Wednesday, October 28, 2009

100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens, and Teens

100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens, and Teens selected by Online School

It’s been said that anyone can write a children’s book, but only the most talented can be successful. Don’t waste your time wading through poorly-written books; instead, take a look at these blogs that feature the best of children’s literature. Whether you are interested in literature for the very young, teen and young adult literature, or specialized genres such as multicultural literature, poetry, or comics and graphic novels, these blogs will help you find the best books available–leaving you more time for reading and enjoying this literature.

Click here to see the list. Which blogs do you read that they didn't select? Quite a few for me, but they also included many that I do follow. All in all, a pretty good selection and a very nice resource.

Monday, October 26, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

Publisher's Weekly starred reviews for the week of Oct. 26:


Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss. Blue Apple (Chronicle, dist.), $19.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-934706-78-7

No ordinary abecedarian, this typographical trip will wow design fans and suggest creative projects with letterforms. The book's introduction speaks affectionately of typefaces—“just like people, they look different and have different personalities”—before embarking on a thrilling spin through the alphabet. The first spread presents an alligator's silhouette, made up of capital and lowercase As, as the repeated word “algae” forms green strands around it. A bat shaped from gothic Bs holds vampire connotations; tall, skinny Gs evoke the height of a giraffe that hides behind leafy, vertical folds; and breathless italic Rs make a rabbit seem poised to leap. Werner and Forss, a debuting team of graphic designers, devote page borders to extra wordplay: a C becomes the curved back and tail of a cat, a K's extended foot kicks a soccer ball, a cursive L is a lasso and rounded Ps nestle in a pod. Innovations arrive several to a page, rewarding repeat visits and encouraging readers to muse on the power of type and all that letters and words can imply or insinuate. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)


What's Coming for Christmas? by Kate Banks, illus. by Georg Hallensleben. FSG/Foster, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-39948-1

The smudgy lines of Hallensleben's soft-focus acrylics capture the tranquillity of a snowy day in a semirural setting, while Banks's text reads like a lullaby, as “something” approaches in the days leading up to Christmas. Banks vacillates between ephemeral indications that something special is imminent (“You could smell it in the scent of cinnamon and spice that permeated the air”) and the signs that escape notice (“No one saw who put the gifts under the tree and filled the stockings.... No one, no one, no one”). A gently thrilling reminder of all the elements that make for a celebratory season. Ages 3–6. (Oct.)

The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, illus. by Jon J Muth. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-439-77497-0

A sedulous and quirky Santa, who sports bunny slippers and feels a “tingling in his whiskers” (his mustache sticks out like the hands of a clock at 10:10) as Christmas nears, prepares for the arrival of the holiday. He calls his reindeer home and tends to them, then shines his sled, carefully selects toys and climbs a stepladder to tie up his enormous pack. Muth's idyllic, wintry watercolors and pastels set the mood as “the night begins to thrum with magic, the kind of magic that makes reindeer fly.” Readers, like Santa, will feel the magic, too. Ages 4–7. (Sept.)

The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illus. by Matt Tavares. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-3223-6

A boy makes a gingerbread pirate crew on Christmas Eve; his mom leaves most of the pirates for Santa, but the boy takes the captain to his room. As the boy sleeps, the captain—sporting a ruffled shirt made of icing and a toothpick peg leg—makes his way downstairs (“Where's my crew? he wondered. And who's this Santa Claus who wants to eat them?”). Luckily, Santa ends up being a friend who gives the pirates a ship of their own. Swashbuckling gusto and a poignant finish should make this a new favorite. Ages 4–10. (Sept.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Friday, October 23, 2009

More NPR and Webcast

Another story from NPR on Where the Wild Things Are...

Looking Back On 'Wild Things' With Maurice Sendak

Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak's classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are is a perennial favorite.

It won the Caldecott Medal as the "most distinguished picture book of the year" in 1964, and was adapted into an opera two decades later. (Sendak earned his stripes as a designer on the opera production, working on the sets and costumes for the premiere production.) Now, Where The Wild Things Are comes to the big screen, directed by Spike Jonze.

Sendak's other children's books include In The Night Kitchen and Inside Over There.

Goosebumps Horrorland webcast

Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time: 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT

Host with the most: Brian Stelter, reporter at The New York Times


Thursday, October 22, 2009

NPR on Wimpy Kid

NPR has three stories on Wimpy Kid today:

Wimpy Kid Author Answers Kids' Questions

All Things Considered enlisted help from kids around the country for an interview with children's book author Jeff Kinney. Kinney writes the incredibly successful series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, about smart-mouthed middle-schooler Greg Heffley, who has only one real friend because he's, well, kind of a sad sack — think modern-day Charlie Brown.

Warning to those who have never read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: These questions come straight from our youngest listeners and Kinney's biggest fans. We received hundreds of e-mails from kids who wanted to have their questions answered for once! Kinney answers some of those questions the rest of the article here.

Cheese, Wimpy Kids And The Perils Of Middle School

The Bible suggests that the meek might one day inherit the earth. For now, one particularly meek kid named Greg Heffley is burning up children's book best-seller lists. Greg is the smart-mouthed sad-sack protagonist of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series (read an excerpt). As Kinney tells Michele Norris, his character isn't a bad kid — just a "not-fully-formed person."

"I think most of Greg's unhappiness, he brings upon himself," the author explains. "Greg can't win, because that's Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and not kicking it. It's a device. He's a sad sack." Read the rest of the story here.

Some Parents Wary Of 'Wimpy Kid' Series

Not everybody is enthusiastic about the Wimpy Kid series. Some parents feel uneasy about their children identifying with a main character who is at times selfish, lazy and whose high jinks often land him in trouble. Tanya Turek, a mother of three who works in the children's department of a Barnes and Noble, has blogged about the series. Tanya Turek, a mother of three, says parents should discuss the themes in the books with their kids. Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

39 Clues Webcast

Today when I was finishing my morning run in the neighborhood, I passed four boys waiting at the bus stop. Usually, these boys are quite rambunctious, talking and pushing each other around. But, this morning all four were sitting on the pavement reading. What were they reading you ask? Yep, Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days! Wow, I said to myself. That's just about all I could say, Wow!

Scholastic will host a free Webcast for readers of the 39 Clues series:

When: Monday, November 2, 2009 at 1:30pm ET / 10:30am PT

What: The 39 Clues: Advanced Agent Training Live Webcast

Who: Featuring the first five authors of The 39 Clues: Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, and Patrick Carman. Hosted by The 39 Clues super-fan Whoopi Goldberg.


Registration is required.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Updates and Reminders

Reminder: Don't forget to enter the Testing the Ice book giveaway (see post).

The Childrenslitproject blog which I posted about previously (the production blog of The Library of the Early Mind, a feature-length documentary film about children’s literature) has two new video clips up! The first is with Mary Ann Hoberman, the US Children's Poet Laureate:

Mary Ann Hoberman was named Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Author of 45 books, all but one of which are in verse, Hoberman collaborated with her husband, artist Norman Hoberman, on her first four books, including her first book of poems, All My Shoes Come in Twos (1957). Some of Hoberman’s best-known titles are A House is a House for Me, illustrated by Betty Fraser; The Seven Silly Eaters, illustrated by Marla Frazee; and The Llama Who Had No Pajama, a collection of 100 of her favorite poems. Her verses have been widely anthologized and her books have been translated into several languages. She is the recipient of a National Book Award.

The second is with Brian Selznick:

Brian is the author/illustrator of the critically acclaimed The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was awarded the 2008 Caldecott Medal. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Brian worked in a Manhattan bookstore for three years, during which time he wrote his first book, The Houdini Box. We interviewed Brian at the Lincoln School in Providence.


PW's Starred Reviews: 10/19/2009

-- Publishers Weekly, 10/19/2009


The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth, illus. by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-439-92544-0

Aylesworth and McClintock's (Our Abe Lincoln) retold folktale about a lost mitten opens sweetly, with a playful boy wearing the tomato-red hat, scarf and mittens his grandmother has knit for him. After a carefree sled ride, he returns home, gazing disconsolately at his mittenless hand. He gets a comforting hug and hot chocolate while, outside, a delighted squirrel crawls into the mitten. Soon a rabbit asks to share the warmth: “ 'Please!' begged the rabbit./ 'My toes are cold as ice!/ Your mitten looks so cozy,/ and warm toes would feel so nice!' ” The tale grows sillier as a fox, then a bear, repeat the rabbit's rhyme to humorous effect and persuade the mitten's occupants to let them in the tight space, massively distending the mitten (they soon discover its limits—with explosive results). McClintock adapts her 19th century–style pen-and-ink imagery to the slapstick, emphasizing the animals' gestures and facial features in a Currier & Ives winter wonderland. The lifelike animals recall Joel Chandler Harris's folktales, and the naturalism—which is an unlikely but inspired vehicle for comedy—is full of surprises. Ages 3–6. (Oct.)

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix. Abrams, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8109-3798-7

This unflinching biography by illustrator Hendrix (Abe Lincoln Crosses the Creek), his first as author, begins with a lucid summary of the antislavery movement, pre–Civil War politics and Brown's early activities in the underground railroad. With the massacre of proslavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek, Hendrix zooms in closer to reconstruct the abolitionist's transformation into an outlaw (“John's ruthless tactics spread fear into the hearts of the Border Ruffians and others, but also branded John a crazed madman”). The violent raid in Harper's Ferry, Va., leads to Brown's arrest and execution and is the climactic event of this compelling narrative. In an author's note, Hendrix opines why Brown should be admired as visionary, not villain (“Terrorists crave destruction and turmoil, and the seed of John's rebellion was compassion”). An aptly polarized palette of saturated amber and blue acrylic washes with pen and ink lends the folk hero's tale hyperbolic splendor (in one memorable spread Brown metamorphoses into a tornado). Hand-hewn, period-fashion fonts spell out Brown's pronouncements and biblical quotations, underlining his convictions. A strong introduction to Brown's controversial legacy. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)


Gateway by Sharon Shinn. Viking, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-01178-0

Daiyu was adopted as a baby from China by an American couple, and now as a teenager in St. Louis, a strangely attractive gem sends her into an alternate world where North America was colonized by Chinese settlers rather than Europeans. Daiyu is recruited by Ombri and Aurora, two “servants of the gods” who are also able to move between worlds, to help stop Chenglei, a dangerous traveler who has been elected prime minister of Shenglang (the alternate version of St. Louis and “arguably the most important city on the world called Jia”). But even as Daiyu becomes increasingly fascinated by Shenglang and attracted to Kalen, who assists Ombri and Aurora, she begins questioning everything: is the charming Chenglei truly evil? (“Were Aurora and Ombri simply interdimensional bounty hunters who had their own agenda?” she wonders. “How could she possibly know?”). Shinn's (General Winston's Daughter) fantasy finds the right balance between adventure and romance, while illuminating how seductive evil can be and that sometimes the best weapon one can possess is a skeptical mind. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-38252-0

Sophomore Jessie Sloan is having a bad year. Her two closest friends are turning punk and boy-crazed; one of them even pursues Jessie's longtime crush. To make matters worse, Jessie's beloved older brother will soon be leaving for college. Jessie feels adrift and spends her time sewing skirts and listening to audiobooks. Halpern's (Get Well Soon) story picks up pace when class nerd Dottie introduces Jessie to Dungeons and Dragons, which Jessie (to her surprise) actually enjoys, leading her to a new group of friends as well as a heartfelt, if a little clichéd, crush on a cute boy with his own nerdish tendencies. Jessie is a thoughtful, sympathetic narrator (“How is it that someone becomes a dork?... What makes some people like punk music and Denny's and other people like costumes and Dungeons and Dragons?”), and her fresh voice will reveal to readers just how independent and exceptional she is (even when Jessie can't see it herself). The relationships and dialogue ring true; readers navigating the stratified social structures of high school will relish an ending that celebrates true friendship. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

NPR on Where the Wild Things Are

Two NPR stories on the movie: Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 17, 2009)

How A Kid's Movie Became A Hipster Happening

Spike Jonze: Check. Dave Eggers: Check. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Check. Where the Wild Things Are has all the ingredients to become the hipster equivalent of Star Wars. Writer Cliff Kuang talks about the bonanza of the cross-marketing.

Where the Wild Things Are: 50 Years Later

When Maurice Sendak was looking for inspiration for the wild things that would inhabit his now-classic book, he found it right in his own extended family. NPR's Bob Mondello reviews the new film version of Where the Wild Things Are, which opened this weekend.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The National Book Award Finalist

In 2009, 193 publishers submitted 1,129 books for the 2009 National Book Awards. The total number of books submitted to the category of Young People's Literature was 251. Out of the 251, the following five finalists were chosen (reviews by Horn Book with the exception of Stitches):

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt)

In 1838 Charles Darwin, then almost thirty, drew a line down the middle of a paper and listed the reasons for marrying on one side and the reasons for not marrying on the other. After much consideration, he opted for the former, and from his prospects he wisely chose his cousin, Emma, who was open-minded but devoutly religious. She supported her husband, even editing his work, but she feared for his eternal welfare should he follow his revolutionary theories to their logical end. Charles, in turn, was equally tortured, wanting to please his wife, wanting to believe in religion, but not at the expense of science. With great empathy and humor, Heiligman’s lively narrative examines the life and legacy of Darwin through the unique lens of his domestic life, an inspired choice that helps us understand that for all the impact his theory would have on the world, nowhere did its consequences resonate so loudly as within the walls of his own home. Here is a timely, relevant book that works on several levels: as a history of science, as a biography, and, last but not least, as a romance. A bibliography, an index, and notes are appended. j.h.

Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

It’s 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin is in the thick of things. She refuses to give up her seat on the bus (nine months before Rosa Parks) and is also one of the plaintiffs in the federal case that ends segregated buses, yet her story remains largely unknown. Hoose fashions a compelling narrative that balances the momentous events of the civil rights movement with the personal crises of a courageous young woman. Because Claudette was young, pregnant, and unwed, it was the more respectable Rosa Parks who was thrust into the national spotlight as the face of the movement. But Claudette’s story is no less inspiring, and Hoose reasserts her place in history with this vivid and dramatic account, complemented with photographs, sidebars, and liberal excerpts from interviews conducted with Colvin. Recent books have done a commendable job of exploring the civil rights movement beyond the iconic figures of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks — A Dream of Freedom by Diane McWhorter, Freedom Riders by Ann Bausum, Freedom Walkers by Russell Freedman — and Hoose’s thoughtful book now joins their ranks. j.h.

David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)

David Small’s Stitches is aptly named. With surgical precision, the author pierces into the past and, with great artistry, seals the wound inflicted on a small child by cruel and unloving parents. Stitches is as intensely dramatic as a woodcut novel of the silent movie era and as fluid as a contemporary Japanese manga. It breaks new ground for graphic novels. (Françoise Mouly, Art Editor of The New Yorker )

Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)

Review forthcoming from Horn Book.

Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

One morning, before classes start, Trina flits by Dominique; Dominique takes it the wrong way, vowing to fight Trina after school; and Leticia happens to witness it all, but despite the urging of her friend does nothing to stop it or even warn Trina, who is oblivious to the danger. The fight goes down, with devastating consequences for both parties, and though Leticia continues to insist that “what’s going on between Dominique and Trina don’t have nothing to do with Leticia,” the reader is left to wonder what might have been had she intervened. Sandwiched between an intriguing setup and provocative conclusion are character studies relayed in alternating first-person voices. Mixed-race Trina is flirty, artistic, and just a little bit ditzy. Tough basketball player Dominique is consumed with bitterness about being benched for poor grades. Leticia is notably average — more interested in friends than in classes, more willing to go with the flow than to take a stand, but with family and school problems of her own. With Leticia’s central dilemma nearly lost in the shuffle of voices, the character studies lack a cohesive focus. Nevertheless, this latest novel from Williams-Garcia (Like Sisters on the Homefront, rev. 11/95; Every Time a Rainbow Dies, rev. 3/01) offers a piercing snapshot of three girls in an urban high school, their daily struggle to realize their hopes and dreams, and the threat of school violence to shatter them all. j.h.

YOUNG PEOPLE'S LITERATURE JUDGES: Kathi Appelt, Coe Booth, Carolyn Coman, Nancy Werlin, Gene Luen Yang

The Winner in each of the four categories – Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and People's Literature – will be announced at the 60th National Book Awards Benefit Dinner and Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on Wednesday, November 18.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Testing the Ice" book giveaway

I would like to invite you to enter a book giveaway in celebration of the release of Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson. Sharon, the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, has crafted a heartwarming, true story about growing up with her father.

In the early 1950s, legendary baseball hero Jackie Robinson literally "tested the ice" for his kids who so eagerly wanted to skate on the frozen lake near their home. Under Sharon Robinson's skillful authorship and Kadir Nelson's vivid illustrations, Testing the Ice also becomes a stunning metaphor for her father's remarkable racial breakthrough.

The book opens with Jackie Robinson's famous slide into home plate that won the seventh game in the world series, beating the New York Yankees and making the the Brooklyn Dodgers the world champions!

Then the story transitions to the new home the Robinson's bought on a lake in Stamford, Connecticut. Told from Sharon Robinson's perspective, she and her two brothers love their new home and their new friends. When friends came to visit, they were mesmerized by Jackie's trophies and awards. When the kids asked him about his historic entry into Major League Baseball, he tells them his triumphant story. After his retirement in 1956, he remained very busy, but was able to be home more with his family.

The family spent many summers enjoying the lake by their home, but no matter how hard the kids tried, Jackie would not get into the water. In the winter, when the water froze, the kids decided they wanted to go ice-skating. Reluctantly, Jackie agreed to join them and trepidly maneuvers the ice to make sure it is safe for the kids.

The illustrations in the book are stunning--it's as if they leap off of the page and suck you in. The book is a wonderfully inspirational story that all ages will enjoy.

All of the book giveaway details are below as well as this great book trailer with Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson:

Testing the Ice Hardcover Children’s Book Release Book Giveaway

5 Winners:

One (1) winner will receive a Testing the Ice prize pack!
 Kidorable Hat, Glove & Scarf set (random styles)
 copy of Testing the Ice

Four (4) additional winners will receive a copy of the book!

To enter, leave a comment between now and midnight on Thursday, October 29th, along with the email address in which you can be contacted for mailing information should your name be selected (US only). The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, October 30th. Good luck!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From NPR: Wimpy Kids: A Hilarious Take On Middle School Life

From NPR: October 13, 2009

Our local independent bookstore opened extra early on the morning of Oct. 12 to sell copies of the insanely anticipated fourth book in Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this one entitled, Dog Days. The last time I remember that bookstore being overrun with hoards of kids yelping for a book was when the final Harry Potter novel came out. It was midnight when the Potter boxes were broken open, and the kids were dressed as macabre creatures from Hogwarts.

The atmosphere surrounding the arrival of Kinney's latest book was appropriately sprightlier: The bookstore opened at dawn and distributed donuts. Like the Potter series, Kinney's books are aimed at a middle-school audience, but they translate well to older readers. Unlike the Potter series, Kinney's books are funny — the kind of funny where you have to stop reading every so often because you're laughing so hard that tears and snot are running down your face, and you feel like maybe you'll even throw up. How's that for an erudite critical endorsement?

I started reading Kinney at the command of my 11-year-old daughter. One of the things she hates most in the world is when adults loom over her and ask, "So, are you a big reader like your mother?"

She's not. She's much more socially well-adjusted than I am and doesn't seek out quiet corners where she can seal herself off with a book far from the madding crowd. She soured on the Potter saga about halfway through when the story lines got grislier. Kinney, however, is just her ticket. Not only is his series hero, Greg Heffley, a middle-school everyman, forever waiting for his growth spurt as he's surrounded by "gorilla" classmates "who need to shave twice a day," but the books themselves are stories in cartoon form, otherwise known as graphic novels.

This is a literary genre whose attractions, I confess, I've been immune to until I began reading the Wimpy Kid books. Because the conceit of the series is that the books are journals that Greg himself is keeping, the cartoons here are strictly stick figure. But what a range of middle-school misery Kinney wrings out of a few lines — the bend of Greg's back under a jumbotron-sized book bag; the quaking of his scrawny body as he's perched on the edge of the freezing school pool, waiting for the swim meet whistle to blow and seal his doom.

The cartoons don't merely illustrate the story, they advance it and split it off into a hundred digressive tributaries, working like the footnotes in Eliot's Waste Land.

Admittedly, maybe I'm reaching for a high-art analogy because I'm still a little uncomfortable about my kid preferring to read what amounts to a hardcover comic book series over, say, Little Women. But Kinney has anticipated this kind of helicopter-parent squeamishness. In Dog Days, Greg Heffley's relentlessly chirpy mom starts a summer reading club. At the first meeting, the other boys report on the books they've brought, among them: Sudoku Insanity and X-Treme Pop-Up Sharks.

Greg's mom says these books aren't "real" literature and insists that the club is going to have to start with the "classics." Greg says that he's "not really sure what makes a book a 'classic,' " but he thinks "it has to be at least fifty years old and some person or animal has to die at the end." He says these are the types of books "teachers are always pushing us to read at school," and that if you read a classic in your free time, the teachers "reward you with a sticker of a hamburger or something like that."

Kinney has an ear — and eye — for the middle school milieu. (Read an excerpt describing Greg's disastrous attempt at starting a lawn-mowing service.) For adult readers, he vividly brings back the oceanic feeling of helplessness that swamps most of us at that age when you're not in control of your weirdly changing body, or even what you're allowed to eat or read.

Last spring, in the delirious company of my daughter and two of her middle-school guy friends, I heard Kinney speak at the University of Maryland. It was one of the best author talks I've ever attended. Kinney had the whole cavernous auditorium — adults, kids — roaring with laughter. And then he stuck around to sign books: not just the books that were on sale, but all the books of his that the hundreds of kids had brought with them. Kinney "gets" the powerlessness of late childhood; in his appearance that day and throughout his ongoing series, he's made all the "wimpy kids" out there know that they're in good company.

Webcasts are Up from NBF!

A few days ago, I posted about my awesome experience hearing the Exquisite Corpse presentation and Jacqueline Woodson recite from many of her books during the National Book Festival. Well, now you can see it for yourself! The webcasts are up!

Another presentation that I really enjoyed was Sharon Creech. She read aloud from her new book The Unfinished Angel. She read the part of the slightly confused Italian angel and her book publisher, Joanna Colter, read the part of the little American girl, Zola. Delightful!

I also heard Jeanette Walls, which was amazing. I had a transfomative experience when I read The Glass Castle and I couldn't wait to hear her speak. I had so much hope that she would be exactly who I wanted her to be...and she was that and more! I have already bought her new book Half Broke Horses and can't wait to start reading.

There were so many amazing children's and YA authors at the National Book Festival that I didn't get to see and I'm looking forward to seeing them now. I think it is so wonderful that the presentations are captured and uploaded to the NBF website so everyone can feel the magic of "meeting the author!"

Monday, October 12, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

From Publisher's Weekly for the week of Oct. 12, 2009


The Dinosaur Tamer by Carol Greathouse, illus. by John Shroades. Dutton, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-525-47866-9

Greathouse and Shroades's rollicking debut, set “back when the old, old West was still as green as a bristlecone pine and cowboys were as common as warts on a Stegosaurus,” introduces pint-sized cowboy Rocky who “teethed on a Deinonychus femur and used an Ankylosaurus tail as a rattle” and specializes in taming dinos of all sizes. Though the book is full of delightful hyperbole and outlandish claims, both author and artist sprinkle it with authentic dinosaur names and features; Shroades uses a palette of fantastical colors for his dinos, as when Rocky ropes a purple and blue stegosaurus “at ninety paces while wearin' a blindfold and eatin' a prickly pear.” But trouble surfaces with the arrival of T. Rex—the “rip-roarin'est, snip-snortin'est reptilian that ever did stomp the earth.” The artist wisely maintains T. Rex's slightly menacing and mischievous expression throughout, even when the tamed beast becomes “as docile as a fresh-hatched platypus pup.” Greathouse's humorous tall tale language never falters, and readers will relish cinematic scenes of Rocky and T. Rex tussling, creating several American landmarks in the process. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)


Dog Days by Jeff Kinney. Abrams/Amulet, $13.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8391-5

Is there a better remedy for the back-to-school doldrums than getting to see how Greg Heffley spent his summer vacation? If nothing else, the comedy of errors and indignities he suffers will make readers feel a whole lot better about any family vacation disasters of their own. In the fourth book in Kinney's bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Greg has a falling-out with his friend Rowley over a failed lawn-care business, puts up with his parents' attempts to get him out of the house (Mom organizes a book club for boys—who pick out titles like “Sudoku Insanity” and “Ultimate Video Game Cheats”) and tries to shake off the twin horrors of the murderous “muddy hand” from a horror film he watches and the terrifying sights in the men's locker room at the pool. Kinney's gift for telling, pitch-perfect details in both his writing and art remains (such as the cursive script and cutesy content of Mom's photo album captions). No reason to think kids won't devour this book as voraciously as its predecessors. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)


Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. Viking, $19.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-670-01189-6

Partridge (This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie) tells the unsettling but uplifting story of the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, using the voices of men and women who participated as children and teenagers. Their stories unfold over 10 chapters that detail voter discrimination and the subsequent meetings and protests that culminated in the famous march. Quotations from Joanne Blackmon Bland (first jailed at age 10), Charles Mauldin (a high school student) and other youths arrested and attacked make for a captivating, personal account. The chronological format builds suspense, while the narrative places readers at church meetings, in jail cells and at the march itself. Italicized lyrics to “freedom songs” are woven throughout, emphasizing the power drawn from music, particularly in the wake of the violence of Bloody Sunday (“They were willing to go out again and face state troopers and mounted posses with whips and tear gas and clubs. The music made them bigger than their defeat, bigger than their fear”). Powerful duotone photographs, which range from disturbing to triumphal, showcase the determination of these civil rights pioneers. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Halloween books

Kids love Halloween even more than Thanksgiving and Christmas put together! In the spirit of such fun, here is a round-up of links to spooktacular children's Halloween books:

Trick-or-Treat: 20 Halloween Books for Kids compiled by the Children's Book Review

Top 12 Halloween Books compiled by Elizabeth Kennedy

Fall Harvest of Books compiled by the Reading Rockets website

Halloween Round-up 2009 compiled by

Halloween picturebooks for preschoolers compiled by the ESSL Children's Literature blog

A List of Halloween Picture Books for Kids compiled by Suite 101

Halloween Poetry for Children, Parents, Teachers compiled by Suite 101

More Documentaries!

After posting about the upcoming The Library of the Early Mind documentary, I received a wonderful email from the film's coproducer, Steven Withrow, explaining more about the process of selecting authors and experts of children's literature for the film. He wrote:

Interviewing all the wonderful authors and experts has been a dream come true for me, and we have many more exciting interviews planned. Our choices have been limited, to some degree, by geography and budget (we're based in Rhode Island), but we're also focusing in on certain thematic threads and one interview has often led naturally to another.

Mr. Withrow also indicated that the next authors to be featured are Jane Yolen and Norton Juster; both clips are already up this morning! The clip of Norton Juster's interview has the following annotation:

Norton Juster is both an architect and an author of children’s books. His best-known work is The Phantom Tollbooth, which was illustrated by his then-neighbor, Jules Feiffer. He also designed the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art at Hampshire College, where he taught for more than 20 years.

Did you know that Norton Juster designed the Eric Carle Museum???? How cool is that? I'm really looking forward to following the progress of this project!

Right after reading the email from Steven Withrow, I read a blog post from the Graphic Classroom about another upcoming documentary titled, Comic Book Literacy: A Documentary Film about Comics in the Classroom and Beyond. A description from the film's website follows:

The Comic Book Literacy Documentary is an independent documentary film project currently in production. The film showcases comic books as a way to inspire a passion for reading in both children and adults. Comics have traditionally had a bad reputation from the perspective of the general public and it is the goal of this film to shatter the negative stereotype of comics as "junk food for the brain" and to show them in a new light.

Exciting, right? On the website you can see the comic book writers that will appear in the film. The film also has a blog and a trailer. Check it out...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jacqueline Woodson

One of the many highlights of my day at the National Book Festival was seeing Jacqueline Woodson. I have heard her speak many times before, but it is always a pleasure and this time she recited from memory several selections from many of her books. As a reader, I have fallen in love with so many lines from beautifully written children's books and I have often wondered if those words are emblazoned in the minds of the authors who wrote them.

In the poetry section of The Joy of Children's Literature, I included a verse from Locomotion in which Miss Edna's constant "Be quiet!" keeps Lonnie from thinking:

But when Miss Edna's voice comes on, the ideas in my
head go out like a candle and all you see left is this little
string of smoke that disappears real quick
before I even have a chance to find out
what it's trying to say. (p.1).

Hearing this verse recited in Woodson's own voice brought me such joy!

The Reading Rockets site has an interview with Jacqueline in which she talks about "juggling manuscripts, avoiding boredom, and where her ideas come from." Enjoy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Episode 2 of the Exquisite Corpse Now Avaliable

The second installment of the episodic Exquisite Corpse Adventure, unvailed at the National Book Festival by several of the authors, is now available at the site. This episode was written by Katherine Paterson and illustrated by James Ransome. The third episode, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Calef Brown, will be released October 23. Happy reading!

A Documentary Film About Children's Literature

I clicked on Roger Sutton's blog post today to discover that he is being interview for a new documentary film on children's literature. "What documentary film on children's literature?" I said! Lo and behold, a couple of clicks later I found this discription on the film's blog:

This is 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. We’ll be working through this year interviewing authors, illustrators and critics on the topic. The film is intended for festival release in 2010.

Wow, how cool! I'm probably the last person to know about this project, but I'm glad I stumbled across the blog. It doesn't say who is posting the blogs, but it has been up and active since June. Posts include video interviews with children's authors and experts in the field. Just check out who they have interviewed so far...

Children's authors/illustrators: Sarah Stewart, David Small, Brian Pinkney, Jeffy Kinney, Peter Reynolds, Adam Gopnik, Grace Lin, Gregory Maguire, Richard Michelson, Leslea Newman, M.T. Anderson, Jack Gantos, Francoise Mouly, and Mary Jane Begin.

Children's literature/child development experts: Roger Sutton, David Elkind, Nicholas Clark, Beverly Lyon, and Leonard Marcus.

What a wealth of information! I will definitely be using these interviews in my classes. I'm already wondering who else they might interveiw. What a big decision...of all the great authors, illustrators, and children's literature experts, who do you chose to interview? I'm sure it has to do with availability and the time line of the project, but still a huge decision. They have done a good job so far.

So, who do you think is a MUST to include in this project?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

SLJ articles!

A series of great articles from School Library Journal!

Classic collaborators Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer reunite

Fifty years ago, Norton Juster was pacing his second-floor apartment in Brooklyn Heights, unsure that the manuscript he was working on—his first—would ever be published, much less become a classic of children’s literature. His roommate was his first reader, who also voluntarily sketched some pictures to go with Juster’s story. Read the rest of the story here.

Worldwide Release for Mandela Autobiography for Kids

Back in the 1980s, Nelson Mandela was front and center on the world stage. Now, Macmillan aims to see history repeat itself, thanks to a global, 13-language launch of the picture-book adaptation of his autobiography. The company’s unprecedented release of Long Walk to Freedom "was intended to reflect Nelson Mandela’s importance to South Africa and the world," says Emma Hopkin of Macmillan Children’s Books in the U.K... More

Q & A with Katherine Paterson by Ingrid Roper Catron

Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: This is the first time in my long life as a writer when somebody has suggested a story to me and I’ve taken the suggestion. Some years ago, our church sponsored a refugee family from Kosovo, and a good friend of mine said you should write the Haxhuis’ story. And so I went over there... More

Web Exclusive Children's Book Reviews: 10/2/2009

This collection of web-exclusive children's book reviews includes new work from R.L. LaFevers, Lynne Jonell, Mark Dunn and a star for Sally Gardner's sequel to The Red Necklace. More

PW's starred reviews

Publisher's Weekly starred reviews for 10/5/09


Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World by Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Jerry Pinkney Dial, $21.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3187-5

A Newbery Honor author (Carver: A Life in Poems) and Caldecott Honor artist (Noah’s Ark) execute a masterful duet in this tribute to an integrated female band that toured the U.S. between the late 1930s and mid-1940s. In 20 poems titled after swing tunes, Nelson writes in the voices of the Sweethearts’ instruments, now gathered in a New Orleans pawnshop. Connecting music to greater human truths (some dark, some triumphant), the verse strikes nostalgic yet celebratory notes, underscoring how the band’s music delivered joy and hope during an era plagued by war and racism (“The jitterbug was one way people forgot/ the rapidly spreading prairie fires of war./ Man, the house would bounce when her licks were hot!/ We gave those people what they were dancing for”). Rendered in graphite, color pencil, watercolor and collage, Pinkney’s luminous, multilayered paintings superimpose snippets of musical notation on images of the musicians and audiences in full swing. Balancing these rousing scenarios are less uplifting but no less striking signs of the times: segregated sinks in a washroom, soldiers marching off to war. On all fronts, a resonant performance. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)


The Doom Machine by Mark Teague Scholastic/Blue Sky, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-545-15142-9

Picture book author/illustrator Teague (Dear Mrs. LaRue) has produced a madcap, heavily illustrated tale chockfull of malevolent aliens and superscience as well as a fair share of silliness. The year is 1956 and young Jack Creedle is a good-natured juvenile delinquent who can work wonders with engines, while his disreputable Uncle Bud may just be the world’s greatest inventor. Equally brilliant are Isadora and her straitlaced mother, Dr. Shumway (“A lady scientist!” remarks the mayor of Jack’s town after the Shumways are stranded there. “That’s something you don’t see every day”). When alien skreeps, led by Commander Xaafuun (who hates “ooman bings”), invade in search of Bud’s most recent invention, Jack and Isadora are caught up in a rollicking interstellar adventure, replete with a crew of space pirates, a deposed princess, a wide variety of monsters and a pugnacious rooster named Milo (“Growing up had made the chicken mean. He was a typical Creedle in that way”). Borrowing wildly from pulp fiction, bad movies and even Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Teague has a wonderful time with this occasionally disjointed but endlessly inventive first novel. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)

Pop-up Book

A Pop-Up Book of Nursery Rhymes by Matthew Reinhart LittleSimon, $26.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-4169-1825-7

The small format of Reinhart’s latest pop-up book belies the number of classic nursery rhymes he packs inside. A pop-up Humpty Dumpty falls from a red brick wall (and begins to crack up) as his spread opens, while smaller flaps to the side open to reveal the garden of “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,” as well as a cake marked with a “B” for “Pat-a-Cake.” Additional spreads feature three rhymes each; in perhaps the most dramatic pop-up, a more cute-than-scary “Itsy Bitsy Spider” rides on a wave of water gushing from a towering waterspout. Ingenious details abound—the thoughtfulness put into every movement is evident. Ages 3–up. (Sept.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Monday, October 5, 2009

From NPR: Jackie Robinson, 'Testing The Ice' For His Children

A great story from NPR

In Testing the Ice, Sharon Robinson describes how her father, baseball great Jackie Robinson, used to walk out onto a frozen pond to make sure it was safe for his kids to go skating.

October 5, 2009

When Sharon Robinson, daughter of famed baseball player Jackie Robinson, wanted to teach kids about her father, she decided to work with illustrator Kadir Nelson on a children's book. But instead of focusing the book on the achievement for which her father is most famous — breaking baseball's color barrier — Sharon Robinson chose a more humble, personal moment.

As she explains to Steve Inskeep, the story she tells in Testing the Ice centers on the time her father — who could not swim — would walk out onto a frozen pond to make sure the ice was safe before allowing his children to go skating.

"He was very reluctant. He had to do something that was frightening even to him," Robinson recalls.

But her father needed to make sure the ice was safe for his three children and their friends, so he forced himself to confront his fears.

"[This story] so perfectly defines Jackie Robinson the athlete, Jackie Robinson the husband, the father, the loving, the courageous, the caring," she says. "I wanted children to understand the totality of this man and how consistent he was in both his public persona and his personal one."

Nelson, who illustrated the book, says he wanted readers to have a sense of the weight of Jackie Robinson on the ice, so he purposefully painted the scene from above.

"You're looking down on him, to build the suspense," he says.

Nelson's illustrations include scenes from throughout Jackie Robinson's life, including his meeting with Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who brought Robinson on board.

"I had done quite a bit of research on the Negro leagues and Jackie Robinson for another book that I had illustrated, so I was somewhat familiar with the scene, and it was important to understand that this was a partnership where both of them were equally involved in integrating baseball. They both had to be strong and resilient, and I really wanted to show that in the illustration," Nelson says.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Exquisite Prompt

A great idea from Reading Rockets and

Our 2009-2010 Writing Challenge
The Exquisite Prompt

The Reading Rockets and Exquisite Prompt challenge is an activity that gives K-12 students a chance each month (October through June) to flex their writing muscles with writing prompts — and win fabulous prizes! The prompts are inspired by the 18 authors and illustrators participating in the Exquisite Corpse Adventure.

About Exquisite Corpse

What's an "Exquisite Corpse?" It's a kind of writing game, where one person begins a story, then passes it down through a chain of writers to continue the narrative. Writer M.T. Anderson explains it all here.

What's "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure?" It's a year-long serial adventure story that offers young readers an opportunity to get to know the hilarious side of a crew of award-winning, talented, and versatile authors and illustrators — sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance. Let M.T. Anderson fill you in more.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure story begins here.

Our Exquisite Prompt challenge

In support of this rollicking story adventure game, Reading Rockets and offer students the chance to have some writing fun of their own with our Exquisite Prompt challenge.

Learn more about our Exquisite Prompt challenge:

The prompts
The rules
The prizes
The schedule
Additional links

Pooh Faithful Return To The Hundred Acre Wood via NPR

From NPR: October 2, 2009

It used to be that all good things would come to an end, but these days, at least in the world of books and movies, there is always "the sequel." And so a new version of one of the most beloved children's classics — A.A. Milne's story of Winnie the Pooh — is being released.

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood is the first authorized sequel to the Winnie the Pooh tales. David Benedictus, the writer who has taken on the task of re-creating the Hundred Acre Wood and all its inhabitants, says he tried to enter Milne's mind to find his voice.

"What I had to do was to imagine myself to be Milne. And the best way to do that was to visit the Ashdown Forest, which was where he lived and was the basis for the Hundred Acre Wood, and to read everything by and about him," says Benedictus. "When I'd read all that, I felt I could become him."

But Benedictus was not entirely alone in making this sequel. Illustrator Mark Burgess re-created the look of the original artwork, which was drawn by E.H. Shepard. And Benedictus also had input from both the trustees of Pooh Properties, and the publishers in the U.S. and in Britain.

"With something like Milne, I think everyone knows the stories so well that there was quite a lot of pressure from people who wanted to have their finger in the pie," says Burgess. "I had to be very mature and very tolerant, and those are not my usual qualities. I'm a bit of an indiscreet sort of person. ... I think I am ready for the Senate now."

Benedictus says one decision that involved some wrangling was the creation of a new character; he was determined there should be one, though his first concept — a grass snake — was not well-received.

"There were those who thought a grass snake would be too scary for children," explains Benedictus. So instead, the new character became Lottie the Otter, whom the author describes as "a bit of a snob and ... a bit catty, too."

Aside from the addition of Lottie, the trustees and the publishers didn't want the characters to stray too much from the original. And Benedictus says he felt an obligation to be faithful to Milne's creation. But Philip Nel, a professor of children's literature at Kansas State University, says based on what he could glean from the first chapter, they may have played it too safe.

"It's almost like reading someone else's memory of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard," says Nel. "It's a pleasant memory, but why wouldn't you read the original? It's not like they've disappeared."

The result, says Nel, is a book that feels like an imitation: "They've got the characters down. Pooh is ruled by [his] tummy. Piglet is timid. Eeyore tends to be sarcastic and depressed."

Benedictus says he expects some negative reaction, especially from those who feel no one should tread upon the sacred woods that Milne made famous. But he adds that it was important to him to remain faithful to Milne's world.

"If the worst comes to the worst and everyone thinks I've got it all wrong, I won't have destroyed the originals in any way at all," he says.

And, he adds, after years of working on it, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood feels like his own book, albeit one that he shares with Milne: "I couldn't have written it without Milne having set the scene and creating the characters for me. But, yes, I feel like he's a sort of old uncle sitting in the background either smiling or frowning at my efforts a little bit."