105 Ways to Give a Book

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale

The Red ThreadI’m going to cheat for Poetry Friday, and turn the phrase that Grace Lin uses at the beginning of The Red Thread into a poem of sorts. It’s all in the line breaks.
There is
an ancient Chinese belief
that an invisible, unbreakable
red thread
connects all those
who are destined
to be
together.
There — now I can say that once again, Grace Lin has reached into her heart and shared something wonderful with her readers with the lovely adoption fairy tale The Red Thread. The book begins with a mother and father on the couch, and a young Chinese girl handing the mom a story to read again. The story that she wants to hear is the fairy tale of The Red Thread.

Once there were a king and queen who were loved and successful, but something was missing from their lives. One day they both woke up with pains in their hearts. Several doctors, scientists, wise men, and medicine women tried to help the royal pair, but they could not. Then an old peddler heard about their ailment and identified it as a red thread coming from their hearts. As they moved about, it pulled and hurt them. They couldn’t cut the thread, but would have to follow it to the end to find out what or who was pulling it.

The king and queen went on a long journey, longer than they could have ever imagined, to a faraway land. There, at the end of the red thread, was a happy baby girl with each of the red threads tied around her ankles. The queen wondered aloud whose baby she was. An old woman saw the red threads connecting the king and queen to the baby, and she smiled. “This baby,” the old woman said, “belongs to you.”

As they took the baby home and were filled with joy and happiness, I felt myself getting teary. What a sweet way to look at adoption and connections among people. I’d recommend this book for any family adopting from abroad, for sure, but the element of connections is a beautiful one for all adoptive families. Simply lovely.

November Carnival of Children’s Literature: Tips Edition

For the upcoming holidays, I give you the gift of knowledge. Which is better than a S’more maker any day, I think we’d all agree. For the November Carnival of Children’s Literature I asked bloggers to share tips, suggestions, advice, and lessons learned from all areas of kids’ lit. I’ve pulled together those submissions, and went out searching for even more. I’ve grouped the tips in primary categories, but there is lots of overlap for everyone involved in children’s literature. Authors may find helpful advice for school visits in the Teachers/Librarians sections. Reviewers can benefit from tips in the Writers section. So dig in and grow wiser.

Reviewers/Bloggers

Jules asks, “Can my submission/tip for the Carnival be that I think it’s a great idea for bloggers who review books to have a policy on reviewing?” And I say, “Oh yeah.” Here are the review policies from Seven Impossible Things.

Just starting out in the wonderful world of blogging? Well, Advice for Beginning Bloggers awaits you at Wizards Wireless.

Kid Lit Blogging tips are at hand in a Behind-the-Scenes look at Becky’s Book Reviews.

From the October Kidlitosphere conference comes a summary of the Advanced Reviewing Course done by Anne at Book Buds.

Learn about Reading as a Writer and Reviewer with reader, writer, and reviewer Cheryl Rainfield.

Having trouble keeping track of all those books, oh all of those wonderful books? Maybe a solution awaits you over at Semicolon.

Parents

Here’s a wonderful contribution of Ten Tips for Growing Bookworms over at Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

It never hurts to listen to a parent who is also a teacher, especially when she’s sharing thoughts on Learning to Read and Learning to Love It at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

With the holiday season approaching, maybe you could use some clever ideas on giving books to babies and more info on the benefit of reading from Young Readers.

For another neat gift-giving idea, think bookplates to make that book extra special. Better yet, they’re lovely and they’re free. FREE. Read all about it at Chicken Spaghetti.

For a special activity any time of year, make a book with a kid as suggested by Books Together.

Okay, so we’re going to stretch the Children’s Literature aspect, ’cause why not? Here’s some helpful information for parents looking at video games for the holidays and who may be concerned about ratings. Check out A Wrung Sponge for the scoop.

And while we’re stretching the limits of kids’ lit, how about the Top 10 Things I have Learned as a Parent, stolen shamelessly from BurBur and Friends Blog while they were submitting another post.

Oh, and what the hell, a fantastic post on raising girls today, with some suggestions at the end and in the comments at the original post, all thanks to HipWriterMama.

Teachers/Librarians

Thoughts about teaching children to be authors are ready for perusal at Children’s BookJoy.

If you’re feeling like it’s all coming at you too fast these days, then spare some time for thoughts on A Balanced Life — Is It Possible for Teachers? and then look at books in a new way for use in the classroom with On Second Thought at A Year of Reading.

How to teach about biography books is up at Library Stew. (As it turns out, kids can read about people other than Columbus, Lincoln, Washington, and Pocahontas. Who knew?)

Teaching the six traits of writing using picture books. An example and more links are available at Picture Book of the Day.

Suggestions for scoring writing in the classroom are over at Read, Read, Read. (Wow, how do you think I’d do?)

Bringing authors into the classroom so students can become the editors seems like a Win-Win for author and students. Learn about one author’s experience from Chris Rettstatt.

She didn’t even submit this entry, but I remembered it as being quite choice and included it anyway. (Can I do that? I think I can do that. I’m doing it.) Here’s Advice for School Librarians from Book Moot.

Don’t miss Seven Tips for Satisfying Library Preschool Programs at Saints and Spinners, because she knows what she’s talking about, people.

Writers

Thinking about the next great Newbery winner or Captain Underpants? Maybe you’re ready for Ten Tips for New Writers from Perspectives on Writing.

Who else could make the thoughts on Writing a Poem so poetic but Sara at Read Write Believe.

After your basic training in poems, look to suggestions for writing a double dactyl poem at Writing and Ruminating.

Don’t miss a whole round-up of writer tips on making space for writing at Big A, little a.

Writing about setting, it’s all Location, Location, Location at Through the Tollbooth.

Playing with plots is easy over at Susan Writes. Make sure you have your index cards ready.

If you’re having writer’s block, maybe you just don’t have enough pretty rocks. Huh? Read this wonderful post about overcoming the block by author Lynne Jonell.

Need to make your writing a little funnier? Try the MotherReader suggestions.

Book Auctions? Questions? Find out from One Who Knows at Blue Rose Girls.

Already a published author? Let’s talk about Writers and Money with Robin Brande.

Writers and blogging, blogging and writers. Check out this three-parter: Blogging to Build Readership (Does It Work), Blogging and Why You Do It, and Do You Have to Blog? from Bookseller Chick. (Okay, I tracked this entry down too.)

Writing advice that everyone can benefit from, namely More Elf! Stolen with love from Brotherhood 2.0. (What am I going to do for comic relief when they stop posting in January? I can’t even think about it.)

Readers/Lifelong Learners

A tip for learning another language? In the Children’s Literature Carnival? Sure, when that blogger brings up Harry Potter at Learn a Foreign Language.

Finally, you’ll know what makes comics different from other illustrated books from the ever literary Oz and Ends.

Why we write and why we share books with kids over at BurBur and Friends Blog.

Getting to the heart of it all, no surprise, over at GottaBook.

The next Carnival will be hosted by Big A, little a. The theme is books that make good gifts. So dust off the reviews of your favorites or get ready to make some new suggestions. Thanks to everyone for their contributions.

Funny Writer Tips for the Carnival

Me: Ask me what makes me so funny!

You: Okay, what make you so f—

Me: Timing!
Today’s tip is about writing humor. I’m not even sure that I should be giving suggestions here, given that my process tends to involve an ongoing internal monologue about what I think I want to write that occurs throughout the mundane events of the day. I’ll be running the Swiffer WetJet over the kitchen floor, or retrieving a Mickey Mouse magnet from under the refrigerator with a spatula, or plucking the stray hairs on my chin, and the ideas just come.

But within that internal monologue, I revise until it’s funny. Okay, maybe just funnier than it was, but sometimes I crack myself up. There are tricks to make things just a touch more humorous, and I share them with you now. Lord help me.
  1. Specific things and names are funnier than the generic. So “running the Swiffer WetJet” is more amusing than “sweeping the floor.”

  2. Some imagery will just hit the right chord. It’s funnier to think of someone lying on the floor fishing around under the fridge then washing the dishes.

  3. Revealing personal things is funny. So if I tell you about plucking stray hairs on my chin, you have an “Omigod, I can’t believe she said that!” reaction, and it’s funny.

  4. Truly, some words are funnier than others. Spatula is better than broom. Swiffer WetJet is like a gift from the comedy gods.

  5. Showing an awkward personal experience that others share is amusing, like digging under the refrigerator or plucking chin hairs.

  6. Generally, the rhythm of funny is in threes. Two normal phrases, and the last punch line. But not always.

  7. References to current events or trends is funny, but it has to be current. You don’t want to look oh-so-two-minutes-ago. Retro can also work, but anything before the late seventies isn’t retro anymore, it’s just old-people funny.

  8. Tone can really change how funny something is. I’d pledge my lifelong allegiance to the person who comes up with an ironic font — and no, the little winking emoticon isn’t enough.

  9. Everyone loves a good inside joke. Well, everyone on the inside does anyway.

  10. Setting up for the unexpected is funny.
Here’s an example. My husband had a project to write and film fake public service announcements for “problem behaviors” at his workplace. They were going for a satire of those “The More You Know” ads on NBC. One of the ads was about jaywalking from the office to the Starbucks across the street. When I thought about this, I came up with the idea of a squirrel running across the street and getting hit by a car on the way back, and using that as a word of warning to the employees. Here’s what I wrote:
Squirrels are amazing creatures, built for speed and agility. Once I saw a squirrel running across M street, darting in and out of traffic. It got to the Starbucks, and came back just as quickly. That is, until it was flattened by a Hyundai. You know, people aren’t as fast as squirrels. Just something to think about.
Now look at it with the rules applied.
Squirrels(4) are amazing creatures, built for speed and agility. Once I saw a squirrel running across M street,(9) darting in and out of traffic.(2) It got to the Starbucks,(7) and came back just as quickly. That is, until it was flattened(4) by a Hyundai.(1) You know, people aren’t as fast as squirrels.(10) Just something to think about.(8)
You’ll see that it wouldn’t have been as funny if it had been a cat — far too personal, and not a funny word. Using flattened evokes old cartoon images, and is funnier than run over by. Of course, Hyundai is better both as a specific — instead of car — and as a funny word. The whole fake ad was an inside joke and was said in a casual tone.

So, now I’ve gone for broke on my trade secrets. And all in honor of the November Carnival of Children’s Literature, where the theme is tips, tricks, and advice. Yes, for this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use; you can pick a post from any point this year. If you have something from last year, polish that baby up and repost it. I’ve got a good part of the Carnival ready now, so if you want to send something, get it to me by Tuesday evening. Send your links through my email (see the Email MotherReader! button). I have some great submissions so far, but I want more. Because I give and give and give to this relationship, and I need to take. I need to take something for myself. Or for, you know, the Carnival.

Librarian Tip for the Carnival

In the interest of promoting the upcoming Carnival theme, I’m going to share tips over the next few days to get you in the mood. I’m also going to ask if some other blogs could mention it out there, especially the extension for submissions — Tuesday, November 27th, by 9:00 a.m. EST.

Today’s suggestions come from my role as a librarian and story time lady. They may help children’s librarians, sure, but the tips may also be useful for authors giving a reading or parents going in to read to a class. So here goes.

One of my daughter’s preschool teachers used to call the kids “my friends.” I liked that so much that I always use it now in story times. For instance, “You can sit closer. I like my friends to be able to see the books.” It feels much warmer than “you kids.” I also introduce myself as Miss Pam — I don’t know if that is a preschool thing, library thing, or southern thing, but I love it.

After trying several techniques for getting kids quiet to listen to the books — and I should note here that often my story times have from babies to five-year-olds — I’ve settled on singing more of my directions. Now, I don’t know if it relies on my sweet singing voice, but boy do they focus. I usually say, “Oh, we almost forgot to get ready to listen to the books.” Then I sing, sort of recitative-style, “Let’s get on our watching eyes, so we can see the pictures [motion ‘adjusting’ eyes]. Let’s get on our listening ears, so we can hear the story [motion ‘adjusting’ ears]. And let’s get on our quiet mouths, so everyone else can hear the story too [motion finger on mouth].” Then I start reading before I lose them. If they get too busy later, I’ll have them wiggle it out while sitting, and then go through the song again.

Know this: You cannot ask a question of preschoolers that involves simply raising their hands. They will raise their hands, but at least three of them will have to say something — have to. Just be prepared. For kindergarten through second grade, they can do the raising-hand thing, but they will leave them up forever in the hopes that maybe you will call on them to share their specific, partially on-topic story. Here’s what I say, “Raise your hand if you have a library card. Good. Now hands down.” If you are taking questions from this crowd, you don’t want to open up to comments. Because once one kid tells you about the snake he once saw, everyone is going to have to tell you their snake story. If I’m taking questions, I say, “Does anyone have any questions about the summer reading program? And remember, a question is something that needs an answer.” Then if I get a comment, I’ll say, “Well, that’s nice, but does anyone have a question that needs an answer?” It seems to send the message that I’m not looking for more comments, which keeps the room from exploding with personal stories.

As a reminder, I’ll be hosting the November Carnival of Children’s Literature. For this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use; you can pick a post from any point this year. If you have something from last year, polish that baby up and repost it. The deadline for submission was Saturday, November 24th, but in all honesty, I’m not going to be pulling this puppy together until Tuesday morning, so you have until then, and I’ll post the Carnival on Wednesday, November 28th. Well, Wednesday-ish. Send your links through my email (see the Email MotherReader! button) or the Carnival site. I’d love to see some editors and publishers give us some ideas for getting a foot in the door. Some librarians share a special program that rocks. Some reviewers tell how to handle the mountain of books. Some authors address school visits or writer’s block. I know that we all have so much knowledge to share with each other, and I wanted to present one great big opportunity to do so.

Upcoming Carnival of Children’s Literature

In the interest of promoting the upcoming Carnival theme, I’m going to share tips over the next few days to get you in the mood. I’m also going to ask if some other blogs could mention it out there, especially the extension for submissions — Tuesday, November 27th by 9:00 a.m. EST.

Oh, and in case you missed the original call, I’ll be hosting the November Carnival of Children’s Literature. Carnivals are simply collections of posts in a specific topic area (in this case Children’s Literature), pulled together by a host for easier reading. Since they can have a theme, I’ve decided to do something a little different, maybe even a bit of a stretch. For this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use; you can pick a post from any point this year. If you have something from last year, polish that baby up and repost it. The deadline for submission was Saturday, November 24th, but in all honesty, I’m not going to be pulling this puppy together until Tuesday morning, so you have until then, and I’ll post the Carnival on Wednesday, November 28th. Well, Wednesday-ish. Send your links through my email (see the Email MotherReader! button) or the Carnival site — and please indicate, if possible, whether the tip/trick/hint is more for reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, editor, teacher, librarian, or parent. (Yes, I know that there is plenty of overlap, but it would save time for me in organizing the posts if the suggested category were included with your link.) I’d love to see some editors and publishers give us some ideas for getting a foot in the door. Some librarians share a special program that rocks. Some reviewers tell how to handle the mountain of books. Some authors address school visits or writer’s block. I know that we all have so much knowledge to share with each other, and I wanted to present one great big opportunity to do so.

One of the things that has worked for me as a book reviewer, is my technique for keeping notes on my books. Often at work, I’ll read a picture book that I don’t want to bring home to review. Or I’ll be returning a book and realize that I didn’t copy down that perfect quote from it. Now, I can’t blog at work and my notes are related to my librarian job as well. So what to do?

I’ve had success in composing an email to myself, writing my notes in there, and sending it. The notes are usually quick impressions, plots, quotes, or booktalking points. After sending them, I keep them in a folder on my email account. Sometimes I use them to review a book. Sometimes I use a few of them for a compilation post. Sometimes they remind me of the perfect booktalking point. Sometimes I don’t use the notes at all. But in any case, I’m able to let go of that book because I know that I wrote down some reminder of its existence. It also keeps the information accessible from home or work, as the notes can be relevant to both places. Anyway, it helps me, and maybe it will help you.

This trick taught me something else extremely important for a librarian who supervises computers for the public. We get kids who want to type something on Word and print it for class. They never seem to have a disc or flash drive, but they need to save it because their first session is ending or they might need to correct it. I tell them to send the document as an attachment in an email to themselves. Then in their second session, or if they do need to correct it after all, they can pull it up from their email. I saved countless school reports this way, and if your library has a similar setup with timed-out computer sessions, this may be a helpful tip for your library. (Before I realized this, I’d talk to three kids a week who would “save” documents to the desktop of the computer, not realizing that the documents would disappear as soon as their session was over. Heartbreaking.)

Andy Shane; Sleepyhead: Adoption Month

Kids ready to move up to chapter books, but maybe with a little help, have a new, perfect series from Jennifer Richard Jacobson. The books are full stories with chapters, but retain the extra spacing underneath the sentences and accessible language. They also happen to be fun to read.

Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores StarbuckleIn Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle, Andy has trouble with a difficult girl at school. He tells his Granny Webb that he’s not going back, but when she stares him down, he realizes that he’s going all right. But Granny has a surprise for him. She comes to school too, and teaches the kids about bugs, her particular speciality. With some work — and the Granny stare — Andy is able to put Dolores in her place, and they may even be able to get along. The book doesn’t focus on Andy as an adopted child, but I loved this matter-of-fact statement about his family.
Andy Shane had lived with Granny Webb all his life. When he came into the world, he needed someone who could take good care of him. Granny Webb needed someone to share the fun of hilly woods, salamanders, and stories. So the two of them became a family. Just like that. Andy Shane never longed for more.
SleepyheadIt’s not exactly an adoption book, but I couldn’t resist mentioning Sleepyhead, by Karma Wilson. It’s a beautiful picture book, with the soft watercolor pictures of John Segal. In the simple story, a grown-up cat tries to get the little bear to go to sleep. But the little bear wants to delay bedtime just a little bit longer. I like the sing-song feel of the text — not a straight rhyme, but with rhyming words. Here’s some of it:
Sleepyhead, Sleepyhead.
Good night, good night,
My Sleepyhead.
Your teeth are brushed
Your book is read.
Go to sleep. It’s time for bed.

One more book, says Sleepyhead.
One thing in particular I like about the book is the characters: a cat and bear, both of indeterminate gender. It could be a mother and son, father and daughter, aunt and niece, Tom Cruise and Suri... The two characters from different species also leaves it open as an adoption story, perhaps of a child of a different race. In any case, it’s a lovely bedtime book to be shared with a special little bear of one’s own.

Kimchi & Calamari: Adoption Month

Kiimchi & CalamariEarlier this year, there was some nice blog buzz about a book by Rose Kent, Kimchi & Calamari. It looked interesting, but it took my library months to order it and then another couple of months for me to remember that I had wanted to read it. Ah, what can I say?

Upon getting my copy of Kimchi & Calamari, I was hooked by the first paragraph:
You wake up and you’re fourteen. The world is your supersized soda waiting to be guzzled, right? Wrong. My birthday tasted more like Coke that went flat.
I love that image. Joseph Calderaro was ready for a great birthday, but it turns out that his class is assigned an essay on their ancestors. This assignment is tricky for Joseph, as he is of Korean heritage but adopted by Italian parents. His birthday dinner brings up the same issue when his father gives him a gift that is given to Italian sons. Joseph tries to be gracious, but ends up insulting his father. Then when a Korean family moves into the neighborhood, he finds himself even more torn and conflicted about his heritage and family.

While it’s a book about being caught between cultures and expectations, it’s also a story about being a teenage boy. The writing is strong, with humor and sensitivity. The author uses the experiences of her own family to bring a realistic and personal feeling to the story. A coworker of mine shared that she found it very true to her experience as an adoptive parent, and I’ve seen that sentiment echoed elsewhere.

For more on the book, author, and adoption, check out this through review at Jen Robinson’s Book Page, this interview at A Year of Reading, and this note from the author herself about National Adoption Month at Fuse#8.

We Belong Together: Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, a point that I had meant to cover at the beginning of the month before I experienced a crisis of “Who am I am and why am I blogging here?” But I couldn’t let this month pass without recognition.

Since my brother adopted a baby girl last year, I have been particularly aware of books that feature adoption. It becomes obvious how marginalized these families can be in kids’ literature — especially if the adopted child is of another race. It’s also difficult to find books on adoption that feel right for any particular family’s experience, because children come into families in so many different ways. Some adoptions involve trips to China, some involve a surprise phone call, some involve parents working as a team with the expectant mother, and so many more. Then add in the assumption in ninety-five percent of children’s books in general that all members of the family are from the same race, or that all families involve a mom and a dad. You can see how difficult it is to find a book that reflects any one adoption experience.

Well, I think I’ve found that book. It’s a new book by Todd Parr, who seems to have made his life’s work expanding our vision of what a family looks like. With bright colors — oh such bright colors — and simple words, the Parr books bring the notions of all sorts of families together. With regard to race, his play with colors becomes a bonus. The family might be parents with bright yellow skin and a blue-toned baby. Red and purple may get together. Yellow and brown. The variety of colors used for the people make it more of an analogy of the differences than a specific match-up. While there are some people with more realistic skin tones like tan and brown, it’s hard to feel like anyone has been left out when you’re served up such variety.

We Belong TogetherWe Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families sets the tone for acceptance and personalization with this author’s note: “This book is meant to be read with someone you love. Every family is different, so feel free to change the pronouns in this text to fit your family.” The book proceeds with a picture of the child and his/her need, and a picture of the adult and the need he/she could fill. The next two-page spread shows the family together and how they all fit together. All sorts of families are represented, but the way the book is written allows the reader to make his/her own interpretation. Certainly, you can make the guess that the two men in one picture are adopting a baby together. You could also use that as a learning moment as to how many different famillies there are and how special that is. However, the text doesn’t say specifically “two daddies” or “two mommies,” which makes it more accessible to all readers.

As an example, and my favorite part because it looks a lot like my brother and my niece, is this section:
We belong together because...
you needed someone to help you grow healthy and strong,
and I had help to give.
Now we can grow up together.
The illustrations show a little brown-skinned girl (or boy) dreaming of being a superhero, and an adult male with glasses in the kitchen making up healthy food. The two-page spread following shows them each with their own big birthday cake and a picture of the pair on the wall. It made me tear up. In fact, it’s making me tear up now writing about it. This book would be a fantastic gift for families of young adopted children. Frankly, it would be a wonderful book for all famiiles of young children to read together, to understand and appreciate the many ways families come together.

If you are interested in more information, the Institute for Adoption Information is a terrific organization that strives to promote understanding about adoption and offers a helpful guide on the subject for educators at this website.

Robert’s Snow

As you know if you’ve been visiting any children’s book blogs for the past few weeks, Robert’s Snow is an online auction that benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. More than 200 children’s book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. The snowflakes will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to cancer research. You can view all of the 2007 snowflakes here. Jules and Eisha from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast have found a way for bloggers to help with this effort, by blogging about individual illustrators and their snowflakes. The idea is to drive traffic to the Robert’s Snow site so that many snowflakes will be sold, and much money raised to fight cancer. The illustrator profiles have been wonderful so far — diverse and creative and colorful. And there are lots more to go.

Here’s the schedule for the past week. As previously, this schedule links to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa’s post summarizing snowflake-related contests to date over at Paradise Found.

Monday, November 12 Tuesday, November 13
Wednesday, November 14Thursday, November 15 Friday, November 16
Saturday, November 17 Sunday, November 18 Please take time out to visit these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And, if you’re so inclined, think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert’s Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause. The auction begin Monday, November 16th.

Halloween Is the New Thanksgiving!

For years I bemoaned the fact that the Christmas season began the moment the turkey carcass left the table. I didn’t realize how good things were when Thanksgiving marked the beginning of The Holiday Season. Now the carved pumpkins haven’t even grown mold before the endless supply of Halloween decorations (Skeletons! Bloody fingers! Decapitated heads!) are swept off the store shelves and the Christmas hoard makes its appearance (Lights! Giant inflatable Santas! Aqua-Dots! — uh, oops.)

It’s official: Halloween is the new Thanksgiving.1

Last week I went shopping for new winter PJs for the girls and shirts that didn’t reveal my muffin-top from my so-fashionable mid-rise jeans. (Hey, anyone else notice that high-rise jeans are coming back with the label of “slimming?” I hate the fashion industry.) The Christmas onslaught was unbelievable. Everything in the stores seemed to scream that Christmas is right around the corner. Inside the panicked mom within me shouted, “ONLY FIFTY SHOPPING DAYS LEFT! MUST BUY STUFF NOW!” Fortunately, my internal slacker mom slapped her, and all of were able to stick to our original mission of pajamas and women’s shirts with only one High School Musical doll tossed in for good measure.

So, it may come as a surprise to some that Thanksgiving is actually a week away, and there is still time to share seasonal books with the kids at school, in the library, or on the stoop. I’ve read to my daughters’ classes for years, and the teachers are always happy to have me offer. In kindergarten the parents sometimes come in to read, but not so much in the later grades. I’ll go about once a month, on a schedule convenient to both the teacher and me, and share some great books. I love it, the kids love it, and the teacher gets twenty minutes to grade papers.

This time of year, I usually start with a picture book about the first Thanksgiving, striving for one that is low-key on the historical elements, since so much of that is under question. I had a perfect one, and now I can’t remember the title. So, I’m going to look around for it, and in the meantime, feel free to suggest your own pilgrim story in the comments.

For school-age kids, I’m very fond of Thanksgiving in the White House, by Gary Hines. When young Tad Lincoln realizes that his tame turkey is destined for the dinner table, he begs his dad for an official presidential pardon. The event did happen, though this is of course a fictionalized version. The book includes some of Tad’s exploits in the White House, and a section at the end briefly describing Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency. Interesting, humorous, and educational too!

I like to close with a funny Thanksgiving book, and for a couple of years ’Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, by Dav Pilkey, has been my favorite. This parody of the Moore poem features a group of school kids on a field trip and eight happy turkeys that win their hearts. They are all having a good time together, until the kids realize the fate of the turkeys, and find a way to save them. The book is certainly funnier to kids who are familiar with the original poem and can compare the entrance of Santa Claus with this description of the farmer, “He was dressed all in denim, / From his head to his toe, / With a pinch of polyester / And a dash of Velcro.” I usually bring some book version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to leave with the kids to compare — or I read it the next time I come back.

If you have a favorite Thanksgiving story, whether Pilgrim or Pilkey, share it in the comments. I’m always looking to expand my repertoire.

  1. This phrasing is in reference to the fashion statement, “Brown is the new Black.” And it should be noted that Brown is indeed the new Black. There was a brief period where Orange was the new Brown, which followed a strong, but ultimately doomed campaign whereby Puce was to become the new Brown. In a palate-cleansing move by the fashion industry, Black became the new Black, allowing the current standard, “Brown is the new Black” to make a triumphant return. BTW, only chocolate brown applies, so toss that nasty tan sweater in the Goodwill box. 

Global Reading List

I’d meant to post this sooner, but now is as good a time as any to do so. Actually, it’s the perfect time, since I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to write about anything else.

If you’re looking for books about other countries and cultures, this list looks like a great place to start. Skimming through, I saw some fantastic titles I’ve read, and some new ones I’m going to investigate. Take a look at Global Reading: Selected Literature for Children and Teens Set in Other Countries. Okay, the name is a little awkward. I mean, the teens aren’t set in other countries. But it’s not like the name of the host — Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison — is simple either. Let’s just call it Global KidLit by CCBC. Much better.

(Thanks for the link from Mitali, whose wonderful Rickshaw Girl is on the list.)

Robert’s Snow Week in Review

As you know if you’ve been visiting any children’s book blogs for the past few weeks, Robert’s Snow is an online auction that benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. More than 200 children’s book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. The snowflakes will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to cancer research. You can view all of the 2007 snowflakes here. Jules and Eisha from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast have found a way for bloggers to help with this effort, by blogging about individual illustrators and their snowflakes. The idea is to drive traffic to the Robert’s Snow site so that many snowflakes will be sold, and much money raised to fight cancer. The illustrator profiles have been wonderful so far — diverse and creative and colorful. And there are lots more to go.

Here’s the schedule for the past week, so you can go back and see the features. As previously, this schedule links to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa’s post summarizing snowflake-related contests to date over at Paradise Found.

Monday, November 5
Tuesday, November 6
Wednesday, November 7
Thursday, November 8
Friday, November 9
Saturday, November 10
Sunday, November 11

Please take time out to visit these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And, if you’re so inclined, think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert’s Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

Four IMPORTANT Things

Thing Number One:
There’s a DC-brand KidLit Drink Night this Saturday, November 10th. Because we define DC broadly here, it’s actually in Bethesda, Maryland. The Rí~Rá Pub & Restaurant at 4931 Elm Street features a cheap parking garage across the street (its meters take change) and easy access from the Bethesda Red Line Metro stop. I’ll be there at 6:00 p.m., along with writers Sara Lewis Holmes and Caroline Hickey, and hopefully you! (Rumors that Bono is attending have not been confirmed.)

Thing Number Two:
In case you missed it yesterday with my long-winded introduction, I’ll be hosting the November Carnival of Children’s Literature. Carnivals are simply collections of posts in a specific topic area (in this case Children’s Literature), pulled together by a host for easier reading. Since they can have a theme, I’ve decided to do something a little different, maybe even a bit of a stretch. For this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use; you can pick a post from any point this year. The deadline for submission is Saturday, November 24th, and I’ll post the Carnival on Wednesday, November 28th. Send your links through my email (see the Email MotherReader! button) or the Carnival site — and please indicate, if possible, whether the tip/trick/hint is more for reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, editor, teacher, librarian, or parent. (Yes, I know that there is plenty of overlap, but it would save time for me in organizing the posts if the suggested category were included with your link.) Some examples (and indeed previews) include Kelly’s writer tips, Sara’s how to write a poem, Robin’s look at writers and money, and my booktalking for teens. I’d love to see some editors and publishers give us some ideas for getting a foot in the door. Some librarians share a special program that rocks. Some reviewers tell how to handle the mountain of books. Some authors address school visits or writer’s block. I know that we all have so much knowledge to share with each other, and I wanted to present one great big opportunity to do so.

Thing Number Three:
Today, Poetry Friday is hosted by A Wrung Sponge, and she has an excellent idea for us. She suggests that we take our poetry out into the world. Put a poem by the microwave at work! On the bulletin board in school! In the bathroom stall at Target! Okay, I might have added that last one for giggles. Today I’m taking out a poem from John Grandits’ book, Technically It’s Not My Fault. It’s a collection of concrete poems, and I’ve used a couple of them in booktalking sessions to the middle school, particularly the title poem, which is on the cover and goes something like this:
I know, I know. You’re really mad. But I can explain. See, I was reading about Galileo, a guy who made all these great discoveries and did cool experiments. and the book said that he dropped a heavy object and a light object out of a window to show they’d land at the same time because gravity is constant. But I thought, No way! Heavy things fall fast and light things fall slow. We know this from Saturday morning cartoons, right? So I decided to do the experiments myself. I found a concrete block in the garage and I got a tomato from the fridge, and I took them up to the attic and opened the window and rested them on the sill. And it really, really looked like there was going to be plenty of room for them to fall between the house and the car. I mean, like, who knew?
(If you want to read the rest, click over to the Amazon listing and click on the Browse Sample Pages: Front Cover. I’ll tell you, read fast, this poem kills at booktalks.) Today, I’ll be putting a copy of “The Little House” by the water fountain at work (kids love water fountains). It has a drawing of a house, and the first part has the words all piled up on top of each other in a way that I can’t replicate here, but they say:
Building a poem is like building a little house. You start with some bricks — a pile of words. They’re all mixed up. There is no order. They keep tumbling all over each other.
Those words are in a pile like the bricks they mention, but then the other words of the poem are inside the house and the ideas are of building, taking your time, and leaving space. I love this poem, but since I can’t find it online and can’t (and wouldn’t) post it here, you’ll have to look for it on your own or come to my library and visit the water fountain.

Thing Number Four:
Don’t forget to check out the newest issue of The Edge of the Forest, which features an interview with Sara Zarr, a discussion about readergirlz’ “31 Flavorite Authors for Teens,” and many reviews of Young Adult novels. It also includes an article I wrote, “Can A Funny Book Be Taken Seriously?” and I’m feeling pretty positive about it. After all, it reveals a conversation wherein a noted literary agent calls a Printz-winning book crap, and then ends with a brilliant paragraph on the topic area by the author of that Printz-winning book in a way that could be summed up by a current expression — that expression being SNAP!

November Carnival of Children’s Literature and Tips

Are you ready for a Carnival? I know I am. I’ll be hosting the November Carnival of Children’s Literature and I’ll be looking for your submissions through my email (using the ever-exciting Email MotherReader! button) or through the Carnival site. There is a theme and it is...

Wait. Let me introduce it this way. (Readers who like to get to the point can skip the next two paragraphs.) As a mother, I feel like I have lots of knowledge to share, but it tends to come out in clichés. Nap when the newborn naps. Pick your battles. Homework before playtime. The hints are true, but so general as to not really be helpful. But if I had to pick one specific tip, one lesson learned, there’s one at the ready. Buy your child’s violin on eBay.

See, I rented a half-sized violin for a year to the tune of $250. Of course, the rental goes toward a violin over, like, a period of years, but it didn’t seem like a good deal to me. But what could I do? Apparently, violins cost hundreds of dollars. Made sense to me. Except that they don’t necessarily cost hundreds of dollars, since I was able to buy a new 3/4-size and later a full-sized violin for about sixty bucks each, including shipping. They were both new and both from a music store. I assume that they are not of the highest quality, but as long as their construction didn’t involve rubber bands and they weren’t stamped with Fisher Price on the side, they are good enough for us.

Back to the Carnival theme. For this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use. You can pick a post from any point this year. The deadline for submission is Saturday, November 24th, and I’ll post the Carnival on Wednesday, November 29th. Send your links through my email or the Carnival site — and please indicate, if possible, whether the tip/trick/hint is more for reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, editor, teacher, librarian, or parent. (Yes, I know that there is plenty of overlap, but it would save time for me in organizing the posts if the suggested category were included with your link.)

For today, just for fun, share a tip in the comments. Any tip to save time, money, or energy. Frankly, I’ve been having a little bout of the blog crisis flu and could use a little comment noodle soup to make me blog-healthy again.

The Brown Bookshelf

It’s been ages since I’ve posted about a new blog. There are many great new blogs out there, really too many to even decide which ones to mention. But this time it’s something special. I am very excited to point out a new website and blog, The Brown Bookshelf, featuring the best in African-American children’s literature.

YES! YES! YES!

If I could have picked out the one area in kids’ lit that needed its own website — and a group of five dynamic authors and illustrators to keep it up — this is it. Right now the blog is focusing on introducing the writers and their perspectives, but will be featuring great books by and about African-Americans. (At least I think so. I was so excited, I didn’t even finish reading their site before I posted about it.)

Thanks to Liz at Tea Cozy for the heads-up about this fantastic resource and about their signed book giveaway. Signed book giveaway? Yes, go to the site to find out more.

The Edge and DC KidLit Drink Night

I’ve returned from a long weekend which was equal parts complete delight in my toddler niece and emotionally draining upkeep of my mother. Ah, family. Gotta love ’em.

I’ve also wasted my one day that is both off work and at home sneezing my poor nose off. Delayed allergy attack from cleaning twenty pounds of pine needles off my mother’s roof? Oncoming cold to taint my good deed karma? A coup by my nose against my very face? Wish I could tell you.

I can find a little bit of peace in being able to post an announcement about the new Edge of the Forest issue instead of writing up something today. The issue includes an article I wrote, “Can A Funny Book Be Taken Seriously?” which included some great insights from some wonderful writers (who are particularly wonderful for responding to my article question quickly, much less at all). I can only hope it included some interesting bits from me. The Edge also features an interview with Sara Zarr, a discussion about readergirlz’ “31 Flavorite Authors for Teens,” many reviews of Young Adult novels, and even more for the low, low price of... nothing!

In other news, there looks to be a DC-brand KidLit Drink Night on Saturday, November 10th. Okay, it’s actually in Bethesda, Maryland, not DC, but we’re all one big regional family here. The new locale is the Rí~Rá Pub & Restaurant at 4931 Elm Street. There is a cheap parking garage across the street (its meters take change) and it’s about three blocks from the Bethesda Red Line Metro stop. I’ll be there along with writers Sara Lewis Holmes and Caroline Hickey, and you’re invited too! We’re meeting around 6:00 p.m. and staying until we get sick of each other. Come on out and hang with the cool crowd — oh, and me.

Amazon Bargain Books

I couldn’t think of a poem today, and yesterday I was all worn out from Halloween. The kids went trick-or-treating in the neighborhood and then we drove over to our old neighborhood to eat chili and drink beer around the fire. You know, traditional Halloween activities. We’ve done it for years. For a while, we even had neighbors who would treat us to a fire-eating show. Good times. Even without the carnival folk, it’s still fun to top off a day of candy-grabbing with a laid-back party.

So, I was playing around on the Amazon bargain books again, as I do when my mind needs a rest. Here are some picture book choices because, as Hallmark keeps reminding me, Christmas is right around the corner.

I Love You Always and Forever, by Jonathan Emmett
A cute story about love between father and daughter mice.

I Love You Just the Same, by Erica Wolf
A cute story about love between mother and son bears.

Goodnight Lulu, by Paulette Bogan
A silly bedtime story of all the worries a chick has and all the ways her mom would take care of her.

Riley and Rose in the Picture, by Susanna Getz
A fun story of a cat and dog who learn to work together while making a picture.

Jingle Bells, by Iza Trapani
A Christmas story using the song and a magical sleigh to see Christmas traditions in other countries.

Christmas Treasury: Merry Stories and Poems, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
A bunch of Christmas stories and poems to share with the family.