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September 2008
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November 2008

The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

USAF_B-2_Spirit The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, by Ole Steen Hansen, is one in a series of nonfiction books about military aircraft, including the A-10 Thunderbolt and the AH-64 Apache Helicopter.

Despite its short length (32 pages), B-2 is not a book for beginning readers; it's more aimed, so to speak, at proficient readers who like quick hits of information. Children familiar with the popular DK Eyewitness books may recognize a similar design here—white backgrounds, black lines framing the page layout, plenty of color photos, captions conveying additional material. (A single B-2 costs more than a billion dollars to make.)

Hansen's no-nonsense prose presents the B-2 as the warplane it is. The "Future" section says, " is impossible to predict what enemies the United States will have to face in the future. The B-2 is the only bomber that can hide from the enemy so well that it can't be shot down." 6- to 10-year-old info-seekers will find out about the mechanics of avoiding radar detection, air-to-air refueling, and, of course, dropping bombs.

Note: Both the U.S. Air Force and the Wikimedia Commons web sites feature many public-domain B-2 photographs, some of which you'll see in the Capstone book.

The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber
by Ole Steen Hansen
Capstone Press, 2006

National Book Award Finalists, 2008

Announced today!

Because this is a blog about kids' books, I'll start with Young People's Literature:

Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)
Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)
Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead)
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba (Scribner)
Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library)
Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Salvatore Scibona, The End (Graywolf Press)

Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf)
Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
(W.W. Norton & Company)
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday)
Jim Sheeler, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (Penguin)
Joan Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order (Harcourt)

Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)

Finalist lists courtesy of the National Book Foundation.

Bookspotting, 4th Grade

Children_reading_1940 I borrow the term "bookspotting" from The New Yorker's Book Bench bloggers. They're always noticing someone reading something interesting on the subway and around town.

During silent reading time in a fourth-grade classroom recently, I spied kids engrossed in these books, among others:

Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins
The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald
Magic Tree House: Carnival at Candlelight, by Mary Pope Osborne
Warriors: Into the Wild, by Erin Hunter
The People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray, by Ann M. Martin

Photograph: Children Reading 1940, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (via Wikimedia Commons)

Poetry Friday: An Original, sort of


"Usually Toothless"

by Susan Thomsen and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England

Adult frogs
and toads (order Anura)
have large
heads and eyes,


they appear neckless,

and most lack

In the photograph: an American Toad (toothless? toothéd? I'm not sure.)

For an excellent bibliography of  children's books about frogs and toads, including works of poetry, see this post at the blog The Miss Rumphius Effect.

You'll find a roundup of links to more Poetry Friday posts at Anastasia Suen's blog Picture Book of the Day. What is Poetry Friday? Read this article at the Poetry Foundation.

Roald Dahl, Spy...Fantastic Mr. Fox, Movie

As someone who used to be hooked on espionage novels (Helen MacInnes, I'm waving at you), I'm looking forward to getting my hands on The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington, a book of nonfiction by Jennet Conant. Roald Dahl a spy? I hadn't known this about the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Danny the Champion of the World, and so on.

In his review at the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley wrote, "... if the part of the story Conant tells is comparatively minor, it is interesting all the same -- especially for its high Washington gossip quotient -- and Conant tells it well."

Speaking of Fantastic Mr. Fox, I read on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) that director Wes Anderson is making an animated movie of the same, due out a year from now. George Clooney provides the voice of Mr. Fox, and Cate Blanchett is Mrs. Fox. Other big names like Bill Murray and Anjelica Huston are on the cast list, too.

Roald Dahl died in 1990, but he's got one of the liveliest web sites going. (How'd he do that?) You can read the lists there for the UK's 2008 Roald Dahl Funny Prizes for children's books. (Winners to be announced on November 13th.)

On the Books, with LD Podcast's Whitney Hoffman

288_Horizontal-Logo  "On the Books" is a series that asks one question, "What are you reading lately?" I'm so pleased that Whitney Hoffman pops in with her answer today. An attorney and the mother of two sons, Hoffman produces LD Podcast, an informative Internet radio show about learning and learning disabilities.

As the home page states, the focus of LD Podcast is on "parenting children who are struggling in school, but you'll find many of the topics we discuss applicable to any child. You'll hear a lot about how to emphasize your child's strengths, while helping them find ways to minimize their deficits." Interviewing experts in their fields, Hoffman covers an array of topics, including handwriting problems, ADHD, dyslexia, and homework.

Let's hear from Whitney Hoffman. The mike is all yours, Whitney.

I started the podcast after finding it hard to figure out what I "should" be reading. I wanted to know what was happening in education, especially as it affected kids who didn't fit perfectly into the system as it stands. My list is fairly representative of the types of books I usually read—a mix of books on education, personal development and strategies, and business books, with fiction mixed in for fun. 

I should tell you my very best book secret: the business books about management and marketing can be applied in different circumstances. After all, if you learn how to get your message across in an advertisement, those same skills are equally applicable to getting your ideas across to your children and students. The business section sometimes has better parenting books than the parenting section. Shhhh—don't tell!

The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success, by Marcus Buckingham. A great book with an accompanying DVD that is more than just a gimmick—it's definitely worthwhile. I shared the disk with my children. Great messages about identifying and capitalizing on your strengths.

Wired for Speech: How Voice Activates and Advances the Human-Computer Relationship, by Clifford Nass and Scott Brave. The authors examine how people are mentally wired to process speech sounds and what this means for computer programs and design. (Totally geeky.)

ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says
, by Russell A. Barkley, Kevin R. Murphy, and Mariellen Fischer. I will have a chance to attend a seminar with Dr. Barkley in November, and will be interviewing him for the podcast at that time, so reading his book is important prep.

Continue reading "On the Books, with LD Podcast's Whitney Hoffman" »

Dictionary to the Rescue

On weekday mornings our house is not always the picture of calm. The time between the end of breakfast and the arrival of the school bus is often filled with last-minute scurrying around to find homework, make snacks, dig out the fall sweaters, change shoes (oops, it's gym day!), or locate/hug the cat.

Not today, though. A grown-up friend gave Junior an older copy of The Macmillan Visual Dictionary yesterday. Her family was no longer using it, and she hated to see the book just sitting around. Given its 3,500 color illustrations and 600 subjects, this book is grand for a curious kid or adult. Sure, it still has Pluto as a planet, but other information still holds. This morning Junior spent a good fifteen minutes studying the solar system and telling his dad and me how the Northern Lights work. A visually oriented fellow, he's not a reluctant reader, but a book like this would have lots of appeal for readers in that category, as well as English language learners. There are several current visual dictionaries on the market. An Amazon reviewer commented that one of them has been terrific for her son, who is deaf.

What does tomorrow a.m. hold? Rushing around or examining the dictionary's cross-section diagram of a water heater? I hope it's the latter.

On Mondays children's book author Anastasia Suen collects links to posts about nonfiction books for children; check Picture Book of the Day for today's entries.

Poetry Friday: Prize Contenders

IMG_1634 I count on the nominations for the annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards to keep me up to date on poetry books. Suggestions for the 2008 prize are stacking up at the Cybils web site, and here are some that I added to our library list so far. (Don't worry. I'll only pick up a couple at a time.)

Frankenstein Takes the Cake, by Adam Rex

Honeybee, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Lady Liberty, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares

M Is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children, by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.

America at War: Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems About Fall, by Laura Purdie Salas

My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Pirates, written by David L. Harrison and illustrated by Dan Burr

Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures, written by Julie Larios and illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, edited by Nikki Giovanni

Birds on a Wire, written by J. Patrick Lewis & Paul B. Janeczko, and illustrated by Gary Lippincott

For more rhyme and meter and such, check the Poetry Friday roundup at the blog Two Writing Teachers.

photo: "Parking Lot Puddle," by me

Wednesday Notes, 10.01.08

IMG_1597 Happy October!

Nominations are now open for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils). Anyone can nominate a favorite book of 2008 in a variety of categories. Click over to the Cybils blog for all the information.

The September Carnival of Children's Literature has been up and running at Jenny's Wonderland of Books. A carnival is a round-up of links to blog posts on a particular subject; in this case, it's kids' books.

Portland, Oregon—home of Powell's Books and Voodoo Doughnut—was the scene of the recent Kidlitosphere Conference of bloggers. The blog Portland Kidlit rolls out the links to all the reports, which are fun to read.

Author Shannon Hale, who writes for both grown-ups and young adults, details "How Reader Girl Got Her Groove Back," at School Library Journal. On the one hand, I know where she's coming from; although I read it in high school, I didn't begin to understand The Great Gatsby until much later. On the other, statements like the following sound defensive. Commenting about her own required high-school reading, Hale writes,  "I still haven't recovered from The Scarlet Letter. Reading Dubliners straight through, all the stories started to sound the same." Why cast classics and young adult literature into an either/or situation? I don't get it.

Also at SLJ, children's book expert Anita Silvey considers "Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?"