Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, Oct. 21-23

That's children's literature, to be sure. Rabbit Hill is named after a book by Robert Lawson, a longtime resident of Westport, Connecticut. The Westport Library sponsors this three-day celebration of children's books, authors, and illustrators. Grace Lin, the author of the Newbery honoree Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, called Rabbit Hill "one of the best children's literature festivals I have ever been to."

This year's spotlight is on collaboration; on the bill are Lulu Delacre & Lucia Gonzalez, Ted & Betsy Lewin, Jim & Kate McMullan, Brian & Andrea Davis Pinkney, Pegi Deitz Shea, and Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu.

A talk by Emma Walton Hamilton—Julie Andrews' editor (and daughter) and the author of Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment—opens the festival on October 21st.

Some Rabbit Hill events are booked up, but I hear that there's still room at the Saturday morning symposium, where you can hear all the collaborators speak. If you can slip onto the bus for the Friday tour of nearby Weston Woods Studios, do it!

Visit the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature website for more details.

It's Cybils Time in NYC. Join us!

The New York Public Library's Children's Literary Café presents a panel discussion on the Cybils: the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards.

Who: Children's book bloggers Pam Coughlan (MotherReader), Anne Boles Levy (one of the Cybils founders), Elizabeth Burns (A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy), and me. Moderated by Elizabeth Bird (A Fuse #8 Production), of the New York Public Library.

When: Saturday, November 7th, at 2

Where: New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, in the Children's Center, Room 84 

Our discussion promises to include "the state of children's literature online today, including ethics, publisher/blogger relations, transparency, influence (or lack thereof) over published titles, and what it means to represent an online community of children’s literary enthusiasts." 

The New York Public Library notes, "The Children’s Literary Café is a monthly gathering of adults who are fans of children’s literature. Professionals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, teachers, and anyone else interested in the field are welcome to attend our meetings. The Literary Café provides free Advanced Readers galleys, a rotating series of talks with professionals in the field, and great conversation. This program is for adults only."

"Literature helps us understand who we are..."

Amy Bowllan's "Writers Against Racism" series at her School Library Journal blog has been outstanding. Today's guest is Edith Campbell, a school media specialist in Indianapolis. I thought the following was so spot-on that I made it the title of this post!

Amy Bowllan: In what way can literature be used to combat the effects of racism and promote tolerance?
Edith Campbell: Literature helps us understand who we are and to find our place in the world. Literature makes sense of history, psychology, sociology and more. Everything that humans have done or will do can be laid out in a good story and if we are wise enough to be open to the message, we can learn without the pain and suffering found in the real world. Literature (fiction or non-fiction) can also help us understand our commonalities and differences.

Read the entire interview here. You'll find links to the rest of the excellent series, too. Edith Campbell also blogs at Crazy Quilts.

Beach Library

Junior's dad and I have a thing for college campuses and libraries. We once drove miles out of our way to see the beautiful University of Virginia, and spent hours at the San Francisco Library while on vacation there some years back. 

One of our summer holiday stops this year was the Sanibel Public Library. Sanibel, an island near Fort Myers (Fla.), is known for great shelling, and its library even features a patron's sea shell collection. The library is not actually on the beach, but it's not far. There's a sparkling aquarium right by the children's section.


Some of the books in the children's section caught my eye. Both looked like the kind my son likes. Junior himself was making a braided something or other out of gimp. It was a kids' craft day, and Junior sat down and made himself at home. After thumbing through these, below, I took pictures so that I'd remember the titles. This one is DK's Super Structures, about architecture and engineering.


This one is The Mad Scientist's Notebook, by Elizabeth Harris. Science experiments, naturally. I liked this display table, which seemed the right height for its department.


An empty bank of computers in another section reminded us to check email. All in all, we enjoyed visiting this friendly spot and spending a little time out of the midday sun.

In the Library

Yesterday I spent a half hour reading in the children's section of the local library while the nine year old played some games on the computer. The games are infinitely more interesting there than at home; it's one of those rules of the universe for nine year olds, I suppose. Each computer was taken. One of the two librarians on duty kept good track of the waiting list, and checked in on everyone periodically. My son and the boy next to him exchanged recommendations. Junior also recognized a teacher from school and waved.

In one corner, a whole family—three boys and a grandpa—camped out and looked at picture books, while the mom buzzed in and out of the area on various missions. Near my table several tutors coached students through the rigors of homework. Their upbeat approach to their task hummed in the background as I read.

The librarians continually accompanied children back to the fiction stacks to help them look for books. One provided a kid with a "read-alike" list; another filled out an purchase request (from a child) for a book the library didn't own. Someone wanted to know more about Beethoven; relevant books were found and delivered. Squeals from the toddler area hinted at unknown delights, and a boy who looked to be around four selected a student dictionary and carried it away, clutched to his chest like a prize. His mother and three siblings trailed behind him.

A busy place, needless to say.

"Is it always like this?" I asked one of the librarians, as she sought out an audiobook for a patron.

"Every afternoon," she said.

I know there are days when brothers and sisters shriek at each other, someone pukes on the rug, and a three year old bawls because she can't take home the library's doll house. But you know what? They make up, get well, and dry their tears—and eventually return. Literacy is ultimately about connection. Everywhere I looked yesterday, I could see it.

Schools="Anti-Reading Zones"?

That's what the author Frank Cottrell Boyce said recently. The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, reported,

Mr Cottrell Boyce said: "When I visit many schools, I see a big, fat, glaring, expensive anti-reading for pleasure signal.

"It stands where the library used to stand and it's called the learning resource centre. To turn your library into a learning resource centre, you generally have to chuck out a bunch of valuable, durable assets – books – and replace them with sub-prime computers which will quickly date."

Read the whole piece online.

Agree? Disagree?