Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Final Edition of The Rocky Mountain News

Video of the final edition of The Rocky Mountain News. Is this just the beginning of the end of newspapers as we knew them? Will children today remember how the news used to be published?

Thanks to Bud Hunt for the link.

Interviews! Lots of Wonderful Interviews!

I just listened to a wonderful interview with Laurie Halse Anderson on a ReadWriteThink podcast. Laurie speaks with such heartfelt concern, understanding and compassion for young adult girls with eating disorders, the topic of her latest book Wintergirls (to be released March 19).

Additionally, Laurie has written a poem in honor of the 10th anniversary of the publication of Speak. The opening and closing stanzas were written by Laurie, but the lines in the middle were all taken from the many letters she has received from young readers over the years. Laurie reads the poem in the podcast but you can watch her read the poem here. Before you watch it though, be prepared. As soon as the words of the young readers hit me, I started crying. It is a very moving poem to say the least and definitely a suiting tribute to her many readers.

The Brown Bookshelf has a great interview with Jacqueline Woodson you don't want to miss. It includes a discussion of Peace, Locomotion, the sequel to Locomotion and a look into one of her new picturebooks soon to be released.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a terrific feature on illustrator extraordinaire Bryan Collier. Lots of stunning examples of his artwork!

Kristine at Best Books I Have Not Read has an interview with Margaret Peterson Haddix. She is one of those authors for whom I anxiously await new releases, and she rarely disappoints. I really enjoyed the first book in her new Missing series, Found, this summer and look forward to the next book, which, according to the interview, is finished and will be out in August. This interview gets at some of the questions we always want to ask an author, but never do, such as: What do you desperately wish you knew how to do? What are you currently reading or planning to read? and, Do you have a favorite author?

Publisher's Weekly has a Q & A with Lisa Yee about Absolutely Maybe, her first novel for young adults.

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith has an interview with poet and 2009 NCTE Poetry Award Winner Lee Bennett Hopkins. He talks about the memories he hold from his long and illustrious career and his upcoming poetry books.

Public School Insights offers: Turning Boys into Readers: A Conversation with Children's Literature Laureate Jon Scieszka in honor of Read Across America day. Jon talks about the job responsibilities of a Laureate, the Internet, children choosing their own books to read, the Guys Read initiative, and upcoming books.

What a collection of stellar interviews! The kidlitosphere has really been busy. As usual, I am very thankful for all the blogger do for children's literature.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Q & A with Susan Patron

By Shannon Maughan -- Publishers Weekly, 2/26/2009

Susan Patron spent 35 years as a children’s librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. She retired in 2007, after winning the Newbery Medal that year for her novel The Higher Power of Lucky (Atheneum/Jackson). A sequel, Lucky Breaks, hits shelves next month.

In what ways has your life changed since winning the Newbery?

Where to start? Okay, here’s one example that’s like a little miracle to me: my first novel, Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe (Orchard) came out in 1993 and was an ALA Notable, got starred reviews, generated mail from kids, but it went out of print in a few years. After [I won the Newbery], Atheneum bought the rights for a paperback reissue with new art. Then, this very morning [Monday, February 23], an Israeli publisher made an offer to publish Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe in Hebrew. So [before the Newbery] I was a midlist author and had gotten used to that sad, frustrating, and common experience of seeing my work just disappear—my four picture books had also all gone out of print. Now I get to envision eight-year-olds once again reading my first novel, and some of them will be reading it in Hebrew. This just fills me with gratitude. I’d have to say that the award has made every day begin and end with an enormous feeling of gratitude, enough sometimes to nearly lift me off the ground.

After winning the award, was there any pressure on you—from external sources, or internal pressure—about what to write next? Any performance anxiety?

I’d already begun work on Lucky Breaks, so I knew more or less where I was going, but, yeah, I felt a huge amount of anxiety and self-doubt. Ginee Seo, who edited the book, was a powerful force in enabling me to let go of that stuff and just write the story.

There was some controversy about The Higher Power of Lucky and its mention of a dog’s scrotum. The sequel refers back to that passage from the first book. Were you trying to make a point by doing that?

No, not at all; I was trying to write the best book I could, and that would totally preclude making such a point. The events unfold through Lucky’s perspective, and in her mind this unfortunate dog is forever linked with the incident. So to Lucky, Roy is ‘the dog that got bit on its scrotum by a rattlesnake.’ And I’m determined to be true to her by presenting Roy within the context of how she thinks, without allowing the specter of controversy to affect my writing. It comes down to respecting the intelligence and sensibilities of readers. And, interestingly, not one child has ever expressed any problem or concern over the reference to this body part.

What were your feelings about approaching the controversy over your work as a person who wears two different professional hats—that of librarian and that of author?

Maybe it’s really the same hat, but worn at different angles. Writers must have freedom of expression, librarians provide access to a wide range of books—we all want to connect kids to the written word. But even though I’d been comfortable and fairly articulate in the role of librarian-defender-of-intellectual-freedom-for-kids, as a writer I felt vulnerable. Like, I’m not the one who should have to defend this particular book! So I was grateful that my professional colleagues took the issue very seriously and stood up for my work.

What would be your online-/card-catalog description of Lucky Breaks for young readers?

Lucky is on the verge of turning 11, poised to grow up, but along the way she risks her life, puts her new pal in jeopardy, and betrays her oldest friend. And in trying to figure out the mystery of our home in the universe, Lucky discovers that the answer is both in the stars and close at hand.

Why did you want to revisit Lucky’s world?

I had this amazing experience with a busload of kids from the Death Valley Unified School District during a promotional tour in 2007. Their teacher had read the book aloud. The children were intense and focused, and they wanted to know if Lucky’s little town of Hard Pan was really their town, and if Short Sammy was really someone they knew in disguise. They loved seeing themselves and their world in a novel; this hadn’t happened before. I was already working on Lucky Breaks, but this experience was like having my hand stamped at a party so I could get back inside; it was proof from those kids that they’d welcome me back.

By the end of Lucky Breaks, Lucky seems to have reached a happy and secure point in her life. Do you plan to write more about her?

One final book in the trilogy, yes. Lucky’s situation at the end of Lucky Breaks is kind of like life, where if everything is going along nicely you better get ready for the ax to drop. So I’m back in Hard Pan and am aiming to have the last book finished for publication in 2010. No title yet. And I hope the ink from the stamp on the back of my hand will not have rubbed off!

Lucky Breaks. Susan Patron. Atheneum, $16.99 ISBN 978-1-4169-3998-6

CBC Reveals ‘Children’s Choice’ Finalists

-- Publishers Weekly, 2/26/2009

They’re back: the Children’s Book Council has unveiled the finalists for the second-annual Children’s Choice Book Awards. Nearly 15,000 children cast their votes in six categories—four based on age group, as well as author and illustrator of the year.

As last year, the winners will be announced at the Children’s Choice Book Awards Gala on May 12, during Children’s Book Week. Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, will reprise his role as host of the gala, during which the second annual Impact Award will be given—this year to Whoopi Goldberg. From March 16 through May 3, kids can vote for their favorite books and authors at their schools, libraries and bookstores, as well as at

And the finalists are:

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year

The Donut Chef by Bob Staake (Random/Golden)
Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman (Holt)
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
Sort It Out! by Barbara Mariconda, illus. by Sherry Rogers (Sylvan Dell)
Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin, illus. by Daniel Salmieri (Clarion)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year

Babymouse: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House)
One Million Things: A Visual Encyclopedia by Peter Chrisp (DK)
Underwear: What We Wear Under There by Ruth Freeman Swain, illus. by John O’Brien (Holiday House)
Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, illus. by Cyd Moore (Sleeping Bear)
Spooky Cemeteries by Dinah Williams (Bearport)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year

100 Most Dangerous Things On the Planet by Anna Claybourne (Scholastic Reference)
Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic/Graphix)
The Big Field by Mike Lupica (Philomel)
Swords: An Artist's Devotion by Ben Boos (Candlewick)
Thirteen by Lauren Myracle (Dutton)

Teen Choice Book Award

Airhead by Meg Cabot (Scholastic/Point)
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (Viking)
Paper Towns by John Green (Dutton)

Author of the Year

Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn (Little, Brown)
Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Abrams/Amulet)
Christopher Paolini, Brisingr (Knopf)
James Patterson, Maximum Ride: The Final Warning (Little, Brown)
Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth (Disney-Hyperion)

Illustrator of the Year

Laura Cornell, Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis (HarperCollins/Cotler)
Robin Preiss Glasser, Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly! by Jane O’Connor (HarperCollins)
Mo Willems, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (Hyperion)
David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon, Smash! Crash! by Jon Scieszka (Simon & Schuster)
Jon J Muth, Zen Ties (Scholastic Press)

Monday, February 23, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 2/23/2009

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy vy David Soman and Jacky Davis. Dial, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3339-8
What's a superhero without a sidekick? Lulu, star of last year's Ladybug Girl, meets her friend Sam at the playground, but before they can join forces, they must first agree on what to play—a sequence handled with understanding and humor. At one point, Lulu hits on the idea of using the seesaw: “She runs over and sits down on one side of the seesaw and waits. And waits. Sam just stands there, not getting on.” Ultimately, intrigued by Lulu's suggestion of a game involving superpowers, Sam becomes Bumblebee Boy, with his striped shirt and a stick for a stinger. Together they battle the Mean Robot (tire swing) that threatens to “crush the playground” (“Ladybug Girl grabs on, and jumps on top of its head! Bumblebee Boy stings it with his stinger again and again”) and attract some new heroes, too. Soman's pen-and-ink characters are remarkably emotive—this is a story that delights in children's enthusiastic imaginations. Also noteworthy is the team's pacing: there's no dead air, and all the action plays naturally. A favorite series in the making. Ages 3–5. (Mar.)

Melonhead by Katy Kelly, illus. by Gillian Johnson. Delacorte, $12.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-73409-7
Kelly, author of Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me and its sequels, launches an appealing, boy-centric series starring Lucy Rose's friend, Adam Melon (dubbed Melonhead). The hyperkinetic nine-year-old's knack for finding trouble surfaces immediately, when his foot gets stuck in a tree and he must be rescued by firefighters (“My mom said my shoe is ruined. I told her, 'Not to me.' I nailed it to the wall over my bed so I will always have the memory”). Though Melonhead's subsequent conundrums are (slightly) less dramatic, they are no less engaging or energetic. Adam's goofy sense of humor and his comic interactions with his parents, teachers and best friend Sam (the two are amateur inventors) are just right for the target audience. “I love the feeling of having a pet in the house,” he says of the snake he's hiding from his parents. “Two pets, actually, even though as soon as Cobra has his next lunch, I'll be back to one.” The book has an excellent shot at winning over reluctant readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 9–12. (Mar.)

Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers by Brent Runyon Knopf, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-84446-1
Runyon's (The Burn Journals; Maybe) stirring coming-of-age novel is set at the lakeside cottage where Luke and his parents spend two weeks every summer. Each of the four chapters presents a different stage of Luke's adolescence between the ages of 13 and 16, tracing his emotional, hormonal and physical changes and his broadening perception of his surroundings, particularly the neighbors. There is the eccentric Richardson family, fastidious about their yard and cottage; a newcomer minister who marks his territory with a floodlight and Confederate flag; and a mysterious girl whose father allegedly stole Luke's father's barbecue. (“Her eyes look like an Egyptian queen's eyes. They're huge and brown and I don't know why, but I want to stare into them for as long as I can,” Luke pines.) The detail-rich story offers the type of intensity that sneaks up on readers, not taking a firm hold until the end, when previous events take on new meaning. Despite the book's structure, the plot seems to move in a spiral, revisiting familiar landmarks that inevitably change over time and digging underneath the surface. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

View the Complimentary Web Seminar Featuring Walter Dean Myers

On February 17th, New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers presented an NCTE Web seminar, "Teaching Dope Sick in the Classroom," as part of the National African American Read-In. This book, one of Myers's most recent, is available for free viewing from the website until February 24, 2009. In the Web seminar, Myers talks openly about growing up in Harlem, the origin of his book ideas, the significance of Dope Sick, ways to bridge the gap with inner city youth, and ideas for writing about literature. View the recording of the Web seminar as part of your National African American Read-In celebration during the month of February!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Digital Future?

I just "reserved my place in line" for the new Kindle 2.0. I've wanted one for a long time, mostly for traveling (I don't see myself curling up in bed at night with it). Interestingly, an article from Publisher's Weekly titled, Taking Steps into the Digital Future, discusses the likelihood of e-books becoming popular with kids. Below is an excerpt:

It's no secret that teens live online—Twittering, blogging, posting videos on YouTube and downloading from iTunes—or that most teens (80%, according to a national survey last fall) have cellphones. Together that adds up to a sizable potential market for mobile phone and Web-based e-books. Google and Amazon have no intention of ceding that business to developers of iPhone apps like Stanza. Earlier this month, they announced that they will provide e-content for mobile phones. Google will release 1.5 million public domain titles; Amazon will adapt books already in the Kindle format.

Like earlier technological innovations such as the Walkman, prices for e-readers will clearly drop. But for now, few teens can stretch their allowances to buy one. Nor is it likely that any of the e-readers on the horizon, such as the Plastic Logic 8½”×11” e-reader due out next year or the large-screen iPod Touch rumored for fall release, will be cheaper than, say, the current 8GB Touch, which has a suggested retail price of $229. And one of the most promising e-readers—a paper-thin, flexible electronic screen that can be rolled up and stored in a pocket—won't be available for civilians anytime soon; it is being developed to provide soldiers with lightweight access to maps and other printed material.

“We should worry less about the delivery system and more about inculcating sustained reading in kids,” says Michele Rubin, an agent at Writers House. “Books are something they should see as enjoyable.” No one is arguing. In fact, one scenario that publishers are exploring to raise the fun quotient is mixed media √† la Scholastic's The 39 Clues (the series combines traditional books with online gaming and card collecting).

Patrick Carman's newly released ghost mystery, Skeleton Creek (Scholastic, Feb.), offers a book and dedicated Web site with videos, while The Amanda Project by Stella Lennon (HarperCollins, Sept. 2009) is even more ambitious. This mystery series, aimed at girls ages 12–14, brings together traditional print with Web games, social networking, blogs, music and merchandise.

Not that being online necessarily indicates success. One of the few successful children’s books to start out as a Web exclusive, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Abrams/Amulet), didn’t really take off until it moved offline. It was initially “published” in 2004 on and garnered more than seven million visits in a year and a half. Since Diary of a Wimpy Kid launched in book form in spring 2007, it and its three follow-ups have become enormous bestsellers, with a combined 11 million copies in print.

Read the entire article here. What do you think about the future of the e-book for kids?

Monday, February 16, 2009

PW's Children's Book Reviews

Starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, 2/16/2009

Picture Books

Sneaky Weasel by Hannah Shaw. Knopf, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-95625-6
When the eponymous “nasty, measly” antihero of Shaw's authorial debut invites everyone to a party “to boast about his incredible castle, fast car and huge swimming pool,” he discovers that he has made an offer that is very easy to refuse. Shocked when his previous crimes and pranks are thrown in his face by his victims (he doused Hedgehog with fleas and allowed Shrew to believe he was going to be fed to Weasel's cat), Weasel makes amends and—eventually—learns something about apologizing (“After a while he began to mumble, 'I'm so... so important! No... I'm su... super sneaky?' ”) What keeps the story from turning sappy are Shaw's considerable talents. Her gangly ink drawings are amplified with funny visual asides (such as endpapers featuring nasty and nice weasel-themed advertisements), while the quirky typography imbues the narration with a dry lilt (one can almost hear Judi Dench reading it aloud). And it helps that Weasel, whose haughty and sneering demeanor brings to mind Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, is also truly clueless—readers can savor both his callousness and comeuppance. Ages 4–7. (Feb.)

Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport, illus. by Gary Kelley. Disney-Hyperion $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7868-5141-6
Rappaport's spare text and Kelley's handsome paintings, evocative of WPA murals, reclaim the legendary first lady's story for the younger set, revealing the person behind the icon. Writing in clipped, one-or-two-sentence paragraphs that have the feel of blank verse, Rappaport is vivid and frank about Eleanor's unhappy childhood and overbearing mother-in-law (“Sara told Eleanor what clothes to buy and what food to serve.... She even chose their furniture”), although she demurs when it comes to the Roosevelts' own marital problems. Each spread is anchored by a quote from Eleanor herself, set in large type to convey her voice, growing sense of confidence and moral conviction (the opening endpapers read, “Do something every day that scares you,” setting a powerful tone from the outset). Kelley's muted palette conveys the gravity of the times and provides a striking visual counterpoint to his dramatic, strongly geometric compositions. Even if readers have little sense of history, they will close the book understanding that it was America's great fortune to have Eleanor's life coincide with some of its darkest hours. Ages 5–8. (Feb.)

Bird, Butterfly, Eel by James Prosek. S&S, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-689-86829-0
Jewellike colors, skilled draftsmanship and intelligent composition bring readers right into the world of a trio of migrating animals. In a series of watercolors set in New England, Prosek (A Good Day's Fishing) enlivens his exploration of the life cycles of a barn swallow, a monarch butterfly and an American eel by introducing a sleek black cat into the spreads. She tips her nose up to the low-flying Butterfly, watches Bird as she feeds her nestlings and sits at the edge of Eel's pond (when they've gone south, she lies on an artist's table and sulks). Double-page spreads split horizontally into three panels to convey simultaneous action, and the aerial and underwater views add excitement. Prosek's lean text instructs simply: “[Eel] is eating insects and small fish and storing up energy for her long swimming journey ahead.” The few moments where he does allow himself poetic license stand out by contrast (“Eel's young, small as toothpicks and clear as glass, swim up the creek to the pond”). Even very young readers with an interest in the natural world will relish Prosek's intimate portraits. Ages 6–10. (Feb.)

Congratualtions to these authors!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Resource Round-Up: Post Newbery Edition

If you thought the blog posts were going to slow down Post -Newbery, think again! Below are some of the posts I thought were most interesting and thought provoking...

First and foremost, Neil Gaiman's twitter response to The Graveyard Book winning the Newbery has been all over the blogs and zines (Oh, my:-) On his own blog, Gaiman writes about his reaction to the phone call from the Newbery Committee:

You are on a speakerphone with at least 14 teachers and librarians and suchlike great, wise and good people, I thought. Do not start swearing like you did when you got the Hugo. This was a wise thing to think because otherwise huge, mighty and fourletter swears were gathering. I mean, that's what they're for. I think I said, You mean it's Monday?
Nice recaps of Newbery coverage are at SLJ and Heavy Medal.

Wizard's Wireless responds to the question: How do Caldecott and Newbery winning books get their shiny stickers? "I wish I could tell you that on the day of the award announcement, everyone stops what they're doing and puts the stickers on the books. But really, it's much more mundane and gradual than that." Click to find out...

The Reading Zone writes about how her sixth grade class responded as they watched the award announcement webcast.

Laurie Halse Anderson, winner of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award for Catalyst, Fever 1793, and Speak wrote her reaction to receiving the award:

Suffice it to say, I am honored and humbled to have my work put in the class with writers whom I admire so much. And I am particularly proud that the committee singled out both Catalyst and Fever 1793, and that they get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Speak, instead of in its shadow. [read the rest here]
Audiobooker wrote a very nice post about the 2009 Odyssey Award winner and honor books and the 2009 Notable Children's Recordings List.

PlanetEsme writes a very personal response to the Coretta Scott King award:

I have a very hard time with an award that claims to “commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood,” and yet uses the author’s race as a criteria. I find this contradictory. [read the rest here]
In a follow-up post, Esme includes a comment from author/illustrator Yuyi Morales, who is a past winner of the Pura Belpré Award for illustrating Los Gatos Black on Halloween and presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. Morales responds (in part):

If the ethnic awards were to disappear, or integrate, would I miss the celebration? Yes I would. Would there be other challenges to obtain? Certainly yes, because what I am is not Latina but a force... You will understand it when you are propped in front of children—those of all possible colors, including brown, like me; who speak all kinds of languages, including Spanish like me; who perhaps struggle with their English, like I did; who feel like“tontos”, fools, unable to fit in the foreign culture, like once I did too. And then, in that moment when the teacher introduces you, and tells the audience that you have been the winner of this prestigious shiny golden medal stuck on the cover of your book, given here in the United States to a person like YOU in recognition for the quality of your work, you can see it with your own eyes and your heart, that very moment when a child begins to dream that if you did it, he can do it too. [read the entire post]

This is thoughtful, heartfelt exchange and I encourage to to read both posts in their entirety.

So, this is all I have for Post-Newbery. What intersting stories did you hear?