Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Blog Resolutions

Okay, New Year's Day isn't until Friday. But I thought I'd get these out there now. Lately, my life has been just a little insane, and my blogs are two things I pushed to the back burner. I have no problem with that--for a little bit, other things took precedence. But now I want to get back to blogging, and also to improve some things about my own blogging experience.

Resolutions work better when you set a specific goal, so I'll include one.

This year, I resolve to:

Comment more
I know people love getting comments, and there are varying schools of thought on their value. Speaking for myself, I like commenting and getting comments because it feels like I'm deeper into this awesomely fun conversation we've all been having for, oh, the last four years or so. I hear murmurings of a comment challenge in January. Maybe this will be the kick in the pants I need. I resolve to leave at least 5 comments a week. At the moment, that's 5 more than I am doing.

Post more
Like I said, I haven't been blogging much lately. That's been life-related, but it would be too easy to let that non-blogging habit continue. I resolve to post at least twice a week on both blogs. My next resolution should help with that.

Review more
My policy is not to review a book unless it has That Thing. That special spark that makes me go, "Ooooh, this is something I want to talk about." All very well and good, but I've been skipping books I wanted to review but just didn't. MotherReader's 48-Hour Reading Challenge in June taught me that I can write a review in twenty minutes or so, and even the blathery ones don't take more than half an hour to 45 minutes, including links and images. Surely I can carve out half an hour each week to write a review of a book I want to talk about anyway. I resolve to post one review a week on either blog, and preferably on both.

Not sweat the small stuff
Okay, this one might seem contradictory, given all those great intentions I have up there. But I do tend to overfocus and obsess a little, even if it's in the privacy of my own mind. So this is the year I'm going to relax and not chew on things like statistics. I've always done this for me first, and I want to stop grizzling because So-and-So has more followers than I do. Or whether I've read that hot book everyone's talking about. I'll get to it. If it's that great, it'll still be that great in ten months or whenever. No goal for this one, because I can't really say, "I resolve to not freak out at least once a week."

So that's my plan for 2010. What are your New Year's Blog Resolutions?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book Review: Lines That Wiggle by Candace Whitman, illustrated by Steve Wilson

Book: Lines That Wiggle!
Author: Candace Whitman
Illustrator: Steve Wilson
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

Lines are everywhere! Lines that wiggle, lines that bend, tickly, sprouting, all the lines you can think of. How many lines can you find?

Rainbows, thunderstorms, and swirling water are just some of the lines that are illustrated in this book. Each line on the page is delineated with blue glitter, adding both visual and texture fun to the reading. The line goes from the word on the page into the illustration, tracing the line that the word describes--a great, creative way to connect the concept to the word.

I read this to a toddler group, demonstrating each line as I did so. Some were a little harder than others to show, but they all got into it. Use for a storytime about art or nature, and prepare to have fun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reading Roundup November 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 8

Writing: Jake's Best Thumb by Ilene Cooper, illustrated by Claudio Muñoz
Illustration: Acorns Everywhere by Kevin Sherry
Overall: Old Bear by Kevin Henkes

Library: 8

Because I Want To Awards
The Month With So Few Books That I Don't Really Have Any Awards Left: November

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book Review: The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom

If you follow my RSS feed, this is the post that showed up all wackified a few days ago, when I hit "publish" instead of "save." Oooops. Sorry 'bout that.

Book Review: The Bus for Us
Author: Suzanne Bloom
Illustrator: Suzanne Bloom
Source: Local Library

A little girl and her friend wait at the bus stop. Every time a vehicle passes by, the little girl asks, "Is this the bus for us, Gus?" But it's a taxi . . . an ice cream truck . . . even a backhoe! But never the bus. Oh, will it ever come?

This is one of those deceptively simple excellent books. The structure is repetitive but not redundant, predictable without all the negative connotations of the word. Kids will have fun guessing the next vehicle with the hint shown, and then being able to turn the page to see if they're right.

Bloom expands upon her simple story in the artwork, which shows all the little dramas and characters of a morning's wait at the bus stop. I especially enjoyed the urban setting, which will strike a chord with city-dwelling kids who are more used to taxis and sidewalks than lawns and shade trees. Also, the children who join Gus and Tess at the bus stop are a nice mix of ages, ethnicities, and sizes. Silly touches abound, like the changing "Bus Stop" sign or the garbage truck owned by the Bicker brothers.

Frankly, you guys, I can't wait to read this in storytime.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keep Your Eye on This One

I'm easing back into this blogging thing. Stuff has been going on in my life, mainly the acquisition and moving-in-to of a condo. Yay me! But it means there's less time for blogging. Sadness. That's all going on right now, but there's no time like the present to get back in the blogging habit.

I'm linking to the start of a valuable series over at Booklights. Written by Jen Robinson from an old, popular post at her own blog, it's called Tips for Growing Bookworms, and she kicks things off by recommending ways to read aloud. Check it out, and keep an eye on this series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Skip This Post

. . . nothing about picture books, just a little Technorati stuff. MFM4CNZNKF96

Monday, November 23, 2009

Your Monday Giggle

A few weeks back, Buzzfeed posted some Dr Seuss/Superhero mashups. Heee. And heee again.

I have to say, the artist did a pretty good job of reproducing that particular Seussian body type and the lines of the background. Kudos.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: Monarch and Milkweed by Helen Frost

Book: Monarch and Milkweed
Author: Helen Frost
Illustrator: Leonid Gore
Published: 2008
Source: Local Library

Every year, the milkweed plant blooms in the spring, and the monarch butterfly comes up from Mexico to find it. Their respective life cycles twine around each other throughout the summer. Then in fall, the milkweed dies and the monarch flies away--but spring will always come again.

This is an example of a nonfiction book that could captivate children as young as four. Helen Frost starts the book out with parallel narratives for the monarch and the milkweed, which draw closer together and eventually blend before separating again at the end. Her dreamy prose is descriptive without being clinical: "Inside Monarch's egg, a caterpillar forms / and four days later pushes out / shorter than an eyelash / almost invisible against the leaf's pale green." Can't you imagine reading that aloud? She also includes an author's note in the back with a little more information on monarch butterflies.

Leonid Gore's acrylic-and-pastel art in this book is flat-out beautiful. There's a spread of a flock of butterflies over a field of flowers that I pretty much wanted to cut out and frame. The caterpillars, butterflies, and plants are displayed in a mix of careful biological detail and beautiful art. A fascinating book for kids that love nature, science, bugs, or just a really good story.

Posted for Nonfiction Monday.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reading Roundup October 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 23
Early Readers: 2

(New category! Just to let you and the FTC know where I get my books.)
Review Copies: 1
Purchased: 1
Library: 21
Other: 1 (Um. I read it standing in the bookstore. Um. Sorry.)

Writing: Bebe Goes to the Beach by Susan Middleton Elya
Illustration: This is the Stable, illustrated by Delana Bettoli
Overall: Monarch and Milkweed by Helen Frost, illustrated by Leonid Gore (review coming soon!)

Because I Want To Awards
Punniest: Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Mark Siegel
Most Fun Interplay Between Text and Illustrations: Minerva Louise on Halloween by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Savviest Protagonist: The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Next on the Silver Screen?

So apparently Hollywood has, from time to time, made a picture book into a movie. Somehow.

Entertainment Weekly has some suggestions for the next few adaptations, including how to expand a ten-sentence picture book into a 90-minute movie. For instance:
Green Eggs and Ham: The car of a notoriously irascible food critic (Bradley Cooper) breaks down in a small rural burg while he’s on his way to an awards ceremony in his honor. He soon finds that the only place in town to eat is the local diner, where a quirky fun-loving waitress Samantha Iams (Anna Faris) serves up her famous green eggs and ham along with a side of loveable antics. While he initially declines to try anything but coffee and toast, she refuses to take no for an answer and they both soon realize that the quickest way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.
Sample Dialogue: “I realized something, Sam. Eggs are a lot like people. They’re fragile and if you’re not careful with them, they can break so easily. I think that’s why I acted like I did. I was afraid of breaking. But not anymore”
Hee. I also enjoy the fact that most of the comments on this tongue-in-cheek article are very serious.

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Belated Birthday Wishes

If you're an illustration fangirl or fanboy, I urge you to check out Three Kisses for Tomie. Basically, the story is that a number of children's book illustrators got together and drew tributes in honor of Tomie dePaola's 75th birthday last month.

What I find fascinating (other than the warm fuzzies of artists honoring a master) is how some artists blended distinctively dePaolaian art into their own, like Babymouse's encounter with Strega Nona's tortine oven or Matt Phelan's depiction of Big Anthony wrapped in pasta. Too cool.

Oh, yeah, and happy birthday, Tomie!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Review: Monster Mess by Margery Cuyler

Book: Monster Mess
Author: Margery Cuyler
Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Published: 2008
Source: Local library

Yawn--it's bedtime for this monster. But when he gets to the room, it's such a mess that the monster just has to clean it all up before he can possibly sleep. As a little boy snores in the bed, the monster bustles around, picking up blocks, screws, and stinky shoes. At last . . . it's time to sleep. But what will happen when the little boy finds his unexpected guest?

What a fun book! The absurd delight of a scary monster daintily straightening a messy bedroom will provoke a smile. Even as he's obsessively cleaning up, kids will recognize the way he stuffs clothes higgledy-piggledy in drawers and squishes various items into a bulging closet. The structure of each sentence adds a rhythmic quality to a read-aloud, and the vocabulary is simple enough for beginning readers who aren't afraid of a little onomatopoeia.

I loved the monster, who seemed to be a crazy combination of catfish, sea anemone, centipede, and gecko. Even though he looks pretty weird, he is also very friendly-looking for a monster. Schindler gets a lot of intense, vivid touches of color in that I generally don't expect from watercolors, yet there are lovely and subtle shadings and blendings, especially on the monster, that you really don't get with anything else. Nicely done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

KidLitCon: Overview Part Two

As promised, here's the second half of my conference day.

Greg Pincus of the Happy Accident kept us wide awake, even after lunch, with his presentation on Social Media for Fun (and Profit?) His advice? Go play in traffic--meaning put yourself out there in the online stream. Things will come to you much easier if you go where they are, and even pursue them. Something else he brought up that I tend to forget is that all forms of social media are simply tools. So MySpace is on its last legs, Facebook is (allegedly) fading, and Twitter may soon hit the downslope. There will be something else to take its place. What's important are the connections you make through it, and how those connections help your goals or enrich your life. One example is the most excellent Mitali Perkins' recent idea of Twitter book parties, where she tweets the title, author, audience, and publisher of a novel published that day and encourages everyone to retweet. This has become such a success that non-kidlit authors are running with the idea. Finally, remember to comment, say thank you, and generally play nice online. I'm not always the best at remembering the "social" part of social media, so I was glad to get this refresher.

After that, we had a panel discussion on Authors, Publishers, Reviewers (and ARCs). This starred Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds, Liz B of A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, author Paula Chase, and Laura Lutz of Pinot and Prose, who also works for HarperCollins as their School and Library Marketing Director. They discussed how the three groups see each other, and the way that the lines have become blurred. Also touched upon was the Liar controversy, also known as "that one time all the bloggers started talking about a cover at once and got the publisher to change it," as an example of the new power that bloggers are gaining and the need for responsibility to go along with it. Laura also talked about things from the publishing end, and pointed out that often bloggers are names in a (sometimes outsourced) marketing database with little room for details, which explains how a kidlit blogger can randomly receive an adult cookbook.

Our last (formal) session of the day was Coming Together, Reaching Out, with Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page, Gina Montefusco from PBS Booklights Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub, and Ernestine Wells Benedict of Reading is Fundamental. We're all in this gig because we want to connect kids and teens with the best books possible. They talked about what happens beyond the blog, or how to leash the passion and knowledge of the kidlitosphere for others. The PBS Booklights blog is an example of this--written by experts for parents, its focus isn't on the hottest new picture books but on how to read with and to your kids to spark their love of reading. From the audience, Laurel Snyder had the idea to get various literacy organizations together and host a read-in day across the country. The response? "Absolutely, let's do it!" Awesome.

And that was it for the day! We had a dinner in the evening, where I shared a table with Karen and Bill of Literate Lives, Lara and Julie from the new company Grow Up With Books, Mary Lee of a Year of Reading (and her husband) and two more people who I remember talking to but can't quite recall their name. Oh dear. If this is you, apologies and please leave your name in the comments!

I have one (1) measly picture from the day, which was when BookNut came over with her camera. Here you can see our elegance and decorum.

Again, great time and thanks to everyone who made it so, especially MotherReader! I shared a hotel room with the woman and I can tell you, she worked her tail off on this one, even the evening before and the day of. I can only imagine the months of work that already went into it.

If you didn't make it this year, there's always next year. No firm place yet, but I heard Minneapolis being thrown around. (Not the actual city; that would be loud. And I imagine distressing to Minneapolites.) I can tell you, being one of only four people who've made it to all three conferences thus far, it's worth it.

Check out the Twitter transcript over at The Happy Accident, and look for more roundup posts, collected in the comments of this MotherReader post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

KidLitCon: Overview Part One

What a great weekend this was! I love meeting the people whose blogs and books I've been reading. I hung out and talked books, blogging, general geekery, and all manner of other things.

As to the conference itself, here's what we did.

The Blog Within: This was a solo presentation by MotherReader, about the 5 W's and one H of blogging. It wasn't so much a presentation as a rather Zen reflection on why we blog, who we blog for, etc. She also recommends doing this at specific times during the year to return yourself to your original intentions for your blog, and re-energize yourself.

Building a Better Blog: MotherReader and GalleySmith did this one as a team. They talked about such nitty-gritty, nuts & bolts things as the design of your blog to make it a better experience for your readers and how to comport yourself online knowing that the Internet is forever. While they gave a lot of great tips, it all boiled down to three things to keep in mind: purpose, passion, and professionalism.

At this point, we split into concurrent sessions. I went to It's All About the Book, presented by BookNut, BiblioFile, The Miss Rumphius Effect, and A Year of Reading. We talked about writing reviews, content vs. filler, and ways to participate in the larger blogging community. By the way, what do you guys think about comments? I don't often get the chance to leave comments, but there's a difference between "Cool post, yeah" and "Interesting, here's my thoughts." Greg Pincus of The Happy Accident thinks blogs should have a "Like This" button like Facebook, and I agree. It's a way to participate a little if you don't have time for more. Google Reader did recently add a "Like" option, but it only works for readers, and the blogger doesn't get notified. Hmm. Something to think about.

Then it was back to the big ballroom for Meet the Author. My inner fangirl really comes out to play at these things. I got to talk to Varian Johnson (who gave me one of the two ARCs he'd brought with him, largely because I begged shamelessly), Elizabeth Scott, Joan Holub, Jacqueline Jules, Paula Chase, Pam Bachorz, and too many other authors to count. Between this session and the ARC table in the back, I ended up mailing boxes to myself. It was either that or lug it all in my carryon luggage, and then the plane would never get off the ground.

Then it was time for the last-minute, special surprise treat of the conference: FTC Regulations for the Blogger. Okay, that's not the formal name but it was so last-minute that it didn't even have a formal name. Pam got ahold of the FTC last week and managed to get a representative to come out to us. Mary Engle, Associate Director of Advertising Practices, agreed to visit and hear our concerns, and give the answers that she could. This was probably the most useful session in a whole valuable day. There are excellent, thoughtful recaps from Galleysmith, Jennifer R. Hubbard at WriterJenn, A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, and any number of others. Here are the main points I got out of it:
  • There's a difference between an impartial reviewer and someone who's part of a specific marketing campaign. We're the former; they're looking at the latter.
  • The FTC is targeting corporations who are advertising unethically, not individuals who are the medium by which the corporations are advertising. They have no ability, or desire, to patrol the entire blogosphere and bring the hammer down on individual bloggers.
  • That scary $11k figure that was getting thrown around is a miscommunication. That fine is for the hard-and-fast rules, and the recent blogger regulations are more guidelines. Like the pirate code.
  • It's a smart idea to disclose review copies, but the FTC isn't requiring it. (That being said, the kidlitosphere has pretty well agreed that disclosing ties like free reviewer copies, Amazon Affiliate/Vine membership, etc, is the professional and ethical thing to do.)
  • However, if you do disclose, especially things like Amazon Affiliate membership, it needs to be upfront and prominent. In Engle's words, readers should not have to search for it. The best way is probably a short line right in the post. For instance, LizB at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy has taken to noting her Amazon Affiliate membership at the end of every post.
  • This is all a work in progress. Engle admitted that they could have set more definitions to clarify the difference between reviewers and marketing programs. The FTC has set up an email address,, for concerns. They can't answer individual questions, but it sounded like they were going to use the emails they get to write a FAQ for bloggers.
Awesome work by MotherReader getting that set up, and thanks to Mary Engle and the FTC for taking the time for us.

After that, it was lunchtime. Part Two of the day is coming your way tomorrow! By the way, if you want some more dimension than my brief comments provided, check out other roundups around the blogosphere (here are a few, in the comments of MotherReader's post) or check out the Twitter transcript that Greg Pincus posted at the Happy Accident on the evening after the conference.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's Not Always Easy

Over at Booklights, Susan talks about some of the struggles involved in reading aloud to her son.
When he was younger, he wouldn't hold still for anything, let alone a book. He wiggled. He squirmed. He was totally uninterested. It was tough on a parent like me who had been waiting for years until she had kids of her own to read to. It was hard not to feel like I was doing something wrong.

All kids develop differently, even when it comes to reading aloud.
She goes on to give a few pointers and reassurances. Don't miss the comments, where some other parents share their own travails and advice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reading Roundup September 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 12
Early Readers: 2

Writing: Anatole by Eve Titus
Illustration: Baby Shoes by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Overall: Opposnakes by Salina Yoon

Because I Want To Awards
Surefire Bedtime Book: Goodnight Me by Andrew Daddo
For When You Really Need a Sharing Book: Bears on Chairs by Shirley Paranteau
Best Foreshadowed Twist: Annie Was Warned by Jarrett Krosoczka

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements

Book: Night of the Veggie Monster
Author: George McClements
Illustrator: George McClements
Published: 2008

One evening, a young boy sits down to dinner. Oh, doom! For there on his plate, alongside the chicken and the mashed potatoes are . . . PEAS. He knows what peas do to him. At the (exasperated) urging of his parents, he tries just one--and then the real horror begins.

This book is a hoot! The high drama of the picky eater, contrasted with his parents' sarcastic asides, means that all ages will get a kick out of it. McClements uses a mixture of photography and colored pencils on brown paper to bring his story to life. And of course, the pea isn't that bad (but that doesn't mean he's any less averse to, say, broccoli). This hilarious little book illustrates a situation familiar to many families. I can't wait to read it in storytime.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Banned Books Week Starts Tomorrow

And in honor of that, I'm pointing you at this Unshelved cartoon from a few months back. Even sweet little picture books about cute penguins aren't immune.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

KidLitCon Meme

There's a new meme in town, and it's all about the KidlitCon. Being as I've been to both so far and am all set to go to year 3, I figured I'd chime in.

Why did you decide to attend the KidLitosphere Conference?

The first year, when it was in Chicago, because my brother lived in Chicago. It was a two-fer--I'd get to visit him, and I'd get to meet some of the people whose blogs I followed (and still do).

Plus, as it got bigger and bigger, it just sounded like so much fun that I didn't want to be left out.

Who was most like their blog? Who was least like their blog?

MotherReader was exactly as I would have expected from her blog. With Pam, what you see is what you get. Lee Wind, also, pours forth the same energy in person that you can feelfrom his blog.

Who was least like? A startling number of people were on the quiet side in person, but were still great fun to hang out with.

What surprised you at the conference?

That people actually knew my blog (at the time, I only had one, Confessions of a Bibliovore). Perhaps because blogging is so physically solitary, I had this idea that my words were drifting out into the void. I was shocked when somebody said, "Oh, yeah, of course! Confessions of a Bibliovore!" Me: "Bwuh?"

What will you always remember about the last conference?

Hanging out with people in the evening, talking for hours about nothing and everything. That was also the night that Jackie of Interactive Reader talked me into buying an iPod Touch merely by demonstrating WorldCat on her iPhone that evening. My god, I'm a geek.

Did you blog about the conference?

Sure did.
KidlitCon 07
KidlitCon 08:
Parts One
Three and

KidlitCon 09 is October 17th, in DC. Step on over to Kidlitosphere Central to find more information, including the sign-up page.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Language Development, AKA Cute Baby Video!

YA author Lauren McLaughlin recently posted a video of herself and her new daughter, babbling gleefully at each other.

Okay, okay, it's a great excuse for an adorable video, but Lauren makes a good point in her post about the basics of language. Sure, it's a cute baby and we all go awwwwwww, but important things are happening in Addie's little baby brain. Reading doesn't happen in a vacuum, but builds directly on early language development.

Her other good point is how exciting it all is. For baby, for mom and dad, this is the most amazing babble in the history of the world.

Have you babbled at your baby today?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Kids Should Get Library Cards

This one's been hanging out on my Google Reader for a couple of months now. Oops. Anyway, my friend Lisa collected testimony from librarians, Twitter friends, and various others on why kids should get library cards. My favorite:
You can find out how to protect yourself from zombies.
Bwaha. See the more serious ones over at Bunkermentality.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Maurice Sendak on Display

If you're in San Francisco, hie thee to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for what promises to be a completely awesome exhibit titled, There’s a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak. It's billed as:
the largest and most ambitious exhibition of original watercolors and drawings from more than 40 of Sendak’s books, including his most beloved titles. It also features rare sketches, never-before-seen working materials, and exclusive interview footage.
Woweee. This article from the San Francisco Sentinel elaborates. But get there quickly--it starts today and only goes through January 19th.

Thanks to a tweet from Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reading Roundup August 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 12
Early Readers: 1

Writing: Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale
Illustration: Shape Me A Rhyme by Jane Yolen, photographs by Adam Stemple
Overall: Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident by George Clements

Because I Want To Awards

Most Fun Interplay Between Words and Pictures: Adventures of Cow, Too by Lori Korchek

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's in it for Mom and Dad?

In literacy circles, we talk a lot about the benefits of reading aloud for kids (which, make no mistake, are legion). But recently, Andrea Ross of the kidlit podcast Just One More Book!! wrote a piece at the Children's Book Review about what she gets from reading to her small ones. Here's a sample:
Read-aloud time is a time to connect. I can’t cook, gab or plan while I’m reading and any of my own grumblings, nagging or less than stellar moods are put aside. What I’m reading, in these cases, barely matters. They want to know that I’m there for them and reading aloud lets me show them I am.
All together now: awwwww. Click the link for more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cybils Ahoy!

The noms don't start for the Cybils until October 1, but you can put in your name to be a judge right now. From the Cybils blog, the requirements:
  • blog about some aspect of children's or teen books on at least a somewhat consistent basis;
  • or contribute regularly to a group blog about same;
  • know a thing or two about what kids/teens are reading these days;
  • are planning to be reading obsessively over the next few months anyway
Sound like you? Check the rest of the post for more info. Make sure you know what you're getting into! I've done this for the past two years. It is great fun, but also a lot of work. But if you're up to it, let the organizers know!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are You Signed Up for KidlitCon 09?

Admit it, you were just thinking, "Gosh, I'm not doing anything on Saturday, October 17. Whatever can I find to fill up the time?" I know. It's spooky how I read minds like that.

Well, wonder no more! Head on over to Kidlitosphere Central and sign yourself up for the Third Annual (Third! Annual! I know!!) Kidlitosphere Conference, taking place this year in Washington, D.C. We're having sessions on reviewing, the publishing biz, giving back, plus a meet-the-authors session. And that's not all--there'll be social-type fun on Friday and Sunday both.

Seriously, I've been to the last two and I loved them. It's so much fun to meet the people you've been reading, to jabber about kids books and blogging and all sorts of other topics. Both years, it refreshed and energized and empassionated (it's a word, because I said so) me to get back to my blog. In fact, I started Kid Tested, Librarian Approved in the airport on the way back from last year's conference.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book Review: Friday My Radio Flyer Flew by Zachary Pullen

Book: Friday My Radio Flyer Flew
Author: Zachary Pullen
Illustrator: Zachary Pullen
Published: 2008

When his dad finds an old red wagon in the attic, a little boy takes the opportunity to fix it up. He knows it can not only roll, it can fly. But days of work, false starts, and tumbles later, he's starting to have his doubts. Then his dream comes true, in a most unexpected way.

One of the first things I noticed is that this book is an illustration of shared father-son moments. Picture books tend more toward Dad-as-Hero, but instead Pullen chooses to show wordless moments of togetherness in everyday life. Not only the climax, which made me smile and smile, but throughout the book, the father watches or works alongside his son.

Pullen's oil-paint-on-board illustrations have a fifties feel about them, from the dad's hat to the son's sneakers and hairstyle. Big, beautiful two-page spread immerse you in the story. This simple, sweet story celebrates the power of joined imaginations.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Proud Reader

One of my favorite non-library, non-book blogs is Dooce. She posted a video recently of her five-year-old daughter reading The Cat in the Hat aloud for the camera. (Sorry, folks--I can't embed.)

The kid's a good reader, but what got me was the expression of pride on her face right around 0:45. Check me out, y'all. I'm reading the crap out of this book.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck and Tricia Tusa

Book: In a Blue Room
Author: Jim Averbeck
Illustrator: Tricia Tusa
Published: 2008

It's bedtime, but Alice can't sleep, not until her room is blue all over. Mama brings flowers, tea, a blanket, and bells to soothe her daughter to sleep. Though none of them are blue, they all contribute to Alice's growing drowsiness. And she finally gets her blue room from an unexpected source.

I love books that utilize all five senses without being overbearing about it, and Averbeck builds the book around a gentle sensation in each one. While the text isn't written in the rhyming-couplet format that you so often see in picture books, there's a poetic flow about the words that rocks listeners off to sleep, like this:
In a blue room
yellow bells on black strings
chime softly in the window breeze.
Alice yawns,
almost gone.
Tricia Tusa uses ink, watercolor, and gouache for the illustrations, which use a warm color palette (at least in the first three-quarters of the book) and soft, flexible lines to create a cozy atmosphere. And I have to say, when I turned the page and found the blue room, my jaw dropped. Wowee.

A perfect book for bedtime. I'm feeling a little sleepy myself.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wild Things Trailer Joy and Happiness

The new Where the Wild Things Are trailer came out last week, but I didn't get the chance to watch it until now.

Ooooo. Love. I'm still trying to get a feel for what the framing story's supposed to be, but I love the Wild Things and Max's delivery of the wild rumpus line is awesome.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Book Review: Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman

Book: Museum Trip
Illustrator: Barbara Lehman
Published: 2006

On a class trip to the art museum, one boy gets separated from the group (there's always one). He wanders around until he finds a display of ancient mazes--and then into the mazes, to discover their mysteries for himself.

Wordless picture books are always a little tough for me. Maybe I depend too much on words to tell me what's going on. But reading Museum Trip, I got the same feeling of fuzzy boundaries and space for imagination that I got from David Wiesner's Flotsam. Maybe that's the real joy of wordless books. Just as in comic books and graphic novels, you have to surmise the story through the pictures, and just possibly the story you construct is not the same one that everyone else does.

There's something in this book to captivate art lovers, puzzle aficionados, and adventurous kids. Who doesn't adore the idea of shrinking down small enough to race around a paper maze--and the possibility that you're not the only one who's ever done it?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reading Roundup July 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 30
Early Readers: 0 (ooops)

Writing: The Frog Prince, Continued by Jon Scieszka
Illustration: Sleeping Bunny, illustrated by Pamela Silin-Palmer
Overall: In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Because I Want To Awards
You Could Spend Hours With This Book: All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet by Bill Mayer
Most Hilarious Interplay Between Text and Illustrations: Just Another Ordinary Day by Rod Clement

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Worst Ever

Dude, what's with all the picture-book hateration lately?

Clearly copying off Laurel Snyder, the American Scene recently ran a column titled, "Worst. Children's Books. Ever." It included some of our favorite love-to-hates (hey, Love You Forever! Howdy, The Giving Tree!), but I was surprised by the depth of vitriol reserved for The Polar Express. Wow. Just . . . wow.

And don't miss the comments. I know I say that all the time, but seriously, don't. Heck, stop on by the Guardian snippet that pointed me there and have a look at those comments.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Randolph Caldecott is a Rock Star

Or something. And now, the most unusual music video about the Caldecott award I've ever seen, created by Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 fame.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wild Things at Comic Con

Okay, I know you're saying here, "How is that news?" But I mean the other Wild Things--you know, the Caldecott winners.

I happened upon a scrap from and another from to the effect that the upcoming movie wowed audiences at a Comic-Con panel over the weekend. Good to know. Also good to hear? Sendak's enthusiastic support for a movie that seems to have diverged quite a bit from the original text.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review: Yellowbelly and Plum Go to School by Nathan Hale

Book: Yellowbelly and Plum Go to School
Author: Nathan Hale
Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published: 2007

Yellowbelly is starting school, and so is his best buddy Plum. After all, they do everything together. Plum is a little shy at first (well, he is a teddy bear) but when he disappears to play with some other kids, it's Yellowbelly who has the meltdown. Can this first day of school be saved?

The story itself is a very familiar one to anyone who's ever had a child (or been the child) who brings his best stuffed buddy to school with him. There's a kooky edge even in the writing--their favorite games include envelope (stuffing themselves into the mailbox) and meteor shower (dumping the contents of a trash can over each others' heads).

What makes this book truly delightful is the cast of characters. Without making a big deal of it in the narration, Nathan Hale creates a world with all sorts of critters (monsters doesn't seem to be the right word when they're so friendly) that coexist happily with humans. Detail-loving kids will pore over the spreads, especially one of the schoolyard with hundreds of first-grade critters playing together, including a shark in a tutu, a giant bumblebee, and a number of dinosaurs. Talk about everyday diversity.

Exuberant Yellowbelly and deadpan Plum balance each other perfectly, and there's no preachy lesson about letting go of your toys as you grow up. Great for any age, but especially for new kindergartners or preschoolers anxious about what's to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Are You an Ilk?

Cuz I totally am.

From Trap Door Sun, an interview with Mo Willems. He talks about the difference between TV and books from a writing standpoint, how and why books command respect, and his own glorious uncoolness.
My books are made for un-cool people; that is to say they’re for folks who are willing to be silly, absurd, or just plain weird. Turns out that most kids are joyously un-cool while many adults fear un-coolness. So, my books are put on the kid’s shelves where they can be enjoyed un-self-consciously by children, the occasional goofy grown-up, and their ilk. Especially their ilk.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Owl Babies!!

Tell me you didn't squeal that when you saw this Cute Overload post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kids, Parents, and Summer Reading

Tweeted from Jen Robinson, (from whom I acquire all my early literacy news) comes this tidbit. She found an article from the Children's Book Review on how parents can keep their kids reading during summer break. My favorite are numbers two and three:
  • Visit the library. If your child doesn't have a library card, summer is a great time to sign up. In addition to a wide selection of books to borrow, many libraries have fun, child-friendly summer reading programs.
  • Lead by example. Read the newspaper at breakfast, pick up a magazine at the doctor's office, and stuff a paperback in your beach bag. If kids see the adults around them reading often, they will understand that literature can be a fun and important part of their summer days.
Yaaaaaaaaaaay! Check out the article for more.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Here's a Twist

She's been threatening to do it for awhile, and now Laurel Snyder has come through with
the worst picture books EVAH.. Or some of them, anyway. She points out that the top three are about creatures--human, bunny, tree--who love to the point of totally frakkin' creepiness. Interesting.

As it happens, I agree heartily with two of her choices and went, "Awwww, nooo!" at the third. How about you?

My personal add to this list would have been Guess How Much I Love You. Competitive much?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hold onto Your iPhones, Kiddies

. . . because the Pigeon is Twittering. Not twittering like most birds, but 140-character "what are you doing?" Twittering while author Mo Willems is at ALA.

No updates yet, but I'm already following.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

File This Under "Squee!"

Mo Willems posted an extra-cool sneak peek at his blog--news of a brand-new series! Woohoo! The first two "Cat the Cat" books come out next winter.

My co-worker and I discussed whether they were picture books or easy readers. They seem to fall into both camps, but then, we're just going by the covers. What's your take?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reading Roundup June 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 25
Early Readers: 2

Writing: Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
Illustration: My Friend the Starfinder by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Overall: Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Because I Want To Awards
Dreamiest: Cat and Fish by Joan Grant
Most Likely to Give Kids Ideas: Let's Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Krosoczka Interview at Publisher's Weekly

One of the little treasures I've had marked in my Google Reader has been this interview with Jarrett J. Krosoczka. He's best known for his picture books at the moment, but he's starting up a kids' graphic novel series about a crime-fighting lunch lady (I know, right? I know!)

In this interview, he talks about the long and winding process of bringing Lunch Lady to life, being a "goofy kid who loved to draw," and how his attention was turned from comics toward picture books when a teacher brought some to class.
I had never looked at picture books as an artistic endeavor. But I realized that these books are cool, and can sit on bookshelf in a kid’s room and be passed down for generations. The comics I had been working on were, for lack of a better word, disposable.
The first in his new series, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, hits the shelves this summer, and is even getting polished up for movie stardom. Pretty good for a goofy kid.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anthony Browne interview

Jon Scieszka may be getting kids to salaam on this side of the pond, but over in the UK, Anthony Browne has been named their new children's laureate. Thanks to Child_Lit, here's an article from the Times Online, containing a child-driven interview of Browne, and his very interesting answers. Here's my favorite, on what he hopes to accomplish as children's laureate:
“I'm hoping to get us to value looking more than we do,” Browne answers. “We can learn so much by using art. Children, particularly, are taught to move away from pictures into words, but you can read pictures, too. I think all children are very visual, but as they get older and more self-conscious they lose it. The only difference between me and most adults is that I carried on drawing. You could all draw like me! We're taught that in maturity you leave pictures behind, but you don't have to do one at the expense of the other.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Frog and Toad Are Back!

Remember Arnold Lobel's classic Frog and Toad? I have visceral memories of turning the pages, reading about these two firm friends. Now Lobel's daughter Adrienne is bringing back three new Frog and Toad stories in a book called The Frogs and Toads All Sang. The stories are ones her father wrote but never published, paired with her own pictures. Check out the NPR story for more.

Thanks to the Miss Rumphius Effect for the news, via a Tweet from gregpincus. How is it possible to have so many steps to get to one article about frogs and toads?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tushies and Chicka-Chicka Vids

So after yesterday, I thought you guys deserved some adorable videos. The first is a quick trailer for The Tushy Book.

Next, a musical version of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

I especially love the various methods of perambulation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Can vs. Should

Every so often, the kidlitosphere has a flurry of posts about reading to grade level (or above, or below) and the importance that grown-ups attach to it. Even though we've done it before, it's worth going through again as often as possible, which was why I was happy when Jen Robinson kicked this flurry off. She has a round-up of responsive posts and links at PBS's Booklights blog.

I was one of those kids who read above their grade level. Luckily, my parents never put any pressure on me. But I personally bought into the "gifted" label and pressured myself, reading Gone with the Wind in fourth grade and attempting Nicholas Nickleby in seventh, believing that because I could read these books, I should. I hated both and have never gone back to either, even though I love other Dickens novels.

My favorite scene in all of Dickens may be the lurid description of Miss Havisham's wedding cake. Reading it was the first chill-inducing, breath-stealing experience I ever had of the presence of literary genius. But I was seventeen.

That's my greatest objection to pushing kids to read farther and farther above their grade level. Not that kids will encounter sex and violence, but that they may be in the presence of genius that they're not ready for, and in missing it, dismiss it for the rest of their lives.

Of course Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare are stone-cold geniuses. I'm the last person to deny that. But there's genius of a different kind in Eric Carle, in Frog and Toad, in Ramona Quimby--the kind of genius that's right for the age it's written for. This is not about skill level, but child development.

Sure, there are kids who are developmentally ready for Dickens at ten. Every kid is different, after all. But so many are pushed at it, forced to start and forced to finish by influences outside the simple question of, Does this book speak to me?

As many of you know, my favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice. I started it three different times (at fourteen, at sixteen, and at eighteen) before I finished it. If I'd been pushed through it at fourteen, spurred on by AR points or lexile levels or teachers or parents that said I should read this book, I might have missed and dismissed a novel that's formed a cornerstone of both my reading and my understanding of the world.

You want to talk about tragedy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

And It Doesn't Look More Than Fifteen

According to Publisher's Weekly, storytime classic The Napping House recently turned 25. Zowie. To celebrate, they cranked up the art using computer technology that wasn't around in 1983. Audrey and Don Wood were initially a little leery of succumbing to the update bug, but:
“The new cover perfectly illustrates the liberating effects of digital technology on design,” Don says. “Suddenly hundreds of design options, unavailable to us in the 1980s, present themselves. This cover is alive and flowing and cozy—a vortex of slumber. Looking at it, we couldn’t resist.”
As long as Grandma isn't shown with earbuds. Check out the article for some fun tidbits about the original creation and the revamp.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Libraries and Those Who Love Them

Recently, Abby (the) Librarian did a great series on what patrons, teachers, and other folks should know about the library. They cover things like how to work with the library if you're a teacher, storytime behavior, and some basic things about How It All Works.

Some, like the following, should be printed out on every library card.
The library is not totally silent. Yes, we want you to do your homework here. Yes, many libraries have quiet areas or silent reading rooms. But what you've got to understand is that the group of chatting teens or giggling three-year-olds have just as much right to be at the library as you do. The library is for everyone and it's no longer always a silent space. If you're looking for a quiet place, I can probably recommend some places that tend to be quieter, but I will defend the teens' right to use the library, too.
Am I right?

If you're a non-librarian but love the library, stop by for some important tips.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Aww, Now I'm Hungry

One of the kidlitosphere's favorite links in the past week has been to the fabbity-fab Cake Wrecks blog, which featured a post titled "Reading Rocks" this past Sunday, with amazing cakes based on children's books.

As if that weren't enough, Susan over at Booklights gathered up a few more. I know I'm about thirty-five years away from retiring, but if I get that Olivia cake at my retirement party, I can die a happy woman.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Robert Sabuda Talks Pop-Up Books

Courtesy of the Dallas Voice and my Google Reader, an article about a-freakin'-mazing pop-up-book creator Robert Sabuda, who is literally so good he sometimes wows himself. He talks about why he loves what he does.
“One thinks kids are scatterbrained, but they are also very observant when they choose to be. When they open that first page [of ‘Peter Pan’], they look and say ‘That’s Tiger Lily’ and their parent says ‘What? I didn’t even see that.’ I want to see that, too,” he says.
Read on for some giggles about how grown-ups approach children's books.

Okay, maybe I'm being incurably nosy, but the article mentions Matthew Reinhardt as Robert Sabuda's longtime partner. I know they've partnered on a number of these pop-up books, but does the term "partner" in this case mean in their personal lives as well?

<>Don't you wish we had a simpler term, like husband, that we could apply in this case? Hmm? < /political moment>

Monday, June 1, 2009

Reading Roundup May 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 18
Early Readers: 3

Writing: No! That's Wrong! by Zhaohua Ji
Illustration: A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
Overall: A Book by Mordecai Gerstein

Because I Want To Awards
Should Be Read At As Many School Visits As Possible: Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
Makes Me Want to Snap My Fingers: Cool Daddy Rat by Kristyn Crow

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dads and Picture Books, again

Damon Syson of the Times asks, "Where are all the nice, normal dads in children's books?"
Not only did I find precious few role-model dads, I found hardly any dads at all. In all the picture books piled up around our house — more than 100 of them, in unsightly towers — mothers appeared in just under half and were invariably portrayed in a positive light. Fathers cropped up in nine, of which only five took a positive role in parenting.
He does admit that his sample is both small and skewed towards older books. Well, Damon, I'm going to point you at Book Dads to start finding great books with great daddies. But it's a fair complaint, as any librarian who's ever tried to put together a half-decent Fathers' Day storytime knows.

Quite aside from the "I Love My Daddy, He's the Best in the Universe!" genre, it's hard to find a book where Dad is a part of the child's everyday world. I cogitated for a time and only came up with a few: Mo Willems's Knuffle Bunny, Bob Graham's How to Heal a Broken Wing, and Britta Teckentrup's How Big is the World?

Of course, that's off the top of my admittedly muddled head. So I'll put it to you. What's your favorite picture book where Dad is a positive presence?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Via the FailBlog: Sign that you may not have purchased a quality boardbook.

fail owned pwned pictures

Link possibly not entirely SFW. Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And the Number 1 Picture Book of All Time is . . .

Where the Wild Things Are.

Like it could be any other book.

Betsy's Top 100 has been grand readin' for me over this past month or so. Not content with merely posting a list, she went hunting for tidbits and factoids and literary commentary (not just bloggers making comments, but actual published resources!) on a genre of books that are oftenest dismissed as "kiddie books." Although I knew many of them already, I also added a lot of books to my Blue Journal--books I'd heard of, maybe seen around the library, but never picked up and read. I also learned new things about old favorites, and spent a lot of time going, "Awwww, I remember reading that!"

Betsy, now that you're a published author and all, how about putting this most excellent list in book form? Teachers, librarians, and parents would love you for it. Even if you don't, though, congratulations on a huge accomplishment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Child Prodigy (or maybe just a great memory)

I got this video from Fuse #8's Top 100 Picture Books countdown. It was attached to the Knuffle Bunny post (#10, as if you aren't following it rabidly yourself).

Just in case you ever thought your two (and-almost-a-half!) year old wasn't listening the 56,923 times you've read their favorite book. Watch how he occasionally begins to recite, then pauses and carefully turns to the correct page. And how he pronounces "school."

I joke, but this is part of print awareness, a pre-reading skill--associating a particular piece of narration with a particular page. The book/narrative, while it can be viewed as a whole, has specific portions that correspond to specific events. But the book is still a whole. Whoa. The mind, she is blown.

Plus, the video is so dang cute. Awww, I just gotta go watch it again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Tempest in the Night Kitchen

How's that for a mangled metaphor?

Number 18 on Fuse #8's Top 100 picture books is the Maurice Sendak classic, In the Night Kitchen. She talks about the trippy story, but she also discusses the controversy this wacky little book has stirred up over the years.

Not, as she notes, because a little boy is being baked into a cake, but because that selfsame little boy is bare-bottom nekkid. Egad.
As a result the book has been banned, people have painted little shorts on Mickey, and some have even gone so far as to cut out and paste in little pants on him. Librarians love that. Really. Makes our day (oog).
Apparently, this is not a new phenomenon--it's been going on since the book's publication in 1970. Luckily, there have been supporters of Sendak's artwork since the beginning, too. Go have a look at the whole post.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Play With Books

One thing some parents are surprised to learn is that children's librarians advocate playing with books. They're not meant to be held captive on the shelf, primly aloof until it's time for the mandated twenty minutes, and then put hastily away in favor of the toy bucket. So what if that board book is gummed to pieces, or that copy of Dr. Seuss starts to shed pages like a collie in springtime? Regardless of what your elementary school librarian may have taught you, books are not sacred objects to be preserved for future generations. They're meant to be shared and loved now.

Infants, toddlers, and even older kids learn by playing, and everything is a possible toy. (Any mom who's pried a spatula and a pot out of their noisy four-year-old's hands before Mommy's head explodes can attest to that.) Making books part of playtime is a way of making them familiar and beloved objects.

Chronicles of an Infant Bibliophile recently posted a great list of some of the ways to play with books, arranged by age order. Have a look, and maybe try it with your own budding bibliophile.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Review: Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt

Book: Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach
Author: Melanie Watt
Illustrator: Melanie Watt
Published: 2008

Scaredy Squirrel would never, ever go to the beach. Are you crazy? There could be sea monsters! Pirates! Falling coconuts! No, no, no. Far safer to build his very own beach in the shade of his very own tree. But he's missing something, and to get it, he has to go to the real beach. Oh, boy. But if he makes the most careful of plans, he just might live through it . . .

Everyone's favorite omniphobe is back in the third volume of his travails. While this would be a fun read-aloud to a group, it also offers rewards to the one-on-one reader who can pore over the pages and find the sly treats scattered throughout the illustrations. (For instance--on the box Scaredy Squirrel uses to ship himself to the beach? "May contain traces of nuts." Hehehe!) Your own cautious worrywarts will find much delight in this tale.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Reading Roundup April 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 24
Early Readers: 2

Writing: Garmann's Summer by Stian Hole
Illustration: How Big is the World by Britta Teckuntrup
Overall: The Doghouse by Jan Thomas

Because I Want To Awards
Most Warped: The Happy Hocky Family by Lane Smith
Made Me Hungry!: I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother by Selina Alko
Sweetest: I Love My Pirate Papa by Laura Leuck

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Michael Rosen is on a Bear Hunt

Via Fuse #8, another delightful video. This time, Michael Rosen performs "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." I settle down to take notes.

Honestly, they should show this in library school classes. Marvelous.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A New Blog on the Horizon

. . . not that far off, in fact.

PBS has started up their very own kidlit blog, named Booklights, with the tagline, "Inspire a love of reading in your child with help from these children's book experts."

And just who are those experts? If they seem familiar, that's because they are. Pam from MotherReader, Jen from Jen Robinson's Blog, and Susan from Wizards Wireless are teaming up to write this new blog, along with Gina from PBS and various guest bloggers.

Congrats to Jen, Pam, and Susan, who kick things off with their personal Top 10 lists of favorite picture books. Check it out and pass it on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bill Martin Sings!

Fuse #8 is getting into the "Top" portion of her her Top 100 Picture Books, and along with the witty reviews, she's digging up some mighty treats for us. This one was in the 30-26 post, specifically in the Brown Bear, Brown Bear section (number 30, in case you're counting).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jane Yolen on Picture Books and Writing

Jane Yolen recently visited a children's lit class at Mount Holyoke College to talk about picture-book writing. My personal favorite:
"if [picture books] can't be read aloud, if the writing is clunky, to me, that's not a good picture book."
She also skewered some of the class's sentimental favorites in her typical forthright fashion. On Love You Forever:
"I think she drugs his cocoa." That's an interesting take. She meant that through the years, the mother expresses her love for her child only while he sleeps, while he is quiet, while he behaves.
While this title is one that many in the children's lit field love to hate, Yolen isn't just bashing for the fun of it. Her statement is an examination of the text and what it says to children. Click through for her opinions on The Giving Tree and Rainbow Fish.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

From Bomb Shelters to Butterflies

Newsweek ran an article about Eric Carle the other day with the rather sensational title of "The Surprising Dark Side of the Very Hungry Caterpillar." Turns out it's not that dark, but like fellow picture-book guru Maurice Sendak, Carle spent a fair portion of his childhood in fear. In this case, it was the fear of a child living in WWII Germany, complete with food shortages, bomb scares, and a father locked away in a Russian prison camp. From the article:
There's even something about the way he describes the caterpillar's diet ("On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese … ") that evokes the way he describes what he ate after the war when he went to work for the Americans.
Why are we always so surprised to learn about things like this? Is it because we associate childhood with safety and optimism?

But to a child, even one in the most secure and happy home, the world is a large, mystifying, and often scary place. Maybe it's the authors that still understand this basic truth that speak to children most clearly.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Review: The Doghouse by Jan Thomas

Book: The Doghouse
Author: Jan Thomas
Illustrator: Jan Thomas
Published: 2008

As Mouse, Pig, Duck, and Cow are playing ball, their ball bounces into the doghouse. The big doghouse. The dark doghouse. The doghouse surrounded by scary trees and a general aura of danger. Now the question is . . . who will retrieve it?

I've been meaning to review one of Jan Thomas' books for awhile now. She seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment. Her books are snappily written, hilarious, easily readable even for beginners, and feature bright, expressive, simple illustrations that catch kids' eyes. It's the kind of writing and art that make people go, "Gosh, I could do that!" Silly people. Silly, silly people. It's easy to do; it's hard to do well.

The thing I loved best about The Doghouse is the unabashed self-preservation of Mouse. Let somebody go in that big, dark, scary doghouse, not him. And of course, the ending shows that our fears are never as huge as they seem.

Friday, April 24, 2009

They're Penguins, Get Over It

So the ALA put out their list of most frequently challenged books of 2008, and for the third year in a row, the adorable And Tango Makes Three took the number one spot.

Um, yay?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Teaser

So it's apparently Video Week here on Kid Tested, Librarian Approved. This one's a teaser trailer for Grace Lin's newest picture book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Okay, fine, it's short. But gorgeous! I love Lin's style, a mix of Asian influence and sweet kid-friendliness. Obtained from Lin's own blog, Gracenotes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tina Fey on Sesame Street!

This has something to do with kidlit, I swear. She's a book-aneer.

See? Totally related. It was a couple of years back, but I just discovered it a few days ago.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mark Teague Video

Found this one at Fuse #8--a video interview with Mark Teague, best known as the illustrator of the How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen. Not to mention (for the giant geeks out there) the man who lent his pencil to the Consolidated Summer Reading Program a few years back for the mystery theme. *cough* Really giant geeks.

Anyway, in this video, he talks a little bit about his work and how he got started. First on the list of credits? The public library, a biweekly destination for his family when he was a kid. Awwww yeah.

By the way, I covet that lamp.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Picking Books for Your Babies

One of the newest inhabitants of my Google Reader is Chronicles of an Infant Bibliophile, written by the mother of a sixteen-month-old book lover. She relates the books she reads to her little one, and his reactions. It's the parent perspective that, as a librarian, I'm always looking for.

Anyway, in this post, she assembles some good suggestions for other parents trying to pick books for their munchkins. I wanted to pick my favorite to sample here, but they're all so good that I'll just send you straight on over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The President Makes a Great Wild Thing

Only a week late, I finally found the actual video of this. The article I had marked in my Google Reader took it down by the time I went to post it. But as always, Fuse #8's Video Sunday came to the rescue.

Not everybody is a good read-alouder, even those who are good at public speaking, but I wouldn't kick the Chief out of storytime, I'll tell you that.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cinderella by Lynn Roberts

Book: Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story
Author: Lynn Roberts
Illustrator: David Roberts
Published: 2003

Once upon a time (the 20s), there was a girl named Cinderella. She . . . well, you know the story.

Cinderella is as she always is, sweet, mild, long-suffering and boring. She puts up with her stepfamily, she meets her fairy godmother, she goes to the ball, yadda yadda yadda. The real joy of this book is in the storytelling and the art.

With phrases like this one, describing the stepsisters, "Elvira was as wicked as Ermintrude was dim, and Ermintrude was very, very dim," Lynn Roberts brings a lot of giggles to this classic story. Interestingly, she also doesn't kill off the father--he wanders around in a daze, apparently unaware that his daughter is being treated like an unpaid drudge. Pops better watch his back when they hear about this one at the palace.

David Roberts draws with sharp points, long, curving lines, and exaggerated details (in one picture, the stepmother is wearing a feather that sticks straight up from her head and is at least as tall as she is) that just seem to fit the Art Deco style perfectly. He also adds Art Deco artifacts, such as the Bakelite jewelry box on one page or the funky teapot on another, and Deco-ish elements even pervade the natural landscape.

In general, one Cinderella story tends to be pretty much like another, but this one stands out for the sly wit and the beautiful art.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Want To Tattoo This Somewhere on My Body

Failing that, I'd like to hand it out to every new parent I see.

Much-beloved and very familiar, but always worth reading again, here they are: 13 Ways to Raise a Non-Reader. Recently, the authors also wrote (for teachers) "How to Raise Non-Writers and Non-Artists."

Thanks to Jen Robinson for reminding me of this old favorite.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Can I Get a Huzzah?

Awhile back, Wizard's Wireless lamented that Blueberries for Sal didn't seem to be in print any longer. That made me sad, too. That's one of those books we read over and over in my childhood, and I always wanted to pick berries so I could meet a bear. (The thought that berries might not equal meeting a bear never crossed my teeny-tiny little mind. Also never to cross my mind? The thought that meeting a bear might not be all that fun.)

So I was happy to see this Publisher's Weekly article on the reprinting of Blueberries for Sal. Apparently, there was an estate-related kerfuffle and Viking's been working feverishly to retain the rights. There was a gap of time where they couldn't legally sell it (sigh), but now it's back, as well as a number of other McCloskey classics. Woohoo!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the Illustrator's Mind

The book blog Bookie Woogie is one of my favorites for its unique format. Instead of one person blathering on about why they liked or didn't like the book, the reviews are a faithful transcript of a conversation between a father and his kids about the story and illustrations.

And I mean faithful. Anybody who's ever run a storytime will laugh and nod when one (or all) of the kids start to get really silly or enthusiastic over the book of the week.

This week was an extra-special treat, as the book they reviewed was illustrated by none other than Daddy. They also ask him questions about the illustration process, and given that the book is one of those interactable ones, there were some interesting considerations that went into that process.

They're giving away copies of the book (which looks extremely cute) to random commenters, so drop on by and leave a line!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Okay, so that's twice in recent weeks that I've seen an iPhone app that involves kidlit. Here's the first, a 9.99 dictionary for the kiddies featuring Curious George, put out by Houghton. This is all according to the Publisher's Weekly story, which seems to indicate that this is just the first of many.

Then I stumbled upon another, ReaderGenie. This one seems more truly useful to teachers or parents of young children. It works with the website of the same name to find books based on such diverse criteria as ages and grades, emotions, and even whether it has an animal character. Plus, this one's free.

What do you think? Would you add these apps to your iPhone?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ashley Bryan

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I first heard of Ashley Bryan just a few years ago, when I read his glorious Let It Shine. Even then, I didn't realize what an important figure he was in children's illustration. This profile of Bryan in Atlanta's Epoch-Times (which I suspect is only the tip of the iceberg) opened my eyes.
Though he was talented and passionately committed to becoming an illustrator, he was not published until he was in his forties. He was the first African American children’s book author and illustrator to be published, in 1962. . . . Now in his nineties, he just won a Laura Ingalls Wilder Lifetime Achievement Award. He has won the Coretta Scott King Award for children’s books three times. He is almost as famous for mentoring others as he is for his own work.
Wowie zowie.

His autobiography, Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song, was recently published by Athaneum, in picture-book form.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Read Together 2009

Here's one for all you parents out there.

Jennifer over at the Snapshot blog challenges us to Read Together. Set yourself a goal for reading with your kids in the month of April and try to meet it throughout the month. She suggests expanding your reading time, trying new genres, or making an effort to read with older kids.

By the way, I'm posting this on my picture book/early literacy blog, but she also would like to see parents reading to their middle graders and even teenagers. I think many parents think these ages can read for themselves, so they wouldn't be willing to listen to Mom and Dad's voice. But just because they're older doesn't mean reading together isn't still a good time. You might have to talk them into it.

Credit for the find goes to Jen Robinson, of course.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Forget the Jellybeans

In addition to being Easter, tomorrow is Drop Everything and Read Day. How about tucking a book into your child's Easter basket? Or hiding a coupon good for one super-special-just-you-and-Mom/Dad trip to your child's favorite bookstore in one of those plastic eggs?

Just something to think about.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a chocolate rabbit to devour.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Read Indeed

My Google Reader unearthed this.

Nine-year-old Maria Keller started Read Indeed in 2007, hoping to get one million books into the hands of children by her eighteenth birthday (2018, in case you're counting). So far she's got just over ten thousand, passing them on to various charitable organizations. You can donate or suggest an organization by emailing her at

In fact, this sounds like something for the Kidlitosphere--perhaps as part of the Third Annual Kidlitosphere Conference? Cogitate!

I love this idea, and while it undoubtedly gets cuteness/human interest points for being the idea of a nine-year-old, it also sends out the message that kids care as much about literacy as grown-ups do. Fabuloso.