New York Times' Best Illustrated, Carnegie Long List, and More

In tomorrow's New York Times Book Review, look for the Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2009. If you can't wait until then, check them out online now!

News from the UK: the Kate Greenaway Medal and Carnegie Medal long lists. The Greenaway is the equivalent of the US's Caldecott and the Carnegie the same of the Newbery.

A new lineup of the year's best science books for children was announced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books collected a large number of titles for its 2009 holiday gift guide.

All of these and more have been added to Chicken Spaghetti's "Best Children's Books 2009: The Big List of Lists," which is growing every day.

More present-spotting at Wired magazine's GeekDad blog, where John Baichtal presents "Holiday Gift Guide #1: Books." On his list is The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive. (I've gotta get it.) You'll find some children's books here, too.

The Great Outdoors: Head Thataway for the Nature Carnival

Nature loving folks will get plenty of inspiration at the blog carnival Field Day, at By Sun and Candlelight. Dawn, Field Day's energetic organizer, has posted an extensive Late Autumn edition.

By Sun and Candlelight is where I first read of the picture book Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke. Fletcher, a fox, worries about his favorite tree as fall turns to winter. Rawlinson tells a lovely, reassuring story about change, and Beeke's watercolor pictures are a delight. If you're looking for a holiday present for 3 to 6 year olds, Fletcher would be a good one.

Wednesday Happenings

Field Day, a nature-study blog carnival, is up at running at By Sun and Candlelight. My post  "Snakes on a Blog" is included. (Thanks, Dawn!) Put on your hiking boots and head over.

Three new authors are serializing their novel on a blog. It's the first time I've ever seen a writer identified as a "hefty stray" in his bio. Go visit Three Cats Write.

In case you missed the interview yesterday (as I did), Maurice Sendak talked to NPR's "Morning Edition" about his new book, Mommy?, a pop-up collaboration with Arthur Yorinks and Matthew Reinhart.

Blogger Little Willow is taking names for a list of sassy sidekicks from children's literature.

Snakes on a Blog

In the front of our house we used to have some overgrown boxwoods that housed a garter snake family. They enjoyed sunbathing on top of the bushes, and I suppose they lived somewhere underneath. Being rather shy, they usually zipped away at the slightest sound from us. One of the highlights of Junior's life was when our plump orange tabby cat caught one outside and brought it in, alive, for our viewing pleasure. In a moment of creative panic, I swept the snake back out with a broom, to the great disappointment of boy and cat.

Since we re-landscaped a bit, I have not seen the garter clan as much, but Junior did find one of their sloughed-off skins in the garden this summer. I didn't know about his discovery until I spotted it lovingly arrayed on the back of the living-room couch. At that point  I strongly suggested that the yard was a better place for the skin. Out it went.

But here is a herpetological item that I am happy to keep indoors: the book Why Do Snakes Hiss? And Other Questions About Snakes, Lizards, and Turtles. Written by Joan Holub, this beginning reader is full of interesting reptile lore (oooh, spitting cobras, cool) and features some good-looking photographs and illustrations. The Dial Easy-to-Read book is rated a Level 3, for "reading alone, harder words, longer text." The print is still fairly big, and there's enough white space so that the pages don't look at all distracting. Lots of kids  enjoy nonfiction more than fiction, and a book like this one has a nice chance of engaging a nature-loving reluctant reader, too.  For the younger child, Why Do Snakes Hiss? makes a good read-aloud.

(For some resources for reluctant readers, check out Elizabeth Kennedy's page on the subject at

High Grades in Science

Joy Hakim, well-known for her history series, is now writing middle-school science text books and getting high marks for them. USA Today's Greg Toppo reports,

Hakim (pronounced HAKE-im) already has legions of admirers for her best-selling American history series, A History of US. Now she is making fans of science teachers, who praise both her scholarship and her ability to make difficult subjects comprehensible.

"The science is impeccable," says Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. Wheeler, who has written a college physics textbook, says Hakim's writing "takes advantage of the power of story, but it's also quite sophisticated. She has refused to lower the bar."