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News Items and So On

Ho, ho, ho. "Best Of" season begins. School Library Journal just published "Best Books, 2006."

In the department of old but interesting news, last week M.T. Anderson's novel The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume One, The Pox Party won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan, received the (adult) nonfiction award.  I've not read that one, but do recommend another book of Egan's, The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest. For more on the National Book Awards, visit the National Book Foundation.

Thanks to Kids Lit for the SLJ bulletin.


Living It Up with the English Teachers

Over the weekend, lots of our favorite bloggers and authors and teachers convened in Nashville for the NCTE.

The what? The National Council of Teachers of English. Who knew its annual meeting was such a kid-lit networking festival? Not me.

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Jingle Dancer) filed a report from Music City. Peggy Oxley and  Sylvia Vardell (of the blog Poetry for Children and the Cybils poetry nominating committee) presented an award to Nikki Grimes, for excellence in poetry for children. See Sylvia's blog for details. The Goddess of YA Literature was there, too; she refers to the enormous Opryland Hotel, where the convention took place, as the Habitrail. Funny.

Plus, the well-known edublogger Bud the Teacher chimes in with his take. Bud mentions meeting our own Mary Lee, of the kid-lit blog A Year of Reading; she's fast on the draw, with Nashville updates already posted. Sarah Dessen (That Summer) speaks of "wild times" with other young-adult authors. Hmm.

Holy smokes. More rumors of writers running wild. See The Boyfriend List blog for YA novelist E. Lockhart's takes on the Nashville gathering. She's promising photos, too. What's this? Also in Nash Vegas, Cecil Castellucci confides about her "girl literary crush" and tells other tales at her blog, The Divine Miss Pixie Woods.

In a third A Year of Reading installment,  Franki, another kid-lit blogger pal, confirms the fun (& informative) goings on, mentioning that next year's meeting is in NYC. I wonder if it's at the Hilton, which is almost as Habitrail-like as Opryland, though easier to escape and have some, say, excellent Thai food at Pongsri. Or BBQ at Virgil's. And so on.

Meanwhile, you can find a different viewpoint (though only partly about NCTE) in Monica Edinger's essay at Educating Alice.

From the looks of the list at Technorati (a blog search engine), I could go on and on. If you wrote about NCTE, give me a holler in the comments, and I'll link you up.

I don't think y'all spent a bit of time diagramming sentences, did you?


Upcoming Kid Lit Blog Carnival, Thanksgiving edition

Anne-Marie at the ClubMom blog A Readable Feast plays host for the Thanksgiving edition of the Carnival of Children's Literature. The deadline is November 20th; that's Monday. For submission information, consult this post here. Anne-Marie has a big table set; everyone is invited. Don't be shy. Sit by me, and we can eat a whole sweet potato pie.

A blog carnival is a roundup of posts on a particular subject. If you're new to the blogosphere, a blog carnival is a great way to get your site some attention. And cornbread dressing.


Poetry Friday: Our Seasons

I'm a little haiku-phobic. Hai-ku! Hai-ku! Bless you. Poetry guru Sylvia Vardell recently mentioned studies which found that the 17-syllable form is one that children like the least.  So, I have company: fortysomething me and a bunch of 7 year olds. Have I got a book for us!

Our Seasons, by Grace Lin and Ranida T. McKneally, made me forget all about my fear of haiku. Their picture book combines facts about seasons and weather with short and completely understandable poems that complement what is going on in the illustrations. Four children, Ki-Ki, Owen, Lily,  and Kevin, take young readers through the seasons as they ask questions ("What makes the wind?") and immerse themselves in the moment ("Owen tastes the snow..."). Along with the poems, the bright colors and the interplay of patterns (curlicues of wind, a raincoat decorated by spring flowers, a multitude of falling snowflakes) in Lin's pictures add some whimsy to the factual information. Also, the haiku here is all about familiar experiences (familiar especially for children who live in areas with four seasons), and studies show that children enjoy poetry about familiar experiences. Not that any of us consults a study before opening a picture book, but still, there it is.

Our Seasons would be a great classroom gift for teachers, who will appreciate both the subject and the book's inclusive nature. The four children are Asian, Caucasian, African American, and Latino. Kids will just enjoy the book. My 7 year old and I certainly liked it.

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I'm starting the lassoing for the Poetry Friday roundup today. A number of other blogs in the kidlitosphere participate in this verse rodeo, so leave me a message in the corral comments when your entry is up. Thanks, pardners.

Elaine considers Juanita Havill's I Heard It From Alice Zucchini at Blue Rose Girls, and points out a good re-issue candidate. A Fuse # 8 finds a worthy successor to Jack Prelustky when his poet laureate gig is up. Seven Impossible Things  reads Tony DiTerlizzi's Seuss 'n' Lear tribute, G Is for One Gzonk! and three other new books. A poetic rendering of search terms can be found at Blog from the Windowsill. Ilene at Book Buds extols a glorious new anthology of classic poems.

Susan Taylor Brown shares "The Alligator's Children," by Cicely Fox Smith. Ballads are on the mind of Kelly Fineman. On Check It Out, Ms. Mac posts a Thanksgiving poem of her own and a lovely photo. Journey Woman provides us with Prufrock and a link to Eliot's recording of the poem. We have A Wrung Sponge to thank for highlighting Toni  Morrison's picture book The Big Box, written with Slade Morrison. 

Hey! It's Poetry Friday's first podcast: Just One More Book reviews Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, by Berkeley Breathed. A Scholar's Blog offers World War I poems by Siegfried Sassoon and Helen Hamilton. (The anthology mentioned by Ilene also contains a work by Sassoon.) In her highly credible voice, MotherReader says that Adam Rex's Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich is hysterical.

Liz B. raids the Library of Congress for "Thanksgiving," by Mrs. L.A. Sherman; visit A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy for that selection. For Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," sail over to Little Willow's Slayground. GottaBook scores with a football poem, while What Adrienne Thinks About That serves up Sheree Fitch's funny "Absolutely Gastronomical."

And, wait, what have we here? Why, it's the winner of Valley View Intermediate School's Creative Writing Award, the one, the only Mitali Perkins.


Cybils Awards in the News

The Idaho Statesman suggests the Cybils web site as a parenting resource, with the nominated books providing a good reading list for parents and children. Amen to that!

Last week Publishers Weekly ran a short online feature on the awards, or as A Fuse # 8 put it, the Cybils got "some lovin' PW style." (That made me laugh.)

Remember, nominations for the first annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards close November 20. If you haven't yet nominated a title, there's still time. A lot of the books in my previous post are contenders.


Reading with a Second Grader 11.14.06

Here are some recent read-alouds that my son the 2nd grader has been enjoying. We mix it up with the books. He reads a page; I read the next. He reads some of them on his own. I read a quite a few out loud. A very visually oriented kid, he prefers books with illustrations right now.

Cookie's Week, written by Cindy Ward and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. In just seven days, Cookie the cat has lots of misadventures around the house. A picture book even the very littles would enjoy.

Spooky America, by Lori Haskins. Four ghost stories courtesy of a Stepping Stones chapter book with pictures; one story involves pirates and mooncussing. Yep, mooncussing.

Anatole, written by Eve Titus and illustrated by Paul Galdone. Knopf's 50th-anniversary edition of a classic picture book. A French mouse finds gainful employment at a cheese factory. Charming and funny.

Selvakumar Knew Better, written by Virginia Kroll and illustrated by Xiaojun Li. A heroic dog helps his human family during the 2004 tsunami. Non-fiction picture book.

Little Lost Bat, written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Alan Marks. We've read so many books about bats that I could midwife a bat birth, should the need ever arise. Actually Markle's non-fiction picture book is pretty neat, illustrated in lovely watercolors; an orphaned bat finds a new mother. Junior wants to see these Texas bats after reading this book.

Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin, by Gene Barretta. Political cartoons, bifocals, lightning rods, the Franklin stove: we owe it all to Ben. Barretta's colorful illustrations highlight the humor he uses to tell about Franklin's creations.  Ben himself is adorable.

Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art, written by Diane Siebert and illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson. With some initial sighs of reluctance, Junior consented to hear me read "Gargoyles: New York City," "Old Faithful: Wyoming," and "Cadillac Ranch: Texas." His favorite poem was "Mount Saint Helens: Washington," which ends in the word "KA-BOOM!!!" Johnson's richly colored art work, ranging from collage to oil painting to watercolor,  evokes the geography of each place beautifully. To be  honest,  a 7-year-old does not have enough context for this book, unless he is really well-travelled; he will like yelling "ka-boom," however.

Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Simon Bartram. Funny poetry + graveyard + spookiness =  Score!


Weekend Update

The New York Times Book Review runs a big children's book section today. I have a bone to pick with one of its Best Illustrated selections, but more on that at another time. Meanwhile, the online slide show of the winners is nice. And go see J.L. Bell's analysis of the section's advertising, at Oz and Ends. Interesting.

Gina MarySol Ruiz reviews A Gift From Papá Diego/Un regalo de Papá Diego, written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and illustrated by Geronimo Garcia, at La Bloga. If you're interested in Mexican American-themed books for children, you will get good recommendations from Gina. Check La Bloga's archives for more of her reviews.

Do book reviewers need to speak the "language of art"? Join the discussion at the Blue Rose Girls.

Debbie Reese considers Thanksgiving lesson plans at her blog, American Indians in Children's Literature.


Poetry Friday: Kristine O'Connell George

Poking around the web site of poet J. Patrick Lewis, whose Blackbeard I wrote about last week, I came across his recommendation of the site of Kristine O'Connell George, self-described  "writer, poet, tadpole rancher..." J. Patrick Lewis says, "One of the best children's poetry links on the web, children's poet Kristine O'Connell George's Poetry Corner is state-of-the art, continually updated." So, for today's Poetry Friday selection, I send you to the Poetry Corner for George's "Nest Construction," with a lovely illustration by Barry Moser, too. The poem is from the picture book Hummingbird Nest. I like George's economical way with words. Her book Fold Me a Poem looks intriguing, too.

Over at Journey Woman, Nancy rounds up all the bloggers participating in Poetry Friday. Thank you for lassoing the rowdy herd!


"Aliens Are Coming!"

Wwwrandomhousecom If Knopf ever makes a t-shirt of the Aliens Are Coming! cover, I want one. Isn't it great! What kid isn't going to want to open this book? My 7-year-old and I have been reading Aliens many times over; this book is just the ticket for a fun read-aloud. A lot of non-fiction picture books seem to be written for adults for some reason; the humorous Aliens, on the other hand, is tailored to its audience, the 7- to 10-year-old crowd.

The subtitle of Meghan McCarthy's book pretty much sums it up, as subtitles are prone to do: "The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast." Aliens Are Coming! begins with a two-page spread of 1930s radios on one side and, on the other, an announcer at microphone, who says, "Hey, kids! Did you know that in the 1930s most Americans did not own TVs? But you know what they did have? The radio!" McCarthy sets the stage and later incorporates abbreviated portions of Howard Koch's radio play, explaining along the way about the many people who truly believed that Martians were invading.  McCarthy's funny illustrations—of wide-eyed cartoonish people in a panic, drooling aliens on city streets, and long-legged Martian vehicles taking over the country—let the reader in on the goings-on. I plan to take this one to school and read it to a second-grade class. I'll bet it's a crowd-pleaser.

Knopf is in the t-shirt business, right? Sonny, I'll take a medium.