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November 2005
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January 2006

Chicken Spaghetti's 2005 Favorites

The year 2005 was a wonderful year of reading, so it was hard to narrow down the list to the 20 or so books that you'll find on the right. Most of them I mentioned during the year on the blog; you'll notice that not all were published during the last twelve months. In fact, Burt Dow: Deep-Water Man goes back to 1963.

The three that I hadn't yet talked about are Anastasia Suen's Raise the Roof!, a jolly picture book (illustrated by Elwood H. Smith) about house-building, which would be good for preschoolers and beginning readers; the late Barbara Knutson's Love and Roast Chicken, a trickster tale from South America, starring a guinea pig; and Mordicai Gerstein's story The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, about the amazing time Philippe Petit strung a tight-rope between the two sky-high World Trade Center buildings and walked across it.

So, I made the short list, which isn't that short, and my son cast the vote for the three top winners: Knuffle Bunny, Hiawyn Orem's adaptation of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Caves: Mysteries Beneath Our Feet.

Happy New Year, everyone, and onward to 2006!

"Noisy Outlaws" on the Radio

If I lived in LA, I'd turn on the KCRW radio show "Bookworm"  to hear Kelly Link and Jonathan Safran Foer on January 5th. Their stories are part of a well-reviewed anthology for young adults called Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things..., published by McSweeney's. Since I'm not an Angeleno, I'll settle for  streaming audio and just pretend I'm stuck in traffic on the 405.

Can Poetry Matter?

I'm borrowing the title of Dana Gioia's book of essays to ponder something. The shelves at public libraries and school libraries are overflowing with books of poetry, and I can't help wondering how many of those get read and how often.

Please don't get me wrong. I am pro-poetry. (How could a lit blogger be anything else!) But when I see the enormous supply of it at the library, I am curious. And, for that matter, why do some children (okay, mine) occasionally declare, "No poetry! No!" when you try to read them some? Is it force-fed at school? I have no idea. The Washington Post even starts a review of a new anthology with the line, "Who says kids don't like po'try?" Well, nobody, but I do sense a disconnect somewhere.

At any rate, both the Post and NPR are recommending Poetry Speaks to Children, a collection of 100 poems that comes with a CD of many poets reading their own work. NPR says,

The book is designed to be read by children 6 years and older. But Elise Paschen, a poet herself and the book's editor, says it appeals to kids as young as 2. "And not only that, it really appeals to adults. I think that you can read these poems on all levels."

Greetings of the Season

Happy holidays, everyone! I'm taking a bit of a break to enjoy the winter solstice, Christmas, M & M cookie baking, and so on. I'll be back soon. Meanwhile, for your reading pleasure, do check out the blogs and web sites listed here. Scroll down to "Kid-Lit Blogs,"  "Authors & Illustrators," and  "More Links" on the right.

Libraries & Pop Culture: Discuss

Back in September, Sophie Brookover, a children's and young adults' librarian and founder of the blog Pop Goes the Library, wrote about blogging and popular culture  for Library Journal. She lays out some ground rules for making better connections with teen patrons, starting off with the following, which gave me my first laugh of the day.

Let's get over ourselves

Being culture snobs earns us no points in the eyes of our public. Don't flinch when someone asks for a book about NASCAR, the latest 50 Cent CD, or a Left Behind film. You don't know what else that patron likes to read, or why he's asking for that item. My sister's housemate loves NASCAR like he loves oxygen. He's also got a Ph.D. in paleontology. Lesson: if we ignore popular trends in publishing, music, movies, and TV, we risk making libraries and librarianship superfluous, and we alienate potential library champions.

There's more astute advice in Brookover's article. Do go read it for yourselves.

New York Public Library Recommended Reading

The New York Public Library has published its 2005 Recommended Reading list. It's a splendid gathering of titles, with a nifty multicultural focus, as the excellent Kids Lit blog points out. Jon Agee's picture book Terrific makes the cut. Great big ole illustrations, a kooky story line, and  unlikely protagonists (mopey guy, talkative parrot) are highlights.

Ozlit Luminaries Name 2005 Faves

Quite a few Australian writers liked Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead this year, according to an article in The Age in which Ozlit luminaries talk about their favorite books. One, Nikki Gemmell, mentions the following children's book, which is a few years old.

And a beloved Aussie book? Jackie French's Diary of Wombat (Angus & Robertson, $14.95). I know it word for word because I've read it so many times to my little boys. It's a kids' book that adults get pleasure out of reading, unlike so many children's books (Enid Blyton, for some reason, is now like wading through thigh-high mud.)

Nikki Gemmell is the Australian-born, London-based author of Alice Springs and The Bride Stripped Bare, among other works. Her books are available in the United States.

Site Outage

My apologies to everyone who has had difficulties accessing this site over the last few days. The blog service Typepad is experiencing great growth and some ensuing technical difficulties, and it has had to tweak a number of features. A couple of days ago the group tweaked (or is it twuck?) a mite too hard, and everything flew off in the wrong direction, i.e. content disappeared.

But it's better now. As you can see, recent posts have returned.

Okay, then, where were we? Oh, yes, Great Britain and Australia. Do go see the recommendations at Syntax of Things, which I mentioned below.

"I, Coriander" Takes U.K. Prize

Sally Gardner, the author of I, Coriander and the winner of the U.K.'s Nestlé prize for children's literature, did not learn to read until she was fourteen years old. A former costume designer, Gardner tells The Independent,

"In the theatre world, my dyslexia had been a problem, but in the world of publishing, it has been less so. That I can't spell is a great irritant to people having to deal with my manuscripts, but it's the ideas that count."

Although she doesn't say so directly, Gardner's words are a powerful testament to the copy editor, who so often plays an important behind-the-scene role.

For a short biography of Gardner, which contains remarkably similar information to the Independent's (surf Web + get quote = reporting?), check the publisher Penguin's site. Click on the interesting interview there, too.

Children in the U.K. vote on the Nestlé awards; for a list of the runners-up, the press release can be found here.