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April 2006
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June 2006

Poetry Web Site for Kids

Giggle Poetry,  a fun site for children, contains more several hundred poems. There's nothing "Hiawatha"-ish  here, just a lot of silly works about school, family, and pets, among other subjects. Children can even rate the poems. Meadowbrook Press is behind it.

That's my contribution for Poetry Friday, a day on which many of the children's literature bloggers post a poem or another poetry-related item like a review. If you have a blog, do join in. (To check out copyright issues, go here and here.)

Also, pay a visit the other folks posting about rhyme and stanzas and such today: Big A little a, Blog from the Windowsill, Book Buds, Bookshelves of DoomCajun Cottage Under the Oaks, Farm School, A Fuse #8 Production, Here in the Bonny Glen, Jen Robinson's Book Page, Little Willow, Mungo's Mathoms, The Simple and the Ordinary, So Glad I'm Here, and Susan Taylor Brown.

Kelly at Big A little a started this poetic venture, and like a good meme, it has really taken off! If I missed anyone's contribution, leave a comment and I'll add your blog to the list.

How the West Was Read

Biding my time and waiting for the BookExpo bloggers begin their reports, I caught up with April's Western Heritage Awards. (A photograph in PW DailyPublishers Weekly's daily e-mail, prompted me.) Sponsored by Oklahoma City's National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the prizes were launched thirty-six years ago "because the stories of the West needed to be preserved." There are categories for film and TV (nope, no award to "Brokeback Mountain"), magazine articles, music, and more.

The 2006 juvenile book award went to Westward Ho! Eleven Explorers of the American West, by Charlotte Foltz Jones. Past winners include The Good Rainbow Road, by Simon Ortiz (2005), and The Long Way West, by Hershell H. Nixon (2004). The Jones and Nixon books are geared toward readers aged 10 and up, while Ortiz's book appears to be for somewhat younger children.

Memorial Day Weekend brings a chuck wagon and cowboy celebration to the OKC museum. Wish we could go...

Hot Off the New Zealand Presses

The New Zealand Post book of the year is Hunter, by Joy Cowley, and the New Zealand Herald says the survival story for 9 to 12 year olds was inspired by moa hunters, among other things. If you're wondering what I was wondering, a moa is an extinct flightless bird. (I looked it up.)  Cowley, the author of some 500 books for beginning readers,  had some stiff competition; one of the other books under consideration was written by Margaret Mahy, who recently won the Hans Christian Andersen prize.

Link: Joy Cowley official web site

South Asian Literary Fest

Mixed Messages, a literary festival  sponsored by the South Asian Women's Creative Collective, takes place Friday through Sunday, May 19-21,  at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC.  Lots of writers and artists will speak and present workshops, but of particular interest to us kid lit folks is the following:

Saturday, May 20, from 11 to 1. Free!

Pooja Makhijani, editor  of Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, moderates a panel discussion on South Asian youth literature. Participants include Mitali Perkins (yay for Monsoon Summer!), Ruth Jeyaveeran (The Spectacular Adventures of Sophie and Sebastian), Marina Budhos (Ask Me No Questions), and Monika Jain (editor of the children's literary magazine Kahani.)

For some background on these writers, here are some links.  I mentioned Pooja Makhijani's excellent bibliography of South Asian children's books last summer. You can also read a Chicken Spaghetti review of Monsoon Summer from January. Cynthia Leitich Smith interviewed Marina Budhos at the blog Cynsations back in February.
uth Jeyaveeranth Jeyaveeran
Also this weekend: the enormous trade show BookExpo America takes over the Washington Convention Center in D.C.

Flights of Fantasy

I like School Library Journal's book of the week features. They're short and well-written, with enough information to give me an idea if my kiddo would like the book—or in the case of this week's pick, if I would like it. The May 15th selection is The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, by Leonard Marcus. He's the same Leonard Marcus who edited Dear Genius, Ursula Nordstrom's book of letters, a must-read for fans of children's literature.

Leonard Marcus's web site can be found here.

So Long, McNuggets

Eric Schlosser, the Fast Food Nation guy, is getting lots o' press for his new book for preteens and teenagers, Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food. The Los Angeles Times caught up with Schlosser in Berkeley last week, and yesterday both the New York Times and the Washington Post reviewed the book, which was co-written with Charles Wilson. NY Times: "Read this, and you have had your last Happy Meal." WaPo: "Along with the all-McDonald's-diet movie, 'Supersize Me,' this should be required fare before the next lunch bell rings."

If you're in Portland, Oregon, you can catch Schlosser at the First Congregational Church tonight, at 7. It's a free event; seating on a first-come, first-served basis. See the Powell's Chew on This link above, for more details.

Poetry Friday: An Attempt

Well, I tried. We were on such a roll two weeks ago that I got carried away. On Wednesday Junior (my 6-year-old son) and I were having a lovely time of it, reading many books (and only one on jellyfish) at snack time, when I blew it. I up and fetched the From Sea to Shining Sea anthology of Americana and started to read "Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere." Things skidded to a halt when I read the word "belfry," but it may also have been at "aloft." ("Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch.")

When I found From Sea to Shining Sea at a book sale last summer (for only $5!), I pictured Junior and me, a la Norman Rockwell, revelling in our nation's history. I did not picture Junior sighing, "Mom, no" and walking over and gently closing the book on my lap. Quickly I flipped it back open and pointed to an illustration, "Ooooh, look at this cool old ship," but that was a desperate measure. And it did not work.

So, we moved on, and went outside and did a lot of digging. We planted a lilac bush, an unexpected gift from a friend. I thought of Poetry Friday and "When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd" (that's all I know of it), but knew to let the moment just be when we stood back and admired our rather handy spade work. Tonight I'll be reading From Sea to Shining Sea. By myself.

For some actual poems, check the list at the blog A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.

Weekend Reading 5/12

  • McGraw-Hill has responded to Patricia Polacco's allegations of censorship. GalleyCat has the story. Update: McGraw-Hill has left statements at several blogs, including GottaBook, about the Polacco controversy. 
  • Toni Morrison's Beloved is the best novel of the last 25 years. Sez the New York Times.
  • Award-winning children's writer Sonya Hartnett, of Australia, has written a novel (for adults) that the Sydney Morning Herald calls "steamy literary pornography." She did use a pseudonym, Cameron S. Redfern, for Landscape with Animals.
  • The Independent reports on a new work for teensDoes My Head Look Big in This?, written by Sydney attorney Randa Abdel-Fattah. The British paper says the book "tackle[s] the thorny issue of wearing the hijab, in one of the first novels to portray the experiences of a Muslim girl growing up in a Western society."

Beginner Reader Recommendation: Big Brown Bear

Reading is hard. I forget that sometimes. Recently I've been reading with some first-graders in a nearby town. They are enthusiastic, excited about their choices of books, and diligent in sounding out words.  They finish one book and immediately select another from their basket of books (assembled to match reading levels).  They work steadily at mastering the task of reading. Word by word. I am impressed.

Last week's favorite book was Big Brown Bear, by David McPhail, and it's the kind I might have overlooked. It's a much simpler book than, say, Mr. Putter and Tabby or Fox at School, two of my favorites. But enough about me. A title that children enjoy is worth hollering about.  Big Brown Bear made the two girls I was reading with laugh, and they read more fluidly because of that. They wanted to see what goofy situation was coming next.

Big Brown Bear is a manageable length, not too overwhelming at 18 pages. We first see Bear near a bridge and  carrying a ladder. The first page has no words. Hmm. What's up? The text on the next two pages reads "Bear is big. Bear is brown." The type is invitingly large, announcing, hey, you can read this. McPhail's watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations reminded me of Sendak's work; this is a bear a kid might like to know. The pictures accurately reflect the words: "Bear gets paint. The paint is blue." In another  illustration Bear then starts to climb a ladder with the paint. "Bear goes up. The paint goes, too." Aha! The beginning of a possible problem. Then, on the next page—"Little Bear is playing. She has a bat."—McPhail shows in his illustration how close Little Bear + bat + ball are to Big Bear on the ladder, with the full can of blue paint. So, in just a few pages, McPhail has gone from "Bear is big" to the verge of chaos.  I won't reveal the rest of the plot, such as it is, but the words and pictures work in tandem to create a satisfying little book.

I've been following Gail Gauthier's comments on her blog Original Content about what children like to read. Gail writes,

To me, there will always be a wall between kids and true, authentic kid literature and that wall is the adults who write, publish, review, and sell it. We can only guess at what we're doing.

To those of us adults involved with children's books, whether we're a parent or a publisher, this gives us plenty to ponder. In the case of Big Brown Bear, I'm glad I slowed down a little bit and listened to the kids.