September 29th-October 6th is Banned Books Week. The American Library Association, which started the whole idea, is planning several initiatives at MySpace, Second Life, and Facebook. (You did not just hear me snicker. That would be really adolescent. Gah! Stop it!) ALA's "most challenged" book of 2006 was And Tango Makes Three, a delightful picture book about two male penguins who hatch an egg together. Come to think of it, Zinnia and Dot, two hens in a book I wrote about a few weeks ago, do the same thing, and nobody banned them.
The September edition of the online kid-lit journal The Edge of the Forest is up. Lots of good reading, as usual.
The Hartford Courantreports that the Connecticut Book Awards were handed out recently. Among the honorees were several people with connections to children's literature: Morton Schindel, founder of Weston Woods (which adapts picture books into short films), Lane Smith (John, Paul, George & Ben), and Barbara McClintock (Adèle and Simon).
A few weeks ago I wrote about Bossy the chicken and her reluctance to free-range solo. Bossy is just one of my backyard flock of four, which is led by Petunia. The group also includes Loretta, who may be a rooster, but is permitted very little slack by the others, much like a first-grader on a school bus with all fifth graders. Fuzzy the Blue Orpington completes the crew, and she is becoming quite a beauty. If Fuzzy cared, she could possibly swipe Petunia's chieftain role, but Fuzzy is a free spirit.
Anyway, free-ranging. I've discovered that the girls like to go out as a group. What fun is going to the mall by yourself? I suppose it's like that. They don't go far, and they all stay together. Sometimes they run/fly/skedaddle back to the coop. Which is fine, because it's not that easy to get them back in, unless they are of a mind to do so. After school Junior likes to let them out to free-range while he sits outside and does homework. So far our September afternoons have been mild and sunny and full of chickens. It suits us pretty well.
I like to mention picture books featuring barnyard fowl on Saturdays, and today I chose Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens, by the late James Marshall. Here is what Marshall's editor Regina Hayes had to say:
Almost all of Jim’s books included some spectacularly dim-witted characters, and I felt he had a particular affection for them and gave them the best lines: the Stupids; the Cut-Ups; the wonderfully dumb chicken, Winnie, in Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens. Winnie meets a fox who introduces himself in “a silky voice,” reassures her that “plump is nice,” and declares at the end, “Unhand that chicken! She’s mine!” Winnie
is rescued by her sister and given an informative book to read. “’Oh, my stars!’ cried Winnie. ‘Mr. Johnson was a fox!’” It is so deadpan that it’s
hard to say what’s so funny, but many lines from Wings became bywords around the office, where Jim was a great favorite.
That's from a profile of Marshall in The Horn Book's July-August 2007 issue. Hayes wrote it in honor of Marshall's winning this year's Laura Ingalls Wilder medal, which "honors an author or illustrator whose books,
published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a
substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children," according to the Association for Library Service to Children, the award's administrator.
GalleyCat reports that Alice Quinn is stepping down as poetry editor of The New Yorker. The poet Paul Muldoon will take her place. Born in Northern Ireland and currently a professor at Princeton, Muldoon won a 2003 Pulitzer for his collection Moy Sand and Gravel. Publishers Weekly called him "the best, most-honored Irish poet of the generation after [Seamus] Heaney."
My library has a copy of Muldoon's book The End of the Poem, a collection of lectures (given at Oxford) about individual poems by Yeats, Dickinson, Ted Hughes, Heaney, and others. I have to put my name on the hold list, though. Someone beat me to it!
So, Friday's poem is Muldoon's "As," which you can read at the Poetry Foundation, from Moy Sand and Gravel. To see what other verses arise in the kidlitosphere today, look to the Poetry Friday roundup at Sara Lewis Holmes' blog Read Write Believe. Sara is the author of Letters to Rapunzel, a novel for 9 to 12 year olds.
"There's no reason to feel...that we must always read aloud to little children from 'easy' books that they can 'understand.' If we are reading something we like, with great expression and pleasure, a child may well like it, at least for a while, even if he doesn't understand all of it. After all, children like hearing adults talk, even though they can't understand much or most of it. Why not reading as well? Once, when teaching first-graders, I decided to try reading aloud to them something more difficult than the very simple stories they were used to. My choice was The Odyssey for Boys and Girls, by A.J. Church—a book I loved when small, but which many teachers would feel was much too advanced or difficult for first-graders. This class, however, liked it very much, and on subsequent days asked me to read more of it."
When I read Holt's book last spring, the above quotation intrigued me. On the one hand, it proves one of my pet theories: people are often talking about themselves, no matter what their ostensible subject. Holt's example just happens to be a favorite book from his childhood. The message seems to be that he, unlike those pedestrian other teachers, is willing to try something different. Ho-hum.
On the other hand, I think his idea has merit. First grade, for example, is all about learning to read, and much of the material does fall into Holt's "very simple story" category by necessity. That's why read-alouds by teachers, school librarians, and parents are so important. Audiobooks, too, can provide more advanced storytelling and vocabulary in a fun way. Some children will like to hear science books read aloud; even though they don't understand all the specifics, they may get excited about the overall ideas.
Blog news: say hey and welcome to Crooked House, written by Stephany Aulenback, a former contributor to Maud Newton's site. Don't miss the "Beckett for Babies" post.
Irritating trend alert: Baby discos, in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Nation's Katha Pollitt shares her 5 must-have books for reviewers, at Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle's board of directors. Neither Pollitt nor Cynthia Ozick, who handed in her list last week, mentions any books by Updike, unlike others in the "Critical Library" series.
1. What are the best children's books of 2007? It's that time of the year again—time to gear up for the Children's and YA Bloggers Literary Awards, a.k.a the Cybils. If you write about children's books at your blog and have an interest in volunteering on an awards committee, go to this post at the spiffed-up Cybils web site. Soon all readers—bloggers and non-bloggers—will be able to nominate their favorite titles, too.
2. The next Carnival of Children's Literature takes place at Charlotte's Library on September 26th. The deadline for submissions is Friday, September 21st. Use the submission form linked at the Blog Carnival site.
3. The September Learning in the Great Outdoors blog carnival is going on right now at Alone on a Limb. You'll find lots of great ideas for enjoying and studying nature with children, plus some beautiful photographs of monarch butterflies.
Now I must go see what poetic thoughts the other children's literature bloggers are thinking today; Hip Writer Mama has the roundup of all things verseful. To find out more about Poetry Friday (what is it? how did it start?), see this article at the Poetry Foundation. All are welcome.
You may remember from [Seven Imp's] May ’07 interview with Grace that she was the driving force behind the Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure fundraising effort after Robert was initially diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and after writing Robert’s Snow (Viking Books;
2004) soon after that diagnosis. The fundraising effort entailed the
auctioning off of special snowflakes, created by children’s book
illustrators, whom Grace had gathered together in the name of raising
money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI).
Our son's third-grade teacher sent home a friendly, informative letter after the first couple of weeks of school, telling the parents what the class had been up to. I was especially glad to see the list of books she had been reading to the students, so I thought I'd post them here. Maybe the kids in your life would like them, too. Thanks, Miss Nelson*!
At home, Junior avidly read Beverly Cleary's Socks, via a book-on-tape narrated by Neil Patrick Harris. He followed along in the book as he listened. I heard bits of the story, about a beloved pet cat who must adjust to a new baby's arrival, and thought it sounded fun. School Library Journal gave a a thumbs-up to both Cleary's "hilarious" chapter book and Harris's rendition.