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November 2006
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January 2007

December "Edge of the Forest"

While awaiting the news of which books made the shortlists for the 2006 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils), you can check out the December issue of the online magazine The Edge of the Forest; it includes a "Sounds of the Forest" podcast devoted to the awards. Of course, you may have New Year's Eve plans other than web surfing, watching "Sponge Bob," and drinking coffee. I kinda forgot about that. Do check out The Edge when you get a chance. Meanwhile, I'm off to fire up the coffee pot.

Kid Lit Lunch

Today I had the great pleasure of lunch with Anne, who blogs at Book Buds and who co-founded the Cybils awards. It's lucky for me that I live right near her hometown, so we can meet and chat about books, literature, and the state of the world on occasion. I also got to say hi to her adorable family.

A big end-of-the-year toast goes to Anne and to Big A little a's Kelly; they dreamed up the Cybils prizes for children's literature back in October, and the idea really took off. The two bloggers herded up some eighty fellow citizens of the kidlitosphere to cull nominations and eventually judge what is turning out to be more than 700 books! Whoa.

Having worked with the poetry and the nonfiction picture book committees, I know which 5 books made those shortlists, but mum's the word until January 1st. I can't wait to hear the news in all the other categories. Meanwhile, I'll be reading Marisha Pessl's novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which so far is reminding me of Pnin, The Secret History, and A Separate Peace all swirled together. I'm only halfway through, so I don't know if that impression will last. Maybe it's the influence of reading so many kids' books lately, but I see YA crossover potential, too.  Edited to note: I'd have to add some Dave Eggers into the mix, too, and a few other influences, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. After finishing the book, I think it's too relentlessly smarty-pants to be a YA crossover novel.

Poetry Friday: Poetry Speaks to Children

Imagedbcgi_5 As a teenager I read and admired Langston Hughes's poetry. Given the powerful drama of lines like "What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?.../Or does it explode?,"  I expected that Hughes would speak in deep, stentorian tones.

Hearing his voice on the Poetry Speaks to Children CD surprised me recently. Hughes introduces another poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," telling a bit about how he wrote it, and then reads it. To my ear, he is much more of a tenor, although his message is still basso profundo: "I've known rivers/Ancient, dusky rivers./My soul has grown deep like the rivers." I enjoyed the contrast—and the gift of hearing the poet, who died in 1967,  read his own work. (I should mention that the "raisin in the sun" poem is not on the CD.)

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" is just one selection in Poetry Speaks to Children, which is accompanied by a CD of some 60 tracks of poets and others reciting their own poems. Roald Dahl is on there, as are Rita Dove and Robert Frost. Compiled by Elise Paschen, the wide-ranging anthology offers lots of pictures and works from the serious (Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening") to the very silly (C.K. Williams' "Gas").

I'm sharing the book a little at a time with my 7 year old, who is a great age for Poetry Speaks to Children. There's plenty here for younger kiddos, too.

The book and CD remind me how much I like Langston Hughes, and I  am happy to catch up with him again. The bonus is getting to meet a number of new (to me) writers, too.

Pssst. Hey, you poetry folks. You can also hear Hughes read and introduce "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" at the Academy of American Poets.

Liz B. rounds up all the participants in Poetry Friday today at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.


Santa Claus brought Junior the most awesome book. While Junior plays with the "Don't Break the Ice" game and the new cars and trucks, I can't let go of Exploratopia, a handsome volume of science experiments. Issued under the auspices of Little, Brown and  San Francisco's Exploratorium children's museum, this book contains 384 pages  that "show... kids how to explore the world around them, how to ask questions, and how to experiment to find the answers."

Meanwhile, Junior himself also recommends Extreme 3-D Scary Bugs, which came with 3-D glasses, and the Discovery Laser Beam Safe, which is not a book at all. And which talks, and beeps like a backing-up NYC garbage truck.

Time for Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa begins tomorrow, December 26th, and runs through January 1st. Over at the blog for the Education and Social Science Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are some children's books for Kwanzaa. (Scroll down on the page.) Then, the Food Network dishes up some recipes for the holiday.

Each day in Kwanzaa features a different guiding principle. The one for December 26th is umoja, or unity. Sosu's Call, a picture book by Meshack Asare, would be a good book for the day, although it's not about the holiday. In it, a West African community comes together after a devastating storm.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad! I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday. Here is an essay from my favorite hometown newspaper, the Jackson, Miss., Free Press. It involves a liberal independent newspaper's staff, a few holiday drinks, Lee Greenwood, and a local National Guard battalion. I hope Donna Ladd, the editor of the paper and the author of the column, wins an award for her lovely piece.

Poetry Friday (One Day Early): Poems for Teens

When Billy Collins was poet laureate, he created a site called Poetry 180. Housed at the Library of Congress, Poetry 180 featured a poem a day for high school students, and it's still up and accessible.  Speaking for all of us slightly older than teens but still recalling our Freaks and Geeks/ Dazed and Confused days, I dedicate a cheer to Billy Collins and Poetry 180.

For today's Poetry Friday selection, I chose "The Bagel," by David Ignatow, which describes something unexpected. Enjoy.

Thanks to Elaine, of the Blue Rose Girls, who mentioned this site in an email.

Merry Christmas Music

We've been reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and I went searching for another good Xmassy read and came home with...the story of a father who died at sea while delivering Christmas trees. Not so merry.

So, instead, let's turn to music. Terry Teachout, the Wall Street Journal theater critic lists his favorite Christmas records at his blog, About Last Night. To chime in with a suggestion, I'll mention the compilation disc "Soul Christmas," with the excellent "This Christmas," sung by Donny Hathaway.