe and homey. Content to allow Gaiman's writing to create the characters, McKean gives us a world of comfortable, haunted ruins.

Though he lives among the dead, young Nobody Owens, nicknamed Bod, has his ghostly parents, an undead guardian called Silas and 300 ghosts to watch over him. "It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child," says Silas. "It will ... take a graveyard." Bod goes on odd adventures: A young girl adopts the boy dressed in a winding sheet as her imaginary friend, and he's abducted by some hilarious and fairly disgusting ghouls. But the real fun lies in watching Bod's extended, disincarnate family come to terms with a living child, teaching him to read from gravestones and puzzling over foodstuffs like bananas.

There's a sense of peace that comes from reading Gaiman; in his stories, the things that scare us aren't impervious to our humanity. The nonliving in The Graveyard Book, who expect to stay the same through eternity, grow as people. Bod's parents change profoundly, as does Bod's first crush, the young witch-ghost Liza. And when Bod tells Silas that he, Bod, has danced with Death herself, his powerful, lonely guardian, who can neither live nor die, suffers a moment of heartbreak. The Graveyard Book may make children want to play in cemeteries, but it will make adults crack a knowing smile.

Read an excerpt of The Graveyard Book and listen to an interview with Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

National Book Award: Young People's Literature

Check out the finalists for the National Book Award in the Young People's Literature section:

Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)

Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)

Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)

E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)

Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)

Now, check out the judges!

Young People’s Literature Judges: Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Neil Gaiman Reads The Graveyard Book in its Entirity!

Neil Gaiman is on a 9-city video tour for his new book The Graveyard Book. At each stop on the tour, he will read one chapter from The Graveyard Book beginning on October 1st. By the end of the tour, on October 9th, you will be able to watch the master storyteller himself read The Graveyard Book in its entirety. Chapter one is available right now!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mary Ann Hoberman Announced as the Second Children's Poet Laureate

Mary Ann Hoberman Named Children's Poet Laureate

Below is an excerpt from the article on the Poetry Foundation's website:

The best children’s poets look at the subjects most parents are terrified of introducing to their little children—death, for instance—and invite them, gracefully, to dance. A rather Williamseque lyric on mortality, Mary Ann Hoberman’s “Mayfly” couldn’t be simpler, because eloquent simplicity is the key to writing poetry for children:

Think how fast a year flies by
A month flies by
A week flies by
Think how fast a day flies by
A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day
A single day
To live and die
A single day
How fast it goes
The day
The Mayfly
Both of those. A Mayfly flies a single day
The daylight dies and darkness grows
A single day
How fast it flies
A Mayfly’s life
How fast it goes.

But of course the poem could be simpler—it could unfurl without all of those unpredictable rhymes, tumbling us along with inevitable momentum, like life’s arrow itself, ending only when it ends, but launching us past those sudden, chilling moments of realization (“To live and die”) and on to the next moment, the next brief day. Hoberman, author of over 40 children’s books and the new Children’s Poet Laureate, is a consummate channeler of children’s sensibilities. She is clearly a writer who takes children’s verse very seriously—as well she might. One could imagine, especially if one isn’t a parent, that writing children’s poetry would be easier by an order of magnitude than writing “adult” poetry; one could even presume that virtually any bare-boned rhyme or sweet turn of a single-syllable phrase would suffice for the average child reader. But this is famously untrue: children’s poetry requires precision tools, a childlike ear, a capacity for spirited irreverence, and a scrupulous lack of pretension. What’s more, its intended readers have only their inner metronomes and innate sense of the absurd to inform how they react to a poem, not a wealth of experience or literary-cultural know-how, and their native antennae cannot be easily bamboozled. Writing well for children can be as mysterious and difficult as learning to make falcon calls. Read more...

Do You Believe? 100th Post

What a fantastic way to celebrate my 100th post with this video. Amazing!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Artist Macaulay Decodes Body In 'Way We Work'

From NPR's All Things Considered, October 6, 2008 · Illustrator David Macaulay, who has used drawings to teach himself — and then the rest of the world — how things work, has taken on another daunting task: the human body.

In The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body, Macaulay illustrates such complexities as cellular chemistry, how peoples' limbs move when they walk and how blood flows through the body.

"I knew actually nothing about myself, which was one of the reasons for doing the book," Macaulay tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "I had a complete ignorance of basic information. I don't know how that happened. My kids, who are 9 and 11, know much more than I do, and I thought I'd better catch up."

For six intense years, the best-selling author of Castle, Cathedral and, more recently, The Way Things Work read, talked to people, watched videotapes, sat in on a few operations and took a couple of anatomy courses. And then he let the creativity flow.
Macaulay says he was daunted by the rich tradition of medical drawings, so he created his own style.

"I thought, 'I can't possibly match any of this stuff,' " Macaulay says, referring to medical illustrators like Frank Netter. "So I think maybe part of going off in my own direction was a self-defensive approach. I'll do this my way, and I'll explain it my way. And as long as it makes sense and it teaches what I need to teach, then the drawings will work."

Macaulay, who won a MacArthur grant in 2006, says he found the images associated with the body "just so beautiful. ... They lent themselves to a tremendous variety of pictures." But with the task at hand, Macaulay says he wasn't sure he could pull it off. He says he found some parts of the body particularly difficult to explain, like the brain and the immune system, and he would "develop a hostility towards" them.

"There were moments during this last six years when I really thought I had gone too far. I just felt, 'I'm not going to be able to do this, I will never know enough to be able to confidently illustrate or write a book about the way we work,' " Macaulay says. "I almost gave up a couple of times. I don't know exactly why I kept going."

But Macaulay says he delighted in those "moments of discovery when you sort of come across something that seems so wonderfully simple or extraordinary," like the interior lining of the small intestine — one of his favorite parts of the book.

"You've got a surface roughly the size of a tennis court that you have to squeeze inside the hose, which is the small intestine," he says. "And it's done so beautifully by the cells." Macaulay says he didn't have a specific reader age in mind when he was putting the book together — he was doing it for himself.

"I don't know how to do it any other way," he says.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Politics, Children's Literature Blogs, and Lois Lowry

Each morning I anxiously click through all of the new blog posts on children's literature brought to my attention by my blog reader. I really enjoy the insight, perspective, news and events on children books and related topics the various book bloggers provide. However, since the presidential election has swung into high gear, I have started approaching my blog reader a little more tentatively each day since more and more bloggers are posting about their political views in addition to children's literature. I understand. Blogs are web logs--online journals--and no one takes an oath prior to starting a blog stating that they will stick to a particular topic. So, yesterday, when I read Lois Lowery's blog on which she discussed who she thinks should win the election and why, I cringed. Not Lois, too.

You see, I am a huge Lois Lowry admirer. In addition to reading her books, I have heard her speak at least a dozen times. Most of the time, I cry before she reaches the end of her presentation. I will never forget hearing her speak at a NCTE breakfast many years ago in which she told the story of how her son died. I cried so hard I couldn't talk afterward. A few years ago, she gave a presentation in Richmond titled, How Everything Turns Away, in which I took my son. This time, I learned about her connection to Allen Say. We both cried. In May, I heard Lois speak in Newport News about how she came to write Number the Stars. In her speeches, like her books, she weaves a story in such a way that deeply connects the listener to not only herself but to the other people in the room. After listening, I feel like I know her and I trust her to take me on an emotional journey because I know I will be a richer person on the other side.

Later in the day, after posting on her blog about her political views, Lois posted again stating that people sent comments indicating that she should keep her political views to herself. This really started me thinking about why I felt so reticent about Lois and other bloggers making political posts. I do not share my political views with my college students. I believe teachers in general typically do not share their political views with their students. We come together every class day to learn about how to assist children on their literacy journey to becoming lifelong readers, writers, and thinkers. In this common goal, we completely trust each other. My students trust that I am providing them with the very best the field of literacy has to offer and I trust my students to put forth their very best effort to learn and engage with this information. If I were to share my political views with my students and they were to disagree, would this break their trust in me...even to a degree? A person's political views hit at the very heart of who they are...views about such issues as abortion, health care, economics...

If I learn that Lois Lowery and other book bloggers do not agree with me politically, does that break my trust in them? There is one thing I know about Lois and that is that she believes it is important for people to question their own beliefs and values everyday and to teach their children to do the same. Indeed, there was one aspect of Lois' blog post that I thought about all day. I even talked about it with different groups of people I came in contact with throughout the day. If reading the occasional post on the political views of other bloggers engages me in confirming or questioning my own political views, then I'm a richer person for it. So once again, Lois has taken me on a journey for which I am thankful. As the election comes closer, it is likely that the political posts will become more frequent. But, I would like to think that in a way, they can connect us rather than divides us.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Children's Choices 2008

The Children's Choices Project conducted annually by the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council since 1974 provides childrenwith an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books written for them. Children from across the country vote on books that were published the previous year and the winning books are developed into an annual annotated reading list of new books that young readers enjoy reading. These lists can assist teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, and others with finding books that will encourage young readers to read more.
An annotated list is published annually in the October issue of The Reading Teacher and provided free of charge on the IRA website. Additionally, a bookmark listing the winning choices is available.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Doreen Cronin & Betsy Lewin Virtual Author Visit!

Would you like your class to meet an award-winning author? The MYVisit Virtual Author Series is a fantastic opportunity for your class to interact with some of today's best children's book creators LIVE! Each visit brings the creator into your classroom via interactive video, discussion forums, and downloadable learning activities to create a unique learning experience that truly expand some of today's most popular children's titles.

: Broadcast date: October 7, 2008
Go to the MYVisit website to sign-up now!

Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin are the award-winning team behind the Caldecott Honor book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Ms. Cronin is the successful author of many bestselling picture books, including Wiggle; Duck for President; Giggle, Giggle, Quack; Dooby Dooby Moo; and the upcoming Thump, Quack, Moo. Ms. Lewin is the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and its sequels, Giggle, Giggle, Quack and Duck for President, in addition to a number of other picture books, including So, What's It Like to Be a Cat? and Two Eggs, Please.