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October 2007
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December 2007

Science Prize Shortlist

In science-award news, the following books are finalists for 2008 AAAS/Suburu  SB&F Prizes. AAAS stands for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. SB&F refers to Science Books and Films Online, "a critical review journal." The shortlist was announced earlier this month. From what I can determine, the YA selections are adult titles that would appeal to teens, too.

  • Children's Science Picture Book

Babies in the Bayou, written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky (Penguin Group,   2007

Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas, by Cheryl Bardo, with illustrations by Jos A. Smith (Harry N. Abrams. 2007)

Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter, by Mary Alice Monroe, with photographs by Barbara J. Bergwerf (Sylvan Dell. 2007)

Vulture View, by April Pulley Sayre, with illustrations by  Steve Jenkins (Henry Holt, 2007)

Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealedby David Schwartz and Yael Schy, with photographs by Dwight Kuhn (Tricycle Press, 2007) 

  • Middle Grades Science Book

Being Caribou:  Five Months on Foot with a Caribou Herd, by Karsten Heuer (Walker & Co., 2007)

Circulating Life: Blood Transfusion from Ancient Superstitions to Modern Medicine, by Cherie Winner (Twenty-First Century Books, 2007)

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered: Unscrambling the Clues! by Lowell Dingus, Luis M. Chaippe, and Rodolfo Coria (Twenty-First Century Books, 2007)

Frog Heaven: Ecology of a Vernal Pool, by Doug Wechsler (Boyds Mills Press, 2007)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion, by Loree Griffin Burns (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)      

  • Young Adult Science Book         

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, by Natalie Angier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

An Ocean of Air: Why the Wind Blows and Other Mysteries of the Atmosphere, by Gabrielle Walker (Harcourt, 2007)

Is Pluto a Planet? A Historical Journey Through the Solar System, by David A. Weintraub (Princeton, 2006)

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring, by Richard Preston (Random House, 2007)

  • Hands-on Science Book

Exploratopia,  by Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and the staff of the Exploratorium (Little Brown & Company, 2007)

Stellar Science Projects about Earth's Sky, by Robert Gardner (Enslow, 2007)

Temperature, by Navin Sullivan (from the Measure Up! Series)  (Marshall Cavendish, 2006)

Nonfiction Readers

Author, editor, and School Library Journal blogger Marc Aronson tackles the question of "fictionalizing nonfiction" in two separate posts at SLJ's Nonfiction Matters (Part I and Part II). I was hoping he would do this! I'm finding the articles must-reads so far. In Part II, Aronson writes,

But I mention this war of words to say that our concerns -- how much fiction can you put into history -- are embedded in a long, complex, and fascinating academic debate on very similar issues. One problem in children's literature, I believe, is that we look for a ruling, a policy, from a reviewer, a teacher, a librarian -- as if these were issues that could be resolved with mandates -- instead of realizing that what we do for younger readers links to big questions scholars have long wrestled with.

This is fascinating stuff. Until I read these posts, I wasn't thinking in bigger-picture terms. Now I'm thinking, "Of course!" and want to find several books (for adults) that Aronson mentions: Simon Schama's Dead Certainties and Aronson's own Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era.

Robert's Snow: Joan Waites

Snowflakeforwebfront1_2_2 Joan Waites is the artist of the day here at Chicken Spaghetti. Her beautiful snowflake, "Beauty and the Beast," highlights my final installment of Blogging for a Cure, in which many children's book bloggers feature the unique art pieces from Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure. That online charity auction raises money for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; please go to the Robert's Snow web site for details on how to bid. Joan's  "Beauty and the Beast" is part of the first group of snowflakes to be auctioned; bidding starts Monday.

Joan is the illustrator of nearly 40 books for the educational and trade markets, as well as several children's magazines, posters, and greeting card art. Illustrated works have won the following awards: IRA/CBC Children's Choice Award; IRA/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, and a Benjamin Franklin Award. The artist is also an adjunct faculty member of the Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., where she teaches various children’s programs in drawing, painting, sculpture, and story book illustration. The artist works from her home studio in the metro Washington, D.C., area, where she lives with her husband, three children, two cats, and one rambunctious puppy.

Snowflakebacknoribbon_2_2 Joan was kind enough to answer some interview questions; if you're an artist just beginning your career, she offers some good advice.

How did you become involved with Robert's Snow?

I became involved in the first Robert's Snow auction after hearing about a call for illustrators to contribute snowflakes from Grace Lin. My father had just recently passed away from esophageal cancer, and my mother was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time as well. It seemed like a small way that I could help contribute to cancer research.

Where did you get the idea for your snowflake?

I wanted to use a fairy tale as inspiration this year, one of my favorite types of stories to illustrate. "Beauty and the Beast" seemed appropriate...the "Beauty" of a cure overtaking the "Beast" of cancer.

Do you have any advice for children's book illustrators just starting out?

I'd say the best thing to do first is really familiarize yourself with the market. Read and study hundreds of published books in the library or bookstores. Look at how the art enhances and plays off the text. See how your own art compares and fits in. Develop a strong portfolio showing your ability to draw children and animals, and carry those characters through several scenes, like you would in a book. Re-illustrate your favorite fairy fale or fable to get a sense of what it's like to work with text and illustration combined. Develop a postcard mailer, and a simple web site/blog if you can. Get a copy of the latest Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market to research publishers and their needs. Join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, study its web site and articles, and attend a regional conference to learn about the business and network with other authors and illustrators. Lastly, have a lot of patience and perserverence. It may take several years to get your career off the ground, but it's worth it...I can't think of a better job!

Which books on your bookshelf  do you refer to over and over again?

I can't say I have one book in particular that I go back to, but at the start of a new job I often look over my collection of books from other illustrators to spark an idea or color palate. Some of my favorite children's books are the ones illustrated by other watercolor artists such as Jerry Pinkney, Charles Santore, David Wiesner, and Jane Dyer...all of whom have also contributed snowflakes to one of the three Robert's Snow auctions!

Sophiesseasonsspreadfo_2_3 I also asked Joan about her latest projects, and she sent along an illustration, telling me,

[Here is] a sample piece of art for a book I have written and illustrated called Sophie's Seasons, which I am just starting to submit to publishers. It's the first book I have both written and illustrated, so my fingers are crossed!

Good luck to you, Joan, and thank you so much for participating in Robert's Snow. Readers, click over to the Robert's Snow site, buy a snowflake, and raise money for cancer research! Snowflakes by Marion Eldridge and Maggie Swanson, artists whose work also brightened up this blog, are part of that first group, too.

Poetry Friday: Fowl Search

The search-engine query "What is chicken poetry?" sent at least one reader here recently, and that's a question I wish I could answer. It's almost in the "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" category.

Meanwhile, here is a favorite kids' work that mentions our feathered friends: "Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens," by Jack Prelutsky. Enjoy.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog Big A, little a.

Good Nonfiction Read-Alouds

I borrowed the list below from Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook. He says, "Nonfiction will often read like a boring textbook unless there's a strong narrative to it." Having read umpteen non-narrative nonfiction books aloud, I don't agree with that; the match of subject and listener is what matters. Still, who doesn't like a good story line?

As a caveat, I should say that, though filed in the library's nonfiction section, some of these books contain fictionalized elements. An adult reader can talk about that fact with the child she's reading to. Kids are up to such a conversation. (Actually I'd love to see Nonfiction Matters' Marc Aronson take up the subject of fictionalizing in children's nonfiction books.) Here is Trelease's list; I've added links to Powell's.

Saving the Liberty Bell, by Megan McDonald
The Flag Maker: A Story of the Star-Spangled Banner, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, by Jeannine Atkins
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, by Barbara Kerley
The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audubon, by Jacqueline Davies
The Bobbin Girl, by Emily Arnold McCully (I'll add McCully's Marvelous Mattie, too.)
Thank You, Sarah, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i, by Fay Stanley
Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure, by Don Brown
When Esther Morris Headed West: Women, Wyoming, and the Right to Vote, by Connie Nordheilm
Liberty Rising: The Story of the Statue of Liberty, by Pegi Deitz Shea
You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt, by Judith St. George
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein, by Don Brown
Eleanor, by Barbara Cooney
Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki
My Brother Martin, by Christine King Farris
The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull

To these, I'll also contribute The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History, by Jennifer Armstrong.

Also, Oyate, a Native American advocacy organization, says that Thank You, Sarah is a "book to avoid," and lists a few recommended Thanksgiving titles. I'll let the reader decide for herself  if a book is to be avoided or not. That's what I do.

Added: Kathy, the school librarian who blogs at Library Stew, suggests a couple of more: Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline B. Martin, and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, by Maira Kalman. MJN of The Alternative Side Parking Reader suggests Roald Dahl's autobiographies (written for older children): Boy and  Going Solo.

Robert's Snow: Maggie Swanson


Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure is an online charity auction of some 200 snowflake art pieces created by children's book illustrators. The proceeds from the auction go to cancer research at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Won't you put in a bid? They make excellent, one-of-a-kind gifts. Visit the Robert's Snow/DFCI web site to see the particulars about buying the snowflakes. The bidding starts next week.

Maggie Swanson's snowflake, "The Birdfeeder," goes up for auction starting Monday, November 19th. This piece of art makes me happy just to look at it, and  I am  honored to feature Maggie's work here at Chicken Spaghetti.

First off, a bit of biography:

Maggie Swanson wanted to be an artist for as long as she can remember. As a child growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, she spent many hours in her parent’s grocery store drawing and coloring pictures with the customers. After graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design, she spent three years illustrating and designing product for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. Returning to Connecticut, she started her family and her freelance career. Since then, Maggie has illustrated more than 100 books for many different publishers.

At Maggie Swanson's web site, you'll see that she has illustrated many "Sesame Street" titles. Time for Bed, Elmo is one of our favorites. Don't miss the photographs that she takes at a local animal shelter, too. Beautiful.

In a recent email, I asked Maggie about her recent publications. She writes,

"I have two new books for Christmas. One is The Kitten's Christmas Lullaby, which I wrote and illustrated for Regina Press. This one has an interesting back story relating to my work at Paws. The book is based on an Italian folk tale that I read on a bulletin board at the shelter. It was a torn off page from a 'Cat of the Day' calendar. I couldn't  stop thinking about it. I don't normally write, but this book was so clear in my mind that I  figured out the words and layouts in only a few hours. The other is A Scratch & Sniff Night Before Christmas, published by Sterling Publishing Company."

Maggie sent along these images from A Scratch & Sniff Christmas (below, left) and The Kitten's Christmas Lullaby (below, right). Aren't they wonderful! Many thanks to Maggie for sharing the illustrations with us.

Don't forget to bid on "The Birdfeeder" at Robert's Snow.

Kittens_in_bed_swanson_3 Manger_scene_swanson


Let's Talk Blogging at NCTE

Nyctaxi If you are headed to New York this week to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention, I hope you'll mark your date book for Saturday, Nov. 17th at 1:15 p.m. That's the time and date for a panel on blogging, with Mary Lee Hahn from A Year of Reading, Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page, and yours truly. The details:

Session: I.12 - 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm 11/17/2007

Format: Panel

Room: Javits Convention Center

Topic: Multi-modal Literacy

Level(s): Elementary (K-5)

Title: WELCOME TO THE KIDLITOSPHERE: READING, REVIEWING, AND BLOGGING ABOUT CHILDREN'S LITERATURE Children's literature blogs are a fabulous digital resource for all who are interested in children's books. In this session, four bloggers will share how blogs and blogging enhance their work with children and their knowledge of children's literature. There will be time for questions, and handouts with web links and booklists will be provided.

Won't you join us?

Photograph by Boschman. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.

Young Adult Lit Fest in NYC

On Saturday Nov. 17, I'll be participating in a panel discussion about blogging at the National Teachers of English conference in NYC. I'll post more about that later today. Meanwhile, my friend Sarah Herz, who wrote the book From Hinton to Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics, tells me about the following ALAN event at the same convention. (ALAN stands for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, an independent division of NCTE.)

A couple of weeks ago I "announced" information on your blog about the ALAN workshop in New York on Nov. 19-20 at the Marriott Marquis.  [Ed.: See the comments part of this post.] Anyone interested in young adult literature should register for the workshop at Registration is still open; each participant receives approximately 40 books free at the workshop.

Among the authors participating are Sherman Alexie, Chris Crutcher, Sandra Asher, Brian Selznick, Peter Sis, Jackie Woodson, Christopher Myers, Rich Wallace, Patty McCormick, Ben Mikaelsen, Gloria Whelan (I'm moderating a panel with Patty, Ben and Gloria), Cecil Castellucci, Sara Ryan, Garret Freymann-Weyr, Helen Frost, Allan Wolf, T. A. Barron, Adrian Fogelin, David Lubar, Pete Hautman, Deb Garfinkle, Enrique Flores-Galbis, Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, Christopher Paul Curtis, Jaclyn Moriarty, and Laurie Halse Anderson. Go to for the complete program and schedule.

This is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to hear and talk to a slew of YA authors.  All registrants are invited to a free cocktail party on Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Marriott Marquis, on 45th and Broadway. The ALAN Workshop is in the Westside Ballroom of the hotel from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

On Monday at 7, there is a special presentation of Aaron Levy's play about teen suicide, "Pizza with Shrimp on Top," performed by New York actors. All are invited free.

Monday Morning Coffee Talk, Nov. 12

A new edition of The Edge of the Forest, the online children's literature journal, awaits you. Reviews, interviews, recommendations—all there. Young adult literature is the month's focus; Edge founder and editor Kelly Herold interviews National Book Award nominee Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl).

The Best Books of the Year lists have begun. See Publishers Weekly (keep scrolling down for the kids' titles), Kirkus Reviews' Best Children's Books (PDF file), and The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books 2007, which comes with a cool slide show. On Wednesday the National Book Awards will be handed out.

The New York Times Book Review's fall children's book section was in yesterday's edition.

This morning on NPR Nancy Pearl selected some "Great Sci-Fi and Fantasy,"  which included a few books for children.

If you missed Daniel Pinkwater's children's book pick on NPR's "Weekend Edition" a couple of weeks ago, it was the newly restored Little Toot, by Hardie Gramatky.

In February The Brown Bookshelf will highlight African American children's and YA authors every day; right now the new group blog is taking suggestions for whom to feature. Go visit!