Monday, November 30, 2009

Three Things on Monday: A Reminder, A Request, and A Resource

The Reminder

Be sure to enter the Holiday Books Giveaway! Leave your email address in the comments section so that if you win, I can contact you for a mailing address. Note: I do not keep email addresses or submit them to publishers or anyone else. Email addresses are only used for receiving mailing addresses of winners and then deleted.

The Request

I am in the process of revising The Joy of Children's Literature for a second edition. If you have used this book, please let me know if you have constructive feedback.

The Resource

I have enthusiastically blogged here, here, and here about the production blog of The Library of the Early Mind, a feature-length documentary film about children’s literature directed by Edward J. Delaney and produced by Edward J. Delaney and Steven Withrow.

Today, I was thrilled to find out that Steven Withrow (in the picture on the left with his daughter) will be contributing a monthly "field notes" column over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. On December 15th, Steven will post his first interview/feature with a children's publishing professional with art director and book designer Susan M. Sherman.

In the mean time, be sure to read Steven's interview (with himself) at the 7-imps blog in which you will learn that he is one amazingly accomplished, and funny, man!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I loved NCTE--not the "getting ready to go" part, which I hate, but the actual "being there" part. I learned so much from many great educators and authors. One of the many highlights of the conference for me was the Authors' Blog session, which I chaired. Laurie Halse Anderson, Maureen Johnson, Justine Larbalestier, Barbara O'Connor, and Lisa Yee were all on the panel and let me tell you -- these women are amazing!

I didn't have my camera but several of the authors have already blogged about the session--check out Laure Anderson, Barbara O'Connor, Lisa Yee and Justine Larbalestier's blog posts.

During the question/answer phase of the presentation, the authors discussed and raise very important issues that I think all teachers should consider. One of the questions I asked was about receiving posts that contained personal information. Children and young adults become very connected to these authors through their books and the authors' blogs allow them a way to have direct communication. I wondered if children/young adults were posting very personal information in the comments sections of the authors' blogs. Most of the authors indicated that some students have posted personal information, but not too many. This lead to several more comments from the authors.

Laurie Anderson addressed the need to teach students how to compose appropriate email communication in addition to or instead of traditional letter writing (which is, after all, dead, right?). I not only agree with Laurie, but I believe it is essential. Email and other forms of Internet communication is and will continue to be the major form of writing students will do in the work place. School is quickly becoming the only place were students are required to use handwriting (especially cursive).

The authors also talked about the overwhelming amount of email they receive from students that is obviously part of a classroom assignment in which students "demand" a response from the author quickly because the response is required as part of their grade on an assignment. Authors, like everyone else, want genuine responses to their books. Justine Larbalestier talked about receiving a letter from a young adult in response to her book Liar that brought tears to her eyes. It is easy to see why tons of email asking, "Where do you get your ideas" and "why do you like to write," are not on the top of their list of questions to receive from students; especially when often, the answers to many of those questions can be found on their website or other Internet resources. This should definitely be a part of teaching students how to effectively use email communication.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Holiday Books Give Away!!!

I am so thrilled to offer a book giveaway contest for two beautiful holiday books: The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson with pictures by Jon J. Muth and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King illustrated by Gail de Marcken. Below is a sneak peak into the story and illustrative magic of both books followed by contest entry information.

Far, far North, when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa begins to prepare for his big night of giving. He gathers his reindeer, feeds them parsnips and berries, and polishes his bells and his sled. Then lovingly, he chooses toys for every child in the world. For Santa loves them all, and he knows what each child at heart wants most. Then, with the thrum of magic that makes reindeer fly, he spreads the Christmas joy and warmth throughout the world--as he always has -- and always will until the end of time. From best-selling author Lauren Thomas, and Caldecott Honor Artist Jon J Muth.

On Christmas Eve, Godfather , something terribly amazing happens to Godfather’s handcrafted toys…they come alive. Marie is swept off her feet on an incredible journey with the Nutcracker in this astonishing classic story by E.T.A. Hoffman. Critically acclaimed artist Gail de Marcken’s stunning illustrations bring this spellbinding tale to life.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and The Christmas Magic book giveaway contest:

Two (2) winners will receive both copies:
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
The Christmas Magic Italic

To enter, leave a comment between now and midnight on Thursday, December 3rd, along with the email address where you can be contacted for mailing information should your name be selected (US only). If you do not leave an email address, I do not have a way to contact you and therefore you will not be considered for the contest. The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, December 4th.

Good luck!!!

Free online version of The Bad Beginning

"My book is free? Lock it up at once!"
—Lemony Snicket, regarding the new free online edition of THE BAD BEGINNING

For a limited time, you can read 100% of A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning for free online with Browse Inside!

View Lemony Snicket’s video response to this latest unfortunate event.

Friday, November 13, 2009

News stories that warm a reading teacher's heart

Storywalks are used to promote reading to preschoolers

A Pennsylvania elementary-school program used an "Everyday Heroes" theme to get preschoolers excited about reading and learning. As part of the Storywalk program, preschool-aged children toured classrooms staffed by a police officer, a school nurse and other "heroes" on hand to answer questions after children were read stories about their professions. Early-childhood education efforts like Storywalk are paying off, kindergarten teacher Betsey Wilson said. "Some kids are coming in here reading," she said. "It's unbelievable." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Indiana educators recognized for elementary-school book club

Two educators at Stony Creek Elementary School in Indiana are receiving national recognition for a book club they created to help promote reading outside of school. The club features monthly lunch sessions at the school media center, where first-grade teacher Karen Duvall and media specialist Gwen Tetrick read to students from a selection of award-winning books. The book club complements other literacy initiatives at the school, say the educators, which have helped to boost achievement. The Indianapolis Star

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NCTE Session or How Lucky Am I???

Several years ago, I got hooked on reading authors' blogs. At first, I was just amazed that they had time to write blog posts, but then I realized that they are, after all, writers and that's what they like to do--write! I subscribed to all the authors' blogs that I could find. But, then I quickly realized that not all authors' blogs are created equally. So, I kept the ones I found the most enjoyable and over the years I have learned so much from these authors and about these authors that has brought me personal enjoyment and has infinitely informed my instruction. I began to wonder how many teachers know about authors' blogs and/or how many think about authors' blogs as a teaching resource. Soooooo...

I contacted several of my favorite author bloggers and asked if they would present with me on a panel at the National Council of English conference in Philadelphia about blogging...and they said YES!!! So, next week I leave for Philly to chair a session with Laurie Halse Anderson, Barbara O'Connor, Maureen Johnson, Justine Larbalestier, and Lisa Yee. I know...HOW LUCKY AM I??

If you are attending NCTE, come hear these wonderfully amazing authors talk about blogging in the session titled, Authors' Blogs: Connections, Collaboration, and Creativity (session K.07 Saturday, November 21, 2009 4:15:00 PM to 5:30:00 PM). Please come by and say hello.

Today, Laurie Halse Anderson posted a video of her new writing cottage. It is so very awesome. She may be writing about the American Revolution in that cottage right now. Way to go, Laurie!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book and Author Features from Reading Rockets

New Book and Author features from Reading Rockets:

Goin' Someplace Special: Our Interview with Patricia and Frederick McKissack
The McKissack's have written stories about the African American experience for more than 25 years. They draw from some of their own childhood favorites — Brer Rabbit, fairy tales, myths, and the poetry of Langston Hughes — to create beautifully drawn characters who learn to use their wits and appreciate their own gifts. In Goin' Someplace Special, young 'Tricia Ann makes her way to one of the only places in 1950s segregated Nashville that welcomes her with open arms: the public library.

Our Newest Booklist: Thanks for the Dreamers
Artist, chef, inventor, storyteller, tree-planter, dreamer, do-er. In this lovely collection of books you'll meet a group of incredible people — some famous and some not — who have each made a difference in the world.

Listen! I Have a Story to Tell…
Legends, pourquoi stories, and trickster tales — Native American tradition is rich in storytelling. For book recommendations as well as links to classroom activities and other web resources, browse our sister site ColorĂ­n Colorado.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's that time of year...PW's Best Children's Books of 2009

From: Publishers Weekly, 11/2/2009

From accounts of civil rights heroes, to harrowing (and hopeful) stories about contemporary teenagers, to picture books that perfectly capture friendship, curiosity, or flights of fancy, 2009 held a treasure trove of wonderful reading for children of all ages and interests. Narrowing them down to just 30 titles wasn't an easy task, but we believe the following books stand out for their remarkable writing, indelible characters, and arresting artwork.

Picture Books

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illus. by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge).
The unlikely subjects of this fascinating picture book biography exemplify ingenuity and dedication to chasing one's dreams.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (Little, Brown).\
With humor and some showstopping spreads, Brown offers a green fable about the rebirth of a city, without a hint of preachiness.

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick).
Moving beyond the geniality of Maisy, Cousins expertly draws out the primitive emotions at the core of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and six other beloved stories.

Dinotrux by Chris Gall (Little, Brown).
Few things are more kid-pleasing than trucks and dinosaurs—put them together in a raucous, prehistoric hybrid and you have picture-book gold.

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix (Abrams).
Hendrix's powerful, exaggerated imagery in this picture book biography is ideally suited to the life of this controversial American abolitionist.

Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson, illus. by Carson Ellis (Disney-Hyperion).
Blithe storytelling and slyly humorous art give this story of an utterly confident, quick-thinking 19th-century heroine plenty of pioneer spirit.

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown).
Not a single word from Aesop's fable of friendship appears in Pinkney's version, set in the Serengeti. This isn't a problem since the lovingly detailed interplay between the protagonists say it all.

Otis by Loren Long (Philomel).
Long's story of the friendship between a tractor and a young calf exudes a comforting sense of nostalgia and a gentleness of spirit.

Crow Call by Lois Lowry, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline (Scholastic Press).
Newbery Medalist Lowry's first picture book, drawn from a childhood story about her father's return from war, is poignant and quietly moving, with a timely resonance.

Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World by Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Jerry Pinkney (Dial).
Gloriously evocative poetry and paintings create a stirring tribute to an all-female swing band that made spirits soar during an era of war and prejudice.

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle).
A simple, fixed design and two combative, off-screen voices make this book and its central optical illusion—is that animal a duck or a rabbit?— a delight.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illus. by Marla Frazee (S&S/Beach Lane).
A subtle undercurrent of interconnectedness and a spare elegance make this picture book more than just a gentle ode to families of all shapes, sizes and kinds (which it assuredly is).


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking).
A powerful exploration of anorexia, dysfunction and death, Anderson's story of a friendship ripped apart is moving and haunting.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Delacorte). An angel, a dwarf, cults, wormholes and mad cow disease all factor into the surreal cross-country road trip that teenage Cameron takes, in a satirical story that's as memorable as it is funny.

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Dial).
Introducing Fire, a human “monster” with psychic abilities, this companion novel to Graceling expands the scope of Cashore's fantasy world and offers twists, intrigue and romance aplenty.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press).
This much-awaited sequel to Collins's dystopian bestseller, The Hunger Games, doesn't disappoint; it's immersive, voracious reading as the ramifications of Katniss's actions in that book spread.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Dutton).
Masterful characterizations make the tragedy at the core of this novel all the more devastating, as narrator Mia weighs the decision to live or die.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (Holt).
With a detailed, evocative setting and an authentic, relatable protagonist, this turn of the century coming-of-age novel teems with humor, spirit, and energy.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick (HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray).
This timely and provocative thriller, with a teenage American soldier at its center, is a nuanced exploration of war, heroism, and morality.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Candlewick).
Set on a planet colonized by men and now wracked with strife, Ness's sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go entwines themes of sexism, terrorism, genocide and human nature, while bringing the action to a fever pitch.

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck (Dial).
The singular Mrs. Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago brings humor and heart to this holiday story; as ever, Peck's writing has a comforting, evergreen quality.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Random/Lamb).
Every syllable feels rich with meaning in this atmospheric mystery involving a girl, her former best friend, and her mother, set in 1970s New York City.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press).
Lyrical and thoughtful, this paranormal romance between a girl and a werewolf offers wit, an intriguing mythology, and dual (but equally honest and compelling) narratives.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic/Levine).
Artfully crafted characters form the heart of this riveting novel about a 17-year-old with Asperger's syndrome, who grapples with issues of ethics, love, and other real-life conflicts.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine).
Tan proves that his prose is every bit as hypnotic as his artwork in this wondrous collection that reveals the banality and strangeness of the suburbs.

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, illus. by Jim Di Bartolo (Scholastic/Levine).
In lush prose, Taylor offers three utterly captivating stories, each centered on a kiss; comic book–style prequels from Di Bartolo, her husband, add to the enchantment.

The Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick).
In this thriller about a college student uncovering twisted family secrets, Wynne-Jones expertly draws his characters and setting while ramping up the tension and the creepiness.


The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming, illus. by Ray Fenwick (Random/Schwartz & Wade).
This illuminating biography reveals Barnum as a complex, infinitely clever figure and delineates his triumphs as well as his failures.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (FSG/Kroupa).
Colvin's memories of fighting for civil rights in the 1950s—including refusing to give up her bus seat as a teenager in Montgomery, Ala. (before Rosa Parks)—make for a searing true-life story of courage.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking).
Arresting photography and firsthand memories from those who participated, as children, in the 1965 march to Montgomery make for a haunting and inspirational read.