Best Kids' Books 2010: Kirkus Goes List Crazy

 And here I thought I was obsessive about lists. Ha! The trade journal Kirkus Reviews has organized its "best of the year" children's and teens books into many handy categories. I'm not even sure I've found 'em all yet!

Kirkus Reviews: Kids and teens. Kirkus's big list, and the only one of all of these that's in a PDF file. (Later in the day: As Kirkus updated its site today, it added the whole list onto a regular web page, too.)

All of the above have been added to the Chicken Spaghetti page The Best Children's Books 2010: A List of Lists and Awards.


And We're Off! The Best Children's Books 2010

Happy November, everyone!

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is around the bend, and it's time for the big list of lists, The Best Children's Books 2010. The link appears on the right, under Pages.

That link marks a work in progress. I've begun rounding up the year-end "best of " lists (from newspapers, journals, magazines, et al.) for children's books, as well as children's literature prizes. I'll be continuously updating the 2010 list of lists through next year. 

Right now the UK has the lead on 2010 announcements, but the American lists will start rolling in soon. Publishers Weekly's November 8th issue is devoted to its top choices in all genres, and School Library Journal reveals its picks of the year on December 1st. The Newbery and Caldecott Medals follow on January 10th, 2011, and the Cybils February 14th. Those and many, many more await us.


More Best Books, This Time from Australia

Today the Children's Book Council of Australia announced its best books of the year in a number of categories. These 2010 awards honor books published in 2009, and I have added a link to the Aussie list to the page on this blog called Best Children's Books of 2009: The Big List of Lists.

The following are some other recent additions to The Big List of Lists '09. Not all were recently announced; some I just caught up with.

Eisner Comic Industry Awards nominations and winners.

Giverny Award for children's science picture book

Growing Good Kids Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, sponsored by the American Horticultural Society and the Junior Master Gardener Program

Gryphon Award, for books for children from kindergarten to 4th grade

Lane Anderson Award for Canadian science books shortlist (includes a children's category)

LIANZA Children's Book Awards (Library & Information Association of New Zealand)

MER Prizes (South Africa)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature


On the 50th Birthday of "Green Eggs and Ham"

Philip Nel, the director of the Program in Children's Literature at Kansas State University, is the author of Dr. Seuss: American Icon and an upcoming biography of Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnston, among other books. Nel has also started a blog, Nine Kinds of Pie, and today writes about the 50th birthday of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham.

Dr. Seuss‘s Green Eggs and Ham is one of the reasons I do this blog, write books, and am an English professor. Nearly forty years ago, Green Eggs and Ham — which turns 50 this month — taught me to read. It also taught me that reading is fun, helping to make me a life-long reader. 
The book didn’t teach me literacy all by itself, of course. My parents read to me. And I watched both Sesame Street and The Electric Company onPBS. But Green Eggs and Ham helped me put what I learned into practice. The poetry and the limited vocabulary were key.
Go, read. Link: "Green Eggs and Ham: A 50-Word Book Turns 50"

Zigzag Kids: A New Series from Patricia Reilly Giff

Catalog_cover_100 Zigzag Kids, Patricia Reilly Giff's new series for young readers, takes place at an after-school program full of lively activity, and features a multi-age, multicultural cast, as well as a gentle sense of humor. In the first book in the series, Number One Kid, new boy in town Mitchell McCabe wonders where he will fit in, while Destiny Washington, in Big Whopper, tells a fib to impress a competitive companion. Childhood dilemmas (and fears, as adults will recognize) are front and center. Not to worry though—the children find a supportive group of friends and mentors in the Zigzag School's Afternoon Center.

A description of the Afternoon Center from Big Whopper:

[It] took up most of the school's basement. It was a great place. The art room was down there. So was the lunchroom.

Destiny loved everything about the center. Dancing, and plays, art, and snack. She loved bouncing on the trampoline.

On her blog, the author explains what she had in mind for the Zigzag books:

For many years, I was a reading teacher, searching for stories for my emerging readers, for my remedial kids. I wrote The Polk Street Kids [an earlier series] for them. I was always thinking about fluency. I wanted them to read many things on their independent level, turning the pages faster, comprehension assured. How well I remember the children I worked with, their joy when they read their first book and then the next.

And so I began to shape my stories about the kids at the Zigzag Afternoon Center: the sentences short, the phrases few. I tried to provide context clues to help them decode unfamiliar words.

I know some second graders who attend a program much like the one at the Zigzag Afternoon Center. What treat they'll have reading stories with a familiar setting! Short chapters and enough illustrations to break up the text are just the kinds of things they like, too.

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Number One Kid. Yearling Books/Random House, 2010.

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Big Whopper. Yearling Books/Random House, 2010.

This post is part of the blog tour for the Zigzag Kids launch. The lineup of participating sites is here.


10 Books First Graders Like

Over at the blog Reflect & Refine, you'll find "August 10 for 10," a roundup of posts by teachers about ten picture books they always want in their classrooms. What a fun idea! I especially like the suggestions for "Ten Picture Books That Boys Can't Live Without," at Creative Literacy.

While I'm not a teacher, I do tutor first graders on an informal basis, and here are ten picture books my reading buddies and I have enjoyed together. (They read aloud; I help when they're stuck on a word.)

1. Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. Everyone loves looking for the tiny Goldbug in the illustrations. We talk about this book as much as read it.

2. The Great Gracie Chase, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Mark Teague.

3. Who's Hiding? by Satoru Onishi. This has to be the first-graders' favorite book ever. They adore figuring out who's missing, or turned around—the jokes are in the illustrations.

4. Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman. The kids are always so proud of reading a "long" book.

5. Ten Apples Up On Top, by Dr. Seuss.

6. The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes.

7. "Pardon?" Said the Giraffe, by Colin West. The plot hinges on a ginormous sneeze.

8. My Friend Is Sad, by Mo Willems, which inspired this funny discussion between two guys.

9. "Hi, Pizza Man!," by Virginia Walter.

10. The Three Cabritos, written by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. Kimmel's version of the Three Billy Goats Gruff features a chupacabra instead of a troll.

If you're looking for nonfiction for younger elementary schoolers, a couple of years back I posted about  "50 Easy Readers with a Wow! Factor: Exciting Nonfiction for 1st and 2nd Graders."

Thanks for the inspiration for the post, teaching friends! I hope your new school years are off to an excellent start.

Patricia Reilly Giff's Zigzag Kids Blog Tour

Patricia Reilly Giff, author of Lily's Crossing, Pictures of Hollis Woods, and many other books for children, has begun a new series, the Zigzag Kids, set at an afterschool program. These chapter books are for readers aged six to nine.

A blog tour for Pat Giff and her new books starts tomorrow; next Monday I'll review the first two in the series, Number One Kid and Big Whopper. Here are the stops on the tour. Note that the author is now a blogger, too!

8.10       Cynsations

8.11       Random Acts of Reading

8.12       Where the Best Books Are!

8.13       Shelf Elf

8.14       Mundie Moms

8.15       The Children’s Book Review

8.16       Chicken Spaghetti. Right here!

8.17       Patricia Reilly Giff

Ten Apples, or the Numbers Game

As a first-grade volunteer, I often read with Guillermo last year. A teddy bear of a boy, he was (and still is) always neatly dressed, with his shirt tucked in (unlike my certain people in my house), and speaks with a slight lisp, which just makes him more adorable. Initially self-conscious, he told me that he couldn't read. He could, but not as well as many of his classmates. 

A second go-round in a different first-grade class has helped Guillermo a lot. These days he's a solid reader. Recently I invited him to come share a book for old times' sake; I like to catch up with my friends. On our way out into the hallway, he said,  "Guess what? I'm eight!" He breezed through Ten Apples Up On Top!, using especially dramatic expression during the "We are not/going to let them drop!" part.

"You're reading so well," I told Guillermo.

"I'm a twelve!" he said with pride. 

Having hung around modern-day schools for a while, I knew that "twelve" referred to his DRA (Direct Reading Assessment) level. I wish so much for Guillermo, probably the least of which is that we lived in an era where first graders were not aware of their blasted DRA scores. I know it's trickle-down, but, still.

One day Guillermo will own and run his own business. He'll be very good at it. I can't wait to see him in charge.


Sing Out

Once a week I listen as first graders read to me at a public school. They're children who need additional practice reading. I always benefit from additional practice listening. I don't have an official title; I'm a volunteer. 

We read in a large square-shaped hallway between the first-grade classrooms at a little table and sit in little chairs. Once I went into the literacy lab with a couple of kids, but we were politely asked to leave. Two girls I know always want to go to the school library to look for books, but usually another class is in there. We don't want to disturb them. So we stick to the hallway.

Aleah is a first-grade bon vivant who reminds me of a butterfly. She needs to flutter. Fluttering works out a lot better in the hallway than in the classroom. You can get a drink of water, select a book from a little display, and exchange pleasantries or barbs with boys returning from the boys' bathroom. Aleah reads pretty well, but we still meet occasionally because we're friends from last year.  

When I bring in a book of poetry, Aleah sings the poems. Recently she sang a couple of poems from Mary Ann Hoberman's The Llama Who Had No Pajama. I had picked out some easier works ("Birthdays" and "Ducks"), but Aleah wanted to read some others, too. With its tricky internal rhymes, "Brother" was harder for her, but she did enjoy figuring it out. ("I had a little brother/And I brought him to my mother/And I said I want another/Little brother for a change...")

After she finished I asked Aleah if she had any brothers. 

"Mmm hmm," she said.

"How many brothers do you have?"

"Two step-brothers and..." She began to count on her fingers. She stopped at 30. 

"30 in all? That's a lot," I said. 

In a confidential tone she said,  "Some of them aren't born yet."


Whatcha Readin'?

Books I'm Reading

  • The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, by Elif Batuman. Scholarly and funny as all get out. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
  • My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson, by Jessica DuLong. Writer learns to drive a fire boat, the John J. Harvey. (Free Press, 2009) 

Books I'm Taking to Share with My 1st Grade Friends Tomorrow

  • The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)
  • Cool Dog, School Dog, written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by Tim Bowers (Marshall Cavendish, 2009)

Book Junior Claims Made Him Itch

  • Killer Ants, written by Nicholas Nirgiotis and illustrated by Emma Stevenson (Holiday House, 2009)
Book Junior Read Over Winter Break
  • Toxic Waste, by Peggy J. Parks (Kidhaven Press, Thomson/Gale, 2006) 

Book That Looked Good To Me But Junior Is Ignoring

  • Escaping the Giant Wave, by Peg Kehret (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2004)

Books I Finished Recently

  • The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir, by Victoria Rowell. The author grew up as a ward of the state of Maine, and went on to a dancing and acting career. Inspiring. (Amistad, 2008)
  • The Three Weissmans of Westport, by Cathleen Schine. Social satire. Touching, and quick to read. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
  • Just Kids, by Patti Smith. About the rocker's long relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and about being a young artist in New York in the 60s and 70s. Plainspoken, fascinating. (Ecco, 2010)
  • Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. More 70s New York. A big-picture novel. Loved it. (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2010) 

Book I Bought at Lemuria Books Because B & N Did Not Have It and I Couldn't Wait for the Long Hold List at the Library

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. Dwight Garner, my new go-to guy at the Times, says it's "[a] thorny and provocative book about cancer, racism, scientific ethics and crippling poverty..." (Crown, 2010)

Book I Stumbled Upon Because the Author Rescued a Chicken in NYC and Reported It on Twitter (and Which I Look Forward to Reading)

  • Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, by Elyssa East (Free Press, 2009)
What are the rest of y'all reading these days?