Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mixing It Up

An article from the Chicago Tribune about schools shifting away from all-classics in the classroom and toward a mix of classics and contemporary. Which I can't help but approve of. However, go read the article and tell me what you notice.

Back already?

No contemporary YA titles were mentioned. Not a one. It was all adult literary-type novels.

Now this may be bad reporting, the paper focusing on novels that their readership will recognize. And I fully understand that many teens choose to read a mix of adult novels and teen. But all the same, I do hope that schools are taking note of the amazing things being offered in the YA section.

Teachers out there, can you comment?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Free Books!

Lenore of Presenting Lenore is giving away free books all through the month of November. Of course, my head snapped around like a retriever sighting a downed duck. Check out her list of giveaways and how to win.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's the Lisa Yee Title Contest Time Again!

Lisa Yee's blog is like a hit of caffeine at 4:30 am. I love it. One of my favorite features is her annualish title contest, in which readers compete to create silly titles. This year, the rule is, "Change two letters to get a whole new title."

Ready? Go!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: Swimming with the Sharks by Debbie Reid Fischer

Book: Swimming with the Sharks
Author: Debbie Reid Fischer
Published: 2008

Peyton Grady’s finally done it. She’s on varsity cheerleading. Even though she’s a scholarship student at swanky Beachwood Prep, even though she buys her clothes from Goodwill and has never been to Aspen in her life, she’s finally an Alpha, thanks to the pompoms, the cute little uniform, and most of all, cheer captain Lexie Court.

Then Ellika Garret moves to Beachwood and buys her way onto the cheerleading squad. Peyton is as disgusted as the rest of them, and intially gets into Lexie’s plan to haze Ellika right off the team. But as things escalate from pranks to actual harm, Peyton starts to have doubts. But anything is worth it to stay an Alpha, right?


There are a lot of books out there about the bullied, but not a lot about the bullies. In most ways, Lexie is your typical golden girl, glittering and beautiful, but two or three scenes in her home show that she has a soft underbelly just like everyone else. The only difference is that she will lash out first, just to make sure that her weak spot is protected because her opponents are so busy licking their own wounds.

As for Ellika, you want to be sympathetic towards her, but the more she tries to buy friends and popularity, the more pathetic she becomes. Just about every scene she’s in prompts a full-body cringe. While the cheer squad’s bullying is horrible (and in the end, monstrous), you almost understand how they can do it.

Fischer walks a delicate line in Peyton, managing to keep her sympathetic while making it clear that she is in it as much as the rest of the cheer squad. At the same time, she is victim of a far more subtle bullying pattern than Ellika. Her redemption toward the end feels like our own. Pick this book up for a thoughtful and all-too-probable story about how anybody can bully, or be bullied.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Art and Children's Books

A school in Colorado has a 3-D mural on their wall, especially for kids (including one boy legally blind since kindergarten) to touch and play with as well as look at.

What caught my attention was the subject. The artist (the school's night janitor) picked iconic characters from kids' lit. Not just the classics, either. In the photo, I can make out the Magic Treehouse and Captain Underpants alongside the Cat in the Hat and what appear to be the Three Little Pigs.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Illustration and Choices Thereof

A little bird tells me that Neil Gaiman's newest, The Graveyard Book, is being offered with your choice of illustrators in the UK. Dave McKean, who illustrated Coraline to deliciously creepifying effect, has the "adult" version and Chris Riddell the kids'. A quick Amazon check tells me that the US seems to be sticking to McKean for both.

I got a cover image (over to your right) of Riddell's work, enough to see that although it's not the angular creepiness of Dave McKean, it's not fluffy bunnies.

I read an ARC without any illustrations (sigh), but it was a great yarn nonetheless. Has anybody seen either or both of the versions? Can you weigh in?

ETA: Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 has a much more thorough gathering of the various covers. Take a look!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is That You Under My Desk, Philip Pullman?

The Golden Compass author's description of his office sounds awfully familiar, is all I'm sayin'.

Have a look at this article from the Liverpool Daily Post (oh, Google Alerts, how I love thee) about Philip Pullman, writing, movies, and the keeping of offices (or, y'know, not).

My favorite quote:
“When you write books for children, you can write about whatever you like, and you’re not pigeonholed in the same way, which I find a great freedom. You’re not stuck doing one kind of thing.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Cybils Nominations Are In!

Check out the grand collection of nominations for the 2008 Cybils Awards, right here!

Now it's time for the first round of judges to go to work, reading, reading, and reading some more to winnow out those special few that will make it to the second round. Good luck, guys!

The shortlists will be announced January 1 and the winners on Valentine's Day.

I'm Not the Only One

A friend sent me this opinion piece from the LA Times about the different reading level systems at work in California.

I deal with this every day, and the ones that drive me craziest are the kids or parents who refuse to read anything that's not numbered, leveled, and assessed within an inch of its life. It's as if a book has no value beyond the value of the quizzes one can take after reading it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Lines Come Pre-Blurred

Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom hooked me up with this article about SF, fantasy, YA, and the meldings thereof. They conclude that a) YA books are selling better than their adult counterparts and b) YA and SF/fantasy are premade for each other, like a horse and carriage.

Quotage from our own Scott Westerfeld about the immense variety to be found on the YA shelves:
"YA is a bit like airplanes in the early 20th century: There are biplanes and triplanes, flapping wings, and engines front and back," Westerfeld says.
There's plenty more, but follow the link for all the goodness. I'm going to go imagine YA books as turn-of-the-century airplanes. Illustrators out there, anyone want to bring this one to life?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

National Book Awards are Nigh!

Everybody and their brother has scooped me on this one, but the National Book Award finalists were announced just this past week. Here are the nominees for Young People's Literature:
Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)
Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)
Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)
I've only read E. Lockhart's tome (yay, E!) but I've heard about Chains and The Underneath around the blogosphere. I hear some of these aren't out yet, but anyone out there gotten their hot little hands on the Blundell and Tharp books?

I'm also heartened to see the list of judges for this category:

Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler (chair),
Holly "Writes about Way Freaky Faeries and Does It Damn Well" Black,
Angela "Even looking at the cover of The First Part Last makes me a little weepy" Johnson,
Carolyn "Ferocious Girls" Mackler,
and Cynthia "Do Not Even Tell Me You Don't Know Who This Is" Voigt.

It's a nice variety of people who know what they're doing when it comes to words for kids and teens.

Check out the website for the grown folks literature finalists. The Awards are announced November 19th in New York City.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published: 2008

It’s the future. The USA is no more. Instead, North America is divided up into twelve poor, starving districts and a pampered, luxurious Capitol. Each year, as payment for a long-ago uprising, each district must send two teenagers to the Capitol, where they will compete in the Hunger Games. The winner gets fame, riches, comfort for the rest of their lives, and prizes for their district. The twenty-three losers get bloody death and a plain wooden box. The Games are merciless, brutal, dehumanizing, and aired on national televison.

Katniss Everdeen is horrified when her treasured little sister is chosen as one of the contestants, and offers herself in her place without a second thought. She and her fellow contestant, Peeta, aren’t considered to be real contenders. The winners usually come from the (comparatively) richer districts, not the coal-mining and always-on-the-edge-of-extinction District 12. It’s a death sentence, but it’s one she’ll gladly shoulder for her sister’s sake.

Her life is complicated (like it needs it!) by Peeta, whose love for her has been seized upon by the Gamemakers as an angle for the audience. But are his feelings true, or just another kind of bait waiting for the switch?

As the Games go on and she becomes, to her own surprise, a real contender, the stakes get higher and higher. Soon Kat must confront the real question--lose the Games? or lose herself?

I’ve been hearing about this book for awhile. Doubtless you have too. The buzz is fast and furious. I always get a little skeptical when so many people rave about a book. Can it be that good?

Yes. It can.

The Hunger Games is not a perfect book, but there’s a lot to love about it. Kat is gutsy, intelligent, and the perfect mix of soft-hearted and clear-headed. Her constant awareness of the audience and the sponsors affect her actions as strongly as the threat that’s right in front of her, inviting comparisons to the reality shows that reportedly inspired the novel. She also never loses sight of the fact that even though she may forge temporary alliances, every other person in the arena is (or should be) out to get her.

The Games themselves are written as long periods of strategizing and assessment of your opponent (plus paranoia, hunger, cold, and fear), interspersed with abrupt and terrifying bouts of violence. Underneath all the action, there’s always the awareness that the Games are indeed nothing more than a game to viewers in the Capitol, and Kat’s rising anger at that fact comes to a head toward the end.

Finally, the ending. It comes a little quickly, but since it leaves you slavering for the remainder of the proposed trilogy, I’m not sure I’d call that a misstep on Collins’ part. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that Kat is forever changed by what occurred in the arena. You get the sense that the choices she had to make, for good or ill, are going to haunt her for a long time coming.

This thought-provoking, horrifying, and complex book stays with you long after you close it.

Friday, October 17, 2008


From Wired Magazine via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Click on through for a story about the lucky bas--uh, duck--who owns this library all for himself.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Book: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Published: On shelves today

As a kid, Quentin Jacobsen was infatuated with his best friend, the fascinating Margo Roth Speigelman. Now seniors in high school, they’ve drifted into different social strata and he’s still infatuated. So much so that when she appears at his window late one school night on a mission for revenge and in need of a driver for same, he ditches responsibility and fires up the minivan. Through a night of clothing theft, eyebrow removal, and dead fish, Quentin believes that he’s reconnected with the Margo he once knew, and everything will be different now.

But the next day at school, she’s nowhere to be found. As the Margo-less days pass, Quentin becomes convinced that she’s about to do something drastic. Furthermore, he’s the only one who can assemble the clues and save her from herself. But as his search takes him further into the life Margo left behind, he starts to wonder--did he ever really know her?

Did anybody?

I’m always a little worried about reading books by people I know. Now I realize that watching somebody’s vlog is not the same as really getting to know them--it’s mostly a one-way street. Still, they feel like somebody you know, and you wonder if you can stop hearing their voice and hear the characters’ instead. Overall, Green succeeds with this book.

Green’s writing really shines in the character of Margo Roth Speigelman (try saying “Margo” without adding “Roth Speigelman” now. Just try it. They’re permanently linked.) She’s exactly as mysterious, intoxicating, and intriguing to us as to Quentin. Q himself is very much in the vein of Green’s other main character/narrators, young men standing warily on the line between childhood and adulthood and just getting an inkling of the confusing, painful, demanding, joyful mess they’re about to walk into.

Try Paper Towns for a book about the way we think about people, and how deceptive that image can be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's the Last Day for the Cybils Nominations!

Just like I said up there. You've only got until midnight to express your love and devotion for your favorite books of the year! Is there a book in one of these categories that you can't imagine living without?

From the Cybils blog:
The genres: Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels.
Has it not been nominated yet? Then go nominate, you silly person!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog the Vote!

Lee Wind over at I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? and Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray are putting together another initiative, this one called Blog the Vote! Quotage of the fundamentals:
Blog the Vote is a one day Kid and Adult Lit Blogger Event, where we all blog on Monday Nov. 3rd about the importance of voting on Tuesday Nov. 4th.

Blog the Vote is about sharing WHY it's important to vote. It's about the issues that will be decided by whoever wins this election . . .

Blog the Vote is not, however, about hate-speech or being rude - posts that overstep into nastiness won't be linked on the master list.
What's this got to do with kidlit?

This is about encouraging young voters to get out there and affect their own government. This is about determining the direction of the country that our kids (of all ages) are going to live in for the next four years, if not longer.

So join in!

(Double posted to Kid Tested, Librarian Approved. Apologies if you're seeing this twice!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Classics vs. Popular?

Okay, as a recovering English major, I'm really torn on this one.

Check out What's So Great About Shakespeare Anyway? It's an opinion piece where the author begs literature teachers to give the dusty classics a rest and get on board with great new YA stuff. (How new, and how YA, we can argue another time, since she cites only The Giver, The Lovely Bones, and The Secret Life of Bees. Lowry is good stuff, for sure, but I can think of numerous others.)

Now ordinarily I would be jumping for joy, since yes! I do think that teachers should incorporate contemporary literature in their classrooms, both for the appeal and because they do confront thorny issues.

What gets me is that the author seems to view classics as being opposed to contemporary lit, i.e. it's one or the other. As someone who read and loved the complete works of Jane Austen (minus Mansfield Park; bleaaaah!!) as well as knowing my library's YA and children's sections up, down, and sideways, I'm more in favor of using a mix. The reason the classics are great is because they still speak to many. The reason modern lit is great is the same reason.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From the Annals of Ludicrousity . . .

Harry Potter sock yarn.

Oh yes.

One presumes that actual socks knitted out of this actual yarn will never get lost, or at the very least, scream if they get too smelly. Or is that too much to hope for?

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

PS Does the word "annals" just sound dirty in itself to anybody else? No? Just me then.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Slate Slideshow!

I enjoy Slate's slideshows about kidlit. This latest one was put together by Erica of Pajamazon and is titled, Mom, What's a Credit Default Swap? Books to read your children during a financial crisis. She points out,
A review of popular American children's books of the past century reveals a recurring theme in the children's publishing industry: When times are tough, cue the stories about times that were even tougher.
Interesting. I have to admit I never thought of that myself, but it makes sense. Check it out, and maybe get some titles for your own worried kids.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Night Bites at Readergirlz!

It's October again, and you know what that means.


Well, yes, but something else.

Trying to come up with a good costume all month and finally giving up and draping a sheet over your head like last year?

Something else.

Telling everybody you have a million trick-or-treaters so that's why you just bought a metric ton of fun-size Snickers?

Shut up, inner me.


It's the month that contains Teen Read Week, and the Readergirlz have a lineup of cool events planned, including chats with Mitali Perkins, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Maureen Johnson, and others! Check it out.

Also have a gander at this awesome video:

Zowie. Head on over to the Readergirlz website for all the fun.

Thanks to Interactive Reader for the link.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Fug Girls Are At It Again . . .

They're ragging on Twilight again, this time the theatrical poster. I need a sixty-second laugh-myself-silly break now.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Book Review: The Devouring - Sorry Night by Simon Holt

Book: The Devouring - Sorry Night
Author: Simon Holt
Published: 2008

With an AWOL mother and a father who might as well be gone too, Regina’s carrying more burdens than she knows what to do with. Escape into Lovecraft or Poe or even a good slasher flick are a welcome escape, because she knows she can always close the book or stop the DVD.

Then she finds a journal detailing another girl’s terrifying experience with incorporeal beings she calls “Vours,” evil creatures that feed on fear and take up possession in a human body. At first, Regina thinks it’s the rough draft of a never-published novel. But then her little brother Henry starts acting strange. Inhuman, almost . . .

Now Regina’s got to battle her own fears to rescue her little brother, or they’ll both be lost forever.

I don’t usually read horror, but The Devouring: Sorry Night caught me firmly and held me on the couch until I hit the last page, with its promises of evil only temporarily vanquished. It gets pretty gory and sick at times (in particular, don’t read the hospital scene when eating) but teen horror fans will love it.

Read this with all the lights on.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oh fer . . .

I ran across this article in my Google Alerts about children's lit, and I found it a fundamentally flawed study. Let me say this: it's one book. I'm the last person to say it's impossible that a book can change a kid's life, but this is pushing it.

In a nutshell: a study was conducted with overweight preteens. Some were given a book with an unhappily overweight protagonist. Others were given a book with a normal-weight protagonist. A third group wasn't given any book.

There are a number of things it doesn't take into account. Losing weight includes lifestyle changes that (especially for kids) never exist in a vacuum. Case in point:
For the study, the Duke University researchers recruited 31 obese girls between 9 to 13 years of age, who had already signed up in the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke Children's Hospital. Italics mine.
These were girls who already wanted to make a positive change in their health (or their parents wanted them to). It's not as if they plucked kids off the street and changed their entire outlook on life with one book.

In a telling omission, it touts the 71% statistic of kids who read the first book, but doesn't mention the change in weight for the other two groups.

It may be the writing of the article that makes it sound like one book was the deciding factor, but to me, this study is reducing children's lit to manipulation, and children themselves to paper dolls.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Book Review: Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Book: Impossible
Author: Nancy Werlin
Published: 2008

All Lucy Scarborough wanted to do was go to prom. Dance, eat rubber chicken, kiss her date, have fun. But the evening turns nightmarish when her date rapes her and runs away to crash his car into a tree and kill himself.

Horrible, but only one night, right? Wrong. Lucy’s pregnant. Worse than that, she’s just discovered that she’s the most recent in a long line of women, all cursed to bear a daughter at the age of eighteen and surrendered their sanity to a merciless Elfin Knight. The only way to escape is to complete three impossible tasks before her baby is born.

No woman in her family has ever managed it before, but Lucy is determined to break the cycle--for herself, for her daughter, and for the poor, insane mother that she only sees sporadically. She’s got assistance, in the form of her loving foster parents and her lifelong best friend, Zach. But will that be enough?

It has to be.

When I picked this book up at BEA, the person manning the booth told it me was a story about a pregnant teenager. To which I say, Impossible is about a pregnant teenager in the same way that Hamlet is about a guy who’s a little down these days. Technically true, but there’s so much more to the story.

Pitchforked from innocent high-schooler to young mother fighting for her child’s future and her own, Lucy makes the trip with equal measures of fear and strength. Werlin makes a strong point that Lucy is luckier than her ancestresses, because she does have the love and support of her family. Zach especially becomes the one person without whom she would never succeed. Yet it is Lucy’s inner strength that pulls her though.

This is a story about a pregnant teenager, but it’s also about family, about the true meaning of love, and about doing the impossible because the alternative is unthinkable. Lucy’s quest is a compelling and fascinating one, especially for kids who are just starting to realize what adulthood is going to mean.

P.S. Be prepared to get Simon and Garfunkel stuck in your head for days, since “Scarborough Fair” is the traditional folk song on which Lucy’s impossible tasks are based.

Sit Tight . . .

Apparently, Blogger has flagged Kid Tested Librarian Approved as a spam blog (?!) and locked it down until they can review it. I'm not sure why. If you're trying to get to it, I'll let you know as soon as everything gets sorted out. Sorry guys . . .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Another Unshelved Recommendation

Check this week's Unshelved Book Club for a neat cartoon booktalk of David Lubar's classic Hidden Talents. Mostly they do adult books, but every so often a great YA or kid's book will slip in.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

This Looks Hopeful

Smart Bitches Trashy Books alerted me to a very good review at CNN of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," otherwise known as "It Was a Fabulous Book, O Dear God Please Don't Let Hollywood Ruin It."

Key Quote:
so much goes down on Nick and Norah's one enchanted evening that the best advice is to enjoy the ride -- the actual ride -- around this vibrant new New York.
Anyone up for a trip to the movies?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Diablo Cody and Judy Blume

Not sure how I missed this when it came out, but here is a neat little interview with Juno writer Diablo Cody about her love of all things Judy Blume.

This quote encapsulates a lot of Blume's enduring appeal at the time she first started writing and even today:
Every other book written for kids my age was sunny, upbeat, and about as subtle as a bullhorn-wielding camp counselor. Blume's stuff had an edge; it was grimly hilarious and worthy of my attention.
Go have a look-see.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Michael & Kat's Infinite Interview

Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom posted a link to this interview at the Onion's AV Club with Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, otherwise known as Movie Nick and Movie Norah. While longish, I liked what it showed about the movie, the characters, and the actors' involvement with both.
AVC: The book apparently has more boozing and drugs and swearing—

KD: Just swearing.

MC: Not boozing and drugs.

KD: Nick and Norah are straight-edge.
Hee. For some reason, I liked that little exchange, in which they are so insistent on this important element of their characters (the straight-edge-ness) that they're practically talking over each other. It makes me hopeful for their versions of Nick and Norah.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Reading Roundup September 2008

Notice anything missing? With the opening of Kid Tested, Librarian Approved, I decided to move the preschool books portion of this roundup over there. This, of course, means more pointless and silly Because I Want To Awards for everyone!

By the Numbers
Teen: 25
Tween: 8
Children: 10

Teen: Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Tween: Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
Children: Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker

Because I Want To Awards
I So Should Not Have Read This During My Lunch Break: Dead High Yearbook by Ivan Velez
Prompted Fangirl Screams of Joy Upon Acquisition and Then Read in Three Hours: Chalice by Robin McKinley
Most Wrenching: TIE Nothing by Robin Friedman and The Smell of Old-Lady Perfume by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Made Me Want to Go Rent Movies: Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton by Catherine Brighton

Cybils Nominations are Open!

As of this morning, everyone should stampede on over to the Cybils website and nominate your favorites!

In a nutshell:
On Oct. 1, we publish all nine genres* as separate posts. You leave your nomination in the comments section of each post.

Having trouble? Feel free to email anne (at) bookbuds (dot) net with questions or complaints.

*The genres: Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels.
Here are the rest of the rules.

I was a YA judge last year and it was a great experience. This year, I'm on the Fiction Picture Book judging committee, so find some great books for me to read!

Why are you still reading this? Off you go!