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January 2007
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March 2007

Side Dishes Feb. 28

Author and illustrator Barbara Johansen Newman talks about a writer's retreat, at her blog Cats and Jammers Studios

If you are looking for more books like You Can, Toucan, Math, don't miss "Math + Picture Books = Fun" (available in a PDF file) at Book Links. (Two plus marks go to this post at The Miss Rumphius Effect, too, where I nabbed the Book Links bit.)

Today's funniest tag line prize belongs to Syntax of Things: "One person's crap is another person's blog..."

Down in Atlanta, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference starts today and runs through March 3rd. I spy several blogging names among the panelists, including Gwenda Bond (Shaken & Stirred). Her Saturday morning group addresses "Beyond Realism: Fiction That Tangles with Tangibles." Then there's the intriguing "Adult Authors Who Cross Over to Young Adult"; Marina Budhos, who wrote Ask Me No Questions, is on that one. I see lots of Southern stuff on the menu, including a reading by Elizabeth Spencer. I'd also be sure to attend "Peter Taylor and the Lost World of the Modern" on Thursday; if you've never read a Taylor short story, remedy that, okay? Critic & novelist James Wood is part of that panel.

Wish List

Thomas Here are some new titles I'm looking forward to reading.

Poetry's Playground: The Culture of Contemporary American Children's Poetry, by Joseph T. Thomas, Jr. The publisher says, "Canonical issues are central to Poetry's Playground," but I'm on the lookout for the book because Thomas aruges that "that children’s poetry is an oft-neglected but crucial part of the American poetic tradition."  Great cover!

Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes. Despite Publishers Weekly's snarky review (see the Powell's link), I really want to read this collection of essays, which comes out in March. Thanks to the commenter who mentioned it.

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott. April is the official pub date, but Lamott will read at NYC's Union Square Barnes & Noble on March 20th, so no doubt the book will be in stores by then. I'm a big Lamott fan, especially of her writing guide, Bird by Bird.

Poetry Friday: "You Can, Toucan, Math"

19193 Colorful birds star in a book billed (ha) on the cover as "word problem-solving fun." You Can, Toucan, Math, a book of rhyming math questions, puts all those boring, poorly copied worksheets to shame.

You can probably tell  from the cover that Edward Miller's illustrations are a hoot; the bright hues used on the pages and in the illustrations illuminate flamingos, pelicans, chickens, and black-bellied plovers, just to name a few, as they pose for various equations. The top-notch graphic design adds the right note of whimsy to David A. Adler's poems. For the young readers who may need reminders, the author explains adding, multiplying, subtracting, and dividing on the second page. Another plus is that children will pick up a little nature lore along the way. You Can, Toucan, Math would make a great gift for first, second, and third grade classrooms—and for your home, too.

Liz B. at the Tea Cozy has the Poetry Friday roundup today.

"Jazz" Scores

Jazz won the 2007 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award earlier this week. Poetry maven Sylvia Vardell announced the news on her blog, Poetry for Children. Honor books were Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant, The Braid (which was recently reviewed at the Tea Cozy blog), and Tour America.

Joyce Lee Wong garnered a promising-new-poet prize for her young-adult novel in verse, Seeing Emily.

Sponsored by Penn State, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award,

established in 1993, is presented annually to an   American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of children's poetry   published in the previous calendar year. Since its inception in 1993, the winning   poet or anthologist has received a handsome plaque and a $500 honorarium made   possible by Mr. Hopkins.

I took the quoted material from the award's web site, but the most current information is on Sylvia Vardell's blog.

"When I Was a Loser" + "Boy Proof"

Maud Newton mentions a new anthology called When I Was a Loser, which consists of essays about high school. Maud has a piece in the book, a must-get as I am such a fan of John Hughes movies, "My So-Called Life," and other documentation of high-school travails.

Speaking of high school, after hearing so many good things about Cecil Castellucci's writing, I finally read her young-adult novel Boy Proof last weekend. Through her main character, Castellucci captures the painful self-consciousness of teenagers well. A bright sci-fi fan and the only child of divorced parents, Victoria, a.k.a. Egg, has barricaded herself behind a shell of defensiveness: she's shaved her head, she pecks at her friends,  and most of all, she's afraid to embrace what (and whom) she loves. Egg is also quite funny and observant, and a cool new classmate named Max also sees beyond her "boy proof" exterior.

An excerpt from the novel, which is narrated by Victoria/Egg, a high-school senior:

Here is something really weird. I love taking pictures for the school newspaper.

"I've got the contact sheet here, Nelly," I say, just to hear myself say something out loud. My voice cracks a bit from being unused all day long. Earlier today I took a vow of silence.

"Drop them in the box, Egg. You know the routine," Nelly says. She smiles at me. She pushes her glasses up on her pretty button nose.

My GPA is higher than hers.

I thoroughly enjoyed Cecil Castellucci's terrific novel, and the  Hollywood setting and science fiction plot points added to the book's appeal. If Egg were a real person instead of a fictional character, I even think she could have contributed to the anthology Maud Newton was talking about.

See also: Bookshelves of Doom.

Tuesday Side Dishes 2.20.07

MotherReader plays host to the February Carnival of Children's Literature.

Kelly Fineman interviews Joyce Sidman at the Cybils site, and Wordswimmer's Bruce Black also chats with the award-winning poet. Our copy of Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow is on order. Is yours?

Two new blogs recently joined the kidlitosphere: Library Stew and Book Book Book. Welcome!

Do the canines in children's books need a quick trip to the ASPCA's spay/neuter clinic? The Gelflog provides some supporting evidence, with a laugh-out-loud headline. (Gelflog link via Maud Newton)

My blogging pals at A Year of Reading and Check It Out comment on the Higher Power of Lucky controversy.

"The Word" in Newbery Winner Is Front Page News

The  Newbery-winning novel The Higher Power of Lucky made the front page of the New York Times today, but not as part of a book review. In an article mentioning censorship, banning, and shocked librarians, Julie Bosman reports,

The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter.

Yet there it is on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature.

As Bosman acknowledges, the reaction to "the word" has been a hot topic on the list-servs and blogs for a few weeks. AOL picked up the Times story as the lead news item on its home page, ensuring that an already-large audience for the article will be huge. I predict that NPR and the weekly news magazines jump on the bandwagon, too.

The Higher Power of Lucky is #4 on the Times' children's chapter book bestseller list, and one week ago Julie Just critiqued the book in a New York Times Book Review blurb, without noting any canine body parts,

This is the kind of novel where a smart 10-year-old can run away from home into a dangerous dust storm, lugging her dead mother’s ashes and wearing a red silk dress. Still, Lucky’s story has its charm, along with (naturally) an upbeat ending.

Among the bloggers weighing in on the Times' coverage of the controversy are the Horn Book's Roger Sutton, teacher and author Monica Edinger, and the group at As If! Authors Support Intellectual Freedom.

The Lunar New Year

Lots of people—in China, Vietnam, the U.S., and many other places—celebrate the lunar new year, which begins on February 18th, and the publisher Kane/Miller posts a lovely New Year's greeting at its site. If you're looking for additional children's books to share about the holiday, visit the Edge of the Forest journal and the blog A Wrung Sponge for recommendations.

I like the counting book Ten Mice for Tet (Chronicle Books, 2003). With colorful embroidered illustrations and a helpful afterword, the picture book is a good introduction to the Vietnamese celebration.

Happy new year!

Correction 2/18/07:  Thinking mistakenly that yesterday was the 18th, I wrote that the Lunar New Year started on Saturday. That was wrong, and I apologize. The Year of the Boar starts today, Sunday, 2/18. I corrected the information in the post.


Winter Fun

Junior, who's 7, and I have recently re-discovered ice skating. Last year we would skate once around the lovely but crowded town rink, and Junior was done. This year the neighborhood ponds froze over. Completely. I can hardly believe that we can skate for free. On real ice! As someone who grew up in the hot and humid South, I find this to be a little miracle. Thanks, Mother Nature.

What we lack in ice-skating finesse, we make up for in determination. Junior skates as if he'd been shot out of a cannon, but he stays upright, for the most part. For a while, I was thinking that he needed lessons, but what he really needed was a wide-open neighborhood pond and a school friend he wanted to keep up with. His skating grew infinitely better when the chum showed up. I was left to practice my figure-8s.

As we were leaving the pond one day, Junior spotted a large unoccupied wasp nest in a tree, so naturally he had to whack a limb until the thing fell. The nest now sits in one of our cabinets so that the cat does not eat it. Junior has already excavated a mummified larva from it.

Our next nature activity will be to sign up for Cornell's Project FeederWatch, which continues until April 7th. (There's a small fee of $15 to participate.) We have just the book to go with the program—Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song, "featuring audio from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology." Yes, a singing book. It's a neat, coffee-table kind of tome, perfect for the house where there's a wasp nest in the cabinet.

If you'll excuse me now, though, I have to go find my skates.


This post is included in Field Day, a nature carnival (i.e., a roundup of links to blog posts that relate to a nature theme) at By Sun and Candlelight. For some great nature lore, hike over to that blog.

My other nature tip, though more spring-like, is the wonderful Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, a book of nature poems told in riddles. That book won best poetry book of 2006 honor from the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the gorgeous picture book An Egg Is Quiet, which won the younger readers' nonfiction category (and should have won a Caldecott honor). As the Cybils award web site states, "Don't be surprised if some future master birder cites this book as an early influence."