Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Conference AfterParty! With Pictures!

As promised, pictures! It's always a jolt to meet other bloggers in person. Some will put their picture up, but often they won't, so you feel as if you know this person very well but you've never seen their face. I knew some people from last year, but I met new ones this year.

Farida Dowler (Alkelda the Gleeful) at Happy Hour with a hot toddy, which delighted me no end, even considering that the reason for the hot toddy was a horrible cold.

At dinner, I sat at a table full of writers, mostly of picture books. We all bought raffle tickets and fantastic prizes were raffled off. The money raised went to a good cause whose name I cannot quite recall. Here's a shot of the winningest table, as they celebrate over yet another one of their numbers being called.

After dinner, we took a group photo (see yesterday's post) and then toted all our winnings back to the hotel bar to celebrate with the Readergirlz as they welcomed their new diva, Holly Cupala. Pam Coughlan (MotherReader), Lorie Ann Grover (writer and Readergirl) and Lee Wind (I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?) in a candid shot.

Betsy Bird (Fuse #8) and sock-puppet Edward Cullen. Uh, does she look a little pale to you?

Clare Bell and handmade friend. Isn't that the neatest?

I didn't take many more pictures, as I was much more involved in hanging out with Jackie, Pam, Lee, and various others. It was a great conference, and as always with conferences, the best fun was just meeting everyone, talking about the things we loved best, and throwing ideas around.

Next year's conference is slated for DC, and Pam Coughlan of MotherReader has volunteered to organize it. See you all there!

Book Review: Masterpiece by Elise Broach

Book: Masterpiece
Author: Elise Broach
Published: On shelves today

Marvin and James share an apartment, but they’ve never traded so much as a “hello.” That’s because James is a human boy and Marvin is a beetle.

Their friendship starts the day that Marvin uses James’ new ink set to draw him a perfect copy of the view from the boy’s window, in miniature, of course. James is delighted with the gift for its own sake, but when his mother spots it, he has to lie that he drew it. Of course, this plunges both him and Marvin into a web of lies about about his supposed genius for miniatures.

They wind up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the lies get bigger as James and his “gift” are drafted to help with an elaborate sting meant to catch art thieves with a faked Albrecht Dürer, the Renaissance master of miniatures. Of course, even that’s not the end of it. How will James and Marvin ever get themselves out of this one?

As complex and confusing as I’m making this sound, there’s one theme that anchors this story, and everything else is pretty much window dressing. Dürer and art theft aside, it’s really about the friendship between James and Marvin. Even though they’ve just met and they never exchange a single word, it clearly runs deep from the very first moment, and both characters will go further for each other than they ever would for themselves.

Bugs, adventure, friendship . . . this is a great book for just about any kid.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Outfit!

If you're reading this on the webpage, you'll notice that I changed up the design. I've been feeling like it was time for a change, and I hadn't yet updated from a "template" to a "layout" in Blogger. It's much easier.

What do you guys think of the new look?

Kidlit 08 Conference Summary

I was an idiot and left my camera upstairs until midway through the (first) Happy Hour. So this post will be augmented with pictures I've snatched from other bloggers.

The first session was a panel discussion with authors, bloggers, and a podcaster about bridging books and blogs. It included Mark Blevis (Just One More Book!), writers and Readergirlz Alice Pope, Dia Calhoun, and Lorie Ann Grover, and Betsy "Fuse #8" Bird. They talked about the ways blogs are working to publicize books (new and old). We even had a comment from Eric Kimmel (I know! That Eric Kimmel!). Big excitement.

The second was a presentation by Jackie Parker (Interactive Reader) and Colleen Mondor (Chasing Ray and Guy's Lit Wire), about doing group events like the Winter Blog Blast Tour. There was much snark and banter to be had, which Jackie assured me was not practiced or planned and was in fact the SOP whenever they're together, be it online or in person.

The next two sessions were breakouts, and I hit MotherReader's Better Blog session. Such was the appeal of this session that there were people sitting on the floor at her feet, like acolytes.

Immediately following, Jen Robinson, Sarah Stevenson, and Jackie Parker all ganged up to talk about how the Cybils will work, and to urge us to participate. I asked how effective the Cybils had been so far in their aim to recognize quality books with kid appeal, and Jen pointed out that teachers and librarians love the shortlists and publishers are actually putting "Cybils nominee!" in their catalogs. Hurrah! More on Cybilation in a later post.

Lunch was had at the hotel restaurant. I hung out with Deb Lund, Susan Blackaby, Christine Fletcher, Emily Whitman, Nancy Arruda, and Kim Baise, all authors and/or publishers. I did my fantastic impersonation of a ditzy fangirl for Christine Fletcher, whose historical YA Ten Cents a Dance I just finished last week and loved.

The afternoon kicked off with a discussion between Jen Robinson and Laini Taylor about the relationship between authors and reviewers. Another blog (Sara Ryan's, I believe) pointed out that what Jen was saying about how authors and publicists should approach reviewers was incredibly similar to what common wisdom says about unpublished authors approaching editors. Find out what we like. Don't just send things blindly. Don't pester with "have you read the book yet?" Interestink.

Greg Pincus taught us all how to optimize our blogs for the happy accident using tagging, proper post titling, and social networking. Look for me to become downright obnoxious on Facebook now.

I stopped into the Group Blog session with the Class of 2k8 and 2k9, which by the way is about the most interesting and efficient method I've ever seen of doing lots and lots of homegrown publicity. I know I've got books in my Blue Journal that I might not have even heard of if the Classes of 2k8/9 weren't around.

The last structured event for the day was the author meet and greet. I scored books from Alma Alexander (ee!), Clare Bell, Matthew Holm, Zu Vincent, and April Henry. These went into my bag to nestle next to the books I'd gotten earlier from Barbara Shoup and Emily Wing Smith. Not to make you envious or anything.

After-party stuff tomorrow! With more pictures!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bibliovore Has Even More to Say

So I was hanging out at a table last night, imbibing beverages liberally, and I mentioned an idea I had for a blog name: Kid Tested, Librarian Approved. The chorus of, "Get that blog name right now before somebody else does!" darn near deafened me. But I thought, "I have a blog! What do I need a new one for?"

Then I realized--when I branched out into picture books, I started posting at two ends of a spectrum. There are people reading this blog who probably don't want to see YA reviews but they do like the picture book reviews, and vice versa. It's not your fault I can't make up my mind.

So with that in mind, I decided to create Kid Tested, Librarian Approved. That blog will focus on picture book and early reader news and reviews, and Confessions of a Bibliovore will continue with the MG/YA news and reviews.

Oh, and further conference news and unflattering pictures coming soon!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Taking a Breather

The meat of the day is over with, as far as the conference goes, and right now is listed as "Happy Hour and Drinks," with "Buffet Dinner" following.

After a full day of listening to people talk about the kidlitosphere, talking to people about the kidlitosphere, and meeting new faces whose blogs I've been reading for insert amount of time here, I'm taking a breather. Don't get me wrong, it's been a blast, but boy, are my batteries drained.

The neatest thing about this (job? hobby? Something like both and something like neither) is that I have an iron-clad excuse to shamelessly beg for books that aren't even out yet, and they'll be put in my hands. Muahahahahahaha.

Okay, the breather has been breathed and now I'm going to investigate the "drinks" part of the entertainment.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Conference Eve!

Is there anything more fun than hanging out with a bunch of bloggers at a bookstore and then a brewpub in downtown Portland? For tonight, I'll say no.

By the way, Powell's books?

Dangerous. Very, very dangerous.

And that's just one room. They have floors. Multiple.

Oh well, who needs money anyway?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review: Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Book: Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe)
Author: Kimberly Pauley
Published: 2008

Most kids feel like their parents have superpowers--knowledge of when trouble is a’brewin’, perhaps, or supersonic hearing for that nasty name you just called your little brother. In Mina Hamilton’s case, it’s true. Her parents have super-hearing, don’t need to sleep, and always look good--just a few of the side effects of being vampires.

It’s something Mina’s always known but never given much thought to, until the day they sit her down and tell her that the Vampire Council says she has a month to make up her mind. Is she going to live out her life as a vampire, or a human? No pressure or anything.

Mina’s on the fence, and the vampire candidate classes she has to go to twice a week aren’t so much helping. If she chooses vampirism, she has to leave behind the human world, including her best friend. But if she stays human, she’ll not only lose her parents, she’ll lose all memory of them.

What’s a possible teen vampire to do?

With little notes on vampire myths and truths at the head of each chapter (my favorite was MYTH: Vampires have no reflection. TRUTH: That’s silly. How would you check your makeup?) and cute sketches of smiling bats and vampy faces, Pauley sets a cheerful, Princess Diaries tone that keeps this book bouncing along. While darker undercurrents in vampire society are alluded to, she wisely concentrates on the fun. Mina’s not battling evil here, just questions about how much to tell her best friend and what to do about the three (count ‘em) guys in her life, two of whom are in on the vamp secret.

I really liked that her parents weren’t pressuring her one way or the other--in fact, they’re determined not to influence her decision. Together with her Uncle Mortie, they form a loving family unit, the basis of Pauley’s tongue-in-cheek approach to vampirism, and an antidote to the brooding vamps of myth and legend. No cut-glass cheekbones, black capes, or widow’s peaks in this crowd--Uncle Mortie is a balding door-to-door salesman and Dad is an accountant with a fondness for Italian food, the more garlic the better.

To me, Mina reads a little younger than a senior in high school, but that’s okay, because (except for one euw-inducing vampire-sex talk from Mom) this book is clean enough to give out to middle-schoolers. While this novel is complete in itself, I would read a sequel, just to see how Mina’s life changes after her decision (no spoilers!).

Light-hearted and sweet-natured, this book is a sure hit with those kids that prefer laughs over angst with their blood-suckers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Book Review: Born Too Short by Dan Elish

Book: Born Too Short: Confessions of an Eighth Grade Basket Case
Author: Dan Elish
Published: 2002

Keith Livingston is tall, handsome, and smart. He gets girls with the flick of a finger. He’s the star of every team he’s on. He’s written an entire rock opera, for God’s sake. Short, nerdy, awkward Matt Greene is in the worst possible position relative to Keith--he’s the Best Friend.

Matt feels horrible for being jealous of everything Keith has, but he just can’t seem to help himself. After the premiere of the famous rock opera, when he has to watch his date drool after Keith the entire night and listen to everyone else talk about how musically talented Keith is (news flash: he only knows four chords, and Matt has studied classical guitar for years!), he can’t take it anymore. He wishes--screams, actually--that Keith’s perfect life would fall apart.

And then it does.

As if to make matters worse, just as Keith is hitting the downslope, Matt’s life is looking up. But he can’t enjoy it properly while his best buddy is so miserable. If wishes really do come true, this is all his fault.

I kind of wondered if I was going to like this book. Matt’s jealousy is a toxic creature that infects everything in the first pages. Of course, at the beginning, Keith truly is obnoxious in all his successes, which makes Matt’s jealousy understandable. But as the story progresses, Matt’s personal growth allows him to show us the really good side of Keith that forms the basis of their friendship.

There are references to sex and drinking that make me hesitate to hand this over to every middle schooler, but I think the majority of them could handle it. Overall, this is a fast-moving, funny believable tale of how a real friendship can survive anything.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Talk Like a Pirate Day is Here!

. . . for about four more hours, according to my clock. In honor of what's probably my favorite holiday, here's a hilarious little vid for y'all.

Thanks to Zooglobble for the heads-up. Arrrrr!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Got Your Towel?

Word is that Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer is set to write the next book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I love Eoin Colfer's books, that's for sure, but I always felt that Douglas Adams had such an individual voice and outlook that it would be impossible to duplicate.

What do you guys think?

I'm so Judgemental

The Cybils judges have been announced and--hooray! I got named as one of the Fiction Picture Book judges! Check out the company I'll be keeping come judgin' time:

Category Organizer

Pamela Coughlan, Mother Reader

Panelists (Round I):

Cheryl Rainfield, Cheryl Rainfield

Stephanie Ford, The Children's Literature Book Club

Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes

Melissa Wiley, Here In The Bonny Glen

Round II Judges:

Erica Perle, Pajamazon

Emily Beeson, Whimsy and Deliciously Clean Reads

Maureen Kearney, Confessions of a Bibliovore

Anne-Marie Nichols, My Readable Feast

Stefan Shepherd, Zooglobble

Check out the Cybils site for the other categories and judges. The nominations (that's where you out there in Internetlandia come in) start October 1, so start perusing the shelves for your favorites of 2008.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scieszka in Scouting Magazine

My dad, who's been a Scoutmaster for fifteen years and thus has worked with more teenage boys than you can shake a stick at, sent me this article from Scouting Magazine.

For most booky people, the article contains nothing really new. What I liked about it enough to post is that Scieszka's succeeding in his Ambassadorial goal--that is, getting the word out, not just to educators and librarians, but to the people who work with kids outside of schools and libraries. If these people absorb and transmit the message that reading is a) fun and b) part of life even when you're not getting graded on it, than maybe it has a better chance of sinking in for the kids themselves.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Odds and Ends

Also known as "cleaning out the Google Reader starred items."

1. Bookfest! A fest, with books! And Betsy Bird! If you can go, I'll be desperately jealous.

2. Funny Book Awards! Erm . . . the books are funny, not the award. Well, maybe the award is as well . . . Ignore my blathering and check out the shortlist of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize over at Kidslit. Thanks, Tasha!

3. Pretty buttons! Get 'em while they're hot!

4. Hungry-making poster The Readergirlz have a poster for Teen Read Week, and it's a little freaky.

5. Interview with Maurice Sendak I just keep learning more and more about this guy.

I had a couple more, about Dionne Warwick and Lauren Conrad, but let's not and say we didn't.

Further Evidence of My Extreme Dorkitude

This totally slays me. I mean, falling off the chair, lint in my hair, ribs-aching, slays me. It is so nerdy that it actually succumbs to Einsteinian physics and becomes cool.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Join the Party!

Hey guys, check out the list of people who are going to be at the second Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in two weeks! Are you on that list?

*fish eyes*

Well? Are you??

See you in two weeks!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Book Review: Nothing by Robin Friedman

Book: Nothing
Author: Robin Friedman
Published: 2008

Parker “You Don’t Look Jewish” Rabinowitz seems to have it all. He’s gorgeous, smart, active in his community, athletic, and popular with both guys and girls. It all comes without any apparent effort. Of course, nobody knows about his secret binges and his equally secret purges, when all the pressure and the terrible feelings of inadequacy go swirling down the toilet, leaving him cleansed and able to deal until the next time.

He manages to keep it under wraps at first. But then his dad gets breast cancer, his grades start to slip, and his new girlfriend wants to get closer. The pressure mounts, until Parker has gone from purging a few times a week to three times a day. Something’s got to give.

It may be Parker himself.

Friedman does something interesting in telling this story both from the inside and the outside. Poems from his little sister Danielle, both chafing and basking in his shadow, show the perfect facade that starts to develop cracks and then full-blown canyons. Though she knows something’s wrong, she doesn’t know what to do about it or who to tell, and so is as helpless as Parker himself in the face of his disorder.

As to what it’s like inside Parker’s head, well, that’s a pretty screwed-up place. Friedman’s POV is so intimate that you understand how little he thinks of himself and how hard he’s fighting to live up to the Parker Rabinowitz image, even if it means destroying himself in the process.

At first, Parker’s Jewish background seemed incidental, but then I realized it was just another part of the disconnect between what he really is and how the world perceives him. I wasn’t being flippant up there in the first line--Parker’s apparent non-Jewishness is commented on by almost everyone who meets him for the first time, and his dad wants him to go to Princeton because Harvard and Yale are too Jewish.

10% of all reported cases of anorexia and bulimia are men. This is a deeply moving story about one of the lucky ones.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Terry Pratchett Interview

Publisher's Weekly had a nice Q&A with Terry Pratchett, author of the most serious funny books out there. In this quote, he talks about his audience:
Yes, for this one I was assuming that the bulk of the readers’ ages would probably be into double figures so there was no reason to hold back on some of the horror.
Love. There's respect for the YA audience inherent in that statement. At the same time, there's an implied expectation, like, "Well, they're getting closer to adulthood so they'd better learn to handle this stuff."

Granted, I do wonder how much actual YA audience Pratchett has for his YA books (the Tiffany Aching series and this new one, Nation), but I think his writing, whether it's labeled YA or not, has appeal for a certain kind of teen, the ones who like to pick things apart and look at them upside down.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Book Review: Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Book: Good Enough
Author: Paula Yoo
Published: 2008

Patti has spent her entire life as a PKD (Perfect Korean Daughter). She’s a “B-tier” violin prodigy, locked in a dead heat for valedictorian, never so much as squeaked a rebellion, practicing the SATs until she can break that magical 2300, and in the process of applying to HarvardYalePrinceton (and other Ivies as safety schools). Still, there’s no resting on her laurels. No matter what she does, her parents push her to improve.

Then she meets Ben (aka “Cute Trumpet Guy”) and discovers that none of those things matter to him. SAT, GPA, Ivies, success, accolades, laurels, they’re all just words and what he likes is Patti herself. Is it possible that she is good enough all on her own?

I loved a lot of things about this book. Here they are, in no particular order.

First, (spoiler!) Patti did not get the guy--neither the one she wants nor the one I thought for sure was waiting in the wings. Paula Yoo seems to understand that Patti trading PKD status for girlfriend status would have simply traded one label in for another, and Patti needs to move beyond fulfilling predetermined roles to discover her own identity.

Second, Patti’s parents. While they exert insane pressure on Patti, Yoo also does a good job of humanizing them. A lot of authors wouldn’t have shown the late night family snacks of Spam and ramen noodles (um . . . yummy?) or the stories of their past in Korea. These touches, as well as others, turns them from 2-D characters who just want bragging rights into loving parents who truly do want the best for their daughter.

Third, Patti doesn’t come into the story with no passions of her own. Her love of the violin and making music is like a pilot light, burning quietly while her identity takes shape. While her parents do urge her on, you can clearly see the joy and freedom she feels when she plays, even at the beginning of the book.

My only gripe is that, small Asian population or not, I don’t know if a modern-day high school would have stood for the outrageous racial slurs that Patti encounters, such as a popular girl dressing up as a geisha for Halloween and spouting, “Me no speak Engrish” in the hallways. Of course, I’m neither Asian nor in high school, so I might be off on that one.

What can I say? Funny, accessible, thoughtful . . . I loved this book.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Today's Giggle . . .

. . . is brought to you by the ladies at Oops . . . Wrong Cookie.

I have to cast my vote for Jewel's masterpiece, which has the added bonus of being the most likely title on this whole list to actually be written, oh god, save us please.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Reading Roundup August 2008

This was a low month for kids' books, because I went on vacation and took a stack of Jennifer Crusie novels, which are great fun for anyone over the age of eighteen. However, what I did read was good stuff. The tweens category especially had me tearing my hair out, trying to pick just one standout. I've done ties before, but I think a six-way tie is a bit much, don't you?

By the Numbers
Total Number Read: 41
Teen: 18
Tween: 12
Children: 13
Preschool: 8

Teen: Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña
Tween: Leap of Faith by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Children: The Monster in the Backpack by Lisa Moser
Preschool: Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino

Because I Want To Awards
Best Book About a Beetle, a Boy, a Forgery, and a Friendship: Masterpiece by Elise Broach (no, seriously, review coming soon)
Dad-Blast It, Now I Have to Read the Whole Series: Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage by Alma Alexander
How Did I Miss This?: I Rode a Horse of Milk-White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson
Sucked Me In: Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters