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August 2008
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October 2008

Coming Soon: Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, 2008

Start thinking of your favorite kids' books of the year! On October 1st, nominations open for the 2008 Cybil Awards. A new category this year has been set aside for Easy Readers, and I am pleased to be part of that panel. Panelists winnow down a long list to a Top 5 (or 6 or 7). Here is the Easy Reader crew:

Panel Organizer: Anastasia Suen (Book of the Week, Children's Book Biz News, Picture Book of the Day, Kid Lit Kit)


Andi/Cloudscome, A Wrung Sponge
Sonja Cole, Book Wink
Terry Doherty, The Reading Tub
Kara Dean, Not Just for Kids 
yours truly


Jen Robinson (Jen Robinson's Book Page)
Terry Pierce (Terry Pierce)
Heather Acerro (ACPL Kids)
Els Kushner (Librarian Mom/Scholastic)
Anastasia Suen (see panel organizer)

Judges and panelists in a number of other categories will be announced this week; check the Cybils blog for details.

Current Events for Kids?

Current Events have landed. When I was in the fourth grade, I had to do weekly Current Event reports, and now my son does, too. Actually, as fourth-graders way back when, we could also just copy something out of the World Book encyclopedia and call it a day; I still remember Sally B.'s explanation of The Exoskeleton of Insects. Good times, good times.

Anyway, I am trying to compile a list of  helpful web sites for Junior and other third, fourth, and fifth graders who may need a similar resource. Time for Kids is used in the classroom, so we have that covered; the Weekly Reader web site is geared to subscribers. (Ed.: Noted, 9/25: A Weekly Reader editor wrote in to point out the site's "Election Center 2008" at the top of the home page. That would indeed help Current Eventsters.) Our daily newspaper is the New York Times, and the reading level is too high for our fourth-grader.

Here is what I have so far. Many feature more games and advertising than news. I will happily add on suggestions, which I encourage you to leave in the comments. Magazines that don't have web sites would be appreciated, too.

Time for Kids
Science News for Kids
Discovery Channel animal news
Discovery Channel Planet Earth news
National Geographic for Kids
Sports Illustrated for Kids

Additions (from UPenn's Annenberg Public Policy Center)
Scholastic News Online, and other Scholastic magazines
Brain Pop
The Cricket group of magazines for children, with new web sites coming soon
Kids Newsroom 

Many thanks to Farm School, Pooja Makhijani, Chris Barton, Sheila of Greenridge Chronicles, and Mandy for the suggestions so far.

Library Mermaid's Susan contributed some good homework rescoures. Gracias!
Kathy Schrock's Discovery Education site
B.J. Pinchbeck

Sandhya suggests Weekly Reader's Current Events News Blog, which features the work of, among others, some kid and teen bloggers.

Poetry Friday: "Sad Underwear and Other Complications," by Judith Viorst

Skimming through this book (Atheneum, 1995) in the library, I was amused by the title, appreciative of  being included ("More Poems for Children and Their Parents"), and sold on the names of some of the verses: "It's a Wonderful World, But They Made a Few Mistakes," "Well, Shut My Mouth," and  "Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States." I laughed in recognition at the lines of "The Seventh Swimming Lesson":

Stop the presses.
Call a reporter.
Sally just put her face in the water.

Some meanness does burble up;  "Wayne" begins, "Nobody's best friends with Wayne./He's a fellow who clogs up life's drain." Skip the poems you don't like, and enjoy the humor in the others. There are more than forty to choose from, including some funny takes on fairy tales. The author, Judith Viorst, also wrote Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Biblio File today.

Wednesday Quotes and Links, 9.10.08

I love the way kids think. A young neighbor was filling out a getting-to-know-you questionnaire from her new teacher, and one of the questions was "What do you like best about school?" Her answer: "The water fountains."

Some links on this blue-skyed September Wednesday:

"Rowling Wins Lawsuit Against Potter Lexicon," by John Eligon, at the New York Times. See also "Top 8 Things to Know About the Lexicon Ruling," by Liz Burns at the blog A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. Liz has a link to a PDF of the ruling itself.

The Booker short list was announced yesterday.

Lots of literary celebrations are coming up this fall: the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 14th; the National Book Festival, in D.C. on September 27th; and the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, sponsored by the Westport, CT, public library, October 23rd-25th. Registration for the last one is open; everything except a dinner with the authors is free.

Blog World & New Media Expo hits Las Vegas September 20th-21st. I'm not going, but I would want to hear some of the keynote speeches. I'm also curious about this seminar, "Marketing to (Mommy) Bloggers." The Blog World web site describes it:

Marketers and PR people have found that Mommybloggers are the holy grail for their advertising. The problem with that is that many of them are going about it all wrong. This teaches marketers how to reach out and teaches Mom bloggers how to own the fact that they are a brand and what to do with that brand.

On the Books, with Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

696Horigami Not so long ago my family often read aloud Nathaniel Lachenmeyer's Broken Beaks, about the friendship between a homeless man and a small bird. (I also reviewed the touching picture book for The Edge of the Forest.) The author has a new book out, The Origami Master, illustrated by Aki Sogabe, which the Junior Library Guild called "a tale as simple and elegant as origami itself."

With several more books on the horizon, Nathaniel Lachenmeyer has obviously been writing up a storm, so I invited him to drop by and tell us what he's been reading lately. Here's what he had to say:

I read new picture books every day or two. Most weeks I take 30-40 picture books out of the library, more or less at random. The ones I like I read to my son, who is 5. When I read one that really impresses me, I usually request all the other books by that author in the library system. Most recently, I’ve been reading the picture books of Demi, Frank Asch, and Elisa Kleven. Favorites include The Empty Pot and One Grain of Rice (Demi), Happy Birthday, Moon and Mooncake (Asch), and The Paper Princess Finds Her Way and The Puddle Pail (Kleven). 

In the not-a-picture-book category, I have been rereading some of my favorite plays. I’ve just finished Eugene O’Neill’s "Long Day’s Journey Into Night," which I highly recommend.  I am also reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I love the Vonnegut books I have read, and would like to read them all. 

Last but not least, I am always reading articles and books as research for whatever picture book I am working on at the moment. Right now I’m reading a lot about “green” architecture. That’s one of the great things about being a writer; reading is a big part of the job!

Previously, in Chicken Spaghetti's "On the Books" series

Marc Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel)
Betsy Howie (The Block Mess Monster)
Susan Taylor Brown (Hugging the Rock)

We Are. Rock Flippers.

IMG_1431 International Rock Flipping Day dawned pleasant and sunny after yesterday's Hanna-induced monsoons. It was low tide when we arrived at the beach, on the Long Island Sound. Low tide leaves a lot uncovered—perfect conditions for flipping.

IMG_1418 (crab) Under one of the first rocks we turned over were some small Asian shore crabs. In addition to being quite invasive in the Sound, they're very fast and hard (for me) to photograph. So, my assistant courageously volunteered to hold one while I snapped away. (Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

IMG_1428 (mussel)The assistant then found a whopper of a clam, and within a few seconds figured out how to make the clam squirt his mom. The next creature of interest was this mussel (left), which had been minding its own business in the water, under a stone. There are lots of mussels in the intertidal zone.

On top of a rock near one of the beach's jetties were some cormorants sunning themselves and drying out their wings. IMG_1435 (cormorants)

I like an old Audubon Society field guide, Atlantic & Gulf Coasts, for identifying what we see at the beach, but could use an updated one. Covering seashore life from plants to whales, the edition I have does not, alas, mention the shore crabs. Children may want to look at the color photographs in the book; otherwise, it's geared for grown-ups. For the kiddos, the DK Eyewitness title Seashore is informative, and Jim Arnosky's nonfiction picture book Beachcombing comes recommended by my friends over at the blog Literate Lives.

An excellent book (for adults) about the Sound is Margins: A Naturalist Meets Long Island Sound, by Mary Parker Buckles; not a guide book, it's more essay-ish in form.

Via Negativa is compiling a list of all the participants in today's rock-flipping festivities. I will add links here over the next couple of days, too. Keep reading after the jump for the roster so far.

Continue reading "We Are. Rock Flippers." »

Tom Piazza's "City of Refuge"

On Fridays many blogs around the kidlitosphere post entries about poems, but I am going to cheat today and talk about fiction. For adults. Actually, some teenagers would probably like it, too.

Tom Piazza's new novel, City of Refuge (Harper, 2008), is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I will be very surprised if a National Book Award nomination doesn't come its way next month. With riffs of writing rolling out so beautifully they're almost poetry, Piazza's story tells of two New Orleans residents at the time of Hurricane Katrina. One is SJ, a widowed builder with deep roots in the Ninth Ward, and the other is Craig, a married journalist in love with the Crescent City. Doer and documenter, black and white, native son and Midwestern transplant—the contrasts abound. In a setting backlit with sorrow, these two men, along with their families and a host of other well-drawn characters, must cope with disaster. Really, the word "disaster" is inadequate, but I will leave it at that.

Here is an excerpt from a passage early in the course of events, before the hurricane hits.  In explaining the "integrated fabric" of New Orleans life, Piazza draws a line from the AME Zion Church on Sunday to the abundance of restaurants like "...Upperline or Clancy's or the St. Charles  Tavern, or the Acme Oyster House or Henry's Soul Spot..."

"...and you know that street, or you don't know the street but it has a smell and a rhythm and a personality, and getting there is part of the experience, and you form a map in your heart of all the places that make you so happy, and there are always other people there being happy, too. No matter what you may be dealing with in life, you can still enjoy a bowl of gumbo or some shrimp creole, can't you? Of course you can."

Where does a reader go after reading a novel like that? Almost anything else would be a letdown. When I finished Jhumpa Lahiri's short-story-collection Unaccustomed Earth, I dove directly into an anthology of stories by Alice Munro. Maybe I'll turn to Piazza's Why New Orleans Matters, a book of nonfiction published not long after Katrina struck. I'm not ready to leave the city just yet.

I do like poems, too, so I'll be sure to stop by the Poetry Friday roundup at Wild Rose Reader this afternoon.

International Rock-Flipping Day, Sept. 7th

1289407473_50af3d1f97_m rock International Rock Flipping Day, September 7th, sounds like something a six year old invented, but the credit goes to several grown-up nature enthusiasts, including one "doyenne of invertebrate bloggers." Turn over a rock, see and identify what's under it, and write a blog post or submit a Flickr set of photos. I am so there. Junior has flipped rocks for three years after studying pill bugs in first grade.

According to the blog Via Negativa,

"In case you missed all the hoopla last year, here’s the post that started it all, and last year’s participants are linked here. On 9/2/2007, people flipped rocks on four continents on sites ranging from mountaintops to urban centers to the floors of shallow seas. Rock-flippers found frogs, snakes, and invertebrates of every description, as well as fossils and other cool stuff. As before, we advise wearing gloves for protection, and getting the whole family involved — or if you don’t have a family, rope in some neighborhood kids. Be sure to replace all rocks as soon as possible after documenting whatever lies beneath them."

More details are at Via Negativa. A description of one participant's experiences last year can be found at the blog of Marcia Bonta, a writer and naturalist.

Although it isn't exactly about flipped rocks, one similar book that we liked was Jean Craighead George's All Upon a Sidewalk, a middle-grade title about an ant, Lasius Flavus, and her search for food in a big city. An older nonfiction selection that holds up just fine.