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September 2006
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November 2006

ABC, Easy as 1-2-3

This morning I was so reminded of my first-grade class that I all but lined up in the hallway for lunch. Fried baloney, anyone? What? That's no longer a staple of elementary-school cafeterias? And it never was, outside the South? Time flies.

Actually I was in a first-grade classroom so the deja vu shouldn't have surprised me. Once a week I read with some first-graders at the Maple Street School*, in a nearby town. Today two of my six-year-old friends and I played Clifford ABC Bingo and looked at a few pages of Alphabet Explosion: Search and Count from Alien to Zebra, by John Nickle; Random House had sent me a copy of that newest work by the Ant Bully author. Our family has played the bingo game a million times, so I thought the kids would like it, and being Clifford fans and knowing their letters upside down and all around, they did. (No link, alas. The game must be out of print.)

Like my son Junior, the children also thought Alphabet Explosion was a hoot. With its brightly colored, surreal illustrations, Nickle's wordless picture book is a hipster's ABC guide, meant to entertain the adults reading along, too. Take I, for example. The 17 I words (that readers have to guess) include inches, ironing, iguana (who's doing the ironing), impala (impatiently waiting for the iguana to finish), iris, igloo, ivy, and icicles; luckily, there's an answer key in the back for those of us who might not recognize an impala right off the bat. Initially I worried that some of the irony would surely go over the heads of younger readers, but the first-graders had fun applying their knowledge of letter sounds. A great morning for me, and to top it off, I got to practice my Ds when I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee afterward.

*The school is real, but I changed the name, mostly because I love maple trees.

National Book Award Nominees: Young People's Lit

The week of literary prizes rolls on. Today the finalists for the 2006 National Book Awards were announced. I'll let you click over to the National Book Foundation for all the scoop on the adult books, but here are the nominees in the Young People's Literature category.

M.T.Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party (Candlewick Press)
Martine Leavitt
, Keturah and Lord  Death (Front Street Books/Boyds Mills Press)
Patricia McCormick, Sold  (Hyperion Books for Children)
Nancy Werlin, The Rules of Survival  (Dial/Penguin)
Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese (First Second/Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck)    

Team Moon, Gratis

Launch yourself into the blogosphere for a chance to win a free copy of Catherine Thimmesh's much admired Team Moon, courtesy of Book Buds. Click on that link for all the details.

From the Houghton Mifflin press release:

Thoroughly researched and accompanied by stunning photographs from the NASA archives, Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon leads the reader through the gut-wrenching challenges of the space mission via intense behind-the-scenes narrative, with direct quotes from the people who made it all possible — flight directors, engineers, managers, camera designers, software experts, suit testers, telescope crew, and navigators.

Nobel Guesswork

The winner of the Nobel prize for literature will be announced on October 12th in Sweden. Who will it be? Newsweek says Orhan Pamuk. The AP mentions him, as well as Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Syrian poet Adonis, and Swedish poet Thomas Transtromer. The Guardian's Culture Vulture lists a few others, including Korean poet Ko Un, Amos Oz, and Mario Vargas Llosa. Considering that Americans have so far won all of the other 2006 Nobels, I'm guessing that the lit prize won't go to a Yank.

Meanwhile, Critical Mass, the online voice of the National Book Critics Circle, reminds us that the Booker top prize and the National Book Award finalists will also be announced this week.

Thank you to MoorishGirl for the Newsweek tip and to SignOnSanDiego for the AP story.

La Bloga Contest

Mis amigos over at La Bloga are sponsoring a writing competition about the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday: La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest. The call for submissions states,

Here's your chance to get exposure for your great piece relating to el Día de los Muertos. Through Oct. 24th we will accept prose, poetry, essay, in English or Spanish or Spanglish--most anything about this indigenous/modern tradition. Fantasy, children's stories, YA, horror, serious, satirical or comical--anything you want to share.

Shorter pieces are preferred (less than 500 words), since we are the editorial staff and will base our decisions on quality and how little work is required of us.

Okay, writers. You've got your deadline!

"Curious George" Is 65

I really enjoyed reading "Curious George Becomes a Senior Citizen" (about the 65th anniversary of Margret and H.A. Rey's classic picture book) over at J.L. Bell's Oz and Ends blog. J.L. Bell treated himself to the omnibus edition a while ago and writes about his reactions: "Nothing else has ever been so powerful at making me feel four years old again." We have that book, too. It was a gift for Curious George himself Junior a few years ago, and we have almost worn  it out with repeated readings. If you're looking for a birthday present, you can't go wrong with The Complete Adventures of Curious George.

Canadian Kid Lit Awards

Earlier this week the Canadian Children's Book Centre announced the short list for children's book of the year:

The Crazy Man, by Pamela Porter (Groundwood Books)
Earth to Audrey, by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Stéphane Poulin (Kids Can Press)
Mella and the N’anga: An African Tale,
by Gail Nyoka (Sumach Press)
Shi-shi-etko, by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave (Groundwood Books)

As part of Children's Book Week in Canada (November 18-25), the CCBC will give away the picture book Franklin in the Dark to all Grade One students in Canada. This will be done through the schools, and Canadian home-schooling parents of first-graders can contact the CCBC's Meghan Howe (meghanATbookcentreDOTca) to get a copy for their children. (Replace the AT and the DOT with the symbols in that email address.) 

Other top Canadian prizes for kid lit include ones for French-language books, picture books, and nonfiction.