Monday, May 30, 2011

Are Books Obsolete? An Analysis of Data from Titles Printed

Are Books Obsolete? An Analysis of Data from Titles Printed
Stephen Krashen

A common view is that books are obsolete, and for two reasons: People just aren't interested in reading these days, and for those who are, ebook readers, such as the Kindle, are taking over.

Not according to at least one indication. The number of new book titles printed each year continues to increase, and the increase over the last decade is dramatic. Bowker, an information service company, reported that 215,138 book titles were published in 2002. This increased to 302,410 in 2009, and the projected total (based on preliminary data) for 2010 was 316,480.

The increase in titles published holds even when we consider the increase in the population of the US. The population in 2002 was estimated to be about 288,600,000. In 2010 it was estimated to be about 318,750,00 million. The ratio of books per person in the US has increased: In 2002, there was one book published for every 1342 people, in 2010, there was one book published for every 1007 people.

This  analysis only includes books published in each year in the traditional way.  Non-traditional publications, on-demand and downloaded, increased incredibly, from around 32,000 titles in 2002 to nearly 3 million in 2010.

There is some indication that pleasure reading is doing well. In 2002, fiction made up 12% of all titles; in 2010, it was estimated to make up 15%. Poetry and drama titles were 2.7% of the total in 2002 and in 2010 they were projected to be 3.6%.  Biography was 3.2% of the total ten years ago, in 2010, 3.8%.

Combining all these categories results in overall increase of about 4% in titles aimed at pleasure readers, and a huge increase in the number of titles published (from about 39,000 titles published in 2002 to about 69,000).  The only negative news was that book titles categorized as "juvenile" were a smaller percentage of the total published in 2010 (10%, compared to 14%), the total number of juvenile titles increased only modestly, from 30,504 to 32,638; it went as high as 38,000 in 2004.

Old-fashioned book reading seems to be doing OK.

Title printed data available at
Population estimates from www.census, gov.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

STOP! Look No Further...

....I have found your first day of school read aloud! I know it's a little early; school isn't even out yet here in VA and other states on the east coast. However, now that I've found your first day of school read aloud, then you can cross that off of your summer to-do list!

The title is Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want To Survive the School Bus, written by John Grandits, illustrated by Michael Allen Austin, published by Houghton Mifflin and available around July 4th.

Kyle (age and grade unknown) is dreading his first trip aboard the school bus. Luckily, his big brother, James, is a school bus expert. James gives Kyle ten rules for riding the bus that he absolutely, positively must obey if he wants to avoid getting laughed at or yelled at, pushed around, or even pounded. During his fateful ride, Kyle grapples with each unbreakable rule. Along the way, he discovers that the school bus isn’t so bad, and he may even have a thing or two to teach his brother.

Did you ride a school bus? I did and reading this book brought back a lot of memories. As each rule was revealed, I thought "Yep, absolutely!" For example, Rule One is: Never sit in the first row. I use to be the last kid picked up by the bus on the route to school. There were NEVER any seats left toward the back and I always had to sit in the front where the only person I had to look at was the bus driver. Remember that big wide mirror in front of the driver that allowed him or her to look all the way back to the end of the bus? I do and sitting in the front seat, I could see the bus driver snarling at the other kids as they laughed and stood up in their seats on the way to school.

I'll bet that if you rode the school bus as a kid, you could finish the list of rules. And in this way, teachers of early and intermediate grade children can have a great time with this book. The layout provides the opportunity to use prediction throughout. Children can predict the next rule as the story unfolds. This is a great way to get kids actively involved on the first day of school and set the tone for how they will interact with books and learning throughout the year. 

The book also revolves around bullying. The reason James gives the list of ten rules to Kyle is so that he will not be bullied on the bus: "James had told me all about riding the bus. He said if you weren't careful, you could get laughed at or yelled at. You could get pushed around or even pounded. Big kids would steal your lunch and your money and even your football card collection!" So, in addition to enjoying an engaging and funny book together on the first day of school, it can serve as a great way to start a discussion about bullying and to creating classroom rules so that everyone treats each other with respect. (For other books on bullying, see this article by Lester Laminack)

John Grandits is an award-winning book and magazine designer and the author of "Beatrice Black Bear," a monthly cartoon for Click Magazine. He lives in Red Bank, N.J., with his wife, Joanne, a children's librarian, and Gilbert, an evil cat. His first book of concrete poetry, Technically, It's Not My Fault, followed the adventures of a boy named Robert, who was often in conflict with his older sister, Jessie. Blue Lipstick gives Jessie a chance to tell her side of the story.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The BUZZ from BEA: Editor's YA and MG Fall Favorites Lists

A lot of great BUZZ has been flying around the blogosphere about this year's BEA in NYC. Consolation for those of us who are not able to attend (but would love to) is that there is a lot of great buzz flying around the blogosphere!

Publishers Weekly reported on the YA and Middle Grade Editor’s Buzz panels highlighting their favorite fall releases.

The YA Favorites

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor. “It’s a tough book to summarize,” Alvina Ling of Little, Brown admitted, before praising Daughter of Smoke & Bone as a novel that’s “sophisticated yet accessible,” as well as “mysterious and strange.” It’s “unlike every other book you’ve ever read,” she added. Comparing the main character, Karou, to Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ling described Karou as essentially a girl with mysterious powers who’s just “trying to find herself” as she falls into a star-crossed romance.

Carrier of the Mark revolves about Megan, a girl who’s just moved to Ireland, where she falls in love with the mysterious Adam. But they are two of four “marked ones,” editor Erica Sussman of HarperCollins explained, with powers linked to the natural elements; their romance threatens the entire world.

Au Revoir Crazy European Chick, is, “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Ferris Bueller with a dash of John Green,” as a suburbanite kid takes a geeky Lithuanian exchange student to his high school prom in New York City. But she turns out to be a trained assassin, and the two embark on an adventure as he tries to foil her plans. “It’s an intelligent, fast-paced thriller,” Raymo said, “And it really captures New York City at its best. It’s the city that never sleeps; anything is possible here.”

The plot of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of the “sexiest, most exciting mysteries” she’s ever read. “The ending threw me for a loop,” she said of the tale of a girl who wakes up from a coma after an accident in which her friends are killed, not knowing what happened. Like Mara Dyer, Max, the main character in Down the Mysterly River doesn’t know what happened either, when he finds himself in a forest populated by talking animals. Before long, Max and his friends are on the run, fleeing from hunters who want to change their very essence. “It’s a story with unforgettable characters,” editor Susan Chang declared, explaining that the author is a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs. “It’s the kind of fiction that comes out of the pulp fiction tradition.”

 The Middle Grade Favorites

Icefall by Matthew Kirby has “uncommonly complex characters” and detail-rich setting of his first book, The Clockwork Three. The story is described as a Viking princess’s “journey to find herself and her place in the world.”

 The Dragon’s Tooth is N.D. Wilson’s fifth book, and launches the five-book Ashtown Burials series.  The Dragon’s Tooth employs some of the Americana and mythology present in Wilson’s earlier books (including a connection to his first book, Leepike Ridge), The Dragon’s Tooth, like Wilson’s other books, isn’t just about escapism. Rather it’s about recognizing the wonder in the real world (for example, of the speed at which the Earth hurtles around the sun—18 miles per second) and getting kids to “go out and engage in it.”

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. The book’s premise—a world in which 13-year-olds who display any creativity are sent to their deaths—is particularly well-suited to the insecurities of the tween years. Referencing the book’s title, Abrams said, “Who among us has never felt unwanted?” adding, “No one feels it in the most powerful, painful way than a 12-year-old.” 

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, set in a magic-inflected version of Portland, Ore., is a book with “bizarre mystery,” pacing, humor, and characterizations. “If you need a reason to buy the book, it’s on page 173 and it’s a badger with a rickshaw,”—85 illustrations by Meloy’s wife, Carson Ellis, appear throughout—“It doesn’t get better than that.”

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy (Colin Meloy’s sister) kept with the family theme with modern-day readers possibly finding parallels between the book’s 1950s London setting, amid fears of nuclear war, and the “constant low-grade or maybe high-grade tensions” and what they might themselves feel regarding current world events.

I've added these to my "to read" list for the fall. Which book(s) sounds good to you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Horn Book's Summer Reading List

Horn Book's list for suggested summer reading.

Picture Books (Fiction and Nonfiction)
Suggested grade level listed with each entry

Alfie Runs Away written by Kenneth M. Cadow, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Farrar/Foster)
When his mother wants to give away his favorite shoes just because they're too small, Alfie decides he's had enough. Grade level: PS. 40 pages.

My Side of the Car written by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (Candlewick)
It might be raining on Dad’s side of the car, but imaginative Sadie argues that it is not raining on her side, so their trip to the zoo doesn't need to be postponed. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days compiled by Rita Gray, illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke (Charlesbridge)
Illustrated with an appropriate palette of grays, blues, and olive greens, this invitingly small anthology of twenty poems quietly celebrates rain. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (Roaring Brook/Flash Point/Porter)
Using spare, concise sentences, the authors echo Graham's approach to dance: nothing's wasted, and in such exactness lies beauty. Floca's fluid, energetic illustrations also reflect the plain boldness of Graham's choreography. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Three by the Sea written and illustrated by Mini Grey (Knopf)
A cat, mouse, and dog coexist harmoniously in their beach hut until a manipulative fox plants seeds of discontent. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

The Day Ray Got Away written by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Luke LaMarca (Simon)
This hard-boiled story of a parade balloon who makes a break for freedom lies somewhere between picture book noir and mock crime report. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Red Wagon written and illustrated by Renata Liwska (Philomel)
When Lucy and friends take her wagon to the market, it's no ordinary errand: the pals imagine sailing on the high seas and crossing the great frontier, among other adventures.  Grade level: PS. 32 pages.

Pocketful of Posies written and illustrated by Salley Mavor (Houghton)
Sixty-four nursery rhymes appear in an intricate tapestry of wool, felt, embroidery, beads, and every kind of needlework. Grade level: PS. 64 pages.

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy (Simon/Wiseman)
This light-as-air biography presents Walter Diemer as a likable hero who introduced bubble gum to the American public in 1928,. Trivia about bubble gum continues the fun. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World written by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Holt/Ottaviano)
This picture book gallery of impressive trees offers information on what makes each specimen (including world record holders, oddities, and cultural icons) unique. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Big Belching Bog written by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen (Univ. of Minnesota)
Root's prose conveys the mellow characteristics and funkiness of a northern Minnesota bog, while Bowen's stylized woodcut illustrations capture the murky but nonetheless teeming-with-life place. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Where's Walrus? written and illustrated by Stephen Savage (Scholastic)
A walrus heads out the zoo gates with the zookeeper in pursuit, but Walrus hides easily in plain sight over and over again. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Madlenka Soccer Star written and illustrated by Peter Sís (Farrar/Foster)
Madlenka challenges a dog, parking meter, and trashcan to play soccer before meeting up for a game with a friend, and by extension, children around the world. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter)
This Caldecott winner follows zookeeper Amos ‘s daily routine with his charges. When Amos stays home sick, his animal friends have the right medicine: a visit to their pal. Grade level: PS. 32 pages.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion written and illustrated by Mo Willems (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Trixie’s family visits her grandparents in the Netherlands; once there, she realizes someone never got off the plane. Trixie finds comfort dreaming of Knuffle Bunny’s new life. Grade level: PS. 48 pages.

Air Show! written by Treat Williams, illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Hyperion)
Stunning spreads depict Ellie flying to an air show in her dad’s plane. At the show, Ellie rides in a stunt plane—with a pilot named Amelia, of course. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Early Readers and Younger Fiction
Suggested grade level listed with each entry

Bink & Gollie written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick)
Three short stories star two friends who live in a duplex-style treehouse: petite, excitable Bink and lanky, unflappable Gollie. The odd couple weathers ups and downs in their friendship. Grade level: 1–3. 82 pages.

Just Grace and the Terrible Tutu written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper (Houghton)
A babysitting job seems like a perfect opportunity for Grace’s best friend Mimi to practice being a big sister—until their charge snubs Mimi for Grace. Grade level: 1–3. 170 pages.

Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems [I Can Read] written by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Barry Gott (HarperCollins/Harper).
Nineteen dinosaur poems (humorously featuring dinos set amidst modern life) plus a pronunciation guide to dinosaur names make up this easy reader collection. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little)
Six chapters tell brief, humorous stories about twin sisters. Despite identical outfits, readers will recognize the girls by their unique personalities (and Ting's uneven bangs). Grade level: K–3. 44 pages.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus written by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith (Atheneum)
Spoiled Lulu seeks a pet brontosaurus; she finds one who, to her shock, wants to make Lulu his pet. Lulu learns compassion and manners while fleeing the dinosaur. Grade level: 1–3. 115 pages.

Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! written and illustrated by Mo Willems (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Cat the Cat lets her animal friends know bedtime is nigh and helps each prepare for bed, but she’s stumped when she happens upon Owl the Owl. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Intermediate (Fiction and Nonfiction)
Suggested grade level for each entry: 4–6

Keeper written by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by August Hall (Atheneum)
Ten-year-old Keeper "borrows" a boat to search for her (possibly) mermaid mama. 409 pages.

Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era written by David L. Bristow (Farrar)
Nine anecdotes relate strange, dangerous, and exciting adventures of the pre-airplane balloon era. 136 pages.

I Dreamed of Flying like a Bird: My Adventures Photographing Wild Animals from a Helicopter written by Robert B. Haas, photographs by the author (National)
Along with an exhilarating sampling of his photographs, National Geographic aerial photographer Haas describes the unique perspective on nature to which his job makes him privy. 64 pages.

Turtle in Paradise written by Jennifer L. Holm (Random)
In 1935, narrator Turtle is sent to live in Key West. With her stoic nature and quick wits, she's able to fit in with her boy cousins. 189 pages.

Small as an Elephant written by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Candlewick)
When Jack’s not-quite-right mother disappears during their camping trip, he embarks on a series of desperate misadventures, not realizing that the whole state is searching for him. 277 pages.

Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid written by HP Newquist (Houghton)
Text augmented by illustrations and photos segues smoothly between the giant squid’s history as “sea monster” and the current study of these mysterious creatures. 73 pages.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester written by Barbara O'Connor (Farrar/Foster)
Owen finds the best salvage ever: a submarine built for two. To figure out how to retrieve and navigate the sub, Owen needs help from his irritating neighbor Viola. 168 pages.

The Red Pyramid [Kane Chronicles] written by Rick Riordan (Hyperion)
Carter and Sadie's father, a magician, disappears after accidentally summoning gods into the mortal world. While fleeing assassins, the siblings discover their own powers. 516 pages.

What Happened on Fox Street written by Tricia Springstubb (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
After intercepting a letter that may mean an end to her beloved neighborhood, Mo clings to Fox Street, finding memories of her mother and searching for the fox she swears is calling to her . 218 pages.

The Romeo and Juliet Code written by Phoebe Stone (Scholastic/Levine)
Londoner Felicity is deposited with relatives in coastal Maine to escape the Blitz. Where her parents have gone—and why—are just two of the family's many secrets Felicity investigates. 300 pages.

Project Seahorse [Scientists in the Field] written by Pamela S. Turner, photographed by Scott Tuason (Houghton)
A conservation group fights to preserve seahorses, coastal reefs, and a community’s fishing-based livelihood. Facts about seahorses and underwater photos are interspersed. 57 pages.

Young Fredle written by Cynthia Voight , illustrated by Louise Yates (Knopf)
House mouse Fredle finds himself banished to the great outdoors. He longs for home, but it takes an extended mouse odyssey before he returns there. 229 pages.

Middle School (Fiction and Nonfiction)
Suggested grade level for each entry: 6–8

Close to Famous written by Joan Bauer (Viking)
Cupcake-baker Foster and her mother flee Mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend to small-town West Virginia, where an odd assortment of characters welcome them. 250 pages.

No Passengers Beyond This Point written by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial)
Three siblings are horrified to learn they’re being sent to live with an uncle—tomorrow. Their journey takes a surreal turn when the kids are picked up by a feather-covered taxi. 244 pages.

Mockingjay written by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
In this final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss reluctantly accepts her role as figurehead of the rebellion. She must work through both the ethical minefield of warfare and her complicated relationships with Peeta and Gale. 392 pages.

Take Me to the River written by Will Hobbs (HarperCollins/Harper)
Dylan and Ryan’s rafting trip down the Rio Grande becomes unexpectedly dangerous with the additions of a hurricane and a kidnapping. 184 pages.

The Mermaid's Mirror written by L. K. Madigan (Houghton)
Lena secretly (and against her father’s wishes) takes surfing lessons in order to investigate a woman with a "glistening silver tail" in a dangerous ocean cove. 313 pages.

Trash written by Andy Mulligan (Random/Fickling)
"Trash boys" Raphael and his friend Gardo never find anything of value—until one day they do. A leather bag containing a wallet, money, map, and key sends the young men on a quest. 234 pages.

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth written by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow)
On his way to summer camp, Ry learns the camp’s gone out of business. When he hops off the train to call his grandfather, it leaves without him, stranding him in the middle of nowhere. 354 pages.

The Grimm Legacy written by Polly Shulman (Putnam)
Elizabeth, a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository, discovers someone has been stealing magical fairy-tale artifacts from the Grimm Collection. 327 pages.

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us written by Tanya Lee Stone (Viking)
This eye-opening cultural history reveals the devotion and loathing generated by Barbie; black-and-white and color photos help flesh out Barbie’s story. 126 pages.

The Ring of Solomon: A Bartimaeus Novel written by Jonathan Stroud (Hyperion)
In this prequel, wisecracking djinni Bartimaeus is bound to one of King Solomon's evil magicians. Meanwhile, Asmira, guard to the queen of Sheba, is sent to assassinate Solomon. 398 pages.

Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences written by Brian Yansky (Candlewick)
When most of the human race is annihilated by invading aliens, a small minority are kept alive to serve as slaves, protagonist Jesse among them. 229 pages.

High School Fiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 8 and up

Ship Breaker written by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little)
In a dystopian future America, “ship breaker” Nailer discovers a wrecked clipper ship and its sole survivor, Nita. Nailer chooses to protect Nita and help find her family. 326 pages.

Chime written by Franny Billingsley (Dial)
Briony, a self-proclaimed witch, blames herself for her twin sister's brain damage. A new boarder at her family’s parsonage inspires Briony to uncover suppressed memories. 362 pages.

Stay written by Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse)
Clara and her father rent a summer house on the seashore to escape Clara's possessive stalker ex-boyfriend. 313 pages.

Dark Water written by Laura McNeal (Knopf)
Pearl starts a secret relationship with Amiel, an undocumented migrant laborer. When fire consumes southern California, Pearl abandons her family to warn Amiel of the approaching flames. 289 pages.

Sisters Red written by Jackson Pearce (Little)
In this urban "Little Red Riding Hood" interpretation, sisters Scarlett and Rosie were attacked by a Fenris (werewolf) as children. Now teenagers, they don red capes and hunt the creatures. 328 pages.

Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story written by Adam Rex (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Vampire Doug, destined for eternal tubbiness despite his liquid diet, tries to attract girls with his sense of humor. 324 pages.

"I Am J" and "Queer"

I finished reading I Am J by Cris Beam late last night and woke up with it still on my mind. The story is about J, who is a boy mistakenly born as a girl (Jenifer). He has known he is a boy from his earliest memories. He knows his is a girl biologically, but he also knows that this "gender assignment" is wrong. J must endure the loss of friends and family, who do not understand him, until he finally decides that it is time to be who he really is.

J is 17 and a senior in high school, the same age and grade as my son. A theme of gender identity has run through the many issues Derek has talked about throughout his years in school -- from kids calling other kids "gay" in middle school to kids too scared to come out as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or questioning in high school. The conversations I have had with Derek about these young adults have been heart breaking, but always at the peripheral. I Am J provides an in depth experience into the life of a young adult who is transgendered.

I use the word "experience" to describe how I felt reading this book because Cris Beam's writing allowed me to feel the full range of J's emotions -- confusion, anger, frustration, fear, sadness, betrayal, longing, desire. At one point in the story, J gets the courage to finally tell his mother, Carolina, that he is transgendered:

Carolina paused. "But you're still a kid, J. You don't know what you are yet. One day you want to be a veterinarian; the next, a photographer. How can you say you want to be a--a boy?"
   "Mami--" How could he explain? It was like explaining the blood moving through his veins, It was constant, definite, nothing he controlled or chose. You could put all kinds of muscle and skin on top, and then add clothes and tattoos and makeup and hats, but nothing would change that blood.

Later in the conversation between J and Carolina, he tells her he wants to start the process of physically becoming a boy. Carolina responds:

"Oh, God, J!" Carolina stared to cry. "Why would you do that to yourself?"
J stared at the water. There was no answer to that question, really, none that his mother would understand. He wasn't doing anything to himself at his core; he was simply staying alive. But saying that was too dramatic, he felt; he didn't want to scare her. Carolina dug through her purse for a tissue. "J, you don't understand what this is like," she said.
"What what is like?"
"To have your baby change?" Carolina practically shouted. She sat still for a long time, and her words seemed to echo around the quiet car. Then she put her hand on J's knee. "I'm sorry for yelling."

I think these two excerpts aptly capture the turmoil that J's mother feels about his decision and how J feels about himself and his mother's response. It is hard enough when someone you love doesn't approve of something you've done, but it is heart breaking when someone you love doesn't accept you for who you are. Yet, Carolina's response is completely understandable, and I think, one that many parents would have in the same situation.

Yet, I Am J is also hopeful story. J lives in NYC and is able to transfer to a high school for LBGTQ students and has access to a clinic with counseling and medical care. The author, Cris Beam, writes in the author's note:

And yet this outside world is changing--especially in the urban areas of this country--amazingly fast, and it's becoming a somewhat more forgiving, and definitely more dynamic, place. There are more out and visible young transgender men than ever before and their growing ranks are bolstering the courage of the generation behind them (and in queer terms, a generation can be just a few years along) at an exponential rate. Definitions of masculinity and femininity are expanding every day, and adolescent transboys are finding more creative ways to discover, and be, themselves. 

Cris Beam states that "J is not me." He writes from his experiences working with transgendered boys and his daughter is transgendered. He hopes that as the ranks of transgendered boys grow, their teen aged friends will want to learn more and understand them. Reading I Am J provides one source.

Additionally, a new book titled, Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke, published by Zest Books and available June 1, provides a nonfiction resource for teens and adults. This is a very accessible, straightforward book that answers many questions that teens and adults have about LBGT issues. The table of contents follows:

1. The "Q" Word: Am I Queer?
2. Embracing Your Queerness: Coming Out
3. Navigating Your Queer Sphere: Finding Your People
4. Rising Above: How to Overcome Queerphobia
5. Making your Move: Queer Dating
6. Getting Together: Queer Relationships
7. The Big "S": Queer Sex

I Am J and Queer are two books that should be in high school and public libraries across the country to help teens and adults understand and support the gender spectrum in our society.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Professional Reading this Summer: Real Revision by Kate Messner

 If you're like me, summer is a time to catch up on both professional and personal reading. One of the professional books I am looking forward to reading is Real Revision written by children's book author Kate Messner, published by Stenhouse, and available May 30th.

I had the pleasure of presenting with Kate at the 2010 NCTE conference in Orlando. We presented on virtual author visits, which she has conducted as both an author and middle school teacher. After that session, we had the chance to talk and I discovered that she had a new book coming out on revision. One thing lead to another and we are now presenting a session at the 2011 NCTE conference in Chicago on authors as mentors for peer critique groups. This should be a wonderful session and as the conference draws closer, I will post more information.

Below is a video of Kate talking about the importance of revision to her own writing.

New Book from Sophie Webb

Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage
Written and illustrated by Sophie Webb
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
June 13, 2011

"My name is Sophie. I work as a field biologist and naturalist specializing in birds. Tomorrow I am going on a four-month journey to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) to study seabirds and marine mammals."

So begins the latest children's book from Sophie Webb, biologist, artist, and author. I wrote about her first book, My Season with Penguins, in JCL because it is such an excellent example of well written nonfiction for children, documenting one of Webb's ornithological trips. I believe that writing about a lived-through experience from the perspective of a biologist with the ability to write well and illustrate the topic is a combination that transcends excellence in any one area. Far from Shore is another book of this caliber.

The purpose of the trip to the ETP "is to discover what has happened to dolphin populations that have been affected by the tuna purse-seine fishery" (p. 5). The voyage is documented in a journal format and illustrated with pictures, graphs, and diagrams of the boat, fish, instruments, maps and more.

Throughout, Webb captures the feel of both the scientific aspects of the trip and the excitement of embarking on such an adventure. For example, in the section titled, A Day Offshore, Webb writes,

It's time to start looking for critters. It is ten minutes past sunrise and the light is good. We start to travel along a set course, what scientists call a transect. Soon after we start, Cornelia yells, "Dolphins!" All scanning stops and everyone focuses on Cornelia's sighting. She swings the big eyes in the direction of the dolphins. Using her hand-held radio, Cornelia calls the captain on the bridge deck below us, where the ship's steering controls are located. "Bridge, flying bridge--we have dolphins," she says.

This description captures both the scientific nature of the trip, using such terminology as "transect" but also the exhilaration of actually sighting dolphins, the purpose of the trip! In the way, as with any good book, Webb makes the reader feel like they are along for the journey.

Far from Shore is an excellent addition to any intermediate elementary library.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Have you been following the casting for the movie version of The Hunger Games? This cover of Entertainment Weekly shows the first photo of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.The article asks, "Will this first look at Lawrence transformed into Katniss convince fans she can play this fierce heroine, who must compete in the ultimate game of life-or-death?"

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Reflection on My Mother and the Power of the Public Library

The Louisville Free Public Library
It has been very quiet here at the JCL blog the last few weeks and that is because my mother passed away. She was almost 82 and in very poor health, but even so, I was not prepared. I don't think anyone is ever prepared to lose their mother. The saying, "No one will ever love you like your mother" is very true.

One of the many things I am thankful for is the gift of reading that my mother gave to me. My mother and father divorced when I was eight and my younger sister, mother and I moved to Louisville, KY to live with my grandmother for a brief period before moving into our own, small apartment. We were very poor with no vehicle or television, but my mother was an avid reader. So on weekends, we would walk about five miles to the Louisville Free Public Library. We would take a rolling cart with us and bring back mounds of books. My sister and I would even go by ourselves when mom couldn't go. We loved everything about the library: the gigantic building, the smell of the books, and getting my very own library card. I'll never forget the first time I walked into the children's department. It was the most beautiful place!

Considering my career, clearly this had a profound affect on me. I have moved many times since I lived in Louisville as a child, but I have had a library card in every place I've lived. Our publicly funded library system sends a very strong message: access to books and other reading material is vital to its citizenry. Yet, in this time of economic downturn, cuts for our public libraries are looming. A recent article stated:

Public libraries across the nation and the globe now face drastic funding cuts from politicians and administrators who often claim that they're obsolete. For months, Britain has been rumbling with protests against plans to close as many as 400 local branches. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he was cutting all state funding to California's libraries, leaving cities to pick up the slack. Defenders of such cutbacks typically ask why, in the age of Google and e-reader devices, anybody needs libraries.

To me, the answer is obvious. Not everyone has access to an eReader or Google; moreover, one can not experience the feelings I described earlier from an eReader or Google. There is nothing like the feeling you get from owning a library card -- it's like someone has handed you the key to knowledge. And knowledge is power. I felt that power every time I stepped into the Louisville Free Public Library. (you might be interested in a free webcast titled, "Libraries are Essential: Building an Ongoing Connection" sponsored by: EBSCO/Novelist, and Library Journal  on Tuesday, June 14, 2011– 2:00 PM EDT -- sign up here)

As a poor child growing up in the inner city, I was a statistic for having problems with reading. Yet, having access to books makes a difference. A recent NY Times article stated:

Indeed, numerous studies have shown that making books more accessible to children — through libraries, reading programs and home libraries — can produce marked improvements in their reading behavior. A meta-analysis published last August found that access to books plays a “causal role” in children’s motivation to read.

There are many factors that influence children’s reading and no one is claiming that books alone will solve the problem. However, some noted educators, such as Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, have argued that “simply providing access is the first and most important step in encouraging literacy development.”

As the end of the school year comes closer, take a field trip to the local library and sign up every child in your classroom up for a library card who doesn't already have one. Your students will have access to books all summer long. It is a gift that keeps on giving. Libraries and caring adults can make a huge difference in children's lives.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Children's Choice Book Awards Announced

Kids Vote Rick Riordan Author of the Year and
David Wiesner Illustrator of the Year

A Record Breaking 500,000 Votes Were Cast!

NEW YORK, NY — May 2, 2011 — The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with Every Child A Reader, the CBC Foundation, announced the winners of the fourth annual Children’s Choice Book Awards at a gala in New York City this evening as part of Children’s Book Week (May 2-8, 2011). Children across the country voted in record numbers for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and at, casting over 500,000 votes.

The Children’s Choice Book Award winners are as follows:

Author of the Year
Rick Riordan for The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1) (Disney-Hyperion)
Illustrator of the Year
David Wiesner for Art & Max (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)                                                                          

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year
Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby (Putnam/Penguin)                                                
Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf/Random House)  

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year
The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion)
Teen Choice Book of the Year
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton/Penguin)

The Children’s Choice Book Awards program, launched in 2008 by The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with Every Child A Reader, the CBC Foundation, was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read more and cultivate a love of reading.

Jane Addams Children's Book Awards Announced


APRIL 28, 2011…Winners of the 2011 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards were announced today by the Jane Addams Peace Association.

Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty, written by Linda Glaser with paintings by Claire A. Nivola, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company is the winner in the Books for Younger Children category. A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park, Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company is the winner in the Books for Older Children category.

Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty
Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet in 1883 that became one of our nation’s most familiar sonnets and one that accompanied the Statue of Liberty as well. Emma also helped to shape the heart of the nation in her urgent message to declare the statue as a welcome to all immigrants.

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story
This dual narrative features young Nya and young Salva in Sudan. Nya walks eight hours every day so her family has water. Salva is in school when shots are fired and he flees into the bush to begin his every day walking. How does their future impact the future of war-torn Sudan?

Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Younger Children category.

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, published by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children. In the 1950s, young Ruth and her parents travel south in their new car when she discovers her African American family is not always welcome along the way. An Esso attendant shows the family a Green Book as a way to safety in the Jim Crow era, enabling Ruth to relish the kindness of strangers.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette Book Group, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children. Four young black men stood up for civil rights in 1960 by sitting down at a Woolworth lunch counter with the sign WHITES ONLY and came up with the perfect recipe for a peaceful protest.

Two books were named Honor Books in Books for Older Children category.

The Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette Book Group, has been named an Honor Book for Older Children. Twelve-year-old Lanesha has only Mama Ya-Ya, and that’s just fine by her. Mama Ya-Ya’s visions of the arrival of hurricane Katrina busy the two in preparation, but Lanesha can’t imagine what she’s being prepared for.
Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner, Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, Inc., has been named an Honor Book for Older Children. In Alabama in the 1960s frequent racial bombings had been terrifying but not yet deadly before September 15, 1963, when six children lost their lives in the attack. Larry Dane Brimner highlights FBI files, police records, and multiple additional primary sources to tell the story of the church bombing on Birmingham Sunday, placing it in the historical context of the Civil Rights movement.

Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award annually acknowledges books published in the U.S. during the previous year. Books commended by the Award address themes or topics that engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community, and/or equality of the sexes and all races. The books also must meet conventional standards of literary and artistic excellence.