Saturday, May 30, 2009

NPR: Beloved Gorilla Still Charms In New Kids' Book

From NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, May 30, 2009 :

There's a new book out by Anthony Brown called Little Beauty — and boy, is it ever that. Actually, given the subject matter, it's a very large beauty!

Host Scott Simon speaks with Weekend Edition's ambassador to the world of children's literature Daniel Pinkwater about a new book for kids based on a real gorilla who won the hearts of Chicagoans for years.

Waiting for the Fire

Am I the only one who DIDN'T receive an ARC of Catching Fire? Boy, all of the raving online reviews from those lucky folks who received advanced readers copies are making me happy and sad. Sad, because I want to read it NOW. Happy because I know it's worth the wait!

So, those of you in my position (waiting....), we'll just have to settle for articles like this from Publisher's Weekly.

Friday, May 29, 2009

On the Edge of Seventeen

Sunday, May 31st, is my son's 17th birthday. He is a writer and has often written me poems for my birthday or Mother's Day. This year, I decided to write him a poem. See if you can recognize my inspiration!

All the Difference

So much depends
a baby boy
the one and only
baby boy
who made all the

So much depends
a toddling boy
the one and only
toddling boy
who lights the
with his laugh and his

So much depends
a little boy
the one and only
little boy
who loves to
and rub
with his

So much depends on a
young boy
the one and only
young boy
who has fun playing
and sighs over
with his

So much depends on a
young man
the one and only
young man
who runs like a
and loves to
in the

So much depends on a
our one and only
who has made all the
in our

Yes, you guessed it--William Carlos Williams. But, also, Love That Dog.

Beside each stanza, I put pictures that depict that particular time in his life. I hope he likes it. In the words of Walter Dean Myers, "[I] Love that boy."

Today I Will by Elieen and Jerry Spinelli

A couple of weeks ago at the International Reading Association's Annual Conference in Minneapolis, I had the great pleasure of presenting with Eileen Spinelli. I know, how lucky am I!!!

The presentation was based on work I did with a second grade teacher, Wendy Melzer, who used author studies to assist students with writing (click on "Golden Threads" to view the PowerPoint). Reading and thinking about Eileen Spinelli's books proved to be a pivitol point in the second graders' understanding of reading like a writer. So, I invited Eileen to present with me and she graciously accepted. I was thrilled!!

She is one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. The audience of teachers loved her, as you can imagine. I know everyone at the session went back to their classrooms with information and inspiration to share with their students.

Eileen brought several of her newest books to share with the audience. One of the books was an advance reader's copy of Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself by Eileen and her husband Jerry (published by Alfred Knopf, October). When she read from it, I knew I had to have it!

We are all familiar with a "book of days" type calendar that has a famous quote or words of wisdom to help us focus our day. Today I Will is a book of days for children and children's literature lovers. Each entry or day has three parts. The first part is a quote from a children's book, the second part provides a statement that expands or develops the thought expressed in the quote, and the final part is an affirmation--a way to bring the thought expressed in the quote into your day. The following is the entry for May 30:
"Her smile was like a big, warm hug."
--The Day Eddie Met the Author by Louise Borden, Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Sometimes a smile is like other things, too. A cozy blanket. A fond reminder of good times. An affirmation of friendship. Welcome to a stranger. Comfort to the fearful. Or a sign that says I Understand.

Today I will give someone my best smile. I'll aim it at a person who probably doesn't expect it form me. As for the particular effect my smile may produce, I'll leave that up the the target.

What a great idea, right? This little treasure will be one that I buy for all of my friends this Christmas and all of my children's literature students from now on. It won't be released until October, but put it on your wish list now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

President, Mrs. Obama Honorary Chairs of Book Festival

I was soooooooooo excited to read the following blog post from the Library of Congress:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will serve as Honorary Chairs of the 2009 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress. Now in its ninth year, this popular event celebrating the joys of reading and lifelong literacy will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th Streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine). The event is free and open to the public.

"We are delighted that the President and Mrs. Obama are committed to bringing this inspirational event to people of all ages nationwide," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "The National Book Festival has become a true American institution. It is a joyous and very popular celebration of books and reading in the Washington, D.C. area."

The 2009 National Book Festival will feature about 70 award-winning authors, poets and illustrators in pavilions dedicated to book subjects ranging from history and biography to mysteries, thrillers, poetry and prose, and books for families and young people. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from their favorite authors, get books signed, have photos taken with PBS storybook characters and participate in a variety of learning activities.

The Pavilion of the States will represent reading- and library-promotion programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. trusts and territories.

The popular Let’s Read America pavilion will offer reading activities that are fun for the whole family. The Library of Congress Pavilion will showcase the cultural treasures to be found in the Library’s vast online collections and offer information about popular Library programs.

The 2009 National Book Festival will be made possible through the support of Distinguished Benefactor Target and many other generous supporters.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 5/18/2009

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman, illus. by David Roberts. Candlewick, $16.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7636-2498-9

The fiendish Miss Breakbone—a teacher with her own electric chair and a subscription to Guard Dog Lovers Monthly—is no match for her students, once they put their heads together. They have no choice: Miss Breakbone has insulted them (“doodling, dozing, don’t-knowing dunderheads!”), confiscated a cat figurine that Junkyard was saving for his mother’s birthday and then dared them to retaliate. Einstein, the genius hero, marshals his classmates’ skills (hypnotism, spitballs, perfect knowledge of movie plots) and pulls off the perfect break-in. Action and zaniness animate every page of this picture book/early reader hybrid, but the story’s real virtue is Newbery winner Fleischman’s (Joyful Noise) appreciation for kids whose loser exteriors hide unexpected talent (each gets an apt nickname). “I nodded to Clips,” Einstein says about the kid whose creations help them enter Miss Breakbone’s lair. “His reading scores were low. His math scores were worse. But if they tested for paper-clip chains...” Roberts’s (The Dumpster Diver) drawings, with their delicate lines and sly cultural references (Miss Breakbone looks like a cold war–era prison guard), convey just the right note of dastardly charm. Schoolchildren will adore this story of pupil revenge. Ages 6–10. (June)

Brenda Berman, Wedding Expert by Jane Breskin Zalben, illus. by Victoria Chess. Clarion, $16 (48p) ISBN 978-0-618-31321-1

Entertainingly headstrong Brenda is devastated that her favorite uncle is getting married. And her longstanding dream of wearing a gold lamé flower girl frock fizzles when she hears that the bride, Florrie, envisions her flower girls in lavender taffeta. On top of that, she’ll be walking the aisle with Florrie’s niece, Lucy, whose golden curls are a far cry from Brenda’s “strands of spaghetti” tresses. Just when she’s sure things can’t get any worse, her uncle and Florrie elope. Since they now have “robbed her of her happiness not once but twice,” Brenda announces, with characteristic melodrama, “I’m never, ever going to speak to them again for as long as I live.” Not easily defeated, Brenda and Lucy pull together a heartwarming after-the-fact celebration. Cake and punch recipes make for an appropriately festive appendix to this lively early chapter book from the creators of Baby Babka, the Gorgeous Genius. Brenda’s robust personality drives the narrative as well as the art, as Chess’s folksy watercolors capture the girl’s expressions, which vacillate wildly between outrage and exhilaration. Ages 6–9. (May)

Congratulations to these authors!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Facebook’s Book Clubs Gets Kids Excited About Reading

From School Library Journal, 5/21/2009

What better way to get kids talking about books than on one of their favorite pastimes—Facebook.

Book Clubs is a new application on the hugely popular social networking site, offering students a free and convenient place to share ideas about books, authors, and related interests. Facebook members can instantly create or join a reading group devoted to any category, region, interest, or author.

"If you want to connect with people who share your passion for books, this is the place to be," says Rusty Weston, cofounder of Book Clubs. “Online book clubs aren't intended to replace face-to-face meetings, but many book lovers can't make monthly gatherings or don't want to wait that long to discuss what they're reading."

Launched in 2008, Book Clubs has 6,200 members. And although it missed out on the Harry Potter craze, mid-to-late teenage girls are talking about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series quite a bit on the site.

Users can post comments about a book or author, rate or review books, build or search a library of titles, entirely at their convenience. They can arrange meetings in person and use book clubs as a place to chat or post club news between meetings. It’s also a place where you can build a personal library drawn from a vast, searchable database of book titles.

Weston says some of the club’s earliest users were teachers who encouraged their students to use the platform—but the company urges kids to protect their privacy by creating private reading groups that are by invitation only.

“For many of our members it is the first time they have belonged to a reading group,” Weston says. “We want to get them off to a good start.”

Weston, a journalist with a deep passion for literature and a social media maven, came up with the idea because he realized that other book applications on Facebook “were all about building bookshelves rather than putting together readers who share a common interest,” he explains. “It also occurred to me that the friends with whom I share similar taste in literature don’t live in my community.”

So far, the response has been positive. “We view this as a journey and we’re building an enthusiastic community that we think will be around for many years to come,” Weston adds. “While students are most familiar with Facebook and immediately ‘get’ how to use an online reading group, Book Clubs is proving to be an app that all ages can enjoy.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

PW's Review of "The Last Olympian" by Rick Riordan

-- Publishers Weekly, 5/5/2009 7:24:00 AM

Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series comes to a close with the release of The Last Olympian, which goes on sale today and has a 1.2-million copy first printing. The PW review is below.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4231-0147-5. Percy Jackson’s fifth and final adventure begins with a blast and gets increasingly more explosive. It reads less like a novel than a 400-page battle scene set in Manhattan, pitting Percy, Annabeth, Grover & Co. against a pantheon of monsters intent on reaching the portal to Mount Olympus (located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building). In other words: fans will not be disappointed. All the action takes place in the days before Percy’s 16th birthday, on which a prophecy has foretold "a single choice shall end his days." Readers who have watched their dyslexic hero grow into his considerable powers since age 12 will not be surprised by his brave leadership. Or as Percy, facing the Minotaur’s army, puts it in typically wry fashion: "It was now roughly one hundred and ninety-nine to one. I did the natural thing. I charged them." Details about Luke’s childhood explain his traitorous allegiance to Kronos; Annabeth and Rachel Dare vie for Percy’s attention; and the final clash would keep a Hollywood special effects team busy for years. As the capstone to this beloved series, this story satisfies. And a surprise character takes on the mantle of Oracle, instantly issuing a new prophecy that suggests, happily, there’s more fun with the demi-gods to come. Ages 10–up. (May)

NPR: Mo Willems: Getting Adults to Draw

Mo Willems: Getting Adults To Draw (From NPR's All Things Considered, May 5, 2009)

Somewhere along the way, we all were artists. Everyone picks up crayons or chalk as toddlers, but at some point, we just stop drawing. Radio cartoonist and children's author Mo Willems says that's a pity.

Willems is obsessed with why adults don't draw — and he wants to do something about it.

"One of the interesting things about cartooning and doodling and drawing," Willems tells Michele Norris, "is that people stop when they decide they're not good at it. Nobody stops playing basketball when they realize they're not going to become a professional. The same thing should apply to cartooning."

Willems says just sitting and drawing a character brings out empathy in people, and that's something the world could use more of right now.

One of the biggest reasons children stop drawing is that they see that adults don't do it, Willems says. When he goes into classrooms, he says, teachers often ask him to get the kids to draw. But when he does, many of the teachers don't participate.

"Well, now the kids realize that this is just a baby activity," he says.

He reminds us that parents are actually cool in kids' eyes — for a while — and kids want to imitate what they do.

"If your kid comes home from school and you say, 'I'll be right with you; I'm just finishing a doodle,' the kid's going to go, 'Dude, I want to do that, too!' "

He suggests doing what his family does: have a family draw. His family gets a large piece of paper, picks a theme and then everybody draws. They went so far as to paint a wall with chalkboard paint.

To get adults started, Willems instructs Norris — and the audience — to draw a favorite character from childhood. See Willems' blog for more.