News

This page features news in the area of children’s literature, events from around the blogging community, and announcements about KidLitosphere happenings. Primarily focused on literary news, special events, useful articles, and interesting posts from other blogs, it does not include reviews, interviews, or opinions.

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Saturday
Aug092008

Saturday Afternoon Visits: August 9

From Jen Robinson’s Book Page

My blog vacation ended up lasting a bit longer than I originally planned. Turned out I kind of enjoyed just reading and relaxing and not trying to keep up with reviews and other blog posts. I’ve been reading some great books. But several things have cropped up that I simply must highlight here.

  • Sheila Ruth recently put out a call for help at Wands and Worlds. She’s hoping to encourage authors and illustrators, and other interested parties, to donate books as prizes for The Brightspirit Relief Fund’s upcoming auction. The fund was started in honor of 10-year-old Emmy Grace Cherry, who died, along with her parents, in a tornado in February. There’s a whole connection (including the name Brightspirit) with the Warriors series, by Emmy’s favorite author Erin Hunter, but I’ll let Sheila tell you the whole story. Please do click through and read Sheila’s moving words about this young booklover, who didn’t get to read nearly enough stories.
  • BlogsawardWhile I was away, I was nominated by several wonderful people for blog awards. Abby (the) Library nominated me for the Brillante Weblog Premio Award (which I had also received previously from Andrea and Mark at Just One More Book!). And then Lenore also awarded this to me at Presenting Lenore.
  • PremioarteypicoStacey from Two Writing Teachers and Megan Germano from Read, Read, Read then each awarded me the Arte Y Pico Award, “based on creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community.” I was overwhelmed by this outpouring of support, especially during a time that I was not even blogging. This Kidlitosphere is such an amazing place to be. I know that I’m supposed to pass on the awards, but I’m sticking to my standard response - if I mention you in one of my Visits or Literacy Round-Up posts, then I admire your blog, and feel that it makes an important contribution to the blogger community. Many, many thanks!
  • Getting back to business, I enjoyed this post by Bill at Literate Lives, about creating lifelong readers. Bill says “I think sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves as teachers and parents. I also think some of what is seen as best practice sometimes does more harm than good.” He follows up with some concrete examples from his own experiences, about what does and doesn’t make reading a pleasurable experience. This is must-read stuff!
  • I’m late in pointing to this, but there are many interesting posts in this month’s Carnival of Children’s Literature, hosted by Jenny at Read. Imagine. Talk. Jenny offers personal comments regarding many of the posts, making this one a fun, chatty version of the monthly carnival. Next month’s carnival will be hosted by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti
  • Speaking of the community of children’s and young adult book bloggers, have you registered yet for the Portland KidLit Conference? The conference will be held on September 27th, at the Sheraton Portland Airport. I know that airfares are high these days, but the conference fees and hotel fees are quite reasonable. If you can at all swing it, do come! I promise that you’ll be glad that you did.   
  • Our very own Liz Burns from Tea Cozy has a book coming out this week (with Sophie Brookover). It’s called Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Whole Community. There’s also a new companion blog to the book, and a wiki with tons of resources. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Pop Goes the Library (the blog) got a recent shout-out from NPR. Congratulations, Liz!! I look forward to celebrating with you at the KidLit Conference.
  • Speaking of NPR, our own Gwenda Bond from Shaken and Stirred was recently featured in NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, talking about Anne of Green Gables. She says, among other things, “It’s almost impossible to imagine what children’s books would be like without this book and its history”.
  • Online Education Database recently published a list of 100 Places to Connect with Other Bibliophiles Online. The list includes 10 sites for Children and Teens, though the list doesn’t seem to distinguish between which are truly sites for kids, and which are site about books for kids (as Tricia also pointed out at The Miss Rumphius Effect). 
  • Rick Riordan recently linked to a Wall Street Journal article about engaging boys as readers. The title of the article is: Problem: Boys Don’t Like to Read. Solution: Books That Are Really Gross. Rick concludes: “I’m not sure I agree that a “boy-friendly” book has to be gross. I think plot, humor and action are a lot more important, although as a male reader, I certainly don’t mind a little grossness now and then. Still, this article is definitely worth a read!”
  • The latest pick in Al Roker’s Today Show Book Club for Kids is Rapunzel’s Revenge, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation). You can read Shannon’s response here. Seems to me that they’ve done a nice job picking fun, kid-friendly titles for this book club.
  • Open Education has an interesting post about how “our risk averse culture continues to undermine the development of children.”
  • And finally, tomorrow (Sunday) I’m scheduled to have a guest post up at 5 Minutes for Books, with thanks to Jennifer Donovan from Snapshot. It’s a republication, slightly edited, of my Read the Books that Your Children Read post, one of my all-time favorites. I hope that you’ll check it out, along with the other great resources at 5 Minutes for Books.

And that’s all for today. I hope to get to reviews of some of my vacation reads tomorrow.

© 2008 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page. All rights reserved.
You can also find me on Twitter and at Booklights from PBS Parents.
All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission (with no additional cost to you).

Thursday
Jul242008

Thursday Afternoon Visits: Pre-Vacation Edition

From Jen Robinson’s Book Page

So last week I did this whole post about how I needed to scale the blog back a bit. Everyone was very supportive. And then, as Charlotte astutely pointed out, I proceeded to post MORE than usual. Partly that was because I already had some of the reviews stored up. And partly because there’s just a lot of good energy and discussion going on in the Kidlitosphere this week, and I wanted to be part of it.

But after this post, I’ll be taking a blog vacation until August 4th. I’m going to try reading books instead of blogs for a week or so, if I can keep myself out of my Google Reader. I hope to come back recharged and ready for fresh discussions. Meanwhile, here are some links to keep you occupied:

And that’s it for today. I wish you all well over the next week or so, and I’ll be back on the 4th.

© 2008 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page. All rights reserved.
You can also find me on Twitter and at Booklights from PBS Parents.
All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission (with no additional cost to you).

Sunday
Jul202008

Sunday Afternoon Visits: July 20

From Jen Robinson’s Book Page

BrillanteI spent a lot of time thinking this week about the time that I spend on my blog, and ways to somehow regain a bit of balance in my life. One thing that’s clear is that these Sunday visits posts, much as I enjoy them, are very time-consuming. It’s not just the time to write the post — it’s the 1000+ posts a week that I have to skim through to find the few that I mention here (which does not mean that it’s hard to decide — the right posts actually jump off the page for me — but I still have to find them). This afternoon I could have finished my review of No Cream Puffs and probably finished reading The Diamond of Darkhold, but instead I read and linked to blog posts. And yet, as with everything else, I love knowing what’s going on in the Kidlitosphere, and being part of all of the great discussions that people are having. Still, I may need to scale my blogroll back a bit… Anyway, this week there is plenty to share with you. And I think that I’ll take next weekend off.

  • This morning I was honored to learn that Andrea and Mark from Just One More Book! had awarded me a Brillante Weblog Premio - 2008 award. I’m in excellent company, too, with the other six recipients. Just One More Book! is one of my short-list blogs, because I find Andrea and Mark philosophically in tune with what I believe about children’s books and reading. It’s great to know that they feel the same way.
  • Librarian Mom Els Kushner takes on a particular result from a recent Scholastic survey (the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report): “89% of kids say their favorite books are the ones they picked out themselves.” She adds “now many of the people reading this already believe in the importance of free book choice for kids. And of course—as is also documented in the Scholastic report—parents can help their children find and choose good and enjoyable books. But it’s just been something that’s struck me over and over, how important it is for kids to find their own reading paths.”
  • Carlie Webber (Librarilly Blonde) links to and discusses a disturbing post from the parenting blog Babble. The blog entry in question is Where Oh Where is Superfudge by Rachel Shukert. And the gist of Shukert’s post is that “Kids’ books aren’t what they used to be”. She recaps several thirty-year-old books about “average kids with real-world problems” and suggests that “the Young Adult section has become … downright aristocratic.” The author’s confusion over the difference between middle grade and YA aside, the sad thing is that Shukert, who clearly wants kids to read diverse and relevant books, has NO IDEA that hundreds of such books exist, and are being published today (in some cases, as one commenter noted, by the same authors for whom Shukert waxes nostalgic - they are writing NEW books). Anyway, do check out both Carlie’s post and the original article and the comments therein. See also Liz B’s post on this subject at Tea Cozy, in which she asks readers to help compile a “List of YA/middle grade books, written in the past few years, that do not have Rich Kids as the main character”. There’s quite an impressive diversity of literature listed in the comments.
  • Speaking of class in young adult literatureTadMack takes on the subject at Finding Wonderland. She was inspired both by Carlie’s post above and by some remarks at Read Roger, saying “I just feel strongly that name-dropping and normalizing affluence in YA literature creates the wrong idea about young adult literature as a genre and gets far more attention somehow than novels pertaining to lives more ordinary.”
  • And speaking of rants on topics like class in YA literature, Colleen Mondor reminds us “starting Monday I declare the entire children/YA portion of the litblogosphere to enjoy a week of posting loud and long about those things that have been driving them crazy in the publishing world.” She lists a few hot-button issues that have recently arisen. Lots of people — too many to link — have already written about a recent Margo Rabb article about the stigma that many people attach to writing YA. Personally, the issue that bugs me the most right now is this “children’s books aren’t what they used to be” post (described above). But I’ll defer my thoughts to a separate post.
  • Via Cheryl Rainfield, Paddington Bear is going to be used in the British Airways children’s travel program. Cheryl also takes on the question of whether or not blog reviews can influence people to buy books, and gives her own data points to say that they can. As for my own data point, I have a whole slew of people who commented on my review of Allegra Goodman’s The Other Side of the Island to say that they want it, and intend to get their hands on it when it’s available. And I recently purchased FoundLittle Brother, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, among others, as a direct result of blog reviews.
  • Congratulations to Open Book for the recent successes of their Book Buddies program (by which volunteers become reading buddies to young kids). Erin has the details at Read All About It! Coolest part? The program is apparently inspiring some of the volunteers to want to become teachers.
  • For those who are curious, Anastasia Suen has started a Kidlitosphere FAQ, in which she explains what the Kidlitosphere is, and links to some key resources.
  • Trevor Cairney reviews the “Your Baby Can Read” program at Literacy, Families and Learning. He gives the program a detailed assessment, and appears to have approached it with an open mind, but concludes that he wouldn’t introduce it to his own children. He says “Instead of using this program I would encourage my children from birth by stimulating their language (singing to them, reading with them, asking questions etc) and learning (exploration, invention, creative play etc).”
  • Nancy Sondel recently sent me the announcement for the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers workshop. She says that it will be a “small, quality, international seminar in north Santa Cruz county (CA) Aug 15-17, for writers of literary youth novels”. If you are looking for a workshop like this, check out the website for details. 
  • Laurie Halse Anderson shares some “cold hard facts about the writing life.” This post is must-read stuff for aspiring authors.
  • At Becky’s Book Reviews, Becky makes a plea for “more authenticity and less stereotyping” in fiction (especially in the portrayals of both Christianity and body size). She talks eloquently about the ways that we find ourselves in literature, and the ways that we use literature to “see the world through new eyes”.
  • Walter Minkel writes about a recent USA Today report on how having a video on in the background shortens the attention span of children when they’re playing. Walter is concerned that this “means that children’s attention spans are broken up, and kids are engaging in less, and more fragmented, imaginative play. I’m concerned that as kids grow older and become more and more fixated on screens - in particular, the Net and video games - they use less and less of their imaginations and let their brains fall under the direction of Web designers and game designers.”

Hope that you’re all having a great day!

© 2008 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page. All rights reserved.
You can also find me on Twitter and at Booklights from PBS Parents.
All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission (with no additional cost to you).

Monday
Jul142008

Monday Night Visits: Blog Identity Crisis Edition

From Jen Robinson’s Book Page

So I did my usual Sunday visits post yesterday, and that was all well and good. Except that today, interesting posts simply exploded across the Kidlitosphere. So I’m back with a few additions. (Perhaps feeling extra keen to report on the news, after Daphne Grab kindly included me in a Class of 2k8 round-up of recommended resources for kidlit industry news).

  • First up, my sympathies go out to Jules and Eisha, the proprietors of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. They are experiencing a bout of what I like to call “blog focus angst” (though they call it an identify crisis), and they write about it eloquently. Feeling worn down under the pressure of review books and the time required to write the long, thoughtful, link-filled reviews that are their trademark, they’ve decided to pull things back a bit. And who can blame them? I often feel the same way (especially when I actually look at the number of review books that I’ve accumulated recently), and it’s clear from the comments that many other people do, too. I’m just glad that they’ll still be keeping 7-Imp, and modifying it to fit their own busy lives a bit better. Colleen Mondor offers support at Chasing Ray, too.
  • And, in an ironic counterpoint, given the pressure that bloggers are putting on themselves to write thoughtful book reviews, another article (from the Guardian) takes on the print vs. online reviews debateLiz B. offers up her customary insightful analysis of the piece at Tea Cozy. I think that a particularly important point Liz makes is that “there isn’t a lot of print coverage of children’s/YA books, so the blogosphere fills that vacuum.”
  • Meanwhile, Kim and Jason from the Escape Adulthood site are suggesting, as their tip of the week, that readers “Spend 15 – 30 minutes doing something you love that you don’t often have the chance to do.” As Kim points out, ” If you cannot find 15-30 minutes on a regular basis to do something you love, then what’s the point?” Words to live by, I’d say. If our blogs, which started out as a way to talk about our love of reading, become work, then it’s up to us to make them enjoyable again.
  • Kiera Parrott at Library Voice is starting a new reluctant reader pick of the week feature. First up is Jellaby. I think it’s a great idea, and I’ll be watching for her other recommendations. (Though, I hope that Kiera doesn’t put pressure on herself with this weekly schedule - see identify crisis above).
  • Sheila at Greenridge Chronicles has a lovely post about what her family has learned from readalouds (including books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, J. K. Rowling, and Diana Wynne Jones).
  • And if you’re looking to read to escape, Newsweek has an article about the rise of post-apocalyptic fiction aimed at kids. Lots of people are quoted, including Susan Beth Pfeffer (hat-tip to Sue for the link). The article, by Karen Springen, discusses the suitability of such books for kids, and also touches on “potent political messages” embedded in some of the books.
  • And, if you really want to escape, check out Franki Sibberson’s list of books for kids who like Captain Underpants, at Choice Literacy (linked from A Year of Reading). Franki adds “if we are thinking of summer reading lists like this—connecting kids to books based on books they love, kids would have lots of ownership over what they read.”
  • Walter Minkel shares a couple of summer literacy links from Reading Rockets at The Monkey Speaks.
  • And finally, Becky from Becky’s Book Reviews weighs in on the Summer Reading List question. Becky points out (among other insights) that (on the topic of required reading) “You cannot force someone to enjoy something. Requiring something means it’s work. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that once something becomes work, it loses its ability to be fun. Work is tedious. It’s mundane. It’s something to be endured.” And so we’ve come full circle with the 7-Imps post, in which Jules said: “I’ve also felt obligated to write about these books after I read them (even if I find fault with the writing), and I just really, REALLY want to read something and not have to report on it. To be thrilled about reading a book and then putting it down, instead of spending one or two hours to write about it….well, that tells me something. I feel like I’m doing to myself what we do to children when we give them programs like Accelerated Reader: Don’t just read and enjoy it. You must take a quiz now. I know I’M DOING THAT TO MYSELF.” Definitely a common theme going on today - don’t take something you enjoy and turn it into work. And especially don’t do that to kids.

Here’s wishing you all 15-30 minutes (at least) to do something that you enjoy.

© 2008 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page. All rights reserved.
You can also find me on Twitter and at Booklights from PBS Parents.
All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission (with no additional cost to you).

Sunday
Jul132008

Sunday Afternoon Visits: July 13

From Jen Robinson’s Book Page

There have been tons of interesting things going on around the Kidlitosphere this week. Here are a few links:

  • Congratulations to Andrea and Mark, who just celebrated the second anniversary, and 400th post, at Just One More Book! Wishing them hundreds more posts. See also Shelf Elf’s one-year birthday party, with a very creative list of book reviews as gifts.
  • Over at Open Wide, Look Inside, Tricia shares her must-have subscriptions for teachers. She calls them “a series of e-mail subscriptions that I can’t live without”. Selections include the PBS Teachers weekly newsletter and the Math Solutions online newsletter.
  • Inspired by a post by Jenny Han at The Longstockings, Liz Burns writes about direct delivery of services at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy. The discussion started with a new paid service that will deliver books to you via mail (like NetFlix), and questions about what this offers as compared to libraries. It evolves, at Tea Cozy, into a discussion about the future of libraries.
  • In case you didn’t get enough of Gail Gauthier’s Three Robbers blog tour last week, you can read one more interview with Gail at Cheryl Rainfield’s blog. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about how to get kids interested in reading (for example “You can’t treat reading like work, like something you escape from when you’re on vacation.”).
  • On a related note, Abby (the) Librarian writes about adult summer reading clubs. She notes: “In terms of developing literacy, one of the best things parents can do is read themselves. Seriously. It seems like such a simple thing, but I think it’s a really potent thing”. 
  • And speaking of reading and vacation, Franki takes on the question of summer reading lists at A Year of Reading. She warns that “kids are not going to become readers if they see reading as an assignment and don’t have the opportunity to read the books they choose”, and cautions against adults, even with the best of intentions, creating lists at all. She says “Creating our own summer reading lists because we don’t like the ones out there, only says that we like the idea of summer reading lists if they are lists that WE create. Where is the child as reader in these conversations?” A valid point, I must say. See also Betsy’s thoughts on this issue at A Fuse #8 Production, Maureen’s at Confessions of a Bibliovore, and Gail’s at Original Content. On a related note, ShelfTalker Alison Morris writes about the shortage of YA titles on many summer reading lists. (Last link via Original Content.)
  • Speaking of Fuse #8, one thing I didn’t have in my ALA roundup post was a picture from the dinner that Sondra LaBrie from Kane/Miller hosted for Betsy and me. Fortunately, this has been remedied by both Betsy and Sondra, who each posted a photo taken with Betsy’s camera. Betsy also has some free ARCs to share, if you happen to live in New York, and a warning about stolen book reviews.
  • Trevor Cairney has a detailed, two-part post at Literacy, Families, and Learning about stimulating literacy and learning during the holidays (though in Australia, where Trevor is based, the holidays going on now are relatively short). Here is part 1 and here is part 2. There’s much more in these posts than I can possibly capture here, but if you’re facing school vacation time with kids, do check out these articles.
  • Monica Edinger shares some thoughts about Laura Amy Schlitz’s Newbery Award acceptance speech at Educating Alice. She urges “those who read Marc Aronson’s thoughts about the speech to read it for yourselves especially if you are planning on weighing in on the issue next week as Colleen Mondor suggests you do.”
  • The Newbery acceptance speech was actually only of several potential topics that Colleen raised for discussion next week. After recapping recent controversies (from Frank Cottrell Boyce to celebrity picture books, Colleen said: “I’m proposing that the week of July 20th we all take some time and talk about the controversies that have found there way to our corner of the lit blogosphere… What I’d love to see is many other blogs pick up on this thread and write about the aspects of children’s and teen publishing that frustrate them. We write about this stuff way more than pretty much any other print reviewers anywhere (not all but most) and we have our ear to the ground in ways that most publishers do not. In other words, we hear about stuff lightening quick and we form immediate opinions. Well, now is a great time for everyone to share those opinions and actually create a few ripples in the literary pond ourselves, rather than just riding someone else’s waves.” Personally, I’m thinking of writing about “message books” (which of course as a topic does tend to overlap with the topic of celebrity picture books).
  • Speaking on controversies in the KidLit blogosphere, Laurie Halse Anderson responds to a repeat cartoon by aquafortis at Finding Wonderland about how book bloggers think of themselves. Laurie has quite a discussion going in the comments about how blog reviewers think about what they’re doing. Personally, I used to call my reviews “recommendations”, because I didn’t publish very many negative reviews. But somewhere along the way I decided to give myself more credit, and call them reviews. I do try to separate out personal background information about how I responded to a book from the review itself, where applicable.
  • And, for another book reading and reviewing question, Jill asks at The Well-Read Child how readers feel about abandoning books unfinished. Several people weigh in on this topic in the comments - most have evolved to some sort of book abandonment policy (e.g. after 50 pages).
  • The brand-new blog Book Addiction has a partial round-up by Eva M. on graphic novels for kids. I found this blog through a recommendation from Susan Patron on the CCBC-Net mailing list.
  • And finally, just off the presses, Sarah Miller, a Disney fan, has issued a Disney Literature Challenge. She says: “Let’s dig up the uncorrupted originals, and see how these stories looked before Uncle Walt had his way with them, shall we? For my part, I’m making this a long term, laid back endeavor. No time limits, no minimums, no obligations. Pick the ones you like and quit when you get sick of the whole idea.” Personally, I tend to pass on challenges, because I have enough trouble just keeping up with my regular blogging. But I have to admit that this one does appeal…

And that’s all for today. I hope that you’re all having a restful Sunday. Me, I’m happy because the Red Sox are back in first place of the AL East, just in time for the All-Star Break.

© 2008 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page. All rights reserved.
You can also find me on Twitter and at Booklights from PBS Parents.
All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission (with no additional cost to you).