105 Ways to Give a Book

Off-Topic and Then On-Topic Again in Two Videos, Neither of Which Is My Own

When I heard that John Edwards was dropping out of the Democratic primaries, I felt a little bad. I love Obama, but I like Edwards, and I’m sorry to lose his voice in this part of the process. But Clinton and Obama are certainly sucking all the oxygen to feed their brightly burning stars, and let’s face it, Edwards can’t debate hooked up to an oxygen tank.

When I heard that Giuliani was dropping out of the race, I could only think of one thing, and that is John Green’s “Ten Questions for Giuliani Supporters.” It’s one of my favorite Brotherhood 2.0 video segments, and I’ve embedded it here (I hope) for your viewing pleasure. (Continue watching for the Zombies vs. Unicorns debate, one of the most controversial issues of our time.)


Now on the topic of books, but staying with John Green and his videos. Apparently there’s a book banning issue with Looking for Alaska at a school in New York. John talks about the issues very well, including why he used the “pornographic” scene in his book as a deliberate writing tool. The case in question is particularly infuriating because the parents objecting to the book being taught aren’t even the parents of the kids to whom it is being taught. Oh, and the parents and kids in that English class had the option of being taught a different book if they objected to Green’s book. I’m sorry — John explains it better and funnier. Enjoy and respond if you are so moved.

A New Sort of Arrival

“FatherReader” here, everyone. I thought I’d give MotherReader a bit of a break today and write another quick guest review. Our hostess will be back in prime fighting form soon.

The ArrivalOne of the great challenges an author can face is taking an experience wholly foreign to a majority of his or her audience and allowing them to truly feel what the characters are experiencing. With The Arrival, Shaun Tan takes on that challenge with the ordeal of immigration.

Of course, the “story” of the immigrant experience has been told a thousand times. And therein lies part of the problem — we’re all familiar with the tale. Told in a straightforward manner, it can no longer bring about the sense of being in a completely foreign environment — particularly since (at least in America) such tales are usually told about people coming from other places into our environment. To the reader, it is the immigrants who may seem a little strange, a little out of place, rather than the place itself. Even if the reader shares a cultural heritage with the protagonists, the perspective is one of looking backward from a position of comfortable assimilation. Furthermore, because we live in a comparatively worldly, well-educated society, even when the situation is reversed — say, an American going off to live in a foreign land — the sense of amazed wonder and confusion cannot compare to the experience of someone brought up in a more insular world.

What Tan does is take the framework of the early twentieth-century immigrant experience (even the book cover looks like an old suitcase or leather-bound scrapbook) and wrap it in a wordless graphic novel that uses elements of science fiction to convey the experience of immigration, even if not the literal history. Our protagonist is a normal everyman with a normal family who, in making the great journey to a foreign land, is forced to deal with things so alien as to be indecipherable. But though this “land of opportunity” holds sometimes baffling wonders, the world is grounded in everyday concerns — the needs for food, shelter, employment. As he copes with amazing (and sometimes frustrating) new experiences — new animals, new customs, new languages — we are similarly bewildered. As he gradually becomes accustomed to his new world, sharing histories with other immigrants, we see how each of their experiences has components that — to one who has not lived through them — truly defy comprehension. Over time, he manages to make a way for himself, and prepare a path for his family to follow.

Of course, the storytelling is gripping without being melodramatic, and the artwork is absolutely phenomenal. The attention to detail is astounding, and the juxtaposition of a sepia-toned color palette with fantastical imagery, though jarring at first, admirably conveys both nostalgia and wonder (the new world is populated with bizarre machinery, but our hero travels there by old-fashioned steamship). And though the book does have some darker passages, the underlying optimism and faith in the goodness of human nature is inspirational. Moments that could be harrowing (the search for a job when one has no particular skills to offer) are punctuated by bits of humor (inadvertently hanging a series of posters upside-down because of a language barrier). And images that seem frightening at first (a bizarre creature lurking in his apartment) become endearing with familiarity (the animal becomes a new pet).

This is not a tale told, but a tale experienced. And I’m glad to have taken the trip.

Illness Update

So, my daughter’s fever turned into a nasty cold. An odd turn of illness in my book, but now I hear the same thing is going around. (“Oh, the one-day fever with the cough and sniffles! My husband had that!”) I love how we moms categorize these different illnesses and then spread the message far and wide, so that the next unsuspecting mom will have a clue. My girl felt decent over the weekend — kids do better with colds than adults do — but we certainly couldn’t have made our trip. Fortunately, no one else picked it up (knock on wood).

With absolutely no plans to our four-day weekend caused by teacher workdays, I cleaned the house. Actually, on Friday I moped around a lot, read some, and cried a tiny bit. But Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I was working like a dog. A dog with an obsessive-compulsive habit and poor organizational skills.

Honestly, I try to attack the clutter, but I’ll spin my wheels doing stupid things. Like making sure that all the Barbie dolls were in separate bins according to their princess status. Or taking the time to pull the broken furniture out of the dollhouse. I was a notch away from making sure all the Polly Pockets were dressed in stylish outfits before putting them away. I’m so bad at cleaning up. I’m a greeeat wheel-spinner. So with three dedicated days to house cleaning, there are still rooms — majorly used rooms — that aren’t good. Not good at all. Which is so depressing, I can’t even tell you.

On the positive side, we did take care of some important tasks and we did stay healthy (knock on wood). And I did read a couple of books and spend time with my family. Later I’ll talk about books, but I wanted to post an update in case my blogger friends worried that I got sucked under with the flu.

Poetry Friday: Seven Calls

I wanted to find a poem that expressed my crushing disappointment in this upcoming weekend, but since I couldn’t find one, I had to write one. Is this how all this writing stuff starts?

Seven Calls

One to the friend who used to be like a sister,
but has pulled away little by little,
but now as a mother, maybe a chance to
reconnect.
One to the cousin with the most golden hair
who used to embody an ideal of perfection
and now is a mother of two lovely girls
like me.
One to the aunt who exists in memories
of summer as a child during vacations
at the seashore, in two houses or in one
all together.
One to the actor, also a cousin
and once in those same summers,
an almost could-have-been
best friend.
One to the vet who keeps the cat
who is too sick to stay home alone
but needs care and shots,
every day.
One to the neighbor to feed the cats
left at home with two litter boxes,
two bowls of water and food, and
each other.
One to the mother to let her know
the plans to visit family, to pass on good wishes
and a promise of a call when the weekend
is over.

Then
One child
One restless night
One thermometer
One high fever
One dose of Motrin
One moment of realization
One wave of disappointment.

Seven more calls.

Poetry Friday round-up is at Mentor Texts and More. Enjoy the poetry variety show as I try to recover some aspect of my weekend. Boo-hoo.

Snow Day Message

I was going to write up a review today, but I’ve been suckered into this ongoing dialogue on YouTube today. Seems like a high school senior called up the county school administrator to complain that schools were not closed for snow. The wife of the administrator called him back and left a message on his cell phone blasting the kid for calling her home in the early morning hours.

Given that I know of the area of which they speak, and know how hard it is to predict weather patterns there, I think the county administrator is doing the best that he can. He doesn’t want to close the schools unnecessarily — which has happened — or keep schools open when it’s unsafe to drive — which has also happened. I don’t think that anyone has the right to call him at home to complain about it. If you have to say something, you can leave a message at his office or write his email.

The current back-and-forth on YouTube focuses on the wife’s angry response. People are calling her all sorts of names, and her private response is now public record. I feel bad for her, especially because I don’t think her response is wrong. In fact, I think it addresses a broader concern, which is perhaps why it’s touching a chord with me and others.

I hear from teachers that kids question everything. They try to negotiate homework assignments. They argue with the teachers. If things don’t go their way, they bring in the parents. When did kids and teens get this huge sense of entitlement? Because at the heart of the snow day message thing is that some teen feels entitled to call the home of the county school administrator because he doesn’t agree with the decision to keep schools open. Is that really okay? The other issue is that adults seemingly can’t yell at a teen, even if he is doing something that could be interpreted as harassment. Is that really okay?

If you feel like finding out more — and I’ll warn you against it now before you get sucked in — here’s the news report, the Washington Post article and commentary, and the YouTube posting. If you want, we can talk here about entitlement and boundaries, privacy and Internet, brats and bitches. Oh, and kids today.

January’s The Edge of the Forest

I am lifting this announcement from Kelly’s site, minus all the links, because I don’t have that kind of time. But I wanted to make sure you know that it’s time for the January 2008 issue of The Edge of the Forest, now entering its third year of publication.

There are many exciting features for you this month, as well as interviews, reviews, and much more. Specifically you’ll find an interview with Holly Thompson, a look at The Class of 2K8, an article on Booking your New Year’s Resolutions, A Day in the Life with Jane Resh Thomas, and an interview with Blogging Writer Candice Ransom. Looks like some excellent reading, even if I didn’t contribute this month. ;^)

Return of WAPB

I’m waiting for the Oscar nominations to come in. They’re being announced as I type, and should hopefully be available on the Oscars site by the time I’m done with my post. Actually, it’s purely by chance that I’m on the computer during the announcements. I wasn’t waiting for them, especially since I haven’t seen any of the films that are being mentioned as possible winners.

But it is an interesting coincidence, because I was planning to talk about the Academy Awards today. Specifically, how the movie studios tend to release their best Oscar contenders at the end of the year so they’ll be fresh on people’s minds. I don’t think the same thing happens with children’s books. For books it would seems like a better approach to have an earlier print date to allow buzz to build up. Of course, that’s not always what happens. Take the case of last year’s Newbery winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, which was released at the end of 2006. While the Scrotum Kerfuffle got attention, the other early disappointment surrounding the winner was that nobody had heard of the book. If some title is going to come out of nowhere and take the prize, than there’s no fun in playing along in a year-long home game of “Guess the Newbery.” (Now available in a collectible tin from Mattel!)

Today I return to my own favorite children’s book prize, long dormant but never entirely forgotten. Better yet, we have the whole year to play along and submit our favorites. I’ve already found a strong contender here in the month of January, and I couldn’t be more excited to reintroduce the...

Weird-Ass Picture Book Award
The WAPBAs are given to the books that make you go “Huhhh?” Awards are given for story, illustration, and cover art. The highest award goes to the picture book achieving outstanding weirdness in both illustration and text. The 2007 WAPBA went to The Fuchsia Is Now, by J. Otto Seibold, for its strange story and artwork. The interesting use of condoms as hats was clearly a deciding factor in this book’s selection. Dear Fish, by Chris Gall, won for both illustration and cover art. For storyline, My Father the Dog, by Elizabeth Bluemle, took the prize. (Don’t try to verify any of these awards, as I just made them up right now.)

But before we can start playing the “Guess the WAPBA” for 2009, we’ve got to award the prizes for 2008. So now it’s time to nominate 2007 titles for the WAPBA awards of 2008, to be announced whenever I get around to it. Please nominate your favorite WAPBs for this prestigious prize.

NOTE: If you plan to mention WAPBA on your own blog — and I hope you do — be advised that the phrase “Weird-Ass” brings some interesting searches to your blog. Just a little warning.

(That Oscar website is taking some time to go up, so here is the Associated Press article, which also features some commentary. Like I guessed, I’ve seen none — none — of the nominees. I’ve got to get out more.)

January Carnival of Children’s Literature

I’ve been physically sluggish since the holidays. I’ve managed to get the basics done for my family, but not much more. And believe me, much more needed to be done. So finally, in the last two days, I feel somewhat energized — and my back goes out. It happens once in a while, this sharp pain in my lower back. It usually lasts a couple of days. That would be the couple of days I had totally free to catch up on work around the house. I’m so ticked off.

However, I’m pretty comfortable sitting straight up in this chair by my computer, so I suppose I’ll take some extra time with the January Carnival of Children’s Literature, now up and ready at Wizards Wireless. The theme is children’s book awards, so you’ll find tons of great posts leading to even more wonderful books. Don’t miss it, even if you’re not confined to your chair.

Poetry Friday: Book Title Cento Challenge

Earlier this week, like right after the ALA awards, Chasing Ray asked book bloggers what they were looking forward to reading this year. Most of the participants put forth the 2008 titles they were craving, but I didn’t have any to mention. See, it will take me the next two months to catch up on the 2007 titles I missed, either because I hadn’t heard of them yet or because my library hadn’t received them yet. I do have a list and it’s over fifty titles long — which seems a tad ambitious for two months of reading. Why post a full list that will certainly only end in disappointment?

Later in my blog traveling, I found a poetry challenge over at Miss Rumphius Effect — namely to turn book titles into a modified cento. While that still might have been too much for me to handle, as it turns out I had to work yesterday at the library during an all-day “wintery mix” weather event. You know how many people chose to come to the library in the DC area during a mix of snow, sleet and rain that lasts all day? Not many. Not many at all. So I had time at the desk — boy, did I have time — to offer up a cento of some of the 2007 titles I’m planning to read. Enjoy.
Here at the mysterious edge
of the heroic world.
There is no talking.
It is still.
Just grace and serenity rule.
Search the Book of a Hundred Truths
for the way of water, or paint the wind
in colorful strokes,
or try to catch a mermaid
in the sea.
Step into the Garden of Eve,
carnation, lily, lily, rose
at your feet.
The leading ladies, the wild girls,
are at home
in this parade of shadows.
With a leap of faith
you can be too.
Here are the titles: The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World; No Talking; Still Just Grace; The Book of a Hundred Truths; The Way of Water; Paint the Wind; To Catch a Mermaid; The Garden of Eve; Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose; The Leading Ladies; The Wild Girls; In this Parade of Shadows; Leap of Faith.

The Poetry Friday round-up is over at Farm School today.

Awards Reactions Round-Up: Now Fully Edited for Your Enjoyment

I’m not sure when else I’d link to a USA Today article unless it’s the first to tell me about the winners’ reactions.
After learning she had won, Schlitz still went to work at Baltimore’s Park School, where she has been a librarian for 17 years. “But I am wearing a plastic tiara,” Schlitz, 52, said Monday.

Selznick, 41, literally flew. “At 3:30 a.m., the phone rang and I jumped out of bed,” says the writer/illustrator. He flew from San Diego to New York to appear this morning with Schlitz on the Today show.
The Washington Post shares a little bit of extra information on the Newbery-winning book. It also features the worst slide show ever, given that there are two slides and one is a book cover. The new information, at least for me, was that the book was pulled from the slush pile, and that it was written, submitted, and awaiting publication while she was writing, submitting, and publishing two other books. Remember A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, anyone? A book that should have won a Newbery last year.

Fuse#8 is in the room with a detailed report of the ALA Media Awards. She’s also found the Today Show video and here it is, in all its annoying glory. OMG, does the interviewer not realize that authors can speak? TV Tip: Let the writers talk about their own books. You can almost see the thought flickering behind Selznick’s eyes, “I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. and fly to New York for this?”

Fuse also reminded me of something that I remembered, then forgot, and now with her help remembered again. Monica Edinger was on the Newbery committee, and she has been posting choice thoughts over at Educating Alice. Interesting stuff, very interesting.

If you wish you were in the room to hear the gasp when the Caldecott winner was announced (And yes, Zee, I could hear the gasp), Zee Says lets us join her at ALA with her post. She also provided the link to the videocast, in case you want to relive the award moments with bonus audience reaction. Or if you just want to hear the Hugo Cabret Whoop (yes, that’s what it’s called now), try the podcast over at Read Roger. It includes bonus behind-the-scenes audio coverage!

There were lots of posts all over the kidlitosphere (duh), but one that really caught my eye was over at Writing and Ruminating, where she suggested, “Let’s look at the awards with our poet-goggles on, shall we?” Until I saw that, I hadn’t realized how poetry-heavy the lists were. So as she says, “a great day for poetry.” Who would have thunk it?

Now, David Lubar’s post is all about not winning at “Newbery my heart at wounded pride,” where he offers his comment space “to complain, rant, moan or vent.” Apparently, the loudest sound in the world is the sound of the phone not ringing.

Seems like the Cybils committees know a thing or two, based on the number of books that made the short lists that received awards. Take a look.

The YAYAs (or at least one YA) express shock and... well, disappointment at the Printz awards. Interesting reading. But then there’s Sara, who had a pretty enthusiastic response to the winner.

Some great thoughts on the awards at Wizards Wireless, but maybe even more relevant are her thoughts as a bookseller. Did she get the orders right?

As it turns out, Slate picked up one of my standard run-on sentences about Brian Selznick’s Caldecott win. Scroll down (no, even farther) to see a quote from me and and also Lisa Yee. I’m in good company there.

Robin Brande was the first to alert me to the fact that the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Best Books for Young Adults 2008 listing is now posted. She was particularly interested in the list, because her book, Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, is on the list! Way to go, Robin! I also see some of my other favorites listed, including fun guy Barry Lyga for Boy Toy. Here’s where you’ll also see some love for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Personally, I’m a bigger fan of these lists than the awards themselves, because they more accurately capture the range of literature that can touch many different people. Picking one “Best” book is all well and good for the fun of it, but I get more out of a variety of styles and genres.

So of course, I’m all over the ALA 2008 Notable Children’s Books list. Some wonderful books, including Loree Griffin Burns’ Tracking Trash (maybe now my library will get a copy — yeesh) and my 2007 favorite, Jenni Holm’s Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf — and Harry Potter shows up here too. There are still some very good, very talked-about books that didn’t make the list, and that is disappointing. However, it’s a great list to use to catch up on your 2007 reading before the 2008 books get to your library. Or that’s how I look at it.

Last, but certainly not least, is my mini-chat with Mo Willems, in which he talks about his award wins and offers the newest game to the kidlitosphere (not intentionally). Take a famous title and pompous it up. His titles are hysterical, but some of us less brilliant folk are taking a stab at it also. Propel Thyself Canine; Propel Thyself!

Mo’ Reactions

While there were definite gasps and applause when The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott gold, I’m sure that there were also cheers for the two medals Mo Willems’ books received. Personally, I wasn’t able to hear them, since I was at home cheering, “Yeah! Yeah!” like it was a football game in the fourth quarter.

In dashing off a note of congratulations to Mo, I slipped in that I might want to ask a few questions. Gracious man that he is — and wise as well — he shared some thoughts about the awards.



When did you get the call and what did you say? And then when did you get the second call and what did you say?

I can’t really recall. Let’s assume I was witty and clever and charming and modest and kind and thoughtful and erudite with clear diction on one call and a dumb jackass on the other, shall we?1

Looking around the previous Caldecott winners, I can’t find another example of a book sequel getting a nod. What do you think sets Knuffle Bunny Too apart for this Caldecott first?

Bemelmans did it for Madeline (Honor, ’39) and Madeline’s Rescue (Medal, ’54).

As for what set my books apart for this “Caldecott second,” it’s unfair to ask me to judge what judges judged. I’m just glad they liked ’em...

I have to admit that the Geisel award wasn’t on my radar screen. Was it something you had in your sights for the Elephant and Piggie series?

I was really shooting for the Ulysses Award, or as it’s known in the vernacular, the “Hard Reader Medal”.2 This ├╝ber-prestigious distinction is given annually to the least comprehensible book for humans published by a University Press.3

I thought I was a shoo-in as the “Elephant” in the Elephant and Piggie books is a reference to pre-industrial mythology as contrived in the post-impressionist period (duh), while the “Piggie” represents a pig (oink).

My disappointment is tempered by the fact that I’m not Irish.

You’ve won Caldecotts, a Carnegie Medal, and six Emmy Awards. As a well-known children’s author/illustrator, how can you get the Geisel Award noticed in the area of early literacy?

That’s a question for Herr Ambassador.

  1. I can, however, recall the favorite thing that’s been said to me in the last few days. Nick Clark (who runs the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art) congratulated me on my “Bi-fecta”. Snort. 
  2. Or as it’s known in the pubs, a “Joycee.” 
  3. Past “winners” include There Be Things of Wildness, Yet Where They Be is Either Unknown or Unknowable; Propel Thyself Canine, Propel Thyself (for If We Move Not, Can We Really Be Said to Be?); and more controversially, a direct rip-off of The Giving Tree entitled Stumpy: The Arboreal Being With No Boundaries

Awards Reactions Coming In

I’m not sure when else I’d link to a USA Today article unless it’s the first to tell me about the winners’ reactions.
After learning she had won, Schlitz still went to work at Baltimore’s Park School, where she has been a librarian for 17 years. “But I am wearing a plastic tiara,” Schlitz, 52, said Monday.

Selznick, 41, literally flew. “At 3:30 a.m., the phone rang and I jumped out of bed,” says the writer/illustrator. He flew from San Diego to New York to appear this morning with Schlitz on the Today show.
There were lots of posts all over the kidlitosphere (duh), but the one that really caught my eye was one at Writing and Ruminating, where she suggested, “Let’s look at the awards with our poet-goggles on, shall we?” Until I saw that, I hadn’t realized how poetry-heavy the lists were. So as she says, “a great day for poetry.” Who would have thunk it?

I, for one, am waiting for the reactions of Fuse#8, who so totally called the Newbery awards. But until she posts, I’ll be happy with David Lubar’s post “Newbery my heart at wounded pride,” where he offers his comment space “to complain, rant, moan or vent.” Apparently, the loudest sound in the world is the sound of the phone not ringing.

Edited to add:
Apparently the Cybils committees know a thing or two, based on the number of books that made the short lists that received awards yesterday. Take a look.

If you wish you were in the room to hear the gasp when the Caldecott winner was announced (And yes, Zee, I could hear the gasp), Zee Says lets us join her at ALA with her post. She also provided the link to the videocast, in case you want to relive the award moments with bonus audience reaction.

The YAYAs (or at least one YA) express shock and... well, disappointment at the Printz awards. Interesting reading. But then there’s Sara, who had a pretty enthusiastic response to the winner.

The Washington Post shares a little bit of extra information on the Newbery-winning book. It also features the worst slide show ever, given that there are two slides and one is a book cover. The new information, at least for me, was that the book was pulled from the slush pile, and that it was written, submitted, and awaiting publication while she was writing, submitting, and publishing two other books. Remember A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, anyone? The book that should have won a Newbery last year.

I couldn’t find the Today Show video of the winners mentioned in the USA Today article, though the video of Spears missing her day in court was front and center. It’s all about priorities, people.

Edited AGAIN to add:
Fuse#8 is in the room with a detailed report of the ALA Media Awards. She’s also found the Today Show video and here it is, in all its annoying glory. OMG, does the interviewer not realize that authors can speak? TV Tip: Let the writers talk about their own books. You can almost see the thought flickering behind Selznick’s eyes, “I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. and fly to New York for this?”

Fuse also reminded me of something that I remembered, then forgot, and now with her help remembered again. Monica Edinger was on the Newbery committee, and she has been posting choice thoughts over at Educating Alice. Interesting stuff, very interesting.

As it turns out, Slate picked up one of my standard run-on sentences about Brian Selznick’s Caldecott win. Scroll down (no, even farther) to see a quote from me and and also Lisa Yee. I’m in good company there.

Some great thoughts on the awards at Wizards Wireless, but maybe even more relevant are her thoughts as a bookseller. Did she get the orders right?

Robin Brande was the first to alert me to the fact that the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Best Books for Young Adults 2008 listing is now posted. She was particularly interested in the list, because her book, Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, is on the list! Way to go, Robin! I also see some of my other favorites listed, including fun guy Barry Lyga for Boy Toy. Here’s where you’ll also see some love for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Personally, I’m a bigger fan of these lists than the awards themselves, because they more accurately capture the range of literature that can touch many different people. Picking one “Best” book is all well and good for the fun of it, but I get more out of a variety of styles and genres.

So of course, I’m all over the ALA 2008 Notable Children’s Books list. Some wonderful books, including Loree Griffin Burns’ Tracking Trash (maybe now my library will get a copy — yeesh) and my 2007 favorite, Jenni Holm’s Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf — and Harry Potter shows up here too. There are still some very good, very talked-about books that didn’t make the list, and that is disappointing. However, it’s a great list to use to catch up on your 2007 reading before the 2008 books get to your library. Or that’s how I look at it.

ALA Awards: Geisel, Newbery, and Caldecott (Oh My!)

The Geisel? The what? You know, the Theodor Seuss Geisel award for beginning readers. Particularly important this year because it goes to There’s a Bird on Your Head, by Mo Willems. Didn’t I say that was my favorite of the Elephant and Piggie books? Oh, yes I did. Go Mo!

The Caldecott Honor Awards go to Henry’s Freedom Box, illustrated by Kadir Nelson; First the Egg, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; The Wall, written and illustrated by Peter Sis; and... OMG, Knuffle Bunny Too, written and illustrated by Mo Willems. Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on that listing. No gold or silver for Let It Shine, but it did win the Coretta Scott King illustrator award, so maybe that will do. (Not really, but whatcha gonna do?)

But the surprise winner of the Caldecott, the award selection that will have everyone talking is... The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. The cheers and applause were truly notable during the announcement of a book that everyone assumed would be shut out by being neither here nor there in terms of award categories. I know someone who will be pretty happy. I’m ecstatic. It truly deserved to win.

Now the Newbery Honor Awards have some familiar titles, namely Elijiah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt; and Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson. The winner has not been a very big book outside the kidlitosphere, but it’s still a surprise to me (though not to Fuse#8, who totally predicted the whole list), Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz and Robert Byrd.

Shut out from the awards was the much-praised The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but I can guess that it was too mature for the Newbery and too young for the Printz. In any case, it did win the National Book Award. There’s better balance in the Newbery shortlist than last year’s list, which was all Girls In Trouble.

A complete list of all of the ALA awards is available here. Reactions, anyone?

ALA Awards: Printz, King, Sibert, and Schneider

Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?

I’m going to mention the Schneider Award for one reason and one reason only: The winner of the middle school category is Tracie Vaughn Zimmer for Reaching for Sun. The announcement of this book was heralded by some definite whoops in the audience.

The Coretta Scott King author award goes to — no big surprise here — Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis. I didn’t like this book when I started it, but it definitely picked up and got me totally on board with the genius of this book. The Coretta Scott King illustrator award goes to — I called it, people — Let It Shine, by Ashley Bryan. Yeah!

The Printz Honor Awards go to Dreamquake, by Elizabeth Knox; One Whole and Perfect Day, by Judith Clarke; Repossessed, by A.M. Jenkins; Your Own, Sylvia, by Stephanie Hemphill. Didn’t read any of them. Oops. The Printz Award goes to The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean. Read it and loved it.

The Sibert Award for informational books for children goes to The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sis.

In a definite surprise for me, the Carnegie Award for video for children goes to... the Disney Channel movie Jump In, starring Corbin Bleu.

Really? Seriously? Jump In? Disney Channel? The kid from High School Musical? Okay... whatever.

ALA, Newbery, Caldecott

So, I’m not going to the ALA Midwinter Conference after all. Not that I had said I was, but I had thought about it. As it turns out, Philadelphia is three hours away, not two; the focus seems to be on adult literature, not kids’; and I’m really burnt out, not just a little burnt out. If you’re going, make sure that you drop by the kidlit bloggers’ lunch on Saturday — info at Readers Carousel.

I’m not making any Newbery predictions this year, or even listing what I’d like to see win the Newbery Awards. But Fuse#8 has a wonderfully detailed post on her predictions. She doesn’t think The Invention of Hugo Cabret can win. Why not? Well, Wizards Wireless has gone into the rules for both Newberys and Caldecotts to show why Hugo Cabret is going to get shut out. It’s a crime, but whoop, there it is.

I already made my Caldecott predictions, and they are Let It Shine and Angels Watching Over Me. I also agree with Fuse#8’s prediction for The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County as a possibility. The Wall has been mentioned so much, it’s hard to imagine that it won’t win, but you never know — I mean, it’s not like anyone saw My Friend Rabbit coming.

The Brown Bookshelf writers are making their predictions about the Coretta Scott King awards. My favorite, Let It Shine, makes one appearance, but Henry’s Freedom Box is getting more buzz in the illustrator category. Touching Snow and Elijah of Buxton come up for the author category, but since I didn’t like either book, I can’t begin to comment.

Totally off the subject, but Jen Robinson put together a fantastic article about helping kids enjoy reading. Really top notch. Also off subject, if you’re in the poetry mood today, which I was not, head over to The Book Mine Set for the Poetry Friday round-up.

Back to ALA. So what do you want to win this year, in any category? Does ALA need a new division, maybe the Kick-Ass Book Award?

High School Memories and Memoirs

I’m feeling all discombobulated today, and I blame it all on this dream I had last night. I was my age, late thirties, but I was marrying someone from my high school. In the dream, a friend of mine had recently backed out of the wedding, so I apparently decided that I would marry the guy instead. He and I seemed to be okay with the fact that we weren’t in love, or even that close, but we were getting married anyway. It ended when the alarm went off in the middle of me singing my vows in the form of “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

The cool/odd thing was that groom was just some guy I knew in high school. He wasn’t an old boyfriend that you’d suspect I’d remember. He wasn’t even someone I hung out with. He was a guy in my chorus group that I liked. Apparently, that was enough for my subconscious to reproduce him in my dream. Even stranger to me was that the hall was filled with people from high school that I was remembering — bits of their personalities, their relationships, and definitely their faces. And other then my high school reunion a year ago, I haven’t thought of these people for years.

Memoirs of a Teenage AmnesiacIf I blame being out of sorts on the dream, then I lay the blame for the dream squarely on the shoulders of the book Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin. It’s an interesting book about a girl who loses four years of memories — and an important four years at that — when she hits her head. She has to piece some parts of her life back together and discover who she really is again, making her question her choice of friends, boyfriend, and activities. While amnesia can have that soap-opera-plot feel to it, I found it easy to go along with in the book. I think it works particularly in a teen book, because often those are the years of reinventing yourself, sometimes repeatedly, but without the benefit or hindrance of forgetting who you once were. The characters and relationships were realistic and kept me engaged in the story. A well-written and very enjoyable book.

But I think that my dream came from this passage, my favorite part of the book, namely because it’s so true:
“I don’t see him much,” I said to Dad finally.

“It happens, baby,” Dad nodded and patted me on the hand, and then he read my mind. “You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned — the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times. For me, it was something by Simon & Garfunkel. Who knows what it will be for you? And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations — even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.”
I loved that part, because it tells teens that all of the drama of high school fades. I know myself that it seemed like all of it was incredibly important, so much so that it could be overwhelming. But maybe an even better message for me now is that these memories are always a part of you, even if only in your dreams.

Cybils: Fiction Picture Books Shortlist Could-Have-Beens

Okay, resolutions are out of the way, I’ve put out my public service announcement about blogrolls, and now it’s time to get down to business. (Oh, one more blogroll note: I will often keep an eye on a new blog for a while before adding it to my blogroll, and I suspect that I’m not the only one who does this.)

Jules at Seven Impossible Things did a wonderful wrap-up of the picture book shortlist selection process and her own favorites that didn’t make the list. As it turns out, my absolute die-if-they-don’t-make-it books are on the shortlist. I loved Pssst!, by Adam Rex, because it has incredible art, a good storyline, lots of humor, a great trick ending, and a wide audience range. I’m linking to a review by Jules. I loved The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County because it also has incredible illustrations — though of a very different style — and a fantastic, humorous read-aloud kind of story. I also like that it portrays a segment of African-American culture without being an “issue” book. Here’s a review, again by Jules (Leading me to wonder what I’ve been doing with my time that I didn’t review either book.) Of course, I loved Knuffle Bunny Too, and not just because it’s a Mo book, but because as a sequel it really does kick it up a notch in terms of drama, illustration, and storyline. (Okay, that link is to my review.)

I did want Angels Watching Over Me on the shortlist because it’s such a beautiful, beautiful book, but it just didn’t quite make it in. I also loved the art in Let It Shine, but since the text wasn’t original, it was a hard sell for the Cybils. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the Caldecott list. Here are three other titles that I’d consider my favorites:

The Lonely MooseThe Lonely Moose, by John Segal
A moose is all alone until a bird falls into his world. He tries to fly, but can’t. (“Yikes!” moaned the bird. “Yikes, indeed,” groaned the Moose.) The Moose reluctantly takes him under his... uh, wing, even though the bird likes singing in the morning when the moose would prefer quiet. Even though the bird likes worms and the moose finds them revolting. They slowly build up a familiarity. One day there’s a forest fire, and in the intensity of the moment, the bird flies off. For good? One can hope not. I loved the soft, slightly odd paintings and the story of an unlikely friendship.

A Good DayA Good Day, by Kevin Henkes
A bird, a squirrel, a dog, and a fox each have a bad day in a different way. But then something happens to make them find that it’s a good day after all. Not to put too much psychology behind it, but:
  • The squirrel loses an acorn but finds a bigger one — sometimes when a small dream is gone it opens your arms for a bigger one.
  • The fox loses his mother, but she’s there all along — sometimes the things we worry about are really all in our mind.
  • The dog has gotten himself all tied around a pole, but works himself free —; sometimes we have to work hard to find our happiness.
  • The bird loses a feather, but finds he can fly higher — sometimes we have to let go of something, even something great, so that we can move on.
And in all of this, the loss of one — the feather — makes it a good day for a little girl. The messages in this book are amazing, and certainly more subtle then I’ve made them in this post. But I was a psychology major, even if it was a long time ago.

Lily Brown's PaintingsLily Brown’s Paintings, by Angela Johnson and E.B Lewis
Lily Brown sees the world in her own way in her paintings. The stars dance and hang out at the sidewalk cafés. The trees wear hats and drink tea. All sorts of things happen in her painting world, and it’s magical. But at the end of the day, she is with her family and it’s their world again, and it’s wondrous too. A tribute to the imagination and the range of a child’s worlds, and beautifully done.

Blogroll Updating Month

Guess what? It’s Blogroll Updating Month!!!

Of course it makes sense that January would be the perfect month to check through your blogroll for sites that have changed addresses or stopped updating. You may need to remove blogs that seemed good or relevant at the time, but now that your tattoo/tango/tiramasu stage is over, it’s time to cut the connection.

There was a discussion recently on the kidlitosphere Yahoo group about blogroll etiquette. Namely, should someone ask to trade blogroll links with you? Let me say, for bloggers everywhere, that is simply Not Done.

If you want to be on someone’s blogroll, then the best course of action is to make yourself known to that blogger by commenting. You should also have that blog on your blogroll. That’s pretty much all you can do. Bloggers have different ways of handling their blogrolls, so you have to be respectful of that. Personally, I’m not adding blogs that don’t update several times a week. (Some less frequent updaters I keep on my bookmarks to check out occasionally.) Also, I generally don’t add blogs that don’t have my blog on their blogroll. A little self-centered, yes, but it works for me. I also have trouble adding blogs that have several unrelated topics, like books, knitting, karate, and motorcycles. Too confusing for my addled brain.

It’s good to keep in mind as you’re waiting to get noticed that bloggers, especially busy bloggers, tend to get lazy about updating their blogrolls. That’s why the yearly reminder of Blogroll Updating Month is so important to us all.

(Okay, I made up Blogroll Updating Month, but it’s still a good idea.)

The Resolution Thing

So, originally I had in mind the trifecta of resolutions: Exercise Daily, Lose Weight, and Get Organized. Good, strong resolutions, and all areas in which I need improvement. However, when I thought about these goals, I got knots in my stomach. It felt all wrong. New Year’s resolutions should motivate and get you ready to take action, not depress and get you ready to throw up.

I took the weekend to reflect, and sometime between work and door-to-door Girl Scout cookie sales, the ideas pulled together. What I came up with is really half resolution and half mantra, which makes it twice as good.

*** COMMENT, CONNECT, CREATE ***

Comment: When I comment on a blog, I send a little message to the writer that I’m there and I care. I don’t always have something to say, but if a thought pops through my head — “That’s a great list!” or “I’m putting that book on hold now!” or “Really? With a vegetable peeler?” — then I can make time to write it. Even the small comments make our connections stronger.

Connect: Every year I send out dozens of Christmas cards, and I really enjoy doing so. I write a short, hopefully amusing newsletter with highlights and usually pictures, and I feel like, at the very least, I’ve made contact with people who are important to me. But I want to do more. I want to make sure that I am calling or writing or visiting these people during the year, because it’s too easy to put relationships on the back burner. These people aren’t my white rice, they’re my stir-fry and you’ve got to pay attention to stuff in the wok.

Create: I love what I’m doing with my blog, but there’s more I can write. I know it, I feel it, but I have to make time for it. Even more broadly, I want see opportunities to create in music and art and writing, and make it a priority. Hey, there are days I’ve given up showering to write in my blog before work, so I’ve proven that I’m ready to give to the cause of greater art.

Most importantly, none of these resolutions make my throat close up. They make me feel happy, as in Happy New Year! Now I’m ready to begin it.

Poetry Friday: Toys Song as Poetry

First of all, and non-kidlit-related, OBAMA! There, had to be said.

Next, the poetry for Poetry Friday is hosted this week by A Year of Reading. Once again, I bring you song as poetry. I think of this one from Toys every New Year:
If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
For nothing is more precious
Than the time we have and so
We all must learn from small misfortune
Count the blessings that are real
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year.
Now, I’ve been enjoying the posts popping up all over regarding the thoughts, resolutions, and goals for the new year. I loved Sara Lewis Holmes’ theme of The Year of Once (Upon a Time). In fact, I printed it and taped it on my desk at work. I dug deep to see myself in Robin Brande’s Year of Independent Thinking and Laura Salas’ Year of Losing Control. But the best I could come up with for a theme is The Year of No Plastic Spoons at Work, which doesn’t particularly inspire.

As it turns out, I had a rather stressful holiday week. Don’t worry, both I and the immediate family are fine. Really. But there was a lot of emotional turmoil from the extended family that I soak up like the Bounty quicker-picker-upper. We spent the first five days of vacation involved in various visits, meals, and gift exchanges with Bill’s family, where there were lots of last minute schedule changes and “issues” that kept it all lively. You know, where lively means stomach-churning.

Then we spent the next four days hosting my family, including my busy — but delightful — toddler niece. Oh, and did I mention that there was a visit to my actual messy house from my ninety-six-year-old Grandma? You’ve got to at least try to clean up for Grandma. Oh, and just as I needed to do the Cybils judging with my fellow panelists, my husband was taking my mother to the urgent care center for an infection that was coming back with a bullet. Which kept my mom here for another day — and as I was trying to open up some communication among us, I ended up causing a big blow-up where the actual phrase “If I died tomorrow...” was uttered. Fortunately, my brother had the quickness to reply, “Tomorrow’s really not good for me.” Gotta love family getting together for the holidays.

At least I got a notebook computer, or I’d have to call the whole thing a wash.

So, if you’ve read this far — and bless you if you did — I’m giving myself the weekend before I start the new year. And I’m telling anyone else who needs a mother’s permission to take the extra time as well. It’s my New Year’s gift to you. I have to admit to myself that I need some quieter time to reflect before I can arrive at a soul-centering theme or goal or resolution. Or even to decide not to arrive at a soul-centering theme or goal or resolution. In which case, The Year of No Plastic Spoons at Work stands.

Announcements, Announcements!

Just a quick little note to say that the International Reading Association is covering the Cybils awards here with this all-important quote: “Knuffle Bunny is among the finalists for a Cybils award, but Harry Potter is not.” Thanks, Anastasia, for the heads up.

Oh yeah, and Jon Scieszka has been named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Read about it at the Washington Post. They couldn’t have picked a better man. Well, they almost couldn't have picked a better man.

I’m going to assume that my application was lost in the mail.

Cybils: Fiction Picture Books Shortlist

It was quite a job bringing a list of more than a hundred nominations down to seven selections for the judges to hash out. Lots of reading, and rereading. Discussions with family members and colleagues. And then starting at 9:00 on Saturday night, a hashing out of all the titles that had floated to the top. There could easily have been another seven books on this list without us feeling that we had lost anything in quality. We had some great books this year. I think we came up with a list that represents some of the best work and that provides a range of style, artwork, and tone. Basically, I love this list and I hope that you do too.

(If it looks somewhat familiar, that’s because I’ve taken it directly from the Cybils site.)

Pssst!Pssst!
by Adam Rex
Harcourt Children’s Books
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense

Pssst! is a funny, light-hearted fantasy that uses snappy text and surreal post-modern oil-and-acrylic illustrations to tell the tale of a girl who visits a zoo with crafty animals who all want something from her. This results in a surprise ending and one of the year’s most unforgettable illustrated double-page spreads.


Go to Bed, Monster!Go to Bed, Monster!
written by Natasha Wing; illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
Harcourt Children’s Books
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense

A sleepless girl creates a playful monster to keep her company one evening with surprising results. Kantorovitz’s oil paint and pastel illustrations, made to look like crayon drawings, capture the immediacy and creative range of a child’s imagination.
— Annie Teich, Crazy for Kids’ Books


The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar CountyThe Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
written by Janice N. Harrington; illustrated by Shelley Jackson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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A sassy, young farm girl, living with her Big Mama, transforms herself from chicken-chaser extraordinaire to fender-of-the-fowl in this spirited read-aloud, whose energetic mixed-media collage illustrations provide much for observant eyes to take in.


LeavesLeaves
by David Ezra Stein
Putnam Juvenile
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In this engaging poem of a picture book with spare text and shimmering earth-tone paintings, David Ezra Stein captures the wonder of the changing seasons as seen through the perspective of a wide-eyed bear.


Four Feet, Two SandalsFour Feet, Two Sandals
written by Karen Lynn William & Khadra Mohammad; illustrated by Doug Chayka
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
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Two girls in a refugee camp in Pakistan share a pair of sandals that begins a friendship in this poignant story of courage. When hope of a better life comes for one girl, they must both find a way to still share their sandals — and their hearts.
— Marcie Flinchum Atkins, World of Words


Knuffle Bunny TooKnuffle Bunny Too
by Mo Willems
Hyperion
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In this sequel to Knuffle Bunny, the photography, the cartooning, and the drama are all kicked up a notch as Trixie and her dad have to set things right in the early morning hours. Fantastic in its capture of subtleties of expression, the dynamics of families, and the mind of a child.
— Pam Coughlan, MotherReader


The Incredible Book-Eating BoyThe Incredible Book-Eating Boy
by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense

Oliver Jeffers has crafted a visually-stunning, humorous story about a young boy who loves books so much he eats them — until he discovers that the greatest power comes from reading them. Jeffers’ innovative illustrations, cleverly superimposed on pages from various books, merge with an inviting storyline that continues right into the book’s back cover.