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July 2009
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September 2009

People Are Talking About...

The end of the PBS show "Reading Rainbow." (via NPR) I hate hate hate this news. Hate it. But I like this post by The Millions' mom, a.k.a. Dr. Christine Morano Magee, of Educating for the Unknown.

Motoko Rich's New York Times article on reading workshops, in which students choose their own books. See also the Educating Alice blog for a 4th grade teacher's approach to teaching reading (and a response to the Times article).

Oprah's next Book Club pick, to be announced September 18th. (My guess? Like GalleyCat, I think it's Uwen Akpam's Say You're One of Them.)

Susan Straight's essay at the New York Times Book Review about Accelerated Reader, a school-based reading-incentive program

Lorrie Moore's new novel, A Gate at the Stairs (due from Knopf on September 1st). Excerpted in The New Yorker's 7.06.09 issue.

Entertainment Weekly's grade of "C" to Suzanne Collins' young adult novel Catching Fire, a sequel to The Hunger Games

The Boston Globe's look at high-pressure kindergarten and test prep (via Jen Robinson on Twitter)

"Where's Ramona Quimby, Black and Pretty?," a post at Publishers Weekly's ShelfTalker blog

Nearly fifty years after its initial publication, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking makes the bestseller list. (via The Village Voice's Fork in the Road blog)

The Kidlitosphere Conference for bloggers, October 17th

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, September 14th-18th. Voting for favorites takes place September 7th-12th.

August '09 Carnival of Children's Literature

Head over to In Need of Chocolate (isn't that a funny name for a blog?) for the August Carnival of Children's Literature. There you will find many links to blog posts about children's books. Here on the rainy East Coast, I am going to pour myself some coffee and read away.

Check out the lists of favorite chapter books and picture books, too. Sarah, a homeschooling mom, reads a lot with her family.

Neesha Meminger on Kids' Books by South Asian Authors

"50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read" is one of many pages at the National Education Association's web site. Neesha Meminger, who wrote the YA novel Shine, Coconut Moon, recently noticed that though the list  features works by some of her favorite authors of color, it contains no books by South Asian writers. (Meminger was born in India, grew up in Canada, and now lives in New York.)

She wrote a blog post on the subject, and later updated it with the happy news that the Cooperative Children's Book Center, which originally compiled "50 Multicultural Books...," plans to expand the roster this fall. 75 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read? Let's hope so! 

I asked Neesha Meminger for her ideas on some South Asian additions that the CCBC could include. (Not that I have any affiliation whatsoever with the organization—I'm just a busybody who loves a good list.) She kindly sent me a list of some of her favorite South Asian children's books and authors:

  • Bindi Babes (the whole series), by Narindar Dhami (a UK author). YA/MG*
  • Born Confused, by Tanuja Desai Hidier. YA
  • Chachaji's Cup, by Uma Krishnaswami. Picture Book
  • Maya Running, by Anjali Banerjee. MG
  • The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, by Mitali Perkins. YA 
  • Ask Me No Questions, by Marina Budhos. YA
  • Junglee Girl, by Ginu Kamani
  • And a new release, Skunk Girl, by Sheba Karim. YA

She also cited several Canadian authors of South Asian descent who have written fiction with teen or YA protagonists: Shani Mootoo, Shyam Selvedurai, Nila Gupta, and Farzana Doctor, "to name just a few off the top of my head."

More resources from the Meminger files include

I've enjoyed reading the author's own Shine, Coconut Moon (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, 2009) this week. Shortly after 9/11, 17-year-old Samar's long-estranged uncle shows up on her doorstep. What does he want? she wonders. This winning coming-of-age novel touches on such subjects as identity, friendship, and prejudice. The review journal Kirkus called it a Sikh version of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." 

* "MG" refers to middle grade, or ages 8-12. "YA," to young adult, or 12 and older.

Australian Kids' Book Awards

Each of the following won a Book of the Year award sponsored by the Children's Book Council of Australia.

Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan

Perry Angel's Suitcase, written by Glenda Millard and illustrated by Stephen Michael King

How to Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham

Collecting Colour, by Kyle Dunston

Alive in the Death Zone, by Lincoln Hall

Full information here, at the CBCA site.

Heaps o' Reading Suggestions: Updated List

Are you looking for a children's book to read or recommend to your favorite young reader?

I have updated this page: The Best of the Best: Kids' Books '08, which is a collection of 

  • links to newspapers' and magazines' end-of-the-year lists
  • prizes for children's books, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Greenaway, and Carnegie 
The final additions will most likely be the Book of the Year winners from the Children's Book Council of Australia. Those awards will be announced on Friday, August 21st.

Books: Southeast Asia

Over at the blog Chasing Ray, Colleen Mondor has a terrific roundup of posts on books 1. set in southeast Asia, and 2. by authors from that area. You'll find the information at Chasing Ray's One Shot World Tour: Southeast Asia.

Although I didn't yet get to it, I had hoped to read (in time for the tour) Over the Moat, by James Sullivan, about love and a bike trip in Vietnam. I first heard about this memoir on National Geographic Traveler's list of "50 Books of Summer." Soon!

Keeping southeast Asia in mind, I came across a lovely blog, Nye Noona, written by a woman who grew up in Laos, Thailand, and New York City, and now lives in the southeast U.S.

"The Periodic Table" and More

Wouldn't you know it? Just as soon as I say the kiddo isn't reading, I spot him with his nose in a book once or twice. So I'll put aside parental anxiety for now. Jeez. Lesson learned. 

We finished up Joy Cowley's middle-grade novel Chicken Feathers as a read-aloud; it's about a boy and a talking chicken who also likes to drink moonshine. Yes, a mite heavy on the quirk factor. Junior liked it.

This morning at the bookstore I picked up (for Junior) two novels recommended for their humor—David Lubar's Invasion of the Road Weenies, and Louis Sachar's Wayside School Is Falling Down. (I remember first hearing about the Wayside School books in Beth Kephart's Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World, a must-read book about encouraging children's reading.) I also bought some nonfiction: [Simon] Basher and Adrian Dingle's Periodic Table, which comes with a poster of the same. 

Back in 2007, the Farm School blog reviewed The Periodic Table:

Artist Simon Basher and chemistry teacher Adrian Dingle have created a vivid rogues' gallery of elements guaranteed to bring the periodic table to life and appeal to kids of all ages. I'll be the first to admit I'm the originally fuddy-duddy, but there's something about this anime-style, Facebook approach to the periodic table that's remarkably engaging. Not to mention a sensible approach to making the subject—indeed, the individual elements—memorable for everyone from fourth or fifth graders to college seniors (not to mention home educating parents who majored in, say, history).

Wise Words from the Children's Poet Laureate

Connecticut Center for the Book: Do you find that children relate to poetry differently than adults do? And if so, how?

Mary Ann Hoberman: Above all, they're not afraid of it! You invite them in and they respond, without worrying about what it means or whether they'll "get it." And if the person who presents the poetry to them is skillful and loves poetry herself, it is surprising how much kids can get out of poetry—not just the jingly-jangly verse or the stuff that panders to their obsession with subjects parents would rather not discuss in polite company, but serious subjects on deep themes.

The above is an excerpt from an interview with Mary Ann Hoberman in the Summer 2009 edition of Readings, a publication of the Connecticut Center for the Book. It's not available online, but Connecticut residents should look for Readings at their local libraries. The issue is devoted to "Poetry for Children: Opening the Door." Hoberman, the current Children's Poet Laureate, lives in Greenwich. 

Do check out Hoberman's classic The Llama Who Had No Pajama if you haven't read that collection of poems. It's a delight.

An Abundance of Bananas--and How It Relates to Books

When I was in college, one of my most looked-forward-to activities was studying for classes reading the Waverly News-Democrat, a small-town Tennessee newspaper that one of my friends got in the mail each week. She wanted to keep up with her hometown goings-on, but I loved the reports from a tiny community outside Waverly called Bakerville. My friend knew the Bakerville columnist, and referred to her as Miss Frances. So I did, too. Miss Frances had an eye for detail, never missed much at all that I could tell, and recorded any number of events, like, "The Hunt family visited this week from Chicago, Illinois." (A good time was had by all. Always.) A boy once had a tick in his ear and had it removed at the doctor's office in Waverly. It involved a drive. Others took a trip to Destin, Florida.

Bakerville people and their kinfolks married, moved to far-away places, and passed away, naturally,  but my all-time favorite was when Miss Frances wrote about this: "Today I went to the grocery store, and for the first time ever, there was not an abundance of bananas." Sure, it was a little different from her usual fare, but don't you just know what Miss Frances means? Grocery stores should have an abundance of bananas, and when they don't, well, something is amiss and ought to be noted.

Which brings me to the resident nine year old and books. There has not been an abundance of reading around here this summer. A bit of read-aloud (by me), a bit of Garfield (by him), and some listening to the excellent audiobook version of City of Ember on a car trip constitute the bulk of Junior's literary endeavors so far. There has been an abundance of SpongeBob watching. 

I thought of some remedies to the situation, while keeping in mind that my ideas are not always met by overwhelming enthusiasm.

1. Make read-aloud a more regular event, at a set time.

2. Place enticing nonfiction like The Day-Glo Brothers (by my pal Chris Barton) on Junior's bed.

3. Visit the library with Junior at a time when he is not dead-tired after camp. Let him play Poptropica games on the computer and then suggest looking for books.

4. Wrestle SpongeBob down to an hour a day.

5. Capitalize on Junior's interests. Make a bigger effort to find books on pet garter snakes, which are surprisingly hard to find. The books, I mean. The snake? Not so much.

That's it, so far. I'll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, if you have additional suggestions or recommendations for a kid who avoids Harry Potter like the plague, I'm listening—because fifth grade is coming up, and an abundance of reading is only going to help.