Monday, January 31, 2011

Berenstain Bears, A Family Affair

In this January 25, 2011 photo, Mike Berenstain and his mother, Janice Berenstain , look at an earlier Berenstain Bears book as they work in their studio in Solebury, Pa. It used to be husband and wife Jan and Stan Berenstain creating the books, but their son Mike took over when his father died, thus continuing the tradition that started with the first book in 1962. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) (Mel Evans - AP)

A great article in the Washington Post titled, 50 Years Along, Berenstain Bears A Family Affair, about how Mike Berenstain, Jan and Stan Berenstain's son, now collaborates with his mother in writing and illustrating new books at the same studio in an idyllic part of Bucks County, outside Philadelphia, that serves as inspiration for the books' setting.

Article of the Week

The article I chose this week is from the Winter 2010 (V 35, #4) issue of Children's Literature Association Quarterly. The article is titled, Toward a digital Poetics for Children by Richard Flynn.

 Preview of the article:

I must say at the outset that my title is overly ambitious. In this short paper I can only hope to sketch questions—and not having my crystal ball handy, I can't provide clear direction for the future. The questions I'll sketch grow out of the conclusion to my recent essay for the Cambridge Companion to Children's Literature, "The Fear of Poetry":
The internet has potential for presenting poetry in attractive formats, though it does not seem to have begun to fulfill that potential. And no matter how useful various technologies may be, they are no substitute for the embodied experience that characterizes the young child's first encounter with poetry. Children can only have a valuable 'inter-media-ated' experience if they are media literate, and media literacy can only be learned if there is a foundation of meaningful literacy to build on. Poems that challenge beyond their surface appeal, that will inhabit children and encourage them to inhabit language, are indispensable, if only we can see and hear them.

In keeping with the conference theme, I decided to take a serious look at the state of digital poetics and children's poetry. Such a poetics, I have discovered, is still in its infancy. While there is a growing and increasingly sophisticated body of criticism about electronic literature, including significant work about digital poetics, little of it takes work for an audience of young people very seriously. Some of what passes for digital poetry is of questionable merit, such as my new favorite, "Stud Poetry," 1 in which I can play card sharp to the symbolists. On the serious side, the Internet has been extraordinarily useful for hosting important archives, such as "PennSound," "UbuWeb," "Electronic Poetry Center," and sites hosted by the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation, among others, but these archives either pay scant attention to children's poetry...or they present a picture of children's poetry that is depressingly condescending to young people.

In this article, Flynn laments the current state of digital poetry. A perusal of online poetry sources reveals "games and pedagogical materials that purport to be designed to help teachers get kids excited about poetry but that seems to have the opposite effect" (p. 422). He cites several online websites and reports that purport to promote ways "new media might employ innovative ways to facilitate the making and/or presentation of poetry" (p. 420), but fall short.

I chose this article because it points to what is possible, rather than what's probable with digital poetics. It is easy to get caught up in the revelry of simply having access to traditional print forms of poetry online. Teachers personally buy the majority of books for their classroom libraries, and poetry is often not at the top of the list of genres to be purchased. However, most classrooms across the US have access to one or more computers in the classroom and the Internet. Simply having access to poetry online increases the likelihood that children will have access to it. In addition, access to video clips of Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman reading aloud her poetry and Classical Baby (I'm Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show, which introduces audiences to poetry through animation and song, are added bonuses.

Yet, is having access to poetry online in it's traditional form going to actively engage children in poetic language? Probably not. Multimedia composing with pictures, animation, audio narration, music, transitional cinematic effects, links, and words expressed in various fonts combine in ways that multiply meaning. In other words, taken together, the combination of media presents a more powerful and potentially deeper meaning construction than would words or images or any of the media resources would if they stood alone.

However, as Flynn points out, we are a long way from children being able to create such texts on their own:

Right now, it seems to me that children's agency in navigating digital poetry is hampered not only by their limited repertoire and lack of literary and technological know-how but by the dearth of innovative digital texts. Despite young people's highly developed hand-eye coordination and facility with games and texting on handheld devices, the idea that children are naturally adept at negotiating electronic media is wishfully optimistic romanticism (p. 423).

Flynn does cite one example of innovative digital poetry for children, Chris Joseph's "animalamina" which is described as, "a collection of digital poetry for children that uses interaction, animation and optional sounds and music for children to uncover each poem through movement around an A to Z of interconnected scenes." Flynn describes the site as emphasizing the "materiality of language in the digital realm."

It is easy to see why there are not more of these sites available to children. Joseph collaborated with several traditional visual artists and computer programmers "to translate his 'own love of children's poetry' into the digital realm" (p. 423). How many of us have visual artists and computer programmers at our disposal? "In addition," Joseph writes, "children are relatively invisible as a specific audience for digital works outside of computer games and educational software, with the result there are fewer public arenas for new digital content for young people" (p. 423).

Creating an audience for digital poetics starts with awareness of what is possible and the progression of technology tools for consumers. When educators and parents have access to examples of quality sites such as animalanima, when they see the benefit of such sites for engaging children in poetic language, and when they have access to online tools that are easy for children to access and use, then children's agency in the development of such sites may increase. In the mean time, it is possible that the creation of such sites by people who love poetry, such as Chris Joseph, will continue -- not because they are going to make a ton of money -- rather, because they want to make a difference in children's engagement with poetry, one site at a time. 

Selected poetry websites from those listed in the article:



EPC Electronic Poetry Center:

The Academy of American Poets site:

The Poetry Foundation:

Children's records on UbuWeb:


Sunday, January 30, 2011

2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books List

2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books List

The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) selects an annual list of Outstanding International Books for children and young adults, which is published each year in the February issue of School Library Journal and as a bookmark. The Outstanding International Books (OIB) committee is charged with selecting international books that are deemed most outstanding of those published during the calendar year. For the purposes of this honor list, the term "international book" is used to describe a book published or distributed in the United States that originated or was first published in a country other than the U.S.

Grades K-2

  • Argueta, Jorge. Arroz con Leche: Un Poema para Cocinar/Rice Pudding: A Cooking Poem. Illus. by Fernando Vilela. Groundwood. (Canada)
  • Croza, Laurel. I Know Here. Illus. by Matt James. Groundwood. (Canada)
  • Dubuc, Marianne. In Front of My House. Tr. by Yvette Ghione. Kids Can. (Canada)
  • Graham, Bob. April and Esme, Tooth Fairies. Candlewick. (UK)
  • Prap, Lila. Dinosaurs?! NorthSouth. (Slovenia)
  • Tolman, Marije & Ronald Tolman. The Tree House. Illus. by authors. Lemniscaat/Boyds Mills. (The Netherlands).
Grades 3-5

  • Almond, David. The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick. (UK)
  • Fromental, Jean-Luc. Oops! Illus. by Joëlle Jolivet. Tr. by Thomas Connors. Abrams. (France)
  • Gardner, Lyn. Out of the Woods. Illus. by Mini Grey. David Fickling/Random House. (UK)
  • Gravett, Emily. The Rabbit Problem. Simon & Schuster. (UK)
  • Hirsch, Odo. Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool. Kane Miller. (Australia)
  • Hole, Stian. Garmann’s Street. Tr. by Don Bartlett. Eerdmans. (Norway)
  • Jordan-Fenton, Christy & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Fatty Legs: A True Story. Illus. by Liz Amini-Holmes. Annick. (Canada)
  • Langrish, Katherine. The Shadow Hunt. Harper/HarperCollins. (UK)
  • Lightfoot, Gordon. Canadian Railroad Trilogy. Illus. by Ian Wallace. Groundwood. (Canada)
  • McKay, Hilary. Wishing for Tomorrow: The Sequel to The Little Princess. Illus. by Nick Maland. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster. (UK)
  • Mitton, Tony. The Storyteller’s Secrets. Illus. by Peter Bailey. David Fickling/Random House. (UK)
Grades 6-8

  • Clayton, Sally Pomme. Rama and Sita: Path of Flames. Illus. by Sophie Herxheimer. Frances Lincoln. (UK/set in India)
    Coates, Jan L. A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk. Red Deer. (Canada/set in Sudan)
    De Goldi, Kate. The 10 p.m. Question. Candlewick. (New Zealand)
    Diakité, Baba Wagué. A Gift from Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood. Groundwood. (Canada/set in Mali)
    Gleitzman, Morris. Once. Henry Holt. (Australia/set in Poland)
    MacLean, Jill. The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. (Canada)
    Matti, Truus. Departure Time. Tr. by Nancy Forest-Flier. namelos. (The Netherlands)
    McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Death-Defying Pepper Roux. HarperCollins. (UK/set in France)
    McKay, Sharon E. Thunder over Kandahar. Illus. by Rafal Gerszak. Annick. (Canada/set in Afghanistan)
    Millard, Glenda. A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. Holiday House. (Australia)
    Mitchell, Adrian. Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Illus. by Alan Lee. Frances Lincoln. (UK/set in Greece & Rome)
    Newbery, Linda. Flightsend: A Summer of Discovery. David Fickling/Random House (UK)
    Norcliffe, James. The Boy Who Could Fly. Egmont. (New Zealand)
    Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb. Scholastic. (UK)
    Reeve, Philip. No Such Thing as Dragons. Scholastic. (UK)
    Starke, Ruth. Noodle Pie. Kane Miller. (Australia/set in Vietnam)
    Walsh, Pat. The Crowfield Curse. Chicken House/Scholastic. (UK)
Grades 9-12

  • Christopher, Lucy. Stolen. Chicken House/Scholastic. (UK/set in Australia)
  • de Vigan, Delphine. No and Me. Tr. by George Miller. Bloomsbury. (France)
  • Murray, Martine. How to Make a Bird. Authur A. Levine/Scholastic. (Australia)
  • Ness, Patrick. Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Series, Book Three). Candlewick. (UK)
  • Oron, Judie. Cry of the Giraffe: Based on a True Story. Annick. (Canada/set in Ethiopia)
  • Ward, Rachel. Numbers. Chicken House/Scholastic. (UK)

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Emma Dilemma by Kristine O'Connell George

    Pub. Date: Feb. 22nd, 2011
    ISBN: 978-0-618-42842-7
    Page count: 48pp, $16.99
    Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine  O'Connell George, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, published by Houghton Mifflin.

    Another great book of poetry by Kristine George, perfectly illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.

    Inside jacket flap:

    I wish grownups would quit saying

    I'll bet you're
                  A very good big sister.

    Sometimes Jessica is a very good big sister. But Emma isn't always a good little sister. Emma messes up Jess's room. She leaves the caps off all her markers. She makes a spectacle of herself at a soccer game, and she wants to tag along whenever Jess has a friend over...
         How can Emma be so lovable and so maddening? Does Jess have to be good all the time?
         Explored here in perspective, lively poems and tender, funny illustrations, Jess's Emma dilemma is a puzzle that every big sister knows all too well.

    Jessica, who is in fourth grade, is the big sister of Emma, who is three. Even though I am a big sister, the poems in this book will delight even those who are not. George accurately captures the wide range of emotions that come with being a big sister,  including embarrassment...

    Soccer Game

                      My friends are cracking up, 
                 pointing at that little kid
                     wearing a ruffled petticoat
    flowered hat
         long white gloves
    plaid pants
                  earrings like chandeliers
                           and plastic high-heeled shoes 
         with rhinestones.

                                 That kid who's jumping up and down
        on the bleachers
                 waving her feather boa
    yelling at me,
                                                                                                               Goooo, Jessica!

                     I pretend I've never seen 
            that kid ever before
                in my whole entire life.

    This is the opening poem in the book and, in my experience as a big sister, so accurately describes the feeling of wanting to crawl into a hole when you are embarrassed by your little sister...or any sibling or friend who displays love or joy for you in their own unique way--to your horror!

    Something I remember vividly is playing games with my sister. We had a room full of Barbie dolls and would play with them for hours...until one of us wanted to do something the other didn't...then it was war! 


    Emma cheats
       at board games
       and card games
      and still loses.

         She cries so hard
      that mom says,
                         Why can't you let 
                              your little sister win 
               just once?

        So I teach Emma
          52-Card Pick-Up.
            The floor is covered
              in a blizzard of cards.
              So why is Mom mad?
                     Why do I have to pick up 
          every single card?

    Did you ever play 52-Card Pick-Up? That really brings back memories! My little sister always wanted to follow me around and go everywhere I went with my friends. So does Emma...


                                         My best friend, Sasha, comes over,
                    and Mom promises--
               cross her heart--
                      that she'll keep Emma
                                  out of our way.

                                  I have my friend all to myself--
    no Emma
         stuck to me 
      like a burr
                stuck to my sock.

    The illustrations by Nancy Carpenter depict the emotions and experiences the two girls have throughout the book adding another layer of meaning to this brief memoir of being a big sister told through poetry.

    This is a perfect book for parents to share with their children and for teachers to share with their students. The emotions conveyed are those of just about everyone, whether you are a big sister or not!

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    And the Winner is...

    The winner of the 2010 Costa Children's Book Award is Out of Shadows by by Jason Wallace, published by Andersen Press.

    Zimbabwe, 1980s.  The fighting has stopped, independence has been won and Robert Mugabe has come to power offering hope, land and freedom to black Africans.  It is the end of the Old Way and the start of a promising new era. 

    For Robert Jacklin, it's all new - new continent, new country, new school.  And very quickly he is forced to understand a new way of thinking, because for some of his classmates the sound of guns is still loud, and their battles rage on.....white boys who want their old country back, not this new black African government.  Boys like Ivan.  Clever, cunning Ivan.  For him, there is still one last battle to fight, and he's taking it right to the very top.

    Jason Wallace was born in Cheltenham in 1969 but moved  to London after his parents split up. Aged 12, his life was turned upside down when his mother remarried and the family emigrated to Zimbabwe. It is his experiences of growing up in a tough boarding school during the aftermath of the war for independence that forms the foundation of Out of Shadows.  Jason is currently a web designer and lives in South West London.

    Judges: "A stunning debut novel without a false note.  Accomplished and powerful, it changes the way you think."

    Costa Award Announced Tonight

    At 8.30pm this evening, the overall winner of the prestigious Costa Book of the Year 2010 will be announced at an awards ceremony in central London.

    Just as a reminder, below is the short list for the Children's Book Award:
    Judges for the Children's Book category:
    • Lorraine Kelly, Broadcaster
    • Tamara Macfarlane, Owner, Tales on Moon Lane Children's Bookshop
    • Tim Bowler, Author and final judge
     Do you have a favorite book on the list that you would like to see win?

    Judy Blume Journal Contest

    Article of the Week

    January 2011 issue
    This week's article is from the January 2011 issue of Language Arts, a professional journal for elementary and middle school teachers and teacher educators, published by the National Council of Teachers of English.

    I chose the article "Search for the answers" or "Talk about the story"?: School-based Literacy Participation Structures written by Diane Santori.
    Abstract: This paper explores how five third-graders constructed meaning in three school-based literacy participation structures, also examining teachers’ invitations and the space they make for students’ talk and students’ comprehension practices.  High-stakes assessments and mandated reading curriculum influence how comprehension is framed and how students are invited to engage in discussions about text. Students’ opportunities to exercise textual agency are often limited. However, when students had greater control over the discussion and the authority to evaluate the written text and their peers’ comments for accuracy or plausibility, their comprehension was strengthened. Students actively constructed meaning as they considered multiple, possible interpretations, while also taking into account their own personal experiences and other valuable social and semiotic resources.

    I chose this article not because it presents ground breaking information, but because it confirms what many of us already know: children need time to discuss the books they are reading in ways that allow them to authentically and independently use the comprehension strategies they are learning in other instructional structures. Santori uses the term "textual agency" to describe the type of literature discussion in which children need to participate. Textual agency is defined as,

    ...the ability to control the discussion by initiating and changing topic, and the capacity to exercise interpretive authority--that is, being able to evaluate the written text and verbal comments for accuracy or plausibility (p. 198).

    Santori's year long research in a third grade classroom found that students' participation in shared and guided reading were primarily teacher driven, with little time for student-centered talk. "The teacher controlled the topics of discussion and held interpretive authority" (p. 203). These structures have an important place in classroom instruction. However, the goal of all of this instruction should be for children to be able to draw upon the skills and strategies they are being taught and tested over when reading independently and to use flexibly when talking with others. When does this happen during the instructional day? In this classroom and in classrooms across the country, the curriculum is tightly tied to a pacing guide, which is tied to a basal series, which is tied to benchmark tests, which is tied to the state mandated test. Each instructional structure has a limited amount of time and a specific skill/strategy to be modeled/scaffolded/practiced.

    Santori believes that students' interpretive needs and interests "can and should sit alongside the strategy and skill instruction commonly occurring in [shared and guided reading]" (p. 205). Is it possible for students to control the conversation during the discussions within these structures while maintaining the focus and staying within the time constraints of the lesson?

    In the classroom in which Santori was a participant/observer, she worked with children in a third participatory structure, Shared Evaluation Pedagogy (SHEP).
    In the SHEP structure, students had significant control over the discussion and their interpretation of the text; they were able to exercise greater textual agency. I did not provide a list of rules or procedures regarding students' participation. Most discussions began with me asking someone to tell the group what the story was about...As students shared their ideas, others quickly joined the discussion to build on their peers' responses, question a response, or offer an alternative viewpoint. I primarily entered the conversation to probe students' responses, ask them to provide evidence for their theories, or--very rarely suggest a new topic of discussion (p. 204).

    Across the three structures (shared and guided reading and SHEP), Santori looked at students' "talk moves." "Moves are the actions students take in order to construct meaning and to participate in the literature discussion" (p, 201). She found nine different "moves" across the three structures: hypothesize, recall, connect, genre, clarify, summarize, synthesize, vocabulary and other. She found that students in the SHEP structure participated in a significantly higher number of "moves" in the areas that require higher level thinking (such as hypothesize, connect, clarify, and synthesize) than the other two areas and students in the shared an guided reading structures participated in a significantly higher number of "moves" in the lower level thinking areas.

    Again, this is not surprising. It makes sense that if students do not have interpretative authority in shared and guided reading, then the opportunity for higher level thinking is limited. However, that is not the point of the article. Santori states,

    My goal was not to compare the literacy participation structures in order to identify which one is better, but to examine what notions of comprehension are forwarded in each and how students made meaning of texts across structures. The discussions that occurred in each structure contributed to students overall reading development: in some contexts, by exposing them to a variety of skills and comprehension strategies; in other, by providing students with an opportunity to employ those tools int eh service of their own inquiries (p. 199).

    In other words, ALL of the structures, including literature circles or book clubs, must take place in order for children to fully benefit. Yet, as I go into classrooms, I rarely see students participating in literature circles or book clubs. It could be due to a lack of value for textual agency, but more likely it is due to a lack of time and understanding of how to organize and manage student centered literature discussions in an effective and efficient way.

    What do you think? How can teachers integrate more student control into discussions within shared and guided reading? How can they create time and opportunity for literature circles or book clubs? Leave your responses here or join in an online discussion at The Joy of Children's Literature Ning.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    USBBY's Outstanding International Books List

    USBBY selects an annual list of Outstanding International Books for children and young adults, which is published each year in the February issue of School Library Journal and as a bookmark. In anticipation of the 2011 list, I've listed the 2010 list below for a year in review, which includes my favorite book I read this year. Do  know which one it is?

    GRADES K-2

    • Argueta, Jorge. Sopa de Frijoles: Un Poema para Cocinar = Bean Soup: A Cooking Poem. Illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood. (Canada)
    • Baasansuren, Bolormaa. My Little Round House. Adapt. by Helen Mixter. Groundwood. (Japan/set in Mongolia)
    • Kilaka, John. The Amazing Tree. NorthSouth. (Switzerland / set in Tanzania)
    • Larsen, Andrew. The Imaginary Garden. Illus. by Irene Luxbacher. Kids Can. (Canada)
    • Mahy, Margaret. Bubble Trouble. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Clarion. (UK)
    • Nayar, Nandini. What Should I Make? Illus. by Proiti Roy. Tricycle. (India)
    • Sellier, Marie. What the Rat Told Me: A Legend of the Chinese Zodiac. Illus. by Catherine Louis. Calligraphy and chop marks by Wang Fei. NorthSouth. (France)
    • Teevee, Ningeokuluk. Alego. Tr. by Nina Manning-Toonoo. Groundwood. (Canada)

    GRADES 3-5
    • Bednar, Sylvie. Flags of the World. Tr. by Gita Daneshjoo. Abrams. (France)
    • Bredsdorff, Bodil. Eidi. Tr. by Kathryn Mahaffy. Farrar Straus Giroux. (Denmark)
    • Cali, Davide. The Enemy: A Book about Peace. Illus. by Serge Bloch. Schwartz & Wade/Random House. (France)
    • Gaiman, Neil. Odd and the Frost Giants. Illus. by Brett Helquist. Harper/HarperCollins. (UK)
    • Hof, Marjolijn. Against the Odds. Tr. by Johanna H. Prins and Johanna W. Prins. Groundwood. (The Netherlands)
    • Millard, Glenda. The Naming of Tishkin Silk. Illus. by Patrice Barton. Farrar Straus Giroux. (Australia)
    • Roberts, Ken. Thumb and the Bad Guys. Illus. by Leanne Franson. Groundwood. (Canada)
    • Umansky, Kaye. Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage. Illus. by Johanna Wright. Roaring Brook. (UK)

    GRADES 6-8
    • Clayton, Emma. The Roar. Chicken House/Scholastic. (UK)
    • Donaldson, Julia. Running on the Cracks. Henry Holt. (UK)
    • Ellis, Deborah. Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees. Groundwood. (Canada)
    • Khan, Rukhsana. Wanting Mor. Groundwood. (Canada/set in Afghanistan)
    • Lawrence, L.S. Escape by Sea. Holiday House. (Australia/set in Ancient Carthage)
    • McGowan, Anthony. Jack Tumor. Farrar Straus Giroux. (UK)
    • Meehan, Kierin. Hannah’s Winter. Kane/Miller. (Australia/set in Japan)
    • Metselaar, Menno & Ruud van der Rol. Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures. Tr. by Arnold J. Pomerans. Roaring Brook. (The Netherlands)
    • Michael, Jan. City Boy. Clarion. (UK/set in Malawi)
    • Mordecai, Martin. Blue Mountain Trouble. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. (Canada/set in Jamaica)
    • Pellegrino, Marge. Journey of Dreams. Frances Lincoln. (UK/set in Guatemala)
    • Slade, Arthur. Jolted: Newton Starker’s Rules for Survival. Wendy Lamb/Random House. (Canada)
    • Tan, Shaun. Tales from Outer Suburbia. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. (Australia)
    • Thor, Annika. A Faraway Island. Tr. by Linda Schenck. Delacorte/Random House. (Sweden)
    • Uehashi, Nahoko. Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness. Tr. by Cathy Hirano. Illus. by Yuko Shimizu. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. (Japan)

    GRADES 9–12

    • Combres, Élisabeth. Broken Memory: A Novel of Rwanda. Tr. by Shelley Tanaka. Groundwood. (France)
    • Gingras, Charlotte. Pieces of Me. Tr. by Susan Ouriou. Kids Can. (Canada)
    • Herrick, Steven. Cold Skin. Front Street/Boyds Mills. (Australia)
    • Higgins, F. E. The Eyeball Collector. Feiwel & Friends. (UK)
    • Mahy, Margaret. The Magician of Hoad. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster. (New Zealand)
    • Mourlevat, Jean-Claude. Winter’s End. Tr. by Anthea Bell. Candlewick. (France)
    • Ness, Patrick. The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking Series). Candlewick. (UK)
    • Thompson, Kate. Creature of the Night. Roaring Brook. (UK/set in Ireland)
    • Valentine, Jenny. Broken Soup. HarperTeen/HarperCollins. (UK)

    SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books 2011

    Educating Alice just announced the list of 16 contenders for the 2011 School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids Books:

    2. THE CARDTURNER by Louis Sachar
    3. A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner
    4. COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles
    5. THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan
    6. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARBIE by Tanya Lee Stone
    8. KEEPER by Kathi Appelt
    9. THE ODYSSEY by Gareth Hinds
    10. ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
    11. THE RING OF SOLOMON by Jonathan Stroud
    12. SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
    13. A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by Adam Gidwitz
    14. THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
    15. TRASH by Andy Mulligan
    16. WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan
    I have some personal favorites that I'll be pulling about you?

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    2011 ALA Notable Lists

    Each year the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) identifies the best of the best of children's/young adults books and other media. The following are links to the 2011 online lists.

    ALSC Notable Lists for Children 

    ALSC Notable List for Young Children

    Notable Children's Recordings

    Notable Children's Videos 

    Great Interactive Software for Kids

    YALSA Notable Lists for Young Adults

    Best Fiction for Young Adults

    Great Graphic Novels for Teens

    Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults

    Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

    Another Notable List

    The 2011 Amelia Bloomer Book List

    The Amelia Bloomer Project, a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table, compiles the Amelia Bloomer List, an annual annotated book list (or bibliography) of well-written and well-illustrated books with significant feminist content, intended for young readers (ages birth through 18)

    2011 National African American Read-In

    The Twenty-Second National African American Read-In

    Sponsored by the Black Caucus of NCTE and NCTE
    In February 2011, you may hold an African American
    Read-In event any day of the month
    Tuesday, February 1-Monday, February 28, 2011
    Schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities. Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers.
    To be counted as participants, simply:
    • Select books authored by African Americans;
    • Hold your event during the month of February; and
    • Report your results by submitting the 2011 African American Read-In Report Card.
    The Read-In has been endorsed by the International Reading Association. Over a million readers of all ethnic groups from the United States, the District of Columbia, the West Indies, African countries, and more have participated. The goal is to make the celebration of African American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities.

    Download an African American Read-In PacketYou can print the PDF version of the African American Read-In packet by clicking the link below. It includes a News Release, Host Invitation, and information on how to submit the Report Card.

    African American Read-In Packet

    We have the following suggested reading lists available:
    The Host Report Card is to be submitted after your Read-In event.
    You must submit a separate Report Card for each Read-In held.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Article of the Week: "When A Is for App"

    The Horn Book Magazine
     One of my New Year's blogging resolutions is to keep up with my professional reading by posting about an article each week. I chose When A Is for App, an editorial in the November/December 2010 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, written by Roger Sutton, for my first article.

    I chose this editorial for a couple of reasons. First, it is timely given the number of IPad's received this Christmas and the recent announcement that Verizon will soon carry the IPhone. Second, the editorial is online, which makes it easier for everyone to engage in the conversation.

    Roger Sutton
    In the editorial, Sutton reflects on the ."..race to bring children's books into digital form," (p. 7) after seeing a child clicking through an animated digital book on a computer in a book store. It is interesting just to read his description of this event:

    She was reading, or at any rate looking at, a story. I did not recognize the pictures and did not want to hover too closely, but it seemed to be an amiable tale with friendly animals in human clothing and relatively low-tech: the only clicking the girl was doing simply led her from “page” to “page.”

    It brings to light how many adults are struggling to define what we are witnessing when we see children (or anyone really) engaging with books on IPads or IPhones or other comparable devices. Was the child reading or looking? Clicking or turning pages? Pages or screens?

    Sutton points out that right now, digital books created for these devices are staying true to the way traditional books are read with the effect of "turning pages" and only some elements of animation. But, he "app"tly (I couldn't help myself) asks, when will that change and what difference will it make if it does change?

    But there’s no reason this should or will always be the case: as print becomes a niche rather than a default, will it lose its power to confer authority?

    I think there are a couple of important ways to think about these questions. Right now, I would say that relatively few children are learning to read or even have experiences with an IPad/IPhone and that will remain true for a long time. Sure, parents with IPads and access to the few children's book apps now available may think it's great to have their toddlers crawl up in their laps and share Oceanhouse Media's digital version of The Cat in the Hat together. However, I think many parents want to share the books they loved in they way they remember from their own childhood, too.

    Another important consideration is that schools are inextricably bound to printed text. With the rare exception, public schools across the country use traditionally printed textbooks and take traditionally printed state mandated tests. Until that changes, traditional print will rule.

    However slow schools are to come on board with digital technology, for a variety of reasons I will not go into here, on board they will eventually come. Maybe the first step will be for every child to have a Kindle/Nook/name your reading device on which they download their textbooks. Not much different from reading traditionally printed textbooks but it sure will save some of the kids' backs from lugging around all of those biology, history, and literature tomes around. Eventually, testing will also go online (some already are) as well.

    But, maybe schools will skip the Kindle and like devices and go straight for the IPad due to the diversity of education apps available.  It seems that a device that supports learning in lots of areas would be more useful than one that just allows students to read digital books. Then, we get to the heart of Roger Sutton's question:

    On my iPod Touch, I can go from The Cat in the Hat to the Kindle, iBooks, or Stanza eBook applications, but I can as easily turn instead to FarmVille, Twitter, or the iRosary (I got that last one because I wanted to see if they were making it up. They weren’t). If we value book-reading as a distinct activity, we need to make sure that it retains its distinct rewards.

    It is important to understand the affordances and constraints of technology for literacy learning. Technology can be used to deepen many important aspects of literacy for children in ways not afforded by traditional print. However, other aspects of literacy are constrained by technology. For example, Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Reading and Language Research and professor of Child Development at Tufts University, stresses the danger of the emphasis on immediacy, information overloading, and media-driven digital culture to deep reading.

    In an article for Educational Leadership titled The Importance of Deep Reading, Wolf defines deep reading as “the array of sophisticated processes that propel comprehension and that include inferential and deductive reasoning, analogical skills, critical analysis, reflection, and insight” (p. 33).  The adult proficient reader is able to initiate these processes almost instantly, but the young brain needs years to develop them. Wolf warns, “An early immersion in reading that is largely online tends to reward certain cognitive skills, such as multitasking, and habituate the learner to immediate information gathering and quick attention shifts, rather than to deep reflection and ordinal thought” (p. 36).  

    Parents, educators and care givers can assist children with learning to read deeply online by teaching them how to manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information. We can not simply leave children to figure it out on their own  Yet, as Wolf notes, “nothing replaces the unique contributions of print literacy for the development of the full panoply of the slower, constructive, cognitive process that invite children to create their own whole works...” (p. 37).

    Now that I've shared my thoughts, I invite you to share yours. Let's start the conversation!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    2011 ALA Youth Media Awards

    Today was a big day for so many children's literature enthusiasts! We've tried all year to predict which books would win the coveted Newbery and Caldecott along with the many other awards. Today we found out how well our predictions held up. I love the slow build up of excitement about the ALA awards over the year and the feeling I get from having read, and in some cases, predicted the winner/honor books. But, I also love the surprise aspect of the awards. Every year there are always books that win that were under the radar for me. So, I have a list of outstanding books and audiobooks to read to start the new year. It's a win-win, right?

    Below is  a list of the most popular awards with links to the winners on the ALA website. I've put an asterisk next to the books I've read:

    Coretta Scott King Book Awards


    Winner: *One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

    Honors: *Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers and published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
    *Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
    Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke and published by Lee & Low Books Inc.


    Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

    Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, written by Gary Golio and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

    John Newbery Medal

    The 2011 Newbery Medal winner is Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc. The town of Manifest is based on Frontenac, Kan., the home of debut author Clare Vanderpool’s maternal grandparents. Vanderpool was inspired to write about what the idea of “home” might look like to a girl who had grown up riding the rails. She lives in Wichita with her husband and four children.


    *Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm, published by Random House Children's Books, a div. of Random House, Inc. Sassy eleven-year-old Turtle finds her life turned on end when she is sent to live with her aunt in Depression-era Key West. With vivid details, witty dialogue and outrageous escapades, Jennifer Holm successfully explores the meaning of family and home… and lost treasures found.

    Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams. Shipwrecks, whaling, a search for home and a delightful exploration of cultures create a swashbuckling adventure. This historical novel is based on the true story of Manjiro (later John Mung), the young fisherman believed to be the first Japanese person to visit America, who against all odds, becomes a samurai.

    *Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen, published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Welcoming her readers into the “wild, enchanted park” that is the night, Joyce Sidman has elegantly crafted twelve poems rich in content and varied in format. Companion prose pieces about nocturnal flora and fauna are as tuneful and graceful as the poems. This collection is “a feast of sound and spark.”

    *One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The voices of sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern sing in three-part harmony in this wonderfully nuanced, humorous novel set in 1968 Oakland, Calif. One crazy summer, the three girls find adventure when they are sent to meet their estranged poet-mother Cecile, who prints flyers for the Black Panthers.

    Michael L. Printz Award

    Winner: *Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group. In Ship Breaker, near a drowned New Orleans ravaged by hurricanes and global warming, Nailer and his young crew eke out a meager existence by scavenging materials on the ship-littered coast. 

    Honors: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, published by Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.  The rugged Australian outback becomes Gemma’s prison after she is drugged and abducted by a handsome, obsessed stranger in a first novel filled with searing imagery and archetypal characters.

    Please Ignore Vera Dietz  by A.S. King, published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.Vera Dietz wants to be ignored, but the ghost of her ex-best friend won’t leave her alone in this dark comedy that examines relationships, identity, grief and flowcharts.

    *Revolver written by Marcus Sedgwick, published by Roaring Book Press, an imprint of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.In Sedgwick’s grim, chilling story set in the Arctic Circle, Sig finds his father’s frozen corpse as human predator Wolff arrives seeking retribution and a hidden Gold Rush treasure. 

    *Nothing written by Janne Teller, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.Pierre Anthon’s nihilism causes his classmates to begin a search for life’s meaning in this bold, unsettling parable translated from Danish.

    Randolph Caldecott Medal 

    The 2011 Caldecott Medal winner is *A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead. A Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing. In this tender tale of reciprocity and friendship, zookeeper Amos McGee gets the sniffles and receives a surprise visit from his caring animal friends. Erin Stead’s delicate woodblock prints and fine pencil work complement Philip Stead’s understated, spare and humorous text to create a well-paced, gentle and satisfying book, perfect for sharing with friends.

    Honors:  Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill, published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Collier’s arrestingly beautiful artistic interpretation of Hill’s poetic text reveals Dave the potter’s artistic process while also conveying the dignified triumph of his humanity in the face of oppression. Lush, earth-toned, multimedia collages are illuminated in soft, ethereal light that focuses the eye on the subject of each spread.

    *Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, published by Candlewick Press. Stein’s hilarious story presents Little Chicken and her long-suffering Papa, who just wants to get through a bedtime story without his daughter’s metafictive disruptions. Exuberant artwork shifts media and style, taking readers into three fairy tales, culminating in Little Chicken’s “Bedtime for Papa,” but truly delivering a story for all. 

    Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal

    Winner: *Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Bird, written by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Nic Bishop, published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Kakapo Rescue is an inspiring call to action. This visually appealing and engaging book takes readers on an unforgettable journey to New Zealand.  Naturalist Sy Montgomery and wildlife photographer Nic Bishop document the successes and failures of the rescue team dedicated to saving a species of flightless parrot numbering fewer than 100.

    Honors:  Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca. A Neal Porter Book, published by Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing. From behind the scenes to actual performances, “Ballet for Martha” traces the evolution of the ballet “Appalachian Spring.”  Floca’s uncluttered watercolors support the spare, dynamic text, resulting in a balanced, insightful portrayal of creative collaboration.

    Lafayette and the American Revolution, written by Russell Freedman, published by Holiday House. This compelling biography of Lafayette looks at the whole of his life and fully illuminates the role he played in the American Revolution. Freedman leads readers through the events that shaped Lafayette’s character, portraying a young man in a time of change that would shape the rest of his life.

    Theodore Seuss Geisel Award

    Winner: Bink and Gollie, written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGee, illustrated by Tony Fucile, published by Candlewick Press. Bink and Gollie provides a clever peek into the lives of dissimilar friends celebrating the ups and downs of their daily escapades in three lively chapters.  Bink and Gollie explore the rocky terrain of compromise, asserting independence, and jealousy, yet their friendship remains steadfast.

    Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Identical twins Ling and Ting are not exactly the same, but equally charming, in these six vignettes chronicling such daily adventures as getting their hair cut, performing magic, making dumplings and going to the library.  Creator Lin cleverly recaps the day through Ting’s giggle-inducing revisionist retelling.

    *We Are in a Book!, written and illustrated by Mo Willems, published by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group. Contentedly hanging out, Gerald and Piggie notice that someone is looking at them. That someone turns out to be the reader in this hilarious, interactive story about the joys of reading (and being read)!  Children will be unable to resist Elephant and Piggie’s polite request to “…please read us again?

    Now that the awards are over, it's time to erase my list of books read for the year on the right and start over. But, I know which books will be first on this year's list -- those with no asterisk listed above!

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    2010 Costa Children's Book Award

    The 2010 Costa Children's Book Award goes to Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace, published by Andersen Press.

    The Costa Book Awards is one of the most prestigious and popular literary prizes in the UK and recognizes some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.

    About the book, the author and the judges' comments from the awards website:

    Zimbabwe, 1980s.  The fighting has stopped, independence has been won and Robert Mugabe has come to power offering hope, land and freedom to black Africans.  It is the end of the Old Way and the start of a promising new era. 

    For Robert Jacklin, it's all new - new continent, new country, new school.  And very quickly he is forced to understand a new way of thinking, because for some of his classmates the sound of guns is still loud, and their battles rage on.....white boys who want their old country back, not this new black African government.  Boys like Ivan.  Clever, cunning Ivan.  For him, there is still one last battle to fight, and he's taking it right to the very top.

    Jason Wallace was born in Cheltenham in 1969 but moved  to London after his parents split up. Aged 12, his life was turned upside down when his mother remarried and the family emigrated to Zimbabwe. It is his experiences of growing up in a tough boarding school during the aftermath of the war for independence that forms the foundation of Out of Shadows.  Jason is currently a web designer and lives in South West London.

    Judges: "A stunning debut novel without a false note.  Accomplished and powerful, it changes the way you think."

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    2011 Scott O'Dell Award

    From the blog Read Roger, written by Roger Sutton, chair of the 2011 Scott O'Dell Award committee: 

    The winner of the 2011 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

    The summer Delphine is “eleven going on twelve,” she and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are sent from Brooklyn to Oakland to visit their mother, Cecile, who left the family soon after Fern was born. Beginning with the girls’ first scary but exhilarating plane ride, their summer of 1968 is a microcosm of the new directions in which the nation found itself traveling. Their mother, distrustful and secretive, has renamed herself Nzila; she sends the girls off every morning for breakfast and summer school at the Black Panthers’ People’s Center. Why does she have a printing press in her kitchen, and why does she refuse to call Fern anything but “Little Girl”? As expressed through the candid, questioning, and take-no-prisoners voice of the spirited Delphine, Williams-Garcia’s exploration of the nascent Black Power movement is always rooted in the particulars of the girls' experience. In her sturdy self-reliance, Delphine recalls the heroine of a book she has brought along for the summer—Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. Readers won’t be able to forget her.

    Established in 1982 by the great historical fiction writer Scott O’Dell, the annual $5000 Award is given for a distinguished work of historical fiction for young people, published by a U. S. publisher; the setting must be South, Central, or North America, and the author must be a U.S. citizen. Since O’Dell’s death, the Award has been administered by his wife, Elizabeth Hall.

    Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief of the Horn Book Inc., is the Committee Chair. He succeeds Hazel Rochman and the late Zena Sutherland, who served as chair from the inception of the Award. The other members of the committee are Ann Carlson, History and Fine Arts Librarian, OakPark and River Forest High School; and Laura Tillotson, Books for Youth Editorial Director of Booklist magazine.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Looking Back....Looking Forward

    The beginning of a new year means it's time for me to delete the list of books I read in 2010 that appears on the right hand side of the page and start a new list for 2011. I am always both reluctant and excited about it.

    Looking Back

    I'm reluctant because even though there are 80 books listed (which doesn't include picturebooks, many professional books, and self-help books on topics such as running, cooking, etc.), I feel like I've just started! There are so many books I haven't had time to read this year. But, there are also many books on my list that I loved and that will stay with me forever. By far, my favorite read of the year was Monsters of Men, the third and final book in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. It was the perfect ending to an all consuming, captivating, and enthralling series. I also read a few series in their entirety such as the Tiffany Aching Adventures (Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight) by Terry Pratchett and the Queen's Thief series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, the King of Attolia, and The Conspiracy of Kings) by Megan Whalen Turner.

    A few other favorite YA reads of the year were If I Stay by Gayle Forman (a great article on this book is on NPR today), Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X Stork, The Cardturner by Louis Sachar, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and Numbers by Rachel Ward.

    For children's literature, my favorites of the year were Countdown by Deborah Wiles, As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins, Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick,  A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor, Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm and  The Boneshaker by Kate Milford.

     Of course, none of these titles are really showing up as Newbery or Printz contenders. Even though I have read most of the titles that are being tossed around, I still find that these books are the ones that have stuck with me over the year. As  Gayle Forman states in her NPR article I posted a few days ago, I want "a book that sucks me in from chapter one, makes me think and, above all, makes me feel. I want to finish the book a slightly different person than I was when I started it."

    Looking Forward

    As I reflect on my year of reading, the one thing that's always nagging at me is my professional reading. Like many of you, I subscribe to many professional journals such as The Reading Teacher, Language Arts, The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Reading Research Quarterly, The Journal of Children's Literature, The Horn Book, The Journal of Literacy Research, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, The Dragon Lode, and more. Every month, these journals stack up, waiting to be read, while I turn my back to read YA/Children's literature. This reading is important and I eventually get to it, but unlike YA/children's literature, I usually don't have anyone with whom to share my thinking about the many, many great articles and research.

    So, my New Year's resolution for blogging is to post my thoughts about one of these articles each week. I think this will keep me on top of my reading, provide a space for sharing my thoughts and a place for others to share their thoughts with me. I haven't figured out a format or particular day of the week yet, but I have started sifting through the latest journals. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

    Happy Reading in the New Year!

    WGR: Hearing Past the Accent

    My colleague, Anne Charity Hudley, will be a featured guest on With Good Reason on 1/8/11.  Her program, Hearing Past the Accent, will highlight the research she and coauthor Christine Mallinson have compiled in their recently released book, Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools.

    Program description:

    Accents can be endearing but can also limit chances for professional and academic success.  Southern and African-American students are often marginalized because of their dialects. Anne Charity Hudley (William & Mary) has co-authored a book to help educators work with language variations to make sure students don't suffer for the way they talk.  Also featured: Theresa Burriss (Radford U) will speak on "Affrilachian Poets" African American writers of Appalachian literature. 

    Click here to download the podcast and to find local dates and times: