Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aaaand another . . .

Hard on the heels of Tasha's list yesterday, here's an article about the 35 best picture books of the year from the Children's Book Examiner.

I haven't read them all, but in the main I agree. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Wailing loudly over the one that got left off?

Happy New Year! Be sure to kiss somebody at midnight, and if it's a frog, get an after picture.

Happy Cybils Eve!

Tomorrow, the finalists for the Cybils award will be announced. Huzzah! Huzzah! This means we only have a month and a half until the WINNAHS are announced on Valentine's Day, and I have a month and a half of poring over picture books and debating them with other people who love picture books. Can't think of anything I'm looking forward to more.

Also, there's some piffling thing about a New Year starting tomorrow. Feh. Clearly, people have their priorities all messed up.

See you back here tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Were Your Favorites?

Tasha Saecker over at Kids Lit has posted her favorite picture books of the year, broken down by month. My own list is coming soon (still agonizing over it, if you must know) but in the meantime, what were some of your faves this year?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lio at the Library

I love Mark Tatulli's comic strip Lio, which features a kooky little kid. To give you an idea of the off-kilter tone of the comic strip, Lio sleeps with a stuffed bunny that has vampire fangs. Hee. This kid is right up my alley.

Plus, he seems to spend a lot of time in libraries. Check out this one from about ten days ago. It entertained me no end.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Review: The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

I'm slowly getting settled into my new town and my new job. Hopefully I'll get back to a regular(ish) posting schedule next week. In the meantime, here's a book review for y'all.

Book: The House in the Night
Author: Susan Marie Swanson
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Published: 2008

This picture book follows a little girl through her evening as she settles down for bed and reads a book to herself--one that takes her to the stars and beyond before she slips off to sleep.

There's plenty of love for this one already, but I had to add my voice to the chorus. I fell in love with this book from the first page. I actually got a little sleepy reading it. Not because it’s boring or anything, but because the rhythm of the words and the mostly-cumulative structure just made it that perfect kind of soothing book that knocks Junior out every time. Kudos Susan Marie Swanson.

I often flip through picture books while sitting at the reference desk, but this one would not be flipped through. I had to check it out and take it home so I could pore over the illustrations--mostly black and white scratchboard, but with important things picked out in vivid marigold. As the child's imagination takes over, the marigold tones become more widespread, then subside as she falls asleep, only to return strongly on the very last page as she dreams. Kudos Beth Krommes.

Look for this one to join Goodnight Moon as a bedtime book Mom and Dad will have memorized in about a week.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Readergirlz introduce Readertotz!

Poking my head out of the maze of packing boxes for a moment, I saw the news all over the kidlitosphere about Readergirlz' (is that the proper punctuation?) newest venture, Readertotz.

With a name like that, you expect this blog to skew younger than the YA goodness of Readergirlz. The cool thing is, it skews to the very youngest of all. From the press release:
a unique board book blog that aims to raise awareness of the infant-toddler book as a significant format of children’s literature.

I love board books, which seem to occupy a funny place in children's literature. We're just starting to realize the importance of exposing kids to books right from birth, so board books are more and more readily available. (I saw some at the dollar bins at Target the other day. Huzzah!) There's a lot that are just repackaged picture-book classics, with varying degrees of success. But the most successful ones, the ones destined to become classics in their board book form, are ones that are aimed directly at the infants and toddlers for whom the board-book format was invented.

I like Leslie Petricelli, Todd Parr, lift-the-flap, touch-and-feels, and so many more. I'll be following Readertotz for sure!

And now back to packing. Except I think I put my tape inside one of these boxes. Uh-oh.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

No Stupid Questions: Anastasia Suen Talks Early Readers

Welcome to the first in my (probably sporadic) interview series, called No Stupid Questions, where I interview an expert on some topic that I'm woefully underinformed on, and share the responses with you!

This year, the Cybils have introduced a new category: Easy Readers (also known as early readers). This was the brainchild of Anastasia Suen, who is also the first Category Organizer. Anastasia is a writer, educator, blogger, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that she fights crime on the side. The woman is exhausting.

I met Anastasia at the Kidlit 08 conference and after hearing her talk about easy readers for five minutes, I realized she’d forgotten more than I ever knew on the subject. As a children’s librarian in real life, I figured this was something I needed more information about. Anastasia agreed to take time out to answer a couple of stupid questions about easy readers and how parents, teachers, and librarians can use them.

What makes a book an easy reader?
Easy readers are books for kids who are learning how to read on their own. Learning to read isn't something that happens overnight. It's a series of small steps. So easy reader books are divided into three categories- emergents, early readers and transitional readers (or chapter books).

The simplest ones, the emergent readers, have just a word or a phrase on each page. Most of the story is told in the art.

The next step up, early readers, have more words in them. The art and the text work together to tell the story.

Chapter books are the third step. These books help kids transition from stories where the art gives clues to meaning of the words on the page to books where the art is decoration. (This is why teachers call these books, transitional readers.)

Who are the kids who read them?
Every child in school learns to read with easy readers. It takes time to learn all of the words in a story, so we begin with stories that have a few words and lots of clues in the art (emergents). As children learn to read more words, they can read longer and longer stories (early readers). The art becomes smaller and smaller until one day the child can read stories without relying on the art to help them figure out what is happening in the story (chapter books).

How should grown-ups use easy readers with the kids in their lives?
Children learn to read by reading the same words over and over and over. Practice makes perfect! Adults can support this by having lots of simple books available for children to read by themselves. At the same time, they can continue to read harder books to their child. (What a child can read independently and what a child can listen to are very different. It takes a long time for a child's reading level to catch up to his listening level.)

What are some of your favorite individual books or series?
There are so many wonderful choices! I love the classics, like Go, Dog, Go, by P.D. Eastman, the Fox books by James Marshall, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, and Commander Toad by Jane Yolen.

What do you think the outlook is for easy readers?
I think there will always be a need for easy readers. Kids need these simple books to learn how to read.

* * *

Thanks, Anastasia! The Easy Readers shortlist, along with all the other Cybils shortlist, will be announced on January 1 and the winner on February 14.

In the meantime, check out Anastasia's new blog all about easy readers, Easy to Read.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reading Roundup November 2008

Okay, it was a pretty thin month for picture books, and a nonexistent month for early readers. Still there was some good stuff. Hopefully you'll see more next month.

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 9
Early Readers: 0

Writing: Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard
Illustration: Shark in the Park by Nick Sharatt
Overall: Nature's Paintbox: A Seasonal Gallery of Art and Verse by Patricia Thomas

Because I Want To Awards
Sneakiest Way of Learning Geography: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard

Book: Me Hungry!
Author: Jeremy Tankard
Illustrator: Jeremy Tankard

A little caveboy is hungry, but cavepoppa and cavemomma are both too busy to feed him. So he comes up with the brilliant idea to hunt his supper all by himself. But what could he hunt? Animal after animal proves unsuitable. Is caveboy ever going to get fed?

I loved Tankard's first picture book, Grumpy Bird, and Me Hungry! proves this guy's not a flash in the picture-book pan. From the tongue-in-cheek humor (something tells me a lot of moms are going to get a laugh out of stressed cavemomma with cavebabies hanging off every limb) to the ink-and-digital illustrations to the sudden-but-sweet right turn the story takes at the end, this book has a lot of appeal.

You may get some resistance from grammar stickler parents who object to the improper use of the personal pronoun (is that the right term? Meh) but me, I think that just adds to the fun. I haven't tried this one out at storytime yet, but something tells me it'll be a hit.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This blog may be rather sporadic over the next month. I'm going to be moving to another state and that means I have to do the hardest thing any librarian ever does . . . decide which of my personal books I get to keep and which have to be donated.

Seriously, though, it's going to be a pretty crazy month. I have a couple of reviews that I'll polish and put up, and if I run across anything interesting I'll post it.

But as soon as I'm settled in, I'll be back on the job.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bringing Back Playtime

AP ran a story about kids losing out on play due to ever-more-rigorous academic standards at ever-younger ages, and the move to bring it back. As a literacy-lovin' person you'd think I'd be all for early learning, and I am.

But imaginative play is vital to grow a reader.

Narrative skills--one of the six pre-literacy skills--refer to how a child puts together a story. Beginning, middle, and end (although often there's no end, just an evolution to the next chapter of the Perils of Pauline). What happens next? And after that? And after that?

But they don't do it on paper. They do it with a foil crown, with a cardboard box, with a stick from the backyard (Mom: "Put that down, you'll poke someone's eye out!") They tell each other the story of how they're blasting off to explore Venus with their pet dinosaur.

The child who has already explored Venus in their own mind instinctively seeks out other adventures. The child who is given play time, fantasy time, imagination time, becomes our reader, because they already know the world is bigger than what they see with their own two eyes, and they want to discover it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Jane Yolen Writes a Picture Book

Other than, really, really freakin' well.

Fuse #8 pointed me at Jane Yolen's journal, wherein she talks about how she's writing (and, sometimes, tearing her hair out over) her current picture book. A snippet:
Difficult? A picture book? O, ye of little knowledge. To remind you: a picture book is usually 32 and occasionally 40 pages long. Half or more of it is pictorial. The trick of writing one--so far as there is a trick--is to be a prose writer with a poet's sensibility. Or a poet who is comfortable with story. Furthermore, an historical picture book needs to be able to boil down a biography or a part of a biography into a followable line with illustrate-able pages.
Y'all, this is why she's Jane Yolen. Unfortunately, her journal won't let you link to individual entries (Jane. Wordpress. Is all I'm sayin' here. Please?) so just scroll down the page or do a quick search to find the first entry, "Interstitial Moment 1 of 3."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Backstage at Sesame Street

One of the non-kidlit blogs that I always make sure to tune into is Jane in Progress, the blog of TV writer Jane Espenson. She's set her pen to Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, and too many others to mention, and her blog is full of good writing tips even if you're not aiming for the small screen.

I'm sharing this post because it contained a letter from a writer on Sesame Street. Favorite bit:
The folks in Research all have Master's degrees and PhD's in education, child psychology, etc. Research will review each script and give their comments to our head writer. . . .
I always knew Sesame Street had sound educational principles behind the Letter of the Day and Feist singing the "1, 2, 3, 4" song with penguins, but I had no idea they had such high requirements from their staff. I knew I liked those muppets for a reason.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Will Eat Them With a Fox!

I found this little gem over at Chicken Spaghetti--a Food Network Dr. Seuss Cake challenge. This vid focuses on the Green Eggs and Ham cake.

What I liked best about the clip was that, to the judges, the story that the cake embodied was just as important as the techniques, so the cake artists had to sit down with a book aimed at 5-year-olds and really study it. Cooooool.

Other cake stories seemed to include The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and possibly maybe The Lorax. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go bake something.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ethiopa Reads and Yohannes Gebregeorgis

If you haven't heard about this guy yet, then you need to check out Ethiopa Reads. This is a guy on the list of CNN's heroes (follow this link to vote for him being the top hero!) who's making a life's work of bringing books and reading to Ethiopa, to kids who may never have held a book before. Wow.

And the dude is a children's librarian! He left a job in the San Francisco Public Library to go back to Ethiopia and start up the ultimate bookmobile service! How much do I love that? Answer: a lot. I love it a lot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Warped Picture Books

So a few days ago, the child_lit email list was having a hoppin' debate about scary and warped picture books and using them with the tots. Warped in this case includes surprising and dark elements, like Kara LaReau's Ugly Fish, Sylviane Donnio's I'd Really Like to Eat a Child, or the monkeys who tease Mr. Crocodile.

All of the above are favorites of mine. I enjoy a good warped picture book, (hey, no comments from the peanut gallery) but I watch my audience. Above the age of four or so, they get into it. Below four or three, they're too sensitive still. And of course, individual results vary--you can have a pretty warped two-year-old who enjoys the crocodile snapping the monkeys down, and then a preschooler who bursts into tears when the old lady who swallowed a fly "dies, of course."

What do you guys think? Do your kids enjoy darkness or scares in their picture books, felt boards, or fingerplays? When did you introduce them?

Saturday, November 15, 2008 Has a Best-of List Too

So there, Publisher's Weekly. Plus, it's more love for A Visitor for Bear. Gotta get me that book.

Seriously, though, I kinda like Amazon's approach, which is to highlight "Editor's Picks" and then "Customer Picks." The two don't overlap at all, and I was mildly entertained to see that Fancy Nancy took up 40% of the customer list all on her own, which is strangely appropriate. I'm not too clear on how the Customer List works--flat out best selling? Did customers vote?

Anyhoo, they're worth a look. Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Buy Books for the Holidays!

I got this one from Jen Robinson's blog. Apparently, there's a new initiative in town, and it's called Buy Books for the Holidays. I'm behind this, and here's why:

1. Books are easy to wrap. Square or rectangle. Done and done-r.

2. When wrapped, the little stinkers can tell it's a book, but which one? Which one?!? No amount of rattling will give the title away. The suspense will make them crazy, which we all know is the best part of the holiday.

3. One-stop shopping, baby, be it Amazon, B&N, Powell's, favorite indie store that smells like cats and incense. With the price of gas, who wants to go driving all over Hell's half-acre for that elusive red shirt that your teenager wants?

4. The start of a lifelong addiction. Get 'em hooked early, and the next thing you know they're knocking on the library windows at 9:59 am, desperate for their lit fix. Muahahahaha.

Are you giving books for the holidays?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PW Weighs in With the Best Books of the Year

I kind of enjoy the rush of Best-of-Year lists, if only because I have a mental image of the first one being posted, read, and others reacting to it with an "Oh yeah? Sez you!" and posting their own best of. "So there!" Of course, the cynic in me whispers that it's put out just in time for holiday shopping.

And of course, I read all the lists with my librarian ego swinging wildly--"Liked that one. . . Meh, wasn't too crazy about that one . . . Oh my god, I've never heard of that one! How can I call myself a librarian? I should throw myself off a book cart!!! . . . Liked that one . . ."

Among others, PW and I agree on Susan Swanson's The House in the Night, Jon Scieszka's Smash! Crash! and Laura Vaccaro Seeger's One Boy.

Follow the magical dancing link to the PW site for more. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page for kid stuff. Unfortunately, there's not a separate section for early readers, and I don't see any early readers on the list. Sigh. We should sic Anastasia Suen on them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This One's For You, Daddy

We hear a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about boys who don't want to read. The trouble is, many books portray fathers (and by extension, the male gender) in a negative light or as a nonpresence. If you've ever put together a Father's Day storytime just a month after a Mother's Day one, you know what I mean. Now, we all love our mommies, but we love our daddies too, and sometime it's like looking for the lost treasure of the Incas, finding warm and wonderful daddy-centric books. is a website that focuses on books with daddies, uncles, and grandpas, gay, straight, single-parent, nuclear family, whatever you like as long as there's a positive male presence. As a children's librarian, it's currently saved in my "resources" folder. Keep it up, guys!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

. . . Huh

Thanks to Google Alerts, I ran across this review of a play version of Goodnight Moon. As I sat there and thought about it, I scratched my head ever more ferociously. Um . . . why exactly did the world need this?

God knows, Margaret Wise Brown's most famous work is a bedtime classic, and will probably never go out of print (or at least not until we humans have extinctified rabbits, mice, cows, and possibly the moon), but there's just not that much story there. A bunny is going to sleep. The end. Oh, and there may be some mice involved.

I appreciate the instinct of playwrights and screenwriters (anyone remember the live-action Grinch movie? Yeah, I see you there in that fetal ball) to pick up a familiar commodity for some surefire cash, but at some point you've just got to let it be.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama on Books of All Types

I usually don't talk politics on this blog, (although I did participate in Blog the Vote last week) but I had to post this oldish vid of our President-Elect talking about his favorite book as a kid. It's not great quality--the trick seems to be reading the closed captioning instead of trying to follow the audio.

I remember hearing about another speech of Obama's back when I attended ALA in 2005, although I didn't go see it. In it, he spoke passionately about the need for literacy to begin at home.

I think now there's going to be a feeling of possessiveness amongst librarians, as if we discovered him first. Or maybe cuz he so clearly loves and respects books the way we do. Yeah, could be.

(If you're interested in reading his ALA 05 speech, here it is at his now-probably-defunct Senate webpage.)

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the video.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NYT Best Illustrated Picture Books are Nigh!

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the New York Times has once again put out their list of Best Illustrated Children's Books. One of my favorite things all year, not least cuz it's purty.

Also, I think inclusion on the list is an indicator of possible future Caldecott fame, so it's a good award season primer. I don't have the 07 list to hand--anyone remember if Hugo Cabret was on it?

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the link.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bob Shea reads Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime

One of my most exciting scores at ALA was a fold & gather of Bob Shea's newest, Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime. (Fold & gathers, or F&Gs, are basically ARCs of picture books.) Here's a video of the author reading the book, which should incite all of you to run out and buy it for your little dinosaurs.

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime from bob shea on Vimeo.

Thanks to Stephanie over at Children's Literature Book Club for the vid. Check out her review, too!

The Story Behind the Seuss

Or at least ten of the stories, anyway.

The good people at mental_floss collected the stories behind ten Dr Seuss classics, including such tidbits as Yertle the Turtle is totally Hitler, and The Butter Battle Book was pulled from library shelves because it was too similar to the then-ongoing Cold War. Pretty keen.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Comment Challenge Ahoy!

So those crazy kids, MotherReader and Lee Wind, have cooked up something else for us all to join in on. It's the 21-day Comment Challenge!

I admit it, I'm not the best commenter ever. I'll save posts, think about them, even link to them if I decide to write about the topic on my blog, but I don't comment on the other person's actual blog. Knowing what a thrill it is for me to get comments, I feel bad about not putting in a little time to give that thrill to someone else.

No more! MotherReader and Lee, I'm in and I'll do my darnedest to speak up, even if it's to say "Go You!"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baby Sign and Storytime

Over at the ALSC blog, a children's librarian writes about integrating ASL into her baby and toddler storytime.

I don't know much about baby sign, but I do know that I get a lot of requests for books and many of the parents are using it with their children, enough that I've given thought to doing the same thing as this librarian.

Anybody out there using ASL with their own kids or at the library? Care to weigh in?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Opus Has Good Taste

Check out Berkeley Breathed's farewall to Opus, in which a picture-book classic features prominently. If you want some context, read the previous two strips here.

And that's an Awwwwwwwwww from me.

Thanks to the ALSC blog for the heads-up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yet More Third-Party Candidates

Did you need this today? Yeah, so did I. Click through to see the other candidates for President, running at Hicklebee's bookstore. Cuteness.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Book Review: Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris

Book: Maybe A Bear Ate It!
Author: Robie H. Harris
Illustrator: Michael Emberley
Published: 2008

Oh dear. Ohhhhh deeeeear. His book is gone. It's totally AWOL. What can have happened to his book? How can he possibly go to sleep without his book?!?

I love books like this, that allow me to shriek, holler, and make silly faces while telling a story that's instantly recognizable to kids and parents alike. The nameless narrator conjures up all sorts of terrifying fates (a bear's teeth! An elephant's behind!) and looks in several unlikely places before finding his book just where he last saw it. (Well, unlikely unless you're me, in which case a washing machine and the sock drawer are utterly logical places to misplace a book.)

Robie Harris is probably best known for her classic puberty text, It's Perfectly Normal. Until I read an interview over at Fuse #8, I didn't realize she was also a crackin' good picture-book writer. She lets the narrator's flight of imagination go on just long enough before bringing the story back to earth as he starts his book hunt.

Michael Emberley's illustrations expand on Harris's spare prose. The narrator (possibly a raccoon?) chases all over the page with the energy and exuberance of your average four-year-old before falling asleep at the very end. This book's going right on my Storytime Favorites shelf.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Munsch's Stroke

Ridiculously prolific picture-book author Robert Munsch apparently suffered a stroke over the summer. Luckily, he's back on track enough to fulfill his publicity obligations for the latest book.

Love You Forever aside, I really like Munsch. I have extremely fond memories of reading Stephanie's Ponytail to a rowdy and delightful crowd of kids. Here's hoping for a full recovery soon!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Reading Roundup October 2008

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 21
Early Readers: 2 (I need more good early readers. Suggestions?)

Writing: Goose and Duck by Jean Craighead George, ill. Priscilla Lamont
Illustration: There's Nothing to Do on Mars by Chris Gall
Overall: A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley, ill. Jim LaMarche

Because I Want To Awards
Most Romptastic: We've All Got Bellybuttons! by David Martin, ill. Randy Cecil
Dare You Not To Pick This One Up: Airplanes!: Soaring! Diving! Turning! (Things That Go!) by Patricia Hubbell, ill. Megan Halsey
Best New-Mommy Book: Ma! There's Nothing to Do Here! A Word from your Baby-in-Waiting by Barbara Park, ill. Viviana Garofoli

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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week is Upon Us!

So this week is Banned Books week, in which librarians all over the country highlight books that have been banned or challenged, and celebrate our First-Amendment-given right to read whatever we want.

While for librarians this is a fairly hot-button issue, sometimes I think the general public has a harder time understanding why it's a bad thing that certain books are objected to and possibly removed from library shelves. I had to explain BBW to a new employee yesterday, and the most efficient way I could think to put it was, "We believe that parents have the right to tell their own children what they can't read. They do not have the right to tell other people's children what they can't read."

Why does this matter on this blog? I read sweet little picture books. There's nothing to fear from sweet little picture books.

In fact, a couple of the most widely publicized book banning efforts have been against sweet little picture books. (And I've read them, and they are sweet.)

First up is And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, and illustrated by Henry Cole, about two male penguins who adopt a baby chick. All together now: awwww.

Unfortunately, this is the number-one challenged book of 2007. From the ALA Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2007
“And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
Okay, I have to say that I understand most of the charges. I don't agree with them, but I understand where they're coming from. But Anti-Ethnic? Can someone explain that one to me? I'm not being snarky (okay, a little) but really, I don't get it.

Second, a couple of the cutest picture books you'll ever see. Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland's Koning en Koning was translated from the Dutch and published in English as King and King. They followed that up with King and King and Family. As might expected, the first is a fairy tale with a twist--the wife-seeking prince finds a husband instead. In the second, the two kings adopt a princess of their very own.

In 2006, a couple of Massachusetts parents objected to this book being used as part of a classroom lesson on marriage. The Wikipedia entry gives some details. One of the parents stated,
"We felt like seven years old is not appropriate to introduce homosexual themes." and "My problem is that this issue of romantic attraction between two men is being presented to my seven-year-old as wonderful, and good and the way things should be."

The judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying, "Diversity is a hallmark of our nation".
It's no coincidence that both books were objected to on grounds of containing homosexuality. Talking with Lee Wind of I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? this weekend, he pointed out that when some people think of homosexuality, they think of it this way: homoSEXuality. In other words, the mere fact that two kings or two male penguins are a couple means they will have to explain the gay birds and bees to a six-year-old. Yikes.

As a librarian, I see these books as being about different kinds of family, and two of them are about adoption. No sex, and for the savvy parent, there doesn't have to be.

Picture books and YA books (my two faves! Coincidence? Hmm) are in my opinion the two most vulnerable age groups of books. Picture books because parents read them to curious, question-asking children, and the parent who is caught unawares by a concept they're not ready to talk about is doubly defensive. I think the only reason we don't see more picture books on the banned books list is that picture books tend to be on the conservative side. Very few of them even feature single-parent or multiracial families, much less same-sex parenting. However, that's beginning to change as our society becomes more open and diverse.

Have you heard of other banned or challenged picture books? Let me know!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Welcome to my new blog, Kid-Tested, Librarian Approved. Does this mean I'm getting rid of the Bibliovore blog? Oh, heck no! But I am splitting it up because it seems to be a little schizophrenic lately.

I'll keep Confessions of a Bibliovore for the MG/YA news and reviews, while Kid Tested, Librarian Approved is reserved for picture book and early reader news and reviews. Also, KTLA will have a little more of a librarian flavor about it. (Now would you say a librarian flavor is something like vanilla, chocolate, or perhaps Moose Tracks? Hmmm.)

Watch this space for further developments, including such exciting new features as . . . a sidebar! Links! Maybe even (whoa) reviews!