Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review: Algernon Graeves is Scary Enough by Peter Bollinger

Book: Algernon Graeves Is Scary Enough
Author: Peter Bollinger
Illustrator: Peter Bollinger
Published: 2005

Algernon Graeves is having a heck of a time finding a Halloween costume. Nothing is scary enough: not mummies, not vampires, not ghosts, nothing! Will he find something in time to go trick-or-treating?

I was one of those kids like Algernon--I had amazing ideas for costumes in my head, but they always came out . . . kinda silly-looking. (We won't discuss what I wore to the seventh-grade Halloween dance. We just . . . won't.) I think every kid has had that experience at some point in their lives, which is why this book is so much fun.

One of the things I loved about the art (and one of the things that made this work) was the elaborate spreads that represent Algernon's ideas. They leer out of the page at you, red eyes glowing, claws at the ready. But they are transparent, so you still see Algernon's attic through them. (In a fun detail, Bollinger fuses the lines and tones of the imaginary monsters with the background, so that the curve of a werewolf's claw continues into a knot on a support beam, or the edges of the ghost become cobwebs.) On the next spread, representing Algernon's best attempt at his newest idea, everything is opaque and down-to-earth and very reassuring to non-monster fans.

I read it to a pack of kids who all had differing opinions on which of Algernon's ideas was the scariest in theory, but were united in recognizing the silliness of the practical application when you turned the page.

A fun one for Halloween, but also fun for a monster storytime. Try it out on your preschooler or early elementary kid.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ezra Jack Keats, Coming to an Envelope Near You?

From the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation comes the press release urging the U.S. Postage Stamp Citizen’s Advisory Committee to put The Snowy Day on a stamp, just in time for the 50th anniversary of its publication.

I have one of those strange, intense memories of reading The Snowy Day when I was little. We lived in Michigan, and Peter climbing into his red snowsuit and looking over his shoulder at the footprints he left behind was very familiar to me.

I've never been into collecting stamps but I would hoard those puppies. Drop by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation website to offer your support.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the news.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Um . . . Interesting

Apparently there's to be a Walter the Farting Dog movie. Somehow, I'm not at all surprised that the Farelly brothers are directing.

What do you guys think? Are you going to see it?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Graeme Base Interview

Look how pretty!

Ahem. I mean. I want that picture of the lions for my wall.

Go read this interview with author/illustrator Graeme Base, from the Sydney Morning Herald. Although he's based in Australia, a lot of his work has made its way across the pond and into your local library.

He has strong words for publishers who want to dumb down his vocabulary or obvious-ize some of the more subtle elements. Something he's (sigh) right about:
"Maybe I will be brave enough to say this: the problem is more evident in America, where there's the need, it seems to me, to spoonfeed," Base says. "You can't leave something slightly ambiguous or not show the solution ... they needed explanation for something where my inclination was to not explain but to ask the reader to work it out or to slowly realise there's something else going on here."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reading to Babies

Have a gander at this short, easily digestible article on reading with your baby. Favorite bit?
Luckily, a wriggly infant doesn't need to sit through pages of text to reap the benefits of being read to, which come from hearing new words, exploring pictures, and snuggling with you.
Absolutely. I feel like we need to have this pasted on every board book in the library.

Thanks to Cheryl Rainfield.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tell Me a Story

It's been a busy week, but here I am, back posting.

Over on her blog, Cheryl Rainfield pointed out some very reasonably-priced picture books in audio form on, including Horton Hears a Who, Where the Wild Things Are and A Bad Case of Stripes.

This is great news for those of us who can't afford to buy the book and the CD packaged together, or who already have the book and want to audio.

Kids still want to be read to even after they can read to themselves, and for some kids having difficulty reading, hearing the words while seeing them on the page helps them connect the sounds with the letters. They're also useful for car trips. Come on, wouldn't you rather hear Green Eggs and Ham than CNN pundits on your car radio?

Lots of people disdain audiobooks for kids, thinking of them as cheating, but to my mind, it's just another way of experiencing a story. The only thing that's changed is the medium, and that not very much. The words are (usually) just being spoken, not acted out with special effects. Kids still have to fill in all the gaps with their own imagination, and iPods give you the choice to listen to audiobooks at a slower pace if you need the decoding time. (Do any other brands do that? I cleave unto iPod, I'm afraid.)

What do you do with audiobooks?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's the Uber-List!

In other words, 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! Just from my skimming, it looks like a tough job.

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review: Deep in the Swamp by Donna Bateman, ill.

Book: Deep in the Swamp
Author: Donna Bateman
Illustrator: Brian Lies
Published: 2007

Deep in the Okeefenokee swamp, a variety of animals and their babies go about their day. From one otter to ten crayfish, count up as you take a journey through a truly unique environment.

Brian Lies’s lush, loving illustrations of animals and plants native to wetlands first caught my eye. The pictures make me want to step in and wander around this beautiful place. It’s not just cuddly or familiar animals, either. Crayfish, rat snakes, and alligators all take their place beside the otters, bunnies, and frogs. The carefully structured stanzas create a comforting predictability that could make this book a perennial favorite, and of course, you get to count the animals on each page.

The combination of the elaborate illustrations and some tongue-twisting word choices make this a difficult choice for a read-aloud to a group. Try it for a read-together instead, because both of you are going to want to spend some time with those pictures. For older nature lovers, Bateman includes an appendix of facts about the flora and fauna of the Okeefenokee swamp.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kate DiCamillo Article

Here's an article about Kate DiCamillo, who's mostly known for her middle-grade novels like The Tale of Desperaux. Her latest offering, though, is a picture book called Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken.

Favorite quote:
Q What was the hardest book to write?

A All books are impossible. People think a picture book is easy, but it's the most difficult. Every word counts. You can't make mistakes.

With that title, I don't even need to know what the story. There has never been a dull book about a chicken. It's some kind of literary law.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What is the Appeal of Concept Books?

I ran across this article from the LA Times (warning, annoying ad before you get to the good stuff) about a new ABC book. It sounds truly neato, but one of the things that caught my eye was the gushy first paragraph.
Alphabet books are a secret passion among book lovers. The sheer number of ABC books published demonstrates that they hold a special place in the world of children's books.
Why are ABC books (and their brother, 123 books) so popular? Is it because parents who believe that the child needs to be learning something every second are buying them up like popcorn at a county fair? Or is it the child's delight in identifying letters and vocabulary?


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Madeline Returns

So apparently there's to be a new Madeline book, written by the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans. I'm excited, but I'll reserve final judgment until I see it. The title is Madeline and the Cats of Rome by John Bemelmans Marciano, for those of you who (like me) keep an ongoing list of what you want to read.

Thanks to Tasha Saecker over at Kids Lit for the link.

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 Confessions of a Bibliovore. Apologies if you're seeing this twice!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Am Utterly Thrilled Beyond Belief

Lauren Child, author of the Charlie and Lola picture books as well as the Clarice Bean chapter book series, is having a whole exhibition! Children of Sheffield, how I envy you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Easy Readers and the Cybils

Jen Robinson, the Cybils' Literacy Evangelist (I want to give Jen some false eyelashes and really heavy pancake makeup now, but somehow I don't think they'd suit her), has a great post up about the Easy Readers category (also sometimes known as early readers). It's a new category for the Cybils, and one that doesn't get a lot of attention in the kidlit world in general. But it's an important step on the road to raising a reader.

Have you got a new reader in your house? What's the book they won't put down? Nominate!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Napping House Gets Love at

One of my favorite non-book-type blogs is Dooce, written by Heather Armstrong. She blogs about . . . well, life, mostly, including her four-year-old daughter. Check out her post on one of Leta's (and Heather's) favorite books, Don and Audrey Wood's cumulative classic, The Napping House.

She also makes quite a cool point about an element of the illustrations which I had never noticed. No, I'm not telling you. Go read it. Sheesh.

Friday, October 10, 2008

David Shannon Article

Here's an article about Shannon's work process, especially his new book, Too Many Toys. Yay!

I love David Shannon's books. Who doesn't? I also love telling the "No, David!" story to parents, who give me "Well, that explains it then," nods as their children clutch the book to their chests or giggle over the spread where David forgot to put on his underwear.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm Back!

Having been proven not a spam blog, Kid Tested Librarian Approved is back on the blogosphere and ready to fill your feedreader with picture book and early reader goodness!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Some Tango News

This article is distantly related to picture books, in that it's a continuation of the story that And Tango Makes Three is based on. My favorite line, however, is the last one:
One of the authors, Justin Richardson, said he was not at all forlorn over the breakup. He said that he and his co-author, Peter Parnell, have been devouring the news and opinion on the split, and are amused by conservative Web sites, which, he said, "seem to think that we must be terribly chagrined."

"This has not been our reaction," he said. "We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks."
So much for the penguin agenda.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Book Review: The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy Cutbill and Russell Ayto

Book: The Cow That Laid an Egg
Author: Andy Cutbill
Illustrator: Russell Ayto
Published: 2008
Type: Picture Book

Poor Marjorie! All the other cows can do cool things like handstands or bicycling. What’s special about her? Nothing, that’s what!

When Marjorie discovers an egg underneath her one day, she becomes the most special cow in the barnyard. The other cows, cast into the shade, mutter that it was surely a plot by the chickens. Marjorie is horrified by the intimation that she’s not so special after all. The chickens admit nothing.

As the egg hatches, the entire farm watches with bated breath. Whose egg is it, really?

My co-worker tells me that I have very weird taste in picture books, and I have to admit that this title might prove her right. On the other hand, weird is not bad, especially when it’s the delicious weirdness of The Cow That Laid an Egg.

The story itself is improbable, which lends to the delight. Just about every kid will identify with somebody in this text, from the suddenly famous Marjory to the jealous cows to the generous chickens, and I think you could talk about it for awhile. The gleeful, childlike pictures recall David Shannon’s style in the David books--round bodies, spiky lines, and unlikely proportions.

Pick up The Cow That Laid an Egg for some off-kilter fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reading Roundup September 2008

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 14

Writing: Good Enough to Eat by Brock Cole
Illustration: Come Fly With Me by Satomi Ichikawa
Overall: Rabbit's Gift by George Shannon

Because I Want To Awards
Kookiest Delight: The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy Cutbill
Sweetest Cause of Controvery: Uncle Bobby's Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
Book I'd Love to See in Animation: The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder by Peter Brown

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!