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April 2007

School Days

As the mom of a public-school second grader, I enjoy reading a number of the homeschooling blogs. I admire the nature carnivals at By Sun and Candlelight, the science studies at Lapaz Farm, the poetry and history suggestions at Farm School, the beautiful Mississippi farm and the good books at Twice Bloomed Wisteria, the spiritual generosity of Homeschool Diary, and the humorous realism at Poppins Classical Academy.

While I have never homeschooled, I get great ideas from all of these blogs, and when I met some unschoolers at the park last fall, I could talk enough Charlotte Mason that I didn't need a translator, thanks to Here in the Bonny Glen and the Lilting House. One day I hope to meet the hilarious and very political Redneck Mother and her husband, because between the three of us, I'm sure we could share some awesome tall tales.

What I see in those blogs is similar to what I see in my favorite teacher blogs. All of these teachers, including the homeschoolers above, obviously  enjoy being with children, and all are eager to share the learning-filled days that their vocations afford them.  Educating Alice, Ms. ABC Mom, The Miss Rumphius Effect, and A Year of Reading are some excellent teacher blogs that come to mind. Over and over I can tell that they understand children in a way that gifted educators do.

My son is a bit of a non-traditional learner, and I have jokingly said that I am going to start a totally hands-on school at the beach, where my family has spent so many good days. I spot students for my school everywhere, from the local skating pond to the urban public school where I volunteer to our town's nature center. The young fisherman at the river, the kids on the high dive at the Y, the boy who figured out how to drain a flooded street, the girl who loves running into the wind. At Beach School, we'll count wharf crabs, measure sand-castle towers, and study plankton under the microscope. After we fly kites for gym class, we'll multiply seagulls as we shoo them off our picnic lunches. And of course we'll read fun and interesting books, write in the sand, and change aged worksheets (is there any other kind?) into papyrus instead.

The seaside academy is a fantasy, but in the days ahead I'm hoping to live my life more like Beach School. Many, many thanks for the inspiration to all of you online teachers. You make an excellent faculty.

Side Dishes, March 13th

The brand new March edition of The Edge of the Forest has arrived on cyber newsstands everywhere. And it's free, always. (Just click.)

A super list of Everybody's Favorite Coming-of-Age Novels. (Chasing Ray)

Calendar Post-It: Shakespeare marathon on his 443rd birthday, April 9th, in NYC. (The Shakespeare Society)

Nick High Fidelity Hornby is writing a book for teenagers. (GalleyCat)

Wicked's Gregory Maguire receives the profile treatment. (New York Times Magazine)

Sports Illustrated decides no swimsuits allowed, at least in the libraries. (School Library Journal) Yeah, naked library party... kidding, kidding.

Fie on nasty Amazon reviews. (Justine Larbalestier)

A children's bio of Coco Chanel merits a star. (Publishers Weekly)

The Millions responds to blog dissing. (The Millions)

More science books for children win prizes. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, via Kids Lit)

Mira this review of new bilingual (Spanish/English) picture books. (La Bloga)

With a great headline, Gawker writes about David Orr who wrote about Dana Goodyear who wrote about the Poetry Foundation. (Gawker)

The Poetry Foundation, Yet Again

Tomorrow at the New York Times Book Review, the critic David Orr writes about Dana Goodyear's New Yorker piece on the Poetry Foundation. Orr's article is available online now. He begins,

The history of American poetry, like the history of America itself, is a story of ingenuity, sacrifice, hard work and sticking it to people when they least expect it.

(via Maud Newton)

A number of children's books, including Brian Selznick's Invention of Hugo Cabret, are reviewed in the NYTBR, too.


Here's a fascinating conversation about Amazon, started by Betsy B. at A Fuse # 8 Production; be sure to read the comments in this post, including the ones by Andy Laties. The Horn Book's Roger Sutton weighs in, too. Els at Book Book Book picked up the thread, providing more interesting commentary on the matter. From all of this talk, I realize that I need to read the book The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, which concerns business and the Internet.

I had some reviews posted at Amazon a while back, but once the news came out that some of the reader-reviewers had actually been paid, I removed my blurbs, thinking it was not the right place for my writing to appear. I did not want to sell books for the company, either, and I was giving away my writing. I do that here on the blog for fun!  I still link to Amazon, Powell's, and occasionally Barnes & Noble, but right now receive no commissions from any of them. In general, I prefer the independents like Powell's and Lemuria, but my friends at the local B&N store couldn't be nicer and more helpful.

So, hmm, dilemmas, dilemmas.

Best of 2006 Revisited

I updated the Best of 2006 list of awards and recommendations for children's books published last year; for starters, I needed to add the Caldecott and Newbery Medals, which were announced way back in January. Undoubtedly I left off something(s), but, wow, until I compiled that whopper, I never quite realized just how many "best of"s there are. Click on the link above to see the new version.

"Today's girls are tomorrow's history."

I like that quote. Young adult novelist Justina Chen Headley said that. She and three other writer friends—Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, and Lorie Ann Grover—have founded Readergirlz, a book group that meets where today's teenagers hang out, namely MySpace. Justina told me in an e-mail, "Our goal with readergirlz is to get girls to read, reflect, AND reach out. That's why every month, we are suggesting community service ideas that dovetail with the featured book." In addition to smart marketing, it's a cool idea, harnessing the power of the Internet to do good things.

Publishers Weekly featured the group in a recent article, and back in February the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote about their endeavor, too.

Links: Readergirlz at MySpace, Readergirlz web site

In another interesting piece, PW also considered blogging authors this week. Sue Corbet reports,

...the big question, of course, is, do blogs sell books? On that, everyone agrees that the answer is yes, though no one can point to any numbers, at least not yet. "Saleswise, I'm not necessarily expecting to see a post-for-post, purchase-for-purchase correlation," said Julie Strauss-Gabel, who edits [YA novelist John] Green at Dutton. "Blogging is a long-term endeavor, one that builds and sustains a loyal fan base over a career."

Scrutable Scro...

I've been house-bound for the last four and a half days with a sick boy. I think my sense of humor evaporated about Tuesday when the outside temperature dropped down into the teens again. That was just too darn much. The boy is much better, and I hope for my humor to return soon. At any rate, a lot of people think "Inappropriate," Paul Rudnick's piece in The New Yorker about the Great Scrotum Affair of 2007, is hilarious. I'm not one of them (well, except on "The Lion Princess" one), but I don't want you to miss anything, just in case. Ooh, and dig the New Yorker's re-design of its web site. Very nice. Do I dare to eat a peach?

What We're Reading 3.06

Img_0067_1 For a long time Junior preferred being read to over reading to himself. That was fine with me. How many times do you get to be 4 or 5 or 6? Then slowly he began to read aloud to his "class" of stuffed animals and one live cat, pictured. (Junior runs a pretty tight ship; a few members of the class are no strangers to the principal's office.) The class's favorite book? The True Story of Stellina, which is about a lost baby bird found by a woman in Manhattan. The illustrator Matteo Pericoli wrote the book about his wife and a real finch who lived with them for eight years. It's a tenderhearted story, full of love, as Anne Boles Levy pointed out in her Book Buds review.

Also high on the list is Scaredy Squirrel, about a fellow who lives life on a rigid schedule. Junior loves this picture book, although he takes some of the text meant as jokes literally. Very funny illustrations. (Grown-ups will want to read the upcoming interview with Scaredy Squirrel's award-winning author at the Cybils site.) By the way, if you like squirrels, don't miss Don Freeman's wonderful Earl the Squirrel, another story of self empowerment, featuring a bolder sort with a kvetch of a mother.

Not surprisingly the class shares Junior's interest in science and adventure. Two titles by Melvin Berger, Switch On, Switch Off and All About Electricity, are much in demand, as is Robert Ballard's Finding the Titanic.

This week Junior has been under the weather and home from (real) school. In between multiple viewings of the "Mary Poppins" DVD, I have been reading Little House in the Big Woods aloud. It works quite well as a "boy book," with its tales of bears, hunting, and bullets interspersed among the homey parts.  A convivial guy, Junior was shocked to hear that children were to be seen and not heard at the dinner table back in Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood. We do have to pause every now and then and talk about the "Injun" references, and I skipped over one racially insensitive song entirely. At some point I will follow up the book with Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House, which looks at the same era through the eyes of an Ojibwa girl.