Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Bets, People!

The Cybils shortlists are going to be posted tomorrow. Keep an eye on that page! And don't forget to read all those great reviews of the nominees.

I'm judging the YA category this year. Since I can't say anything about them while judging, I'll try (try) to write reviews and hold onto them until after the final announcements.

Book Review: The Extraordinary & Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

Book: The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
Author: Catherine Webb
Published: 2006

Meet Horatio Lyle, amateur scientist and professional Special Constable. He’s been asked (by people who have a hard time taking no for an answer) to investigate a recent break-in at the Bank of England. The object of most concern is the Fuyun plate, a Tibetan artifact valued at no more than 200 pounds, but with “cultural significance.” The British government would like it back, please, and they’re surprisingly insistent.

With the help of Tess, (an irreverent street thief he caught breaking into his house one night) Thomas, (the son of the man responsible for the Fuyun Plate when it was stolen) and Tate (a dog), Lyle will chase all over Victorian London on the trail of the Fuyun plate. Along the way, they’ll meet some truly nasty characters who’ll do anything to get their hands on the Fuyun plate first.. Maybe Lyle should ask which culture finds it significant . . .

The first review I read of this book mentioned that it’s one of those rare young-adult books which doesn’t actually star a young adult. Tess and Thomas are both fifteen or thereabouts, but the star of the story is Horatio Lyle. I would put him at no younger than his mid-twenties, and probably older. Still, I agree with that reviewer that the appeal is most definitely teen or even scientifically-minded about-to-be-teen.

This book reminded me forcibly of Philip Reeve’s Larklight. It’s just good, clean, slightly kooky fun. Things go boom, people are chased and kidnapped and make Faraday wheels out of entire cathedrals, sidekicks wisecrack and bicker. If this were a movie, it might be a Bond flick, albeit one that stars Q instead. If you like a rollicking good time, pick up Horatio Lyle.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Coraline Movie Preview!

So the movie version of Neil Gaiman's Coraline could be really good, or really, really bad. Either way, here's a preview, courtesy of his website.

I kinda want to pull Coraline's face into alignment, but other than that, it looks appropriately creepy and atmospheric, with a great little eeky shiver at the end. What do you think? Weigh in in the comments!

Check here for a higher-res Quicktime version, if you're lucky enough to have a computer that plays nice with Quicktime.

Thanks to Child_Lit for passing it on.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is a Really Good Book

I’m writing this on a laptop that’s propped up on a folding chair in what once was my childhood bedroom but now appears to be a Stuff Repository that happens to have a bed in it. Merry freakin’ Christmas.

Actually, I’m happy to be home. Or I’m happy to be at my parents’ house, since I haven’t seen them since the last time I was freezing my tush off in the Stuff Repository, last Christmas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this annual trek back across the Mississippi, it’s that I’m not meant to live anywhere that gets below freezing on a regular basis. Brrrrrrr.

Since this is meant to be a blog about children’s literature, let me ask you--what is the most memorable book you ever got as a holiday present? How about the top five?

1. Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

Strange to say, at one time in my youth I was a complete and unrepentent Star Wars freak. Episode One broke my heart so badly I left the fandom, but Zahn’s continuation of the original trilogy came out long before that, which also happened to be long before I had much disposable income to spend on a book. I begged and pleaded and wrote it in large letters at the very top of my Christmas list. It was waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning, with my brother’s name in the “From” field. The guy could usually take a hint.

2. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare

I got this as part of a Newbery Award winners box set. This was probably from my mother, who is a teacher and can’t help it. The other books were stuff like The Sign of the Beaver--dullsville. But Kit’s adventures in stuffy New England were heady stuff for an eight-year-old; witches and Puritans and Barbados and sexy sea captains, oh my! I’m still very fond of it.

3, 4, 5. Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Oh, yeah, I cheated on my own meme. I am so getting coal in my stocking.

Around the time they got their 12th grandchild, my grandparents gave up on the whole picking out gifts thing and gave each of us a shopping spree with Grandma and Grandpa. Needless to say, I headed right for the bookstore, which is where I found these three books and the entire set besides. I’d read the first before, but none of the others. I don’t think anyone will argue with me that numbers four through god-knows were pretty forgettable, but the trilogy formed by the first three books is the greatest character arc of Anne Shirley, the red-headed orphan. They can be overly sweet sometimes, but Montgomery’s gift for drawing everyday characters and concerns in the midst of the Romantic movement makes these books a consistent good read.

Unfortunately, as the years went on, my book tastes got so esoteric (read: romance novels that I was embarassed to let my parents know I read) that I started asking for Barnes & Noble gift cards instead. But I’ve gotten some great stuff under the tree in my time.

I tag anyone reading this. Anyone? Bueller?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hey, That's My Daemon!

The webcomic Shortpacked had a "Golden Compass" themed comic a couple of days ago. Read and giggle.

Thanks to the Child_Lit list for pointing the way.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

But My Child is Sooooo Advanced!

YA author Alix Flinn just put up a great post about parents of advanced readers who have rude awakenings when they bump into books that are (surprise!) too mature for their child.

Key quotes:
I am then faced with the unpleasant task of explaining that my books aren't really for 10-year-olds.

To which they say, "But (s)he's a very advanced reader." (Yes, every single one of them. Apparently every single child within a 10 mile radius of my home -- including my own children, I should say -- reads above grade level. This does make me question the concept of "grade level," but it wouldn't be the first time).

Hehe! I see this a lot at work: the parents who diss Charlotte's Web because their seven-year-old's reading levels mean s/he should be reading War and Peace. Then I bite my lip until it bleeds to stop myself saying, "Have you ever read War and Peace?"

I know whereof I speak. I was one of those supremely annoying precocious children, and during Easter break of my fourth-grade year, I decided the time was ripe for me to read Gone With the Wind. I hated it. I still hate it. If I'd read it at a time when I was emotionally ready for this story, I might have felt differently. (Maybe not, though. That Scarlett was a pain in the ass.)

As Alix writes, there's a difference between sentence structure and vocabulary that a kid is capable of unraveling, and the actual content of the book. My horror story about this concerns Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss. Amazing book, but very definitely for 12-up. Maybe even 15-up. But according to Accelerated Reader, it's suitable for a fourth-grader.

I wonder how many parents of "advanced readers" ever read for the joy of it. Maybe if they had, they'd understand that reading is not a racetrack, but a map to an undiscovered country.

Thanks to Liz B over at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy for pointing me at Alix's post.

P.S. In a fun bit of synchronicity, I'm currently reading Alix Flinn's Beastly. This book is unputdownable. Would I give it to a fourth-grader? Hell, no.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review: Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Book: Ballerino Nate
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, ill. R.W. Alley
Published: 2006

After Nate sees his first ballet, he announces to his parents that he wants to learn to dance. Mom and Dad are supportive, but big brother Ben warns him that “Boys can’t be ballerinas. They never, ever, ever can.” And if they could, they’d still have to wear a tutu. Ben is in second grade and knows almost everything. Nate is horrified at the idea of wearing a pink dress, or a flower in his hair. Isn’t there a way he can dance and be a boy?

This is a valuable book for the encouragement it gives to young male dancers. Nate takes no guff from his open-minded parents for his ballet madness; instead it all comes from his brother, who swears up and down that boys simply cannot dance. While not every aspiring young ballet dancer is going to encounter this percentage of support, it was a good idea to concentrate the discouragement in one character.

What really made this book stand out for me, however, were the illustrations. You get the sense that every character is fully thought out and defined in Alley’s mind as he draws, because almost every character is doing something instead of being stock figures in the background. Illustrations of Nate’s ballet class include a little girl whose tutu is falling down and a classmate noticing, another little girl practically jumping up and down for her teacher’s attention, girls stretching in the hallway. None of this is mentioned in the text; instead, it’s all there to make Nate’s world that much more real.

However, Nate is the star of the book, and has the best pictures. As befits a seven-year-old bitten by the dancing bug, he is rarely still, and everything seems to be high drama. Check out the four-picture combo when his brother drives him to tears with the insistence that he’ll have to wear a pink tutu. Nate’s eyes widen in horror, he falls on the floor to cry, he hurls himself at his father, sending newspapers flying. In the last illustration, Nate is folded up double on the floor, boneless, with one forlorn tear dripping down his nose, as desperately brokenhearted as only a seven-year-old can be. The only part of his body higher than floor level is his arm and hand as he clutches his father’s finger.

The only quibble I have (and it’s a relatively minor one) is Alley’s decision to make all his characters anthropomorphized dogs. I’m not sure whether this is a decision to soften the effect of a dancing little boy, or he just chose to do it this time. It just struck me as weird. He does it well, including all different breeds and making full use of their physical characteristics. (Nate’s dance teacher, for instance, is one of those really elegant dogs with the long ears that look like a sweeping, glamorous mane of shampoo-model hair.)

Get this book for the pint-sized dancer in your life, male or female. Or read it yourself for a sweet story and a grand time perusing the illustrations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Onion Reports on Golden Compass Brouhaha

Because you knew they'd get into it eventually.

Protests Over the Golden Compass

I especially like the second-to-last reason.

Wizards and Vampires, Oh My

So according to the Hollywood Reporter, the same actor who played Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter films (wait, wasn't he just in number four? Number five just used flashback footage), is going to play Edward in the film version of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.

There's some debate about this, but I think it's a good choice--they're both the kind of too-decent-to-even-exist romantic hero. Heck, he can even recycle his noble expression with very little effort.

Anyone going to see this?

Thanks to the Child_Lit listserv for the heads-up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Interview with Tomie dePaola

It's nothing startling, except for the news that dePaola meant to be a monk at one point (what, really?) but check out this article for a little visit with one of the greats of written-and-illustrated-by children's books.

I grew up with Tomie dePaola's books, especially his religious stuff. Whenever I think of the Virgin of Guadalupe, I think of his version, with the beautiful roses tumbling from Juan Diego's tilma as the bishop looks on in wonder. DePaola's art is a central part of my childhood.

At the same time, I'm interested in where dePaola is going that he feels the need for a younger editor who'll be more supportive of being "dangerous." Hmm. . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007

John Green is an Eleven-Year-Old Fangirl

. . . at least for today. Check out the video below, one of John's bidaily messages to his brother Hank and all the other Nerdfighters out there in Internetlandia.

Logically, I know I may be old and grey and mean before this happens. Even besides the strike, Hollywood in general moves at about the speed of a frozen slug.

Still, I'm excited, if only because I'm a nerdfighter, and I also want to see how they're going to make such a mathy book sexy and hip without involving David Krumholtz somewhere.

Note to studios: See if you can involve David Krumholtz somewhere. We need the pretty in our lives. I would settle for multiple Krumholtz clones in a crowd scene.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just in Case We Ever Need an Official Kidlitosphere Drinking Game

A lot of you probably know this one, but if not, head over and subscribe your lil' ol' self to KidderLit. It's a blog that posts only the first line of a children's or YA book.

Take a drink for every first line you don't recognize. Take two if you've read the book and you still don't recognize the line. Take three if it's one of your favoritest ever and you still don't recognize.

Something tells me I'd be the first one under the table.

Seriously, it's amazing to see what a good first line can do for your interest in the book. We talk about covers, but first lines are twice as important, for my money. I have about seventeen of them saved in my Bloglines account because the first line was so intriguing that it made me want to read the book.

Monday, December 03, 2007

More Best-Of Lists!

They're coming fast and furious now.

Horn Book has a nice little spread, including a couple I haven't heard of yet.

The New York Times mentions these notable books.

And from waaaaaaaaaay across the really big pond, an Australian blog nominates some of Oz's faves.

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the links!

One Week Out of the Month, I'm Not Very Nice Either

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Considering I've had a mad fangirl crush on the man since meeting him in Book 3*, I'm rather flattered by the comparison.

*Yes, I do know he's a fictional character--your point?

Thanks to A Chair, a Fireplace & A Tea Cozy for the link.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Book Review: The Silenced by James DeVita

Book: The Silenced
Author: James DeVita
Published: 2007

In the near future, Marena has a reasonably normal life. She goes to school, she fights with her dad, she hangs out with her boyfriend. The catch? Her school is a Youth Treatment Facility that specializes in “loyalty correction.” Her fights with her dad are all about her mother, executed for speaking out against the state. And she’s not even allowed to touch her boyfriend in public.

As the state regime grows ever more totalitarian, Marena knows she has to do something, and does it under the name of the White Rose. It starts small--graffiti, flyers urging her classmates to speak out, mild vandalism. Even this is too much for the state, which promptly begins the hunt for her. Marena has to stay one step ahead of the authorities, because when the state party’s name is Zero Tolerance, mere detention is pretty low on the list of possible punishments.

Based on the story of Sophie Scholl, this book is a thought-provoking tale about the consequences of both speech and silence. Even for those who've never heard of Scholl and the White Rose, the parallels to Nazi Germany are blindingly obvious, even down to the “Racial Purity” index that is part of their state IDs. However, DeVita’s story takes place in a future America, one that seems altogether too possible these days.

Marena’s memories of her mother and her passionate belief in self-expression in the face of imposed doctrine form the spine of this thick but absorbing novel. Equally as compelling, in a different way, is the subplot about the state official searching for Marena. While it serves to amp up the tension, it also shines a light on the power of Marena’s forbidden words.

Finally, kudos to DeVita for not making Marena’s relationship with Dex the plot of the book. While it is central, the real story is about Marena’s growing strength and conviction, and the power of words to change the world--and more important, people’s minds.

Reading Round-up: November 2007

It's been a bad week, blogging-wise. I was one sick puppy, and the things that came out of my nose, well, you don't want to know, that's all. But back to a better schedule next week!

Here's what November was like, book-wise.

By the Numbers
Books read: 57
Teen: 18
Tween: 16
Children: 16
Preschool: 16

Teen: The Silenced by James DeVita (review to come!)
Tween: So Totally Emily Ebers by Lisa Yee
Children: Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay
Preschool: Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (review to come!)

Because I Want To Awards
Longest Awaited: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
Better Than I Expected: Before, After, and Somebody in Between by Jeannine Garsee
Not Actually On My List of Stuff to Read: Ethan, Suspended by Pamela Ehrenberg
Most Likely to Prompt a Book Challenge: Hellbent by Anthony Gowan
Just Plain Weirdest: The Greedy Apostrophe by Jan Carr

Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review: Diary of a Would-Be Princess by Jessica Green

Book: Diary of a Would-Be Princess
Author: Jessica Green
Published: 2007

Jillian James wants to be a Princess. Not with the crown and the throne . . . a Princess, one of the exclusive girl-clique in her 5th-grade class. She tries, she really does. But after episodes with using diaper pins for friendship pins and the elastic from her underwear for jump-ropes, she figures out it’s pretty much a lost cause. Still, she hasn’t sunk so low that she wants to hang out with dorky Nigel, brutal Raymond, thuggish Vincent, or tough-girl Amanda.

But friendship sneaks up on her, and before she knows it, Jillian is the Princess of 5-B . . . the kind of Princess who rules because she’s loved, not feared.

Written in journal format, Jillian’s fresh, frank voice isn’t one bit deterred by her teacher, who leaves weekly notes after reading the entries. Sometimes the teacher came off as gloriously clueless, and sometimes she came off as perfectly wise and perceptive. Which is pretty accurate to a fifth-grade experience.

While the friendship message got a little anvilly toward the end (and I also started to forget who people were as Jillian’s unusual friend group grows), I closed the book and put it down with a huge smile. Jillian is just the kind of girl I would love to have as a friend myself. Give this to your favorite fourth or fifth-grade girl who’s making her own way through the jungles of classroom politics.

Little Women, Draft One

Seriously, you guys, this is the way it should've ended. That Amy just got on my very last nerve.

Thanks to Meg's blog for the link!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cybils Longlist is Out!

Guess what! The nominations have closed for the Cybils, and they now have their longlists posted! And check it, holy schnikes, the YA category has 123 (count 'em) books nominated.

You might remember that I'm on the judging committee for YA. Now is the proper time, I feel, to emit an "eek!"

Scanning through the list of the books (any one of which I may have to judge), I found myself either nodding thoughtfully or going, "oo, haven't read that one yet!" Luckily, I didn't have to say, "Oh my god, someone nominated that?!?" We have good taste in the kidlitosphere, y'all.

Now we sit tight until January 1 and the announcement of the shortlists! To the nominating committees, who now have to read every single book nominated in their categories: Thank you for going through all these before the judges get to it. And I'm so glad I'm not you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book Review: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Book: The Wednesday Wars
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Published: 2007

Every Wednesday afternoon, half the kids in Holling Hoodhood’s class go to Hebrew class at Temple Beth-el and the other half go to Catechism at Saint Adelbert’s. Which leaves Holling, the lone Presbyterian, in the care of Mrs. Baker. Who hates his guts.

At first, it’s all mindless chores like pounding erasers. But by October, Mrs. Baker has come up with a really fiendish plan: Holling is going to read Shakespeare every Wednesday. Oh gak! Just kill him already. But Holling is surprised to find that Shakespeare is actually sort of interesting. There’s all those neat murders, for one thing. He’s also surprised to discover that Mrs. Baker is, and has been, more than a teacher out to make him suffer. As the world changes all around him, Holling learns--from Shakespeare, from Mrs. Baker, from his classmates, and from his family--something of what it means to be human.

Holling’s voice reminds me of Richard Peck’s narrators: hilarious, thoughtful, and nostalgic, as if he is telling you the story from somewhere in his future. Schmidt also resembles Peck in the he captures both a physical age--twelve years old, in seventh grade--and a historical age--1967-1968, in Long Island. Flower children, Bobby Kennedy, the threat of atomic bombs, the Vietnam War and Mickey Mantle all happen to Holling during his seventh-grade year, as well as the more timeless worries about family, friendship, first love, and identity.

This book was first brought to my attention by Richie’s Picks. Richie must get these books straight from the authors, so fast is he to find the good stuff. I usually trust his taste, and I was especially excited for this book because of the Shakespeare connection, being a recovering English major. At the same time, I was a little wary. Sometimes authors like to ladle on the Cul-Chah, because we’re ed-yoo-cating the kiddies, don’tcha know. But Schmidt (an English professor by day) has a light hand with the Shakespeare discussions, weaving them lightly throughout the book and always keeping in mind how they affect Holling’s story. And for a geek like me, who’s read every play that Holling has, Schmidt goes below the surface, extracting unexpected insights that make me want to read the plays all over again. This is an author I’ll definitely seek out again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Excerpty Goodness!

Squee! E. Lockhart has put up an excerpt from her upcoming book at her blog. Squee again!

If I wasn't already a rabid fan of E. Lockhart's, I would be forced to put the book on my list from this sentence alone:
I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order -- including the library lady, the doggies in the window, night of a thousand dogs, the canned beet rebellion and the abduction of the guppy.
I have never been witness to the abduction of a guppy before. See, this is why we read: for the new experiences we can vicariously witness. The next time I need to abduct a guppy, I will know how.

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the news.

Friday, November 16, 2007

National Book Awards

The National Book Awards have been announced, and while Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl didn't win (sigh) in the Young People's Literature category, I can't completely fault the judges' taste because the one that did is Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Hurray! Congrats to Sherman Alexie and all the nominees.

I guess there were also some grown-up books in the running for other prizes or something. Or it could just be a rumor.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the info.

Book Review: Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Book: Everlost
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: 2006

Allie and Nick only met after the car crash that killed them both. Now they’re ghosts, or Afterlights, stuck in Everlost--a place that’s neither life nor the afterlife, but somewhere in between. They’re not alone, either. Hundreds, even thousands of other children inhabit Everlost, knocked off course on their way to where they were going at the time of their deaths.

Allie and Nick make their way to New York City and to Mary, who oversees hundreds of children living in the ghosts of the Twin Towers. It’s tempting to spend forever under Mary’s protection, playing Pac-Man or jumping rope, safe from the monstrous McGill or the roving gangs of bullies outside. But neither Allie nor Nick can quite shake the feeling that there’s more to Everlost than this . . .

I’ve read some other Neal Schusterman books, but I’m blogging this one because, boy, can the man bring the world-building. Everlost isn’t just a pale copy of the living world, or a blissful heaven knock-off. It has its own dangers and rules, with swift and terrible consequences for those who make missteps. It's your childhood nightmare and dream in one, Neverland on crack.

Besides the world-building, I loved the characterization. Schusterman never forgets that his characters are children, although they’ve been nine or twelve or fifteen for a long, long time. Even characters who've been in Everlost for centuries are still fundamentally children, not wise old souls in young shapes.

This book is as much an adventure fantasy as it is anything else, with Allie and Nick newcomers to a strange and rather terrifying new world. And just like the best adventure fantasies, they end up changing their new world in unexpected ways. Try this book for an experience you won't forget in a hurry.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One Week Left to Nominate for the Cybils!

Actually, it's less now, since nominations close on the 21st. Gak!

Hie thee to the Cybils website and nominate some good stuff, or make sure your favorite book is nominated. Remember, you only get one nomination per category, so use it well, grasshopper. But tell all your friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Real Owl Babies!

Remember the adorable Owl Babies by Martin Waddell?

Check out the picture attached to this article and tell me that art doesn't imitate life.

NYT nominates the Best Illustrated Children's Books 2007

You guys, I've just started writing 2007 on my checks and now they're doing best book round-ups. Dang it.

Anyway, here's another one from the New York Times, this time of the Best Illustrated Children's Books. Notice that canny wording? That's so they can slip in stuff like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Peter Sis's The Wall, and Shaun Tan's The Arrival. Good choices all, just not the preschool-oriented fare that the words "picture book" imply.

And as Fuse #8 noted, they messed up a little by including my favorite-ever Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, which was actually published 2006. I'm not going to say anything though, because the more publicity for one of my favorite bunnies, the better.

ETA: I don't know how they did it last year, but kudos to the NYT for taking advantage of a slideshow format and showing us the marvy illustrations that are the reason these books are on the list in the first place.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Book Review: Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte

Book: Raiders Night
Author: Robert Lipsyte
Published: 2006

Matt’s just got one more year to get through before he can escape the house, and his domineering father, for good. One more season of football, as the captain. Then his life is his own, and he never has to be responsible for anyone but himself.

But then a hazing incident at training camp goes too far. Now Matt’s life isn’t so simple. It’s easier to keep his mouth shut, pretending along with the other witnesses that it was no big thing. After all, it was just a joke, right? Just a little fun, something Chris should have expected if he was going to make it on the Raiders. If he can’t handle it, that’s his problem. But Chris can’t handle it, and he repeatedly reaches out to Matt, who makes the decision over and over again to blow him off . . . until the unthinkable happens. Even though he never wanted this captainship . . . it’s time for Matt to act like a captain.

Many high-school sports books show the quarterback or the star pitcher as a morally pure godling, who glides above the foibles of mortal men. Though he has the reputation as the humble, good-hearted hero, Matt has feet of clay. Without coyness or apology, Lipsyte shows him taking steroids, abusing Vicodin, drinking, cheating on his girlfriend, and feeding off the hero worship that envelops him during football season. Therefore, it’s even more of an accomplishment that Matt is as sympathetic as he is. Try out this book on an older teen (boy or girl, although it’s probably more of a sure thing with boys) who wants a book about a flawed young man trying to understand what is the right thing, and how to do it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sara Zarr Interview

Hey, people! It's an interview with the Bibliovore's favorite National-Book-Award nominee, Sara Zarr!

Funny Books, Awards, and Kids' Lit

Check out this month's Edge of the Forest for an article by MotherReader about the way funny books are overlooked by awards committees. It's something I've growled about for a long time, and her summation says it perfectly:
. . . the Newbery tends to prefer the dead mother, the dead father, the autistic child, or the dying baby—and that's just the 2007 winners . . .

It may be Great Literature, but so is Wuthering Heights, and I only read that to cure insomnia. Not that people don't like it, but what annoys me is the feeling that you have to like it or you are Not A Cultured Person. Ease off, folks. Let the kids enjoy The Giver and Captain Underpants in equal measure.

We're probably not going to change anyone's mind. Dead mothers and dying babies are still going to have a leg up over fart jokes, at least on the awards ladder. But let's encourage people to see the awards for what they intend to be--a measure of how well-written a book is, rather than a measure of how many kids will enjoy it and want to read it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of 2007

Publisher's Weekly has already picked the best books of 2007. If you're published in November or December, you are just SOL, apparently.

That said, I do agree with some of their picks. For instance, Knuffle Bunny Too and Emily Gravett's Orange Pear Apple Bear in the picture book category.

But let's have a look at the "children's fiction" section, and count how many you wouldn't give to your eight-year-old.

I'll give you a minute.

Not that I don't want to sing the praises of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, or Catherine Jinks' Evil Genius. They deserve all the champagne and truffles they can get.

But come on, PW, just make a separate YA section already, and give up more space in children's! Where the hell is the love for The Talented Clementine, huh? You have every genre known to adultkind up there, but you can't be arsed to sacrifice a few more inches to tell parents about books like Margaret Peterson Haddix's Dexter the Tough?

I love YA. You people know this. But there's a teeming underworld of marvelous children's books that don't get any attention from mainstream media, and this is where it starts. Because if PW doesn't consider them worth a mention, why should anybody else?

I gotta go breathe into a paper bag now.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the heads-up.

Winter Blog Blast Tour!

Hey, folks, warm up your winter with the Blog Blast Tour. Authors visit blogs, and interviewing happens. Check out the entire line-up here.

Myself, I'm definitely planning on catching Perry Moore at the Ya Ya Yas, Laura Amy Schlitz at Fuse #8, Connie Willis at Finding Wonderland . . . oh, heck, I may as well just go to 'em all.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Lauren Child in the Telegraph

I've loved Lauren Child's work since reading Utterly Me, Clarice Bean. Today, my faithful RSS'd Google search delivered unto me a fun little interview with the lady herself.

The world of Lauren Child, children's author

Unfortunately, it's not very meaty, but she does talk a bit about her unique creative style.

Cheerios Writing Contest

Talk about a weird combination.

Apparently Cheerios has teamed up with First Book and Simon & Schuster in the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Children's Book Contest, which is a gag-worthy name, but I'll overlook that because I like the judging criteria:
1. Appropriate story/content for children ages 4 to 8
2. Emotional Connection
3. Writing Quality
4. Uniqueness
5. Read Aloud Potential

And you don't have to mention Cheerios at all.

Here's the rest of the info .

Also, when I read this sentence:
Cheerios is searching for the next great children’s book author by inviting previously unpublished adult authors to submit their story for a children’s book.

. . . I thought they were saying, "Can't make it as an author for adults? Try the kiddies! Those little twerps will read anything!" and I started growling. On re-reading, I think they were trying to ensure that they didn't get any actual child authors.

I hope.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Review: Cock-a-Doodle-Hooo by Mick Manning

Book: Cock-a-Doodle-Hoooooo!
Author: Mick Manning
Illustrator: Brita Granströ
Published: 2007

One rain-soaked, shivery night, an owl wanders into a henhouse. He was just looking for somewhere warm and cosy to sleep, but the hens are shocked when they wake up. He can’t stay unless he can act like a rooster, they tell him. But the owl really wants to stay! With the help of the speckled hen, he learns to strut and peck, and even attempts to hoot . . . but it’s only by being himself that he gains a place in the henhouse.

This is hardly a new story, but the way Manning goes about it is charming. The suspicious hens reminded me of a clutch of fussy little old ladies, and their speech-ballooned comments on the poor owl’s shortcomings helped that along.

Granström’s soft pencil-and-watercolor illustrations bring the owl’s story to life. My favorite was the cover-one brown-and-black owl, surrounded by red and white hens. I fell in love with this book because of its simple story of someone who doesn’t fit in, no matter how hard he tries.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Year of LibraryThing

A year ago, I started keeping track of my reading via LibraryThing. Now it's time to see what I read:

By the Numbers
513 books in all (however, this isn't an accurate count because I didn't start recording picture books until September). That's about 1.4 books a day.

257 teen books

182 tween books

182 children's books

54 preschool books (since September)

It doesn't add up quite right because some books I put in multiple categories. Very few books were only tween, for example. But you have to admit, that's a heck of a list. Even I didn't know I read that much.

Read-iest month:
September 2007 (84)
Adjusted for inclusion of picture books
November 2007 (45)

Top five tags:
friendship (113)
love (80)
funny (75)
historical (71)
danger (40)

Most surprising tag:
Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. (Oh, come on. You totally would have made that joke too.)

Interesting. I always knew that I loved YA books the most, but I expected tween and children's books to be much further behind than they were. I also always knew I liked that mushy stuff, but the importance of friendship in the books I read was another surprise.

I even find that I remember books better if I've entered them into LT, as if stopping and thinking through the strongest themes or conflicts has impressed them deeper into my brain somehow. Of course, the very best need no LT reminder, but it's good to have a record of the mid-list, so to speak.

Now I'm just waiting for them to put Boolean operation in the tag search field, so I can figure out how many funny books I read in December, for example. Oh my god, I'm such a library geek.

This was kind of neat. I'm going to try and do one of these at the end of each month, just to see what I read.

How do you keep tabs on your reading? Do you?

Jamie Lee Curtis

I got to see Jamie Lee Curtis talk about her books and her life at the California Library Association's Annual Conference this past weekend. Now we all know how MotherReader feels about celebrity authors, and on the whole I agree with her, but I do like Jamie Lee Curtis.

The stupendous part of this piece of luck was this: she read her brand-new manuscript to us, one that's not even in the hands of the artist yet. I didn't record it or anything, which would have been unethical and plus a pain to transcribe. But it's called Big Words for Little People, and it glories in words like "Stupendous! Absurd! Intelligence! Consequences!"

I love language, especially big words, which are often expunged from children's books on the basis that they're too big. Pfft. Try singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with a four-year-old and you learn that no word is too big for them to pronounce. And the beef with words being too big for them to understand . . . well, that's what context is for. Seriously, ferreting out the meaning of words from context clues is a skill they're going to need as they go into school. Let's have more big words, shall we?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chet Gecko Cuteness!

I'm a tad late on this one . . . the book came out on October 1. But nevertheless, this is a very fun trailer (made by a teen, according to Hale) for Bruce Hale's new Chet Gecko mystery.

Doesn't that music make you want to go make bathtub gin and dance the Charleston?

Time is Ticking Away . . .

. . . you've only got until November 21 to nominate for the Cybils! Run like bunny! Make sure that my fellow judges and I have some really freakin' good YA books to read!

All you hafta do, folks, is jump over to the Cybils blog and leave a comment nominating just one title. The number shall not be two, nor shall it be three. Five is right out. If thou nominatest more than one, both nominations shall be naughty in the sight of the Cybils, and shall be snuffed out.

Oh, yeah, and I guess you can nominate in a few other categories too. You know, while you're over there.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Review: The Book of ZZZs by Arlene Alda

Book: The Book of ZZZs
Author: Arlene Alda
Published: 2005

Some people sleep during the day. Some people sleep at night. Some people sleep late in a pile of blankets, and some take afternoon naps in a hammock. This book was made for bedtime or naptime lulling, even for the stubborn kids that refuse to close their eyes no matter what you do. They’ll get so intrigued by the flamingo, sleeping one-legged, and the twin infants (one sound asleep, one clearly fighting it) that the urge to copy the subjects of the photos will sneak up on them before they know it.

Arlene Alda (wife of actor Alan) uses photographs that feature human and animal sleepers of all ages to accompany simple, almost lullabyish prose. Not only kittens and puppies, but also flamingos, meerkats, a toddler on Daddy's shoulders, and grown-ups in hammocks populate these pages. My personal favorite was the cover shot which featured a baby seal, his chin propped up on a smooth boulder as he snored away. Everyone looks so comfortable that it tempted me to lay my head down and catch a few winks myself. Pick this up the next time you need a bedtime story for all ages.

E. Lockhart Interview!

Check it out over at Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Picture Book Meme

A couple of weeks ago, 2nd gen librarian came up with a meme that's taken me this long to finish. Why?

Umm . . . I don't really remember any picture books from when I was little. I don't know why this should be, except that I jumped into longer stuff very, very early.

This is very embarrassing.

I had to call my mom. Here's what she said:

The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola
I remember this nonfiction book very vividly for some reason. I remember the way that popcorn exploded all over the page, and the illustration of the little demon in the popcorn getting madder and madder as he heated up. The story not so much, but I still love Tomie dePaola's artwork.

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illus. James Marshall
Oh my gosh! I felt sooooooooo smart because I knew that Miss Nelson and Miss Viola Swamp were the same person. That crafty Miss Nelson!

Corduroy by Don Freeman
Now reminded, I vividly recall my envy of Corduroy. He got to wander the department store on his own, at night! Even if that ol' security guard did catch him when he tried to pull the button off the mattress and knocked a lamp over.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I don't remember adoring this book but my mom swears I did. Her theory is that it was the holes and the different sizes of page, and the huge variety of the caterpillar's meals. I still like reading it today.

Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish
Loved the humor of this. (Mom again.) I still have a real soft spot for Amelia Bedelia, and the language play inherent in the books. I talk to people about idioms and figures of speech, but I think it's the same thrill I got when reading Miss Nelson is Missing, that I knew something the character didn't. Of course, I enjoy a good havoc, and Amelia Bedelia brought the havoc.

So that's it. Thanks for tagging me! It brought back memories. I tag anyone who's reading this who hasn't done it yet.

Finally, a Library Sitcom!

Unfortunately, it airs in Australia. Dang. Anyway, here's the commercial:

Anyone living in Australia? Anyone? Bueller?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

News Flash - Teens Still Read!

Good thing too, or a lot of cool people would be out of a job.

Check out the article over at the Roanoke Times.

Jane Yolen, Kids Lit, and ABC books

Anne Boles Levy over at Book Buds has a great interview with Jane Yolen, who's been called the American Hans Christian Andersen by somebody whose name I'm not recalling at the moment.

This interview isn't about her fairy tales, however. It's about alphabet books, the kids lit biz, and her position as Children's Ambassador for the Winterthur Museum. She's also judging a contest for kids' writing! How cool is that? I'm off to alter my birth certificate now.

Still Snowing!

Hey folks, don't forget about the Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure auction. That's still on, and so is the tangential project, Blogging for a Cure. Check out this post from A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy for a list of this week's blogger/illustrator interviews.

Don't miss your chance to own some amazing art and support a great cause, all in one.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Reactions to J.K. Rowling's Bombshell

Check out this post from Worth the Trip for an international listing of breathless newspaper articles reporting on the Headmaster's private life.

One can't help feeling that Dumbledore himself would watch the furor with twinkle-eyed amusement.

Kidlit Reference or Pure Coincidence?

You decide.

Really, it took me a moment. The strip is only middling funny if you don't factor that in, kind of under-par for the normally amusing Patrick MacDonnell. But once I remembered Twilight, I practically fell off my chair.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

J.K. Rowling, Dumbledore, and AfterElton

So apparently JKR outed Dumbledore in one of her author visits last night. I read a fair smattering of coverage about it on the blogs, including reactions from Fuse #8 and Wizard's Wireless. But I really wanted to see what AfterElton, the website about gay men in the media, had to say.

Was I surprised?

Yes, partly because of our culture's heteronormative trend, but partly because of Dumbledore's role in the books. He's a wise mentor, and those characters are essentially sexless. It's very difficult to think of them having lives outside of dispensing advice.

Am I pleased?

Yes. Gay (and lesbian) kids need to see more gay and lesbian characters in books where the books aren't all about the terrible, terrible angst of their life as someone who loves the "wrong" sex. And to have one of the most beloved and revered characters in recent children's literature be gay . . . that's a very positive message.

Do I think that the message is diluted?

Yes. By staging the revelation outside of the purview of the books, JKR seems to have tacked it on. Oh, by the way, he's gay. On the other hand, the books are not about Dumbledore, and while you could argue that his sexual orientation is such a central element of his character that it shouldn't have been left out . . . well, see question number one up there.

Boy, are they gonna be talking about this one.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Willems Speaks!

Dude, you guys! Video interview with Mo Willems!

Transcribed from a bit where he talks about his characters, who are not blissfully happy rodents:
"The characters in my books don't realize they're funny. They're taking their lives very seriously. The pigeon who wants to drive the bus, he doesn't think that this is a funny book. He thinks it's tragedy."

And don't click out when they say bye, because there's a little after-credits treat that is so distinctively Mo Willems.

Found via Mo Willems's (Willems'? Willemses?) blog.

Books are Healthy!

I ran across an article in Madison, WI's Capital Times about a pediatrician/librarian (yes, you read that right) who stresses literacy in checkups as much as physical indicators of child health.

Key quote:
If the patient shows interest and curiosity, he can tell if books are a natural part of their life. At a certain age, if the child holds the book right-side up, opens it and turns the pages, the doctor gets a quick read on motor skills.

And if children begin talking about what they see in the book, Navsaria can see if they are building social skills.

"This is part of the tools we use to assess children's health."

The article goes on to talk about his efforts to encourage literacy in hospitals and among the parents of his patients.

I love it! Can we get this to spread, please?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Library Meme

Okay folks, here's another Teen Read Week meme. I can't claim credit for this one, though. I found it at E. Lockhart's blog, and she found it through MemeGirls.

1. How old were you when you got your first library card?
I think I must have been about ten. At any rate, after the age of ten is when I remember losing my library card. And again. And again. Aaaaaaaaaand again. The family joke is that I paid for my hometown's new library with the lost-card and overdue fees.

2. What's the first book you can remember reading from a library?
That is lost in the mists of time. Knowing my mother (a teacher who fed us all the books we would consume), something really good for kids. Possibly Seussian in nature.

3. Did you ever participate in a summer reading program or other kids' event at a library growing up?
Oh, heck, yes. I was that annoying one who finished first every year.

4. Do you remember when card catalogues weren't computerized?
I do, actually, although I don't remember using them much. It was a Big Hairy Deal when they did get computerized, so much so that my entire class was marched about a half-mile down the road to visit the library and learn how our lives would be changed by computer catalogs. At which point we whined about how far we were gonna have to walk back.

5. When was the last time you went to the library?
Since I'm a children's librarian . . . today.

6. How many books do you usually check out of the library at one time?
I allow myself two per workday, or my library-book-shelf would collapse from the weight. It's groaning now.

7. Name one great author you've discovered at your library.
Just one? Puh. Ooookay. Although this will sound like sucking up . . . E. Lockhart.

8. What was the librarian at your elementary school like?
I had three elementary schools because of moves. The first was unmemorable. Possibly she did not exist. The second was a strange one . . . while she was cool enough to lead me to Nancy Drew in second grade, she made me read them in order. ??? The third was made of awesome. Hi, Mrs. Robb from Bird School in Plymouth, Michigan! You are AWESOME!

9. How many times a year do you go to the library?
I'm guesstimating 250. See answer to #5.

10. If you could change on thing about your library, what would it be and why?
It needs to be bigger. Way bigger. And have all the books I want to read in it. As long as we're dreaming.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book Review: Tiger Can't Sleep by S.J. Fore

Book: Tiger Can't Sleep
Author: S.J. Fore
Published: 2006

. . . and neither can the little boy whose closet Tiger is hiding in. Every time he starts to drift off, he hears another noise . . . the bonk-bonk of a bouncing ball, the crunch-crunch of potato chips, even the tap-tap, oompah, boom-boom-crash of a one-tiger band. Will Tiger--and more importantly, the little boy--ever get to sleep?

I love to use this at music or bedtime storytimes. It's always a hit for two reasons. Kids identify with the mischievous tiger, who is always surprised and contrite at the amount of noise he’s making. They also get to take a parent’s part through the little boy with such lines as “TIGER! That does it! Don’t make me come back over there!” Any parent--and any kid--knows what it will finally take to get the tiger to sleep.

More Nick and Norah News

Anyone in New York City? Anyone? Bueller?

So they're having an open casting call for extras to work on "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." In spite of my aforementioned doubts about Michael Cera in the male title role, I would love to go to this. If, y'know, I weren't all the way across the country.

Key Quote:
Mohawks, piercings, liberty spikes, tattoos are all plus!

Dang it. I knew I should have gotten a lip plate when I had the chance.

Plus, I really like the fact that they're using the real NYC and real indie bands for the movie, instead of plastic Los Angeles versions.

Story of a Phone Call. And a Migraine.

So apparently Sara Zarr, author of National-Book-Award-nominee Story of a Girl, was not having her most wonderful day ever when she got The Call about her nomination. Check out her blog for the full story. No wonder this woman got nominated on her debut novel . . . she describes her migraine pain so skillfully that I'm having sympathy twinges.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Teen Read Week

It's Teen Read Week! Yay! In honor of this once-a-year event, here's a meme for y'all:

What were your three favorite books as a teenager? Doesn't need to be a teen book necessarily, just what you read between the ages of 12 and 18ish. I'll start.

3) The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
The danger! The romance! The horses! The sword(s)! How can any teenage girl not eat this book up?

2) A Ring of Endless Light - Madeleine L'Engle
My love for this book has been documented elsewhere in this blog. Vicky's confusion abut the Big Questions certainly spoke to my lost and floundering teenage mind, and helped me explore some wounds that had been raw and open for years.

1) Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
I'm counting this because I was eighteen when I first read it all the way through, and I still read it today. Sly, funny, dry, so veddy veddy British, and most of all? To quote Bridget Jones: Mr Darcy. Phwoar.

Hmmm. Interesting. Between the ages of 12 and 18, my reading matter was almost 100% romance novels, yet when pressed I come up with three non-romance novels. Don't get me wrong, I still love 'em, but no romance novel that I read at that age comes to mind anymore.

Okay, I'm tagging 2nd gen librarian and Wizard's Wireless. This is revenge for the picture book meme, which I still haven't finished. Go to!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging for a Cure

Don't forget about the Robert's Snow auctions and 7-Imp's accompanying brainchild, Blogging for a Cure.

The Robert's Snow auctions were created to raise money and awareness for Ewing's sarcoma, the cancer that recently took the life of Robert Mercer, husband of author Grace Lin. Children's book illustrators are painting wooden snowflakes and auctioning them off to some lucky bidder.

But wait! It gets better! During the auctions, the artists will visit various blogs and talk about their art, Robert's Snow, and their books. Today's guests:
Randy Cecil at ChatRabbit
Michelle Chang at The Longstockings
Kevin Hawkes at Cynthia Lord's Journal
Barbara Lehman at The Excelsior File
Grace Lin at In the Pages

Check out the sidebar over at In the Pages for a comprehensive list.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the reminder.

Mean Girls

Here's an article on what Maclean's calls the "mean girl" books . . . stretching from Sweet Valley High to Gossip Girls. It has the usual blah-blah-blah corrupting our children blah blah blah valourizing viciousness (oo, I like that phrase, nicely alliterative) blah blah blah burn 'em all and break out the Scarlet A's. Then it turns to a different point of view.

Girls, in other words, seem to already understand the Darwinian social dynamics of junior high. And the books may actually serve as a tool for them to attempt to make sense of it all.

And later . . .

And the books also give the girls who are not necessarily perched on the top social rung a risk-free context in which to play out various social hypotheticals. "I think the reason girls like to read the books is because they make you feel like you're actually part of a really important clique," says Anthi. "It gives you a feeling of power." Adds Kristen: "And you know the secrets." At the same time, they can judge and reject the bad behaviour from the safety of their room.

Hmmmm. I do remember the viciousness of middle school, although I was so far down the ladder that I didn't come in for much more than mockery, instead of the high-stakes shark fights this article presents. I haven't read any of these books (I didn't even read Sweet Valley High). Can someone who has chip in on this one?

Jan Brett Interview

An interview with children's author/illustrator Jan Brett.

"I love to tell stories, but the actual craft of writing still is something I have to tie myself into the chair (to do)," she said from her home in Norwell, Mass. "It is such hard work for me. But the drawing, I can't help myself. Like right now, I'm like, 'Don't start drawing, you have to concentrate on your phone conversation.'"

My favorite one of hers is The Mitten, with all the gorgeous Scandanavian details in the home and all the details of the winter woods outside.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist . . . the Movie Extravaganza!

Oh, god, I hope not.

Apparently David Levithan and Rachel Cohn's ode to New York City, teenage love/lust, and the punk scene is on track to become a movie. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is supposed to hit screens sometime in 2009.

Now here's where it gets weird. Apparently, Michael Cera is attached to play Nick.


Michael "George Michael Bluth" Cera?

Don't get me wrong, I think he's a good actor. But I've only seen him in a certain kind of adorkable role. I want to cuddle a plush doll of Michael Cera and pinch its cheeks. He just doesn't scream "Nick" to me.

But who knows? All I've seen is "Arrested Development" and some trailers for "Superbad," and I know how easy it is to get typecast, especially if you do a good job.

I have never heard of the girl who's supposed to play Norah. Her IMDb photo, however, looks pretty Norah to me.

P.S. Badly named? Grr, zap2it. Grrr, I say.

Thanks to Kid Lit for the link.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Review: Journey to the Blue Moon by Rebecca Rupp

Book: Journey to the Blue Moon
Author: Rebecca Rupp
Published: 2006

Alex has a problem. More and more lately, he’s been obsessed with the idea of all the time that gets away from him while he sits through boring school classes and toils through chores. What’s the point of it all, really? Of course, his parents don’t see it that way.

Now he’s in even deeper trouble because he’s lost his grandfather’s watch. Fortunately, a weird little old lady at the library tells him there’s a way to get it back . . . go to the moon while it’s blue, which only happens once a century. This is where all the lost things reside. Lucky for Alex, the blue moon starts that very night. His way up lies with scavenging rats, a cobbled-together spaceship, and a token to ADMIT ONE. But Alex has to find his grandfather’s watch before the moon turns white again, or he’s trapped until the next time it turns blue.

I kept recalling The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice in Wonderland as I read this book. It has some of the same feel, a journey through a kooky and slightly dangerous land, with lots of linguistic treats (like the Cavern of Lost Tempers, where Alex and all his new friends wake up in very bad moods). Some parts verge on the didactic, but overall Rupp keeps it light. Check this out for a clever adventure story about all the things we lose, from hearts to ways to time.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going on Record with my Whuh?

Okay, I'm blinking.

St. Louis Library Accuses Patron of Creating Controversial Display

I'm still detangling, but they believe that a patron came in, pulled books on sex and homosexuality off the shelf in the teen area, arranged a Make-Your-Own Display, took pictures, and sent them to a website that's against nasty, nasty books in libraries. Presumably this was to fan flames of outrage that were already crackling merrily.

Kudos to the St. Louis Library for two things:
1) Declaring that no books would leave the library.
2) Reviewing the books with the reconsideration committee to see if any should be moved to another section. (In case you're interested, so far 15 out of 17 have been determined to be suitable for the teen area and they are still reviewing the last two.)

ETA: Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

National Book Award finalists!

So they posted the finalists for the National Book Award today. In the Young People's Literature category, there's two of the kidlitosphere's favorites, Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl. Congrats to these authors and all their fellow finalists!

On a side note, may we all take a moment to appreciate how 1950's the term "Young People's Literature" is? I feel like we should go to the malt shop and gossip about how Betty Ann let her boyfriend Joe pet below the neck.

Thanks to Ally Carter's blog for the news.

Mo Willems on Reading With Your Kids . . .

. . . like that guy knows anything about it.

Susan over at Wizard's Wireless caught this article by Mo "Don't Let the Knuffle Monster Have a Hot Dog" Willems. In it, he suggests a few simple ways to turn your kids on to reading. I like the insto-book report idea he throws out (although I can see it being abused by overenthusiastic parents). Still, here's a valid point about its benefit for the parent:
Often the book my kid has chosen to read is more exciting than mine, particularly if mine is another one of those reports by the Institute, laboriously pointing to reams of statistics about kids who (just like me when I was young) don't like reading. They call these children "Reluctant Readers." (Back when I was a kid, they were called "boys.")

I'm doing parenting workshops at my library right now, and this is totally getting printed out and forced upon my hapless victims--uh, I mean, parents.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Book Review: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Book: The Perilous Gard
Author: Elizabeth Marie Pope
Published: 1971

Kate Sutton has always existed in the shadow of her lovely sister. When she earns the Queen’s disfavor for something Alicia did, it’s just business as usual. But this time, she gets exiled to the wilds of Devonshire. Her new home is a strange place called Elvenwood, haunted by a mysterious Lady and legends of merciless Fairy Folk under the hill. More recently, it’s haunted by Christopher Heron, the younger brother of her new guardian, whose sudden disappearance is taken as just another uncommon event in Elvenwood.

When Kate is taken by the Fairy Folk and held prisoner under the hill, things look bad. They’re worse when she realizes that Christopher Heron is being held for a human sacrifice on All Hallow’s Eve, just a few weeks away. Now all Kate’s got is her wits and her nerve. It’s not much to save both their lives, but it might be just enough.

Kate is the kind of person who would be difficult to like in real life, but whom you can’t help rooting for in a story. Tough-minded, stubborn, practical in the face of whatever horrors the Fairy Folk can throw at her, Kate’s strength and charm lies in her contrariness.

Elizabeth Marie Pope herself was an academic specializing in Elizabethan England, and you can see the influence of various theories regarding fairy folk tales in her portrayal of the cruel Fairy Folk. They seem mostly to be regular mortals, practicing an ancient and barbaric religion, although the origins of the Lady are more in doubt. However, readers can take the Fairy Folk whatever way they want to and enjoy this story of a damsel who’s more than capable of getting herself out of distress.

P.S. For the ludicrously romantic out there, the last few pages are worth reading multiple times. They’re so true to character that it makes me grin maniacally every time.

Kidlitosphere 07

What do I say about this day?

I could gush about the warm and friendly faces-of-blogs that I met (too many to list), or thank Robin endlessly for all the hard work that she did, or even gabble about the authors that I forced to sign my Planet Esme poster (ironically, only Esme Raji Codell herself was left out, as she was circulating the room with cookies rather than being parked at her spot signing books and chatting like everyone else).

But I figure that a majority of the people reading this blog were there, so they don’t need a reiteration of what are sure to be their own feelings. Instead, I’ll talk about what I came away with.

Link, baby, link
One of the discussions was on how to promote your blog without being completely obnoxious, led by MotherReader, arguably the queen of self-promotion and blog community in this sphere. She pointed out that not only should you thank other bloggers for heads-up on neat stuff by linking to their websites, when someone does the same for you, you should go thank them.

Various sites were thrown around to help keep track of linkiness. Technorati, Statcounter, and an RSS-ized Google search are all ones I’m going to put into use.

Turns out that getting ARCs (advance reader copies) is basically a matter of writing publishers or authors and begging. I practiced on PJ Haarsma, Ellen Klarges, Julie Halpern, and Micol Ostow and others . . . and it worked! Also, when you’re at conferences, if you let people know you have a kidlit blog, they are much more responsive now than they would have been even a year ago.

Just Keep Writing
Finally, the good blogger (like the good writer in general) just has to blog every day. Whether it’s writing more reviews, joining in on stuff like the 48-hour Read or the memes that go around constantly, or just putting up fun stuff that you’ve found on other blogs, you’ve got to keep cranking out the content.

This is by no means everything I took away. Not by a long shot. It's just the most important stuff.

Special "HI" to all the people I hung out with the most, like Ellen Klages, Brian Mandabach, Fuse #8's Betsy, Susan of Wizard's Wireless, Kristen from 2ndgenlibrarian, a really cool chick with "Celery Soda" written on her nametag (I don't remember your name and Google is failing me on your blog! Comment if this is you), and Barbara Shoup.

Super-special thanks to Jen Robinson, who lent me her brand-new copy of Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven when I begged and whined, and Kathy, who gave me a ride to the train station at 11:00 at night.

I loved meeting you all and thank you everyone for a fine, fine conference. See you next year in Portland!

ETA: So apparently, Celery Soda is one Lisa Chellman, which proves that Barbara Shoup is much more observant than I am, as she noted the name in her report, hosted over at The Flux Blog. Sorry about that, Lisa!

Set Your TiVo - Phillip Pullman on "Today"

Loved His Dark Materials? Slavering for the movie? Phillip Pullman will be on the "Today" Show on November 2nd, and the show already has a form up so you can email your questions. What are you waiting for?

Thanks to the Child_Lit listserv for the heads-up.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mitali Perkins and Sparrowblog

Okay, I promise I'll write up an account of Kidlitosphere 07. In fact, I have the beginnings of my thoughts organized on my computer. (Yes, but that doesn't do us any good, you say. Tough cookies.)

I ran across something on the Child_Lit listserv that intrigued me because I recently finished Mitali Perkins' First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover. (Good book, by the way.) In it, Sameera/Sparrow's blog is very important to her retaining her voice and sanity amidst the madness of a presidential campaign.

Well, this being an election year (Yeah! I know! I was surprised too!), Mitali Perkins has set up a blog where "Sparrow" comments on the ongoing campaign and the children of the frontrunners. Definitely interesting to check out if you liked the book or are into politics.

Friday, October 05, 2007

KidLitosphere 07 Eve!

Just typing a quick line to y'all because I'm in the Windy City (a little outside of it actually) for the 1st annual Kitlitosphere Conference! I'm so excited I may pass out. Or go to sleep. At this time of the night, and considering how early I have to get up in the morning because my brother lives a considerable distance from the hotel (isn't mooching on relatives grand?), going to sleep is probably the better option, if less attainable.

To those I will meet tomorrow: can't wait!

To those I won't meet tomorrow: maybe next year?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

That steady thumping sound . . .

. . . is me kicking myself for missing last night's chat with Meg Cabot and tonight's with Tiffany Trent over at Readergirlz. Gah! Gaaaaaaaaah! However, there's a month of great authors to go, so I hope to see us all there. Including me.

Banned Book video

Your stroke for today is sponsored by the challengers of And Tango Makes Three.

Okay, folks, seriously, check out the comments on this video over at YouTube. Reading them makes it clear to me that for all our righteous rage over banned books, many non-librarians don't have a clear idea of whether we're actually for or against this practice, and just what a banned book is. When you're doing displays or programs on censorship and Banned Book week, how do you make this clear?

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean

Book: The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Published: 2007

Harriet Bean has always thought it was just herself and her absent-minded dad. But one day he happens to say, “Your aunts would like to hear about that!”

Uh . . . what aunts?

Undeterred by years of lost time, Harriet Bean is off, tracking her brand-new aunts down across the country. And what marvelous aunts they are . . . a circus strongwoman, a ventriloquist opera singer, two mind-reading private detectives, and the bossiest teacher ever.

There’s an off-kilter feel about this book (like the names of the aunts: Veronica, Majolica, Harmonica, Thessalonika, and Japonica) that reminds me of Roald Dahl at his poker-faced dottiest. It’s also a very fast-moving story, great for reluctant readers, fans of Roald Dahl, and reading aloud.

Alexander McCall Smith is best known in this country for his Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books. I’ve never read those, but if they’re anything like as sly and charming as The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, I’m putting myself on the list now.

Fan-girl time

Next up in my mission to break your blog aggregator, a conversation between Megan Whalen Turner and Shannon Hale, two women who wrote blow-your-hair-off fabu series, neither of which have actual catchy series names. But this is okay, because everybody knows about Attolia and Kildanree.

Well, you should.

Monday Funny

Why does this make me giggle?

I don't know. But it does.

More Cybils News

Okay, people, it's October 1 and you know what that means.

No, it's not time to buy mammoth bags of candy and pretend that you're stocking up for Halloween. Psshh. Don't you know the proper time to start that is July?

No, it's time to nominate for the Cybils! You don't need to be a blogger, a librarian, or a kid to nominate. You just have to read and love children's and YA lit. Go to!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Smart Bitches and Banned Books

This is kind of neat. The Smart Bitches over at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books are posting reviews from readers of some of the 100 most banned books from the ALA. Some they love, some they hate, but in Smart Bitchery tradition, they're always honest. This is one of my favorite non-kidlit blogs. Go check it out, and maybe submit your own review!

Sunday Funny

This is the kind of thing that makes a librarian simultaneously laugh and cry.

ETA: Mildish spoiler for HP7, if you haven't read it yet.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Mo Willems posted a few recently taken author pics on his blog. How much do I love that first one?

The answer is, as the bastard love child of Georgia Nicolson and Cute Overload would say, vair vair moishe.

Best Books 2007: Ze Grande Liste!

So MotherReader posted her final list of Best Books of 2007, as nominated by bloggers all over the kidlitosphere. And it only took me, ummm, a week to post it? Go me. Clearly on top of things. In my own defense it took me that long to write down all those titles in my Blue Journal of Stuff I Gotta Read Before I Die.

The Arrival in New York Magazine

Shaun Tan's The Arrival is being excerpted in the New York Magazine this week. Go see! It looks so cool!

Monday, September 24, 2007


Book: Rash
Author: Pete Hautman
Published: 2006

Welcome to the United Safer States of America, where everyone wears helmets and road rage is punishable by prison time. Bo Marsten’s got a few strikes against him already--criminal behavior runs in his family. Both his dad and his brother are doing time for getting in fights. So it’s no real surprise when his temper gets the best of him after a classmate plays a nasty trick. He gets sent up the river . . . or in this case, up to the tundra.

Sentenced to hard time in a pizza factory that has only a wire fence between the prisoners and the hungry polar bears, Bo is suddenly hip-deep in an unsafe world that’s been outlawed for a hundred years, out in civilized America. He catches a break when he makes the prison football team (another outlawed sport). They get special privileges--among them, carte blanche to be as violent as possible in the name of football. It’s like some lawless mirror world that exists in the shadows of a country wrapped about with as many rules as possible.

Initially, Bo revels in it. But he begins to understand that somewhere in between utter safety and utter freedom lies an important question--who is responsible for his actions? Society, with all its rules and regulations? Or himself?

I really enjoy sci-fi, especially dystopic, society-questioning sci-fi. Especially especially dystopic, society-questioning sci-fi with the world all thought through and rendered in just enough detail to light up the story but not send everyone to sleep. (J.R.R. Tolkein, I am LOOKING AT YOU.) Little details really put Bo’s world into three dimensions, like Bo’s complaint that most normal mothers would call the ambulance for a bee sting, or the wild popularity of a “survivor chair” that can extend someone’s life up to seventeen months--if they stay in it 24/7.

But aside from this well-realized world, the story is one familiar to everyone who’s ever come to realize that blaming others can only take you so far, and at some point, the only person controlling your fate is going to be yourself.

Bragging Rights

So you know that Cybils thing? They've just posted the list of the nominating and judging committees. Check out the YA group . . . notice anybody familiar?

Yep! That's me!

Hysterical Laughter

For perhaps the first time in my life, I wish I lived in Wyoming.

Here's why.

Apparently Wyoming libraries have come up with this fun campaign, including the reading Mud Flap girl, who is apparently causing a bit of a flap all by her nekkid self. Check out the website for more.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go perform some Photoshop on that first bookmark.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My Favorite Holiday!

No, it's not Christmas. It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I'm all wenched out, or as wenched out as you can be in a government job, for the Talk Like a Pirate Day program at my library. The kids loved it. And why shouldn't they? How often does anyone get the excuse to yell "ARRRRRRR!!" and call someone a swabbie?

To celebrate, check out this video:

My favorite part is the facial expressions on the face of the regular Joe who accidentally gets on the bus. Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Body of Christopher Creed

Book: The Body of Christopher Creed
Author: Carol Plum-Ucci
Published: 2000

On the day that town weirdo Christopher Creed disappeared, his high-school principal got an e-mail from him, with a strong implication that he plans to kill himself. His mother refuses to believe it, and his classmates treat it as a joke. One of the popular crew, however, is deeply disturbed by seeing his own name in the e-mail. As Torey Adams reflects on how he and his classmates treated Chris from kindergarten on, he begins to see that the other boy might have some reason for killing himself. But did he? Or did someone else help him shuffle off this mortal coil?

As Torey and two other town outcasts probe into Chris’s life and disappearance, two questions haunt them. One, to what extent are they, personally, responsible for Chris’s emotional turmoil? And two, could it be possible that he’s still alive?

Plum-Ucci won a 2001 Printz Honor for this book about perception, gossip, reputation, and collective guilt in the destruction of one person. We’ve all known somebody like Christopher Creed--a social cripple, someone who seems to get on everyone’s nerves just by existing. How many of us have stopped to consider what makes them that way, and how much of it is their fault and how much ours?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Support Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure

I was very saddened to hear recently that Robert Mercer, husband of author Grace Lin, passed away from cancer late in August. My sincerest sympathies are with this family right now.

If you want to support cancer research, check out this auction or send donations directly to the address below:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund
Attn: Lauren Nash
10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor
Brookline, MA 02445-7226

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Playing Dad's Song

It seemed like an appropriate day for this one.

Book: Playing Dad’s Song
Author: D. Dina Friedman
Published: 2006

Ever since Gus’s dad died in the 9/11 attacks, there’s been a hole in him that nothing can fill up. He doesn’t have the constant pressure of work, like his mom, or the love of acting that sustains his sister Liza. He spends much of his time alone.

His mom, concerned by how much time he spends under his blanket, signs him up for oboe lessons. While initially apathetic, Gus finds that he has a gift for music, both playing it and composing it.

9/11 is such a huge national and international tragedy that it’s sometimes hard for us to realize that for thousands, it’s intensely personal as well. Friedman gives the rhetoric a miss and focuses instead on the terribly painful story of the people who were left behind.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Not a Box

I’ve been thinking for awhile that I should start talking up some of my favorite preschool books. I talk about chapter books and teen fiction all the time, but I come across so many amazing picture books that I decided I had to start sharing.

Book: Not a Box
Author: Antoinette Portis
Published: 2006

Why are you sitting in a box?
It’s not a box.

Of course it’s not! Anybody can clearly see that it’s a racecar. But apparently the narrator is blind, because he keeps asking the bunny protagonist what she is doing with the box. The bunny answers, increasingly irritated, that it’s NOT a box . . . it’s a mountain! a burning building! A balloon! An elephant!

Okay, I have to say right here and now . . . I love this book. While it may not be the most eye-catching spine on the shelf (cardboard brown), the boldness and simplicity of the front cover make it a beautiful display, and the story inside is just about as interactive as you could wish. Portis’s art clearly delineates the real from the imagined, but also emphasizes the richness of the bunny’s imagination.

The androgyny of both narrator and bunny (the pronouns I used above were strictly for the sake of clarity) also makes this as broad-appeal as possible.

And by the way . . . it’s not a box.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Changes for the Bibliovore

I've spent the evening fiddling with and tweaking my blog, and I'm proud to announce it's almost as good as it was before I started.

No, seriously, my BlogRoll over there was getting moldy, it was so old. I pared a few old links, added a bunch of new ones, and created a separate BlogRoll for the author blogs I read. Additions of note:

The YA YA YAs - All YA, all the time
Apparently I am way overdue to start reading this blog.

Cuentesitos - Recommendations on Latino YA and Children's Literature
I definitely want to start reading some more Latino kidlit. I mean, there's Alma Flor Ada and Pam Muñoz Ryan, but there's more out there, I just know it.

Worth the Trip - Queer Books for Kids and Teens
I like the Retro Reads feature, which digs up well-known and not-so-well-known GLBTQ books from the past. Their first one, John Donovan's I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip, was where they got the name.

Annietown - Annie Choi's Blog
I haven't read her Happy Birthday or Whatever yet, but if she writes like she blogs, it'll be a scream.

Mo Willems Doodles
Dude! Did you know Mo Willems had a blog where he regularly posts original artwork and talks about the Pigeon and . . . oh. You did?

I've also started putting the picture books I read into my LibraryThing. Because I happen to read so many in the course of my job every day, I thought it would be too much work to keep track of them. Then MotherReader asked for the Best Books of 2007 (So Far) and I went to my trusty LibraryThing to jog my memory. It worked peachy keen from High School on down, until I hit Picture Books and screeched to a halt. I realized . . . I have no idea when all those picture books I read were published. I have my favorites, sure, but nothing published in this year immediately leaps to my mind. Ugh.

So a lot more picture books should be appearing on that LibraryThing widget, and maybe when MotherReader asks for Best Books of 2008 (So Far) I'll be able to tell you.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sad News

Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time and A Ring of Endless Light has died at the age of 88.

ETA: Sorry about the brevity of that earlier version. I was writing it in the last thirty seconds of my lunch break. Along with the rest of the kidlitosphere, I'm in mourning here for an amazing writer. Her books opened my mind to ideas about science and the universe that it otherwise might not have run across until all the amazement portals were closed. And I was always delighted to read of things she talked about in my science textbook.

Yesterday, I had a girl from one of the classes that regularly visits my library run up and tell me that she was doing her book report on the book I'd handed her: A Wrinkle in Time. Hearing the news today, that's all I could think of . . . that we lost a fine human being but she's left a legacy.

Thanks for some really great reads, Madeleine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Cybils Are Coming! The Cybils Are Coming!

It's almost time for the second annual Cybils! Just in case you lived under a rock last year, these are the awards that kidlit bloggers give out to their yearly favorites. Nominations are open October 1. Hurrah!

Can I get off this horse now?

Thanks to Wands and Worlds for the heads-up.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Best Books of the Year (So Far): Elementary School

The Best Elementary Book of the Year (So Far):
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret is convinced that his clockmaker father left him a message in a clockwork man. But it needs to be fixed first. He lives secretly in the walls of a Paris train station, stealing bits and pieces from a toymaker to repair his father's legacy. However, Hugo's not the only one with secrets around here . . .

Possibly the neatest thing about this book is its design. Half traditional novel, half graphic novel, Selznick riffs on his silent-movie theme by interspersing chunks of wordless illustrations with regular narration. Illustration, in fact, may be the wrong word, because that connotes words that explicate the text, and that's not the case here. Instead, the storytelling medium moves gracefully from words to pictures and back to words, trusting in both to tell the story.

It could just be a gimmick book, except that Selznick's got the storytelling chops to draw us into this story of 20th-century Paris and the world of silent film. In the end, we barely notice the transition because the story has enveloped us.

This one might be a hand-sell for librarians everywhere because of its intimidating bulk (550 pages!), but I guarantee, the minute you flip it open to the first of Selznick's black-and-white illustrations, that book will be out of your hands and on the checkout counter.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Best Book of the Year So Far: Middle School

Looking at my two picks tonight, I realized I had two distinct types represented: "Suitable for Middle School Readers" and "Tween."

The Bibliovore's Best Middle School Book of the Year (So Far)
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landry

I must have heard about this book from six or seven different bloggers. I thought for sure it couldn't be that good. I was wrong. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. (No pun intended.)

At thirteen years old, Stephanie has inherited an entire house. Unfortunately, the person she inherited it from was murdered . . . and she might be next. Lucky thing she's got the walking, talking skeleton on her side.

Tongue firmly in cheek, Landry takes us through a roller-coaster adventure with a sensible, gutsy heroine and a seen-it-all-and-done-more hero. Possibly the best example of why this book was so much fun can be contained in this quote from Stephanie, after Skulduggery Pleasant gives a long-winded and confusing explanation of something or other.

"Wait, I think I almost understood that . . ." The car went over a bump. "No, it's gone now."

I hope this blog isn't the first place you've heard about Skulduggery Pleasant, but if it is, run out and pick up your copy today.

Honorable Mention
The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney by Lauren Barnholdt

Devon Delaney's in trouble. See, while visiting her grandmother over the summer, she told her new friend Lexi all about her wild popularity and her cuter-than-cute boyfriend. Only problem? It was all a lie.

It seemed safe enough when Lexi didn't even go to her school, but guess who moved just before school started? Watch the feathers fly as Devon scrambles to make the facade real. The harder she works, though, the more she wonders if it's all worth it.

Tween books are strange animals. (Almost as strange as tweens.) There's a temptation to dismiss them as watered-down YA, but they are about a very specific period in a kid's life, not so much an age as a dividing line between child and teenager. Most kids trip over it. The best tween books, like The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney, show the trip, the splat, and the getting up again in brilliant 3-D.