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When You're Six, You Might Like to Read About...

  • Fish
  • Dinosaurs
  • Dolphins
  • Dora the Explorer
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Princesses
  • Mermaids
  • Christmas
  • Santa Claus
  • Easter bunnies
  • Sharks
  • The penguins in "Happy Feet"

This list was made by my first-grade reading buddies, after I asked them what sorts of subjects they are interested in. Both girls' skills are really improving; they're working hard.

This morning their favorite book was "Hi, Pizza Man!" by Virginia Walter. It has a lot of things that the first-graders like: big illustrations, a silly streak, animals, and a familiar subject (pizza). Situations where you guess what comes next make for fun, too.This small group likes picture books with only one or two sentences a page and a good refrain; otherwise, reading gets too long and involved. But "Hi, Pizza Man!"? They liked it so much that they read it twice. 

Reading Aloud Bill Peet

ImageDB.cgi  This morning the blog Across the Page has a wonderful salute to the books of Bill Peet, and recommends several favorite titles for reading aloud. The post reminds me that we still need to read Peet's autobiography.

Although I missed these books as a kid, I  "discovered" Peet, a Disney cartoonist and author of more than 30 works for children, through listening an audiotape of The Caboose Who Got Loose with my son, when he was about five. As I've mentioned here before, The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock makes us laugh every time, especially given one of the funniest visual jokes I've seen in a kids' book. Junior also likes Farewell to Shady Glade, an environmentalist story published in 1966 and still just as relevant. Really, you can't go wrong with Bill Peet's work.

Image from Powell's Books.

On Behalf of Lunch Ladies

A recent conversation with my son, age 10.

Junior: Mom, when you were in school, were the lunch ladies mean?

Me: Hmm. No, they weren't. I remember them as being nice.

Junior (with relief in his voice): Yeah, they're nice. At my school they're nice. But in books they're always mean.

Me: Yeah, I noticed that, too. 

Junior: It isn't true.

Me: Nope.

More Award-Winning Nonfiction for Children

Even more literary awards were announced today: the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the prize-winners are as follows:


The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Candlewick Press) 

Honor Books 

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press)

Darwin: With Glimpses into His Private Journal and Letters by Alice B. McGinty (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 

The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 

How Many Baby Pandas? by Sandra Markle (Walker Books for Young Readers) 

Noah Webster: Weaver of Words by Pegi Deitz Shea (Calkins Creek Books) 

Recommended Books 

The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull (Knopf Books for Young Readers) 

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (Farrar Straus and Giroux) 

Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport (Hyperion Books for Children) 

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews during the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle (Holiday House) 

Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson (Henry Holt and Company) 

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh (Philomel Books) 

Truce by Jim Murphy (Scholastic) 

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker (Carolrhoda Books)

Nonfiction Mondays are celebrated on a number of the children's book blogs. To see which books others are talking about today, readers can find a roundup of posts at Wendie's Wanderings.

Newbery, Caldecott, Printz Winners

I'm on the run this morning, but here is a quick link to the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and many other children's literary awards. These were announced this morning at a meeting of the American Library Association, which sponsors the prizes. Hats off to the ALA for posting this information so quickly.

Also, another link, for the Printz and other awards for young adult literature.


Author Mitali Perkins put together a good list of children's books about and set in Haiti, at her blog, Mitali's Fire Escape. She writes, "Stories can bring faraway people and places from the screen into our homes and hearts, and keep them there, even through information overload or compassion fatigue." I can't say it any better than that. 

The Rumpus details a number of ways to help in Haiti.

A teacher in Haiti—and one of my kid-book-blogging friends—whose site is There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town, says, "Things are worse than anyone can imagine. Our whole family is fine and our house and school are standing and apparently undamaged. 14 others at our house." She asks for our prayers. 

Monday Morning Coffee Talk, 1.11.10

Carmen Tafolla's What Can You Do with a Paleta? has won the Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. No online link yet, but the information will surely be posted soon at the University of Wisconsin's Cooperative Children's Book Center, which sponsors the prize. (news via Kathleen T. Horning on the CCBC-Net listserv)

Last week the new ambassador for young people's literature was announced: Katherine Paterson. Hurray! A big group of bloggers also saluted the outgoing ambassador, Jon Scieszka. Though late, I'll add to the chorus: thank you very much, Mr. S.!

The Newbery, Caldecott, and a host of other children's book awards will be announced on January 18th. Details at the web site of the prizes' sponsor, the American Library Association. A plea to the ALA: please, please, please put a clearly labelled link on your home page so other readers don't have to hunt around the whole site. And while I'm at it, "ALA Youth Media Awards" means nothing to the general public; please include the words "Newbery" and "Caldecott." Thank you.

Elizabeth Bird, of the New York Public Library and A Fuse #8 Production, is taking a poll of the top 100 children's fictional chapter books. What's your favorite?

The NAACP Image Awards include honors for children's and teens' books. The 2009 nominees make up a very interesting list.

At the blog Charlotte's Library, you'll find a good list of 2009 children's books featuring dragons. (When I was little, I wanted so much for dragons to be real.)

Want a laugh? The hilarious blog Awful Library Books gave the nod to the best awful books of the year last month.

Meanwhile the proprietor of My Parents Were Awesome has a book deal, says GalleyCat.

Also cool: the cakes inspired by children's books, at Cake Wrecks.

I'm a Turkey!

0439903645_sm  Don't worry. The title of this post is not a confession by yours truly. Instead, it refers to Jim Arnosky's goofy, sunny-colored picture book devoted to wild turkeys. I'm a Turkey!, written for the youngest readers (aged 2-5), conveys real facts in its rhyming text. (Real facts aside from the first-person narration, that is.) "A great big bird weighing fifteen pounds/take some time getting off the ground." Yes, turkeys fly. They also roost in trees at night, as the all-turkey sunset silhouette demonstrates. A quick read-aloud and a must for anyone who has ever practiced gobbling*, the book has this reader hoping that the local flock will soon make an appearance.

*Okay, you got me. That could be a confession right there.

Arnosky, Jim, I'm a Turkey! Scholastic Press, 2009. ISBN-10: 0439903645. ISBN-13: 978-0439903646.

Step Out on Nothing

9780312577667  "One of the many great discoveries that came out of my illiteracy is the joy that can exist on the other side of heartache. It can be like the relief you feel after a good cry..."

from Step Out on Nothing, by Byron Pitts (St. Martin's Press, 2009)

Byron Pitts, a "60 Minutes" television journalist, was functionally illiterate until the sixth grade. He had developed ways of hiding his learning disabilities, but finally after assistance from both the usual and unexpected places, he was able to overcome them. The subtitle of Pitts's memoir, "How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges," is certainly true, but much of his success rests on his own shoulders. A determined optimist since his boyhood in inner-city Baltimore, Pitts learned the "value of hard, honest work," which also applied to some emotionally charged family dynamics.

Functionally illiterate in fifth grade and now a "60 Minutes" correspondent and author. Wow. Step Out on Nothing is an inspiring story, needless to say. Although not written specifically for teens, I think many would get a lot out of this book.

Pitts's memoir comes in #2 on journalist Kam Williams's list Top Ten Best Black Books of 2009

Pitts, Byron. Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges. St. Martin's Press, 2009. ISBN-10: 0312577664. ISBN-13: 978-0312577667.