Saturday, January 28, 2012

LeVar Burton reads "Snowy Day"

LeVar Burton – The former Reading Rainbow host joins All Things Considered host Guy Raz for a reading of Snowy Day, credited as on of the first children’s book to feature a non-caricatured black protagonist.
Airdate: Saturday, January 28, on All Things Considered
Audio: Available Saturday at approximately 7PM (ET) at

Monday, January 23, 2012

ALA Youth Media Awards Announced

That ALA Youth Media Awards were announced early this morning.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos won the Newbery! I loved this book and am happy to see it win. It also won the 2012 Scott O'Dell Award for best historical fiction, which I blogged about last week and included a link to his National Book Festival speech.

Two Newbery Honors were awarded: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhaa Lai, which also won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin.

A Ball for Daisy, written and illustrataed by Chris Raschka, won the Caldecott!

Three Caldecott Honor books were awarded: Blackout written and illustrated by John Rocco, Grandpa Green written and illustrated by Lane Smith and Me...Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, which also won the 2012 Charlotte Zolotow award.

Interestingly, all of the Caldecott award winners were written and illustrated by the same person.

All winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards can be found on the ALA website. I did well this year with having read the Newbery before it was announced as well as most of the other awards, but I do have some reading to do in a few of the categories. Soon, however, it will be time to take a deep breath and start all over again for 2012. Happy reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson (from PW)
I found out earlier today that one of my favorite authors, Jacqueline Woodson, is going to be the YA luncheon speaker at IRA and was thrilled! Then, quite prophetically, I found a great interview with her by Publishers Weekly. Below is an excerpt in which she talks about her newest book, Beneath a Meth Moon (due out in February), and what she is working on. Read the entire interview here.
Are you currently mining any memories for another writing project?
I feel like I’m still coming out of the fog of finishing Beneath a Meth Moon. I don’t think I realized how inside that story I really was. It was a hard and heavy book to write. But I’ve finished a picture book, Each Kindness, which E.B. Lewis is illustrating and Nancy Paulsen Books will publish in fall 2012. I was inspired by seeing third- and fourth-grade girls being so mean to each other and not even realizing that’s what they were doing. I remember thinking, “They think this moment is always going to be here, that there will always be a chance to go back and undo that.” And it’s not true. So Each Kindness is about a girl who isn’t kind and what happens with that. It’s about the importance of kindness—something I deeply believe in.
I’m also about to start writing the book for an opera about Clementine Hunter, an African-American painter from Louisiana whose work was shown at galleries that she wasn’t allowed to enter because of Jim Crow laws. And another project that is slowly coming together for me is a middle-grade novel which will be quite funny.

Tribute to the Newbery

For the past 90 years, the ALA has awarded the Newbery Medal, sometimes called the "Oscar" of children’s literature, to an author in recognition of the year’s most distinguished children’s book. Open Road Integrated Media has made available to the public a video that captures Newbery Award-Winning authors Virginia Hamilton and Jean Craighead George talking about how those awards (for Julie of the Wolves and M.C. Higgins The Great respectively) changed their lives. Hamilton was the first African American to win the award and George saw the view of children's literature change to "something important instead of something second-rate.”

This short (2:06) video is below. Enjoy!

Credit: Open Road Integrated Media

2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Me … Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell is the fifteenth annual winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. 
 Patrick McDonnell’s picture book about chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall as a child depicts her as a curious, scientific-minded young girl whose favorite stuffed animal was a chimpanzee named Jubilee. She took the stuffed chimp everywhere as she explored and carefully observed the natural world of her childhood . . . and dreamed of someday going to Africa. McDonnell’s spare, skillful, and superbly paced text balances a sense of playfulness with purpose as he conveys Goodall’s focus and determination. Me … Jane was edited by Andrea Spooner and published in the United States in 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The 2012 Zolotow Award committee named three Honor Books:  

  • Apple Pie ABC, written and illustrated by Alison Murray, edited by Stephanie Lurie, and published by Disney/Hyperion;  
  • Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm, written and photographed by Jon Katz, edited by  Sally Doherty, and published by Henry Holt; and 
  • Naamah and the Ark at Night, written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Holly Meade, edited by Katie Cunningham, and published by Candlewick Press.

The 2012 Zolotow Award committee also cited ten titles as Highly Commended:

  • All the Water in the World, written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Katherine Tillotson (ARichard Jackson Book / Atheneum)
  • Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Fortune Cookies, written by Albert Bitterman and illustrated by Chris Raschka (Beach Lane Books)
  • Nothing Like a Puffin, written by Sue Soltis and illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick Press)
  • Samantha on a Roll, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christine Davenier (MargaretFerguson Books / Farrar Straus Giroux)
  • Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin)
  • These Hands, written by Margaret H. Mason and illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Three by the Sea, written and illustrated by Mini Grey (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Tía Isa Wants a Car, written by Meg Medina and illustrated by Claudio Muñoz (Candlewick Press)
  • The Twins’ Blanket, written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum (Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux)

The Charlotte Zolotow Award is given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year. Established in 1998, the award is named to honor the work of Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished children's book editor for 38 years with Harper Junior Books, and author of more than 70 picture books, including such classic works as Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (Harper, 1962) and William's Doll (Harper, 1972). Ms. Zolotow attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a writing scholarship from 1933-36 where she studied with Professor Helen C. White.

The award is administered by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, a children's literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Each year a committee of children's literature experts selects the winner from the books published in the preceding year. The winner is announced in January each year. A bronze medallion is formally presented to the winning author in the spring during an annual public event that honors the career of Charlotte Zolotow.

Members of the selection committee are appointed to a two-year term by the CCBC professional staff based on an individual's knowledge of children's books, a demonstrated ability to evaluate children's books and discuss them critically, and/or direct experience working professionally with children from birth through age seven. A CCBC librarian serves as one of the five members. Members are appointed to staggered, two-year terms.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

The annual award, established in 1982 by author Scott O'Dell,  goes to an author for a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults.  The purpose of the award is to encourage other writers--particularly new authors--to focus on historical fiction. Scott O'Dell hoped in this way to increase the interest of young readers in the historical background that has helped to shape their country and their world.

A list of all award winners by historical period is available here

On a personal note, I loved this book! I laughed all the way through it. I heard Jack Gantos speak about the book at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. last year and he was hilarious (as usual). A webcast of his speech is available here. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Free books for Kindle

Thousands of adults, young adults, and children received eReaders this past holiday season and analysts predict that volume will continue to grow in 2012 to 28.9 million. Pricing is also expected to drop this year with Amazon’s Kindle as low as $49 and Barnes and Noble's Nook as low as $99.

I have had a Kindle since they were first introduced and though I am on my third one due to hardware and software problems, I do love that I can get most books anywhere at anytime at a cheaper price than the print copy.

Though eReaders have largely not made it into the classroom, as prices drop, this might change. The idea of having instant access to books that match students' interests is very appealing to teachers. However, teachers already spend a great deal of their own money to purchase books for their classroom libraries and school and library budgets are very limited.

With this in mind, there are a couple of ways to get free books for the Kindle. You can download Free Childrens Books and Young Adult Books for Kindle: Linked List of Over 1,000 Free Classics For Boys, Girls and Teens for .99 on Amazon. Each title is linked to the book on and can be downloaded to the Kindle free of charge. Of course, most of these books are classics, but they are still great books!

With Kindle apps, books can be read on more than one device that might be available in the classroom such as a computer, a tablet, or a phone (Android or Mac).

Most often, public libraries also offer patrons the ability to download eBooks. My local library doesn't offer many eBooks but other libraries nearby have a nice collection.

Another nice aspect of eReaders is the ability to respond and share your thoughts about what you are reading. Students can highlight words/phases and take notes and share them with other students.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fun and Inspiration

In this post, I'm sharing a few YouTube videos that have been quite inspiring and some that are just fun.

Below is a TED presentation by spoken word poet and teacher, Sarah Kay. You MUST watch it and be inspired!

I also watched a documentary titled, Louder Than A Bomb, about the spoken word poetry contest held in Chicago Public Schools. It was also extremely inspiring. Below is the trailer:

Finally, does everyone but me know about the book, Goodnight iPad, a parody of the original by Margaret Wise Brown? Hilarious! See the YouTube video below...does it not perfectly capture what goes on in the homes of many of our children today? Reminds me of a colleague who told me she texts her children to tell them to come to dinner.

The video below it is in stark contrast, titled: The Joy of Books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Costa and The Newbery

Today, The Costa Book Award category winners were announced. The Costa Book Awards are a series of five literary awards--First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book--given to books by authors based in Great Britain and Ireland. The criteria are to select well-written, enjoyable books that they would strongly recommend anyone to read.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young won the Children's Book category. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the second book in the proposed series (Dust Lands), Rebel Heart, due out this year.

From The Guardian:

The first in a planned dystopian trilogy for teens, this searing debut has been compared to Cormac McCarthy and optioned by Ridley Scott. It tells the story of Saba's epic quest to get her beloved twin brother back after he is captured in an apocalyptic monster sandstorm. Teaming up with a gang of girl revolutionaries she finds she has the power to change a corrupt society from the inside - and change the course of her own civilisation along the way.

What the judges said:
“It’s astonishing how, in her first novel, Moira Young has so successfully bound believable characters into a heart-stopping adventure. She kept us reading, and left us hungry for more. A really special book.” Read an extract from Blood Red Road.

The Guardian also has a nice story on Moira Young here

Speaking of children's book awards, the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements are only a few weeks away. The awards, which include the Newbery and Caldecott, will be announced at 7:45 CT from Dallas, TX during ALA's midwinter conference on January 23rd. There will be a live webcast of the awards starting at 7:30 CT. 

So that still leaves plenty of time to catch up on a few titles before the big announcements. Jonathan Hunt, over at the Heavy Medal blog, has posted a list of children's titles that appeared on the "best of" lists for 2011. That list will give you a nice place to start for last minute reading.

I know there have been many mock Newbery, etc., predictions, but I wonder: What are your predictions?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

And the New Ambassador is....

Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature 2012-2013

Walter Dean Myers is a critically acclaimed author of books for young people. His award-winning body of work includes “Sunrise Over Fallujah,” “Fallen Angels,” “Monster,” “Somewhere in the Darkness” and “Harlem.” Myers has received two Newbery Honor Awards and five Coretta Scott King Awards. He is the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in young adult literature, given by the American Library Association) as well as the first recipient of Kent State University's Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2008, he won the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award. He is considered one of the preeminent writers for young people.

Myers began writing at an early age. “I was a good student, but a speech impediment was causing problems. One of my teachers decided that I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. She thought that if I wrote something, I would use words I could pronounce. I began writing little poems. I began to write short stories too.”

Myers’ 2009 title, “Amiri and Odette: A Love Story,” is a modern retelling of “Swan Lake.” “I had seen the ballet of ‘Swan Lake’ as a child. But it was as an adult, when I saw a production featuring Erik Bruhn, that I first noticed how significant a part the ever-present threat of violence played. This juxtaposition of great beauty and grace with a backdrop of pure evil stayed with me for years. As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament.”

“In listening to Peter Tchaikovsky's score,” Myers continues, “I found the violence muted, but slowly, in my head; the sometimes jarring rhythms of modern jazz and hip-hop began to intervene. I asked myself if there were modern dangers to young people similar to the magic spells of folklore. The answer of course, was a resounding yes, and I began to craft a modern, urban retelling of the ‘Swan Lake’ballet.”

In 2010, Myers received the Rutgers University Award for Literature for Young Adults, from the New Jersey Center for the Book and the Rutgers School of Communications.

“Myers is a giant among children’s and young adult authors,” said Dean Jorge Reina Schement. He is one of today’s most important writers of books for the youth of our age.”

Walter Dean Myers lives with his wife in Jersey City, N.J.  He was born in Martinsburg, W.Va., and grew up in Harlem.

Walter Dean Myers’ Literary Awards

Newbery Honor
  • Scorpions, 1989
  • Somewhere in the Darkness, 1993
Coretta Scott King Award
  • 1980, “The Young Landlords”
  • 1985, “Motown and Didi: A Love Story”
  • 1989, “Fallen Angels”
  • 1992, “Now Is Your Time: The African American Struggle for Freedom”
  • 1997, “Slam”
Coretta Scott King Honor Award
  • 1976, “Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff”
  • 1993, “Somewhere in the Darkness”
  • 1994, “Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary”
  • 2000, “Monster”
  • 2011, “Lockdown”
Michael L. Printz Award
  • 2000, “Monster”
Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, 1999

May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award, 2008

Margaret Edwards Award, 1994

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults List, 1993 and 2000

National Book Award finalist
  • 1999, “Monster”
  • 2005, “Autobiography of My Dead Brother”
  • 2010, “Lockdown”


In the News...

While catching up on my blog reading, I found the following interesting, informative, etc.

From the LATimes: Socially Networked Reading: Hey, Take A Look At This. Reading doesn't have to be a solitary activity. Increasingly, apps are being developed to enable users to electronically share thoughts. 

Top Articles on 2011: Ebooks, Kid Lit, Jobs

From NYTimes: Scholastic Unveils New Multi-Platform Series: Infinity Ring. Touted as "the next Harry Potter," Scholastic's forthcoming multi-platform book series, Infinity Ring, is clearly the heir apparent to The 39 Clues.

From A Fuse #8 Production: 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2011. NYC librarian and SLJ blogger, Fuse #8 states, "If you had a horribly limited library budget and you could only buy 100 children’s books from the year 2011, here are the hundred I would insist you get."

From Publishers Weekly: Book Thief Hits Two Million in U.S. Sales. Markus Zusak’s 2006 Printz Honor novel The Book Thief (Knopf) has just sold two million copies, across multiple formats, in the United States.

The CYBILS Award  (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Award) finalists are announced! Did your favorites make the list?


Monday, January 2, 2012

Balance in the New Year

I've been out of town visiting family and am just now catching up on all of the New Year blog posts. One thing I noticed is that several bloggers are not posting New Year's resolutions, but rather selecting one word that sums up a "philosophy" to live by for the year.

2011 was a year of definite highs, devastating lows, and major changes for me. I achieved full professor at the college where I teach, my mother passed away, and my only son went to college. Adjusting to these changes has been challenging to say the least, but I also have an amazing husband and wonderful students whom I have the privilege to teach. Keeping it all in perspective is the difficult part sometimes. That's why I think if I were to choose a word for 2012, it would be balance.

In the field of reading education, achieving balance in literacy instruction (balanced literacy) is "a complex process that requires flexibility and artful orchestration of literacy's various contextual and conceptual aspects."* I think life requires that same flexibility and artful orchestration. It's like trying to navigate across multiple balance beams. Sometimes, we might need to stay on one beam longer than another, but all of the beams need to be traversed thoughtfully. Here's to putting on my balance beam shoes!

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and success with your resolutions or "words" for 2012!

* Pearson, P., Raphael, T., Benson, V., & Madda, C. (2007). Balance in comprehensive literacy instruction: Then and now. In L. Gambrell, L. Morrow, & M. Pressley (Eds.), Best practices in literacy instruction (3rd ed., pp. 31-54). NY: Guilford

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

I'm re-posting the announcement below since tomorrow is the big day!

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will announce the next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature on January 3, 2012. The post was created by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to literacy, education, and the development and betterment of children’s lives. Appointed for a two-year term, the National Ambassador will choose a platform that reflects his or her personal interests (also to be revealed on the announcement date) and advocate this policy throughout his or her travels and tenure.

The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is named by the Librarian of Congress based on recommendations from a selection committee representing many segments of the book community. The selection criteria include the candidate’s contribution to young people’s literature and ability to relate to children. The members of this year’s selection committee were:

  • Jennifer Brown, Children’s Editor, Shelf Awareness
  • Valerie Koehler, Bookseller, Blue Willow Books, Houston, TX
  • Hillias Jack Martin, Assistant Director for Public Programs/Lifelong Learning for Children, Teens and Families, New York Public Library
  • Katherine Paterson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2010-11
  • Caroline Ward, Librarian/Youth Services Coordinator, Ferguson Library, CT; Professor, Pratt Institute
  • Seira Wilson, Book Editor,
  • Junko Yokota, Professor, National-Louis University; Director, Center for Teaching Through Children's Books

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader are the sponsors of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature initiative. Financial support for the National Ambassador program is provided by Penguin Young Readers Group, Scholastic Inc., HarperCollins Children’s Books, Random House Children’s Books, and Candlewick Press.