105 Ways to Give a Book

National Book Festival: Non-Mo Edition

I admit that my impressions of the National Book Festival were colored by its Mo Factor, but indeed other things were going on during the day.

We started with the author signings, which were chaotic. There were a lot of authors and a lot of people, which led to many disorganized and confusing lines. The best thing I can say about the signings is that the authors I saw all stayed past their time to get in as many fans as possible. Jeff Kinney even gave an extra signing after his author session to accommodate the many kids who had come to see him.

Our late start limited our author events. I caught only part of Megan McDonald’s talk, really just enough to hear that there is going to be a movie made based on the Judy Moody books but with the character a little bit older. I did see all of the Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi presentation, which was quite entertaining. Holly talked about the idea of the rat king and how it led to the idea for their latest book, The Wyrm King. Along with drawing this Hydra-type character, Tony also took on a cartoon portrait of Holly’s cat complete with little cat clothes.

Over at the Teen tent, Patrick Carman talked about The 39 Clues, and whether a book from the ten-book series might be set in China. (Maybe, he winks.) Jeff Kinney was next, looking as humble as a world-famous author can be. He talked about his years of work on Diary of a Wimpy Kid before it came to publication and his own view of himself as writing a cartoon for adults. As he lightly said, “When I come to these things, I don’t feel like a real author. I feel like a failed cartoonist.” He encouraged the packed tent to cheer loudly for him as he left so that Judy Blume would worry about measuring up.

Judy Blume talked about being shy and imaginative in sixth grade. When she had to give an oral book report, she found it easier to make the whole thing up — title, plot, theme — and she began to realize her calling as a writer. She got a great deal of applause for her advice to teachers encouraging readers with this line: “For God’s sake, don’t use Accelerated Reader!” She addressed the first day of Banned Books Week by recognizing the difficulty as a writer, where you have to be true to your vision and “get that censor off your shoulder and stomp it down.” The tent was packed for her talk, and people seemed mesmerized by being in her presence.

Now, my daughter caught one talk that I missed, so here is TeenReader’s Rick Riordan Report:

The author of The Lightning Thief gave a book talk (read: hosted a crowded, screaming rally) with people lining up long before he was scheduled to start. (Kate DiCamillo thought they were her fans). There were crowds. There was rain. And after hours of waiting in line, these people were ready for some flippin’ Book Talks! And Rick delivered.

Riordan was brought to the top by the Percy Jackson series. He plans to write a story about the next generation of Half-Blood campers. He’s also gonna milk this “gods” thing as much as he can, because some stories about the Egyptian deities are coming out soon. From the tiny excerpt he read, it’s going to keep the same humorous style and adventure as the Percy books, but with a whole new setting. They both sound like definite must-reads.

I really wish I could have concentrated more, but I had to stand during his talk — which I had already been doing for the past hour — and I was suffocating because of all the breathing people in the tent.

Mo and My Little Piggie

I can’t wait for the webcasts to be up from the National Book Festival, because that’s where you’ll see MY DAUGHTER reading/acting Today I Will Fly with MO WILLEMS and his daughter TRIXIE! I know!!! It’s like a Mo-fan dream come true. Even better really, because as a parent, I enjoy the successes and high points of my children even more than my own. It makes my heart burst. It’s why I kept pushing her amazing singing performance, because it gave me such joy I wanted to share it.

But back to Mo. I went to the National Book Festival with both of my daughters, along with a friend and her teen daughter. We started off with the author signings — which were packed. The teens wanted to go to Jeff Kinney, but his line was already closed off fifteen minutes before his signing time had started. They decided to try for Rick Riordan, whose line was also huge, but was still open at least. The fifth grader had no interest, but wanted to wait in the Mo Willems line. I was actually the one who was ready to bag it, because the line was long and it didn’t look like we’d get to the front in time. I reminded her that we had seen him in January and that we’d see his reading session, but she really wanted to wait. And so we did.

We were among the last people to get our book signed. Mo did recognize me with my nickname, “Blogger!” Erin and I each got an Elephant and Piggie book signed, and said we’d see him at his reading later. With a few people behind us and Mo’s handler waiting to the side, it wasn’t the time for deep conversation or even a photo.

Fast-forward to the reading an hour later. Actually, not much happened, so here it is: The teens almost got their books signed by Rick Riordan, but he had to leave just before he got to them. So they decided to go directly to the teen tent so they could definitely see his reading at 3:15. The fifth grader and I caught Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi at the very tail end of their signing, and then went to their reading at the children’s tent. They were engaging presenters and kept the audience laughing.

Okay, so now we’re at the Mo Willems reading time and I see him on stage with his helper. They’re looking around the audience and I figure that they probably need a few kids to give drawing ideas or flip pages or hold a book or something. I tell my daughter that Mo’s looking around, and when he looks her way she waves at him. He waves her up. Wow! She goes to the stage, he talks to her for a bit, she agrees to something, and stands off to the back of the stage.

Mo starts his reading talking about the mom who says that her son wants to be a writer when he grows up. Mo replies, to all of us, “Your child is already a writer. He wants to get published.” Because children are natural writers and illustrators. Then Mo reads The Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed to the crowd. Then he talks about how he means for his books to be played, not just read. So he is going to share Today I Will Fly with him as Gerald the Elephant and my Erin as Piggie! OMG! Trixie played the barking dog and Dawn played the bird. But my daughter — my daughter — was Piggie! She’s an actress and (quite fittingly this time) a ham anyway, so she did a great reading in front of like two hundred people with no fear and no holding back. It was so exciting!

I ran to the back as soon as she was done to give her a hug and tell her what a fantastic job she had done. I talked to Dawn a bit, said hi to Trixie, and caught Mo for a quick picture before he was off to his next event. I’m not even sure if I thanked him for giving Erin that wonderful opportunity, so if not (or again), THANK YOU, MO!

That seems like enough National Book Festival for today, so tomorrow I’ll share information from the Megan McDonald, Jeff Kinney, and Judy Blume sessions. Plus I’ll have a report from TeenReader on Rick Riordan and the elusive Jeff Kinney autograph.

National Book Festival and Booklights

I’m all sniffly today, so I’m going to keep it short. I’m very excited about going to National Book Festival this Saturday, which I talk about at Booklights. I’m sure I’ll be over this cold by then, because I absolutely have to go. I’ve worked out my schedule in advance, but I had to make some very tough decisions. The Jeff Kinney signing or the Kadir Nelson reading? The signing for Judy Blume or Holly Black? The author session of Mo Willems or Rick Riordan?

Ah! Gotcha there! Mo Willems, definitely. Though I may send TeenReader across the yard to Rick Riordan.

If you’re going, look for me at:

PBS KIDS Pavilion
(I’ll go around noonish, but there are readings, activities, and character greetings all day.)

Author Signings
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.Judy Blume, Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi, Mo Willems, and Jeff Kinney (1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.)

Children’s Tent
1:20 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.Kadir Nelson
1:55 p.m. – 2:25 p.m.Megan McDonald
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.Mo Willems

Teens and Children’s Tent
3:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.Rick Riordan
3:50 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.Patrick Carman
4:25 p.m. – 4:55 p.m.Jeff Kinney
5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.Judy Blume

I may be the lamest person alive for skipping all of the adult book authors — huge names, by the way — but I have to admit that I’m a kidlit nerd at heart.

Edited to add text from Booklights post:
I've got a sore throat and sniffles, but I refuse to get sick because I am not missing the National Book Festival this year. If I have to wear the swine flu mask - so hip this season - or if my family has to bring me in on a stretcher, I am going this Saturday.

Due to circumstances beyond my scheduling control, I have had to miss the last two years and it was torture each time to know that celebrated authors were hanging out in my backyard while I was not. This time the weekend is clear, the weather looks good, the author list is golden, and I have to be there.

So what's got me so excited, other than the fact that its free, fantastic, and festivalicious?

1. The Children's Tent
During the day I can attend readings of children's authors Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, Craig Hatkoff, Lois Lowry, Megan McDonald, Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson, Charles Santore, Jon Scieszka and David Shannon, and Mo Willems. Let me repeat that last one. MO WILLEMS! I'm sure many of these other folks are wonderful speakers, and I am in awe of many of them as writers and/or illustrators. But if you haven't seen Mo Willems speak, then you have missed something pretty special. I'm a huge fan of his books and kinda him personally - though I've been trying to stay on the right side of the stalker line for a few years now. I can't help it if I keep running into him - accidentally, I swear! - at Book Expo America or the previous National Book Festival. (Probably my favorite author story ever.)

2. The Teens and Children's Tent
Here's where I'll find Teens & Children authors Judy Blume, Pat Carman, Paula Deen, Carmen Agra Deedy, Liz Kessler, Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, James L. Swanson and Jacqueline Woodson. These readings run at the same time as the ones in the children's tent so I'm going to have to make some tough choices. At this point I'm pretty sure that I'm going right from the Mo Willems' reading (could I ask for a photo op first? Not sure.) and going for the Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, and Judy Blume line-up. Yeah, you read it right - JEFF KINNEY! Kidding, all three of them are superstars in children's literature and I'm stunned that I'll be in their presence. I do have a fondness for Jeff because I've actually met him before and have my own Jeff Kinney Story. (Okay, I have two favorite author stories.)

3. The PBS Raising Readers Pavilion
Hello? Cause that's who I'm blogging for! Apparently PBS is featuring Elmo, so it looks like I'll be meeting him before my Booklights colleague Susan. They'll also have celebrity readings all day long, to which I was not invited. Okay, I'm not a celebrity but they should only hear my rendition of How Chipmunk Got His Stripes. They will also feature Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Between the Lions, plus book-based PBS KIDS favorites Clifford the Big Red Dog, WordGirl, Curious George, and Maya & Miguel

Oh, The National Book Festival also has amazing authors of adult books too. You know, ones like John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Julia Alvarez, John Irving, Nicholas Sparks, Azar Nafisi, Michael Connelly, Gwen Ifill, Sue Monk Kidd, David Baldacci, Mary Jane Clark, and James Patterson. And I mentioned that this was all free, right? If you are in the area - and by that I mean a two hour radius - you should not miss it. Actually, forget that two hour radius guideline. If you live farther, stay with a friend. Bring some homemade chicken noodle soup and you can stay with me.

It’s a Risk

As I’ve been working on the KidLitosphere Conference, I’ve already made some mistakes. I’ve already heard some suggestions that are too late for this year. I’ve already had a period of feeling like a failure for not getting more participants. Because while we are right in line with the previous years’ attendance, I was sure that the proximity to New York City and the need for publishers and authors to find more ways to boost their online presence would make this year’s conference a sellout. I would have bet money on it. In fact, I kind of did, and it’s only due to the supreme kindness of the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel (book your next author’s luncheon there, folks!) that I’m not out a chunk of cash.

Why am I telling you this?

Because when you put yourself out there in a big way, it’s a risk.

I know that a lot of people appreciate me taking this on, and it warms me. I’m excited about the opportunity to contribute to my community in this way. And yes, I love doing something important because it makes me feel important.

But I will also hear criticism and I will make mistakes and I will leave people out and I will hurt people’s feelings and I will feel stupid and I will wish I hadn’t bothered.

Because when you put yourself out there in a big way, it’s a risk.

If I remain open-minded, I hope that the criticism will lead me to different ideas. I will learn from the mistakes, and can pass that knowledge to others. I’ll remember the many different people involved and make the effort to include them — not just on my terms, but on theirs as well. I can allow myself to feel stupid, and then ask for help. I’ll recognize that it is always worth the bother.

Again, why am I telling you this?

Because my friends addressed legitimate issues in an online initiative, and are getting dismissed as naysayers and haters and sour-grapers. And the person who ran the initiative is a good person who is feeling bad, and her dismay is bringing her support from her friends, but sealing this perception of meanness without really knowing the issues.

Because it reminds me in another way of what I’m seeing in Congress, where there are legitimate concerns about health care reform on all fronts, but it’s all about naysayers and haters and probably some sour-grapers instead of being about fixing the problems.

And because, on the other hand, being afraid of the criticism, the mistakes, the hurt feelings makes it so much easier not to try — whether it’s leading a cause or running the show or writing a book. As William Shakespeare says, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

Or as Sawyer from Lost says, “Cowboy up.”

ABC Storytime: C is for...

There are so many good picture books to use for the letter “C” that sometimes I’ve done a program on just cats, chickens, or cows. Here, though, I’m offering a combination of the three. I couldn’t pick the best of each subject — it isn’t possible — but they offer a variety of styles among the books.

The Letter C

Book: Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (alphabet book)

Action Rhyme: “Hey Diddle Diddle”
Hey diddle, diddle
The cat and [plays] the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
(Repeat verse and have the kids act out the action verbs — that’s why I’ve used “plays the fiddle.”)

Book: The Cow That Laid an Egg, by Andy Cutbill, or The Cow Who Clucked, by Denise Fleming

Song: “Ten Little Chickies”
One little, two little, three little chickies
four little, five little, six little chickies
seven little, eight little, nine little chickies
Ten little chickies in the nest.

Book: I Bought a Baby Chicken, by Kelly Milner Halls (counting book)

Song: “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”

(You know the song. This time just use the animals that begin with “C” — chicks, cows, and cats.)

Book: “C” Is for Clown, by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Extra/Alternate Books: Grumpy Cat, by Britta Techentrup, or Cats, Cats, Cats, by Leslea Newman, or your own favorite cow, chick, or cat book. Which is...?

Bearport, Miniature Horses, and Charity Raffle

BearportToday for Nonfiction Monday, I need to mention a publisher that is providing fun, interesting, educational, and high-quality nonfiction titles to children. They are also providing this ah-dorable stuffed bear for our charity raffle at the Kidlitosphere Conference. He’s huge and cuddly, and my kids already don’t want to part with him. But someone at KidlitCon09 will win Bearport along with a few new titles from the Bearport catalog.

One title that I I will not be parting with is Miniature Horses, because, well... look at it! Horses playing soccer in the living room! How cute is that? This title is one of the new series of Peculiar Pets, which features ferrets, iguanas, and potbellied pigs.

Miniature HorsesMiniature Horses talks about the features and history of the breed, along with their needs as pets. The text is perfect for elementary school readers, and no one will be able to resist the pages of wonderful pictures of tiny horses. Like all Bearport nonfiction, the book features a glossary, bibliography, and fast facts. Now, I love minis so much that I took the whole family to the wildly overpriced — yet insanely cute — Land of Little Horses, so I was completely enchanted with the book. And totally not parting with it even for charity.

KidLitCon 2009 - Washington DCHold it. Perhaps I should back up on the charity thing. At each conference, the host selects a cause and we have a raffle to raise money. The prizes are donated by authors, illustrators, publishers, and bloggers. This year I’ve turned to Donors Choose for our charity, and specifically to impoverished Washington, DC, schools. At this point I’ve selected two proposals to fund. I picked Literacy is Fun-damental because they need Spanish language books, which are hard to pick up at a discount or at a local book sale, and because the picture of the kids is soooo cute. I picked It All Starts With Reading! because they need titles for teens, and the picture of the empty bookcase is soooo sad.

If you aren’t coming to KidlitCon09 and would like to make a donation to these programs, we welcome your contribution. If you are wondering if there is any way to send books directly to these schools, I welcome you to investigate that and get back to me. If you would like to donate items for our raffle, please contact me at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com — especially if you have something besides books. I’m planning on sharing some of my MotherReader original recycled paper jewelry. Yes, it’s just as delightful as it sounds.

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today at Bookends, the Booklist Online blog.

Poetry Friday: eReader

I don’t usually participate in giveaways, but I couldn’t resist this one for two reasons. First, because it’s an eReader. Second, because when I read the prompt about important features for an electronic book reader, the things that popped into my head were... well, they started off standard and then became less so. I couldn’t stop playing with the notion and thinking that it was starting to feel like poetry. And then I was enjoying the distraction of tinkering with the thoughts and the words until I realized that I was — as the guidelines requested — writing a post about what I want in an eReader. It just happens to be a Poetry Friday post.
IREX eReader

I want my eReader
To be a toy for grown-ups
that makes me giddy with joy.
To be simple right from the start
with specialized features that wow me.
To be compact enough to put in my handbag
and large enough to read the screen with ease.
To hold so many books that I will never finish one
while on a long trip, and be lost without another.
To know which passages are important, lovely,
exquisite, and mark them so I can remember.
To keep track of titles that warm my heart,
or change my mind or expand my view.
To refuse books that are badly written
or that are harmful for my soul.
To tell me what to read next
and organize my thoughts.
I want my eReader.
That was fun. Poetry Friday is hosted today at Becky’s Book Reviews. Oh, and a Kidlitosphere Conference badge is now available for your blog. Wear it proudly.

KidLitCon 2009 — Washington DCHere’s the badge! Feel free to use it on your own sites to help get the word out about KidLitCon09!

Authors, Illustrators, Editors, and Publishers

KidLitCon 2009 - Washington DCFor authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers in the area of children’s and Young Adult literature, the KidLitosphere Conference on October 17th in Arlington, Virginia, offers an incredible opportunity to learn more about online reviewers, blog book tours, blog writing, and social media. Participants will also talk to forty book reviewing bloggers one-on-one about their books in a Meet the Author session. The dinner gives everyone a chance to socialize, talk, network, and collaborate. And all for a low $100 registration fee that includes breakfast and dinner.

Featured sessions for authors/illustrators include:
  • It’s Not All About Your Book: Writing Ideas for Author Blogs
  • Social Networking for Fun (and Profit?)
  • Building a Better Online Presence with Blogging
And several more sessions in the 8:00–5:00 p.m day. Attending authors will have the opportunity to set up a table and show their books to bloggers and promote fall titles. The small conference size allows for more chances for interaction among attendees.

Registration has been extended, so for more information and to register visit the conference page. Discount hotel rates are also available.

KidLitCon 2009 - Washington DCSpecial Bonus: Feel free to use this badge on your own sites to help get the word out!

ABC Storytime: B is for...

Here’s the next installment of the ABC Storytime, featuring some great “B” books. Enjoy.

The Letter B

Book: Grumpy Bird, by Jeremy Tankard

Fingerplay: “Two Little Dicky Birds”
Two little dicky birds sitting on a wall,
One named Peter, one named Paul.
Fly away, Peter; fly away Paul;
Come back Peter; come back Paul.
(With hand motions according to the words.)

Book: Dog and Bear, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Song: “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear”
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, show your shoe.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, I love you.
(With hand motions according to the words.)

Book: Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? written by Bill Martin, illustrated by Eric Carle

(Some call-and-response or singing or pausing to identify the animals can make this book more participatory.)

Book: Ha Ha, Baby! written by Kate Petty, illustrated by Georgie Birkett

Song: “Rock-a-Bye Baby”
Rock-a-bye Baby
On the tree top
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come Baby
Cradle and all.
(Kids can rock pretend babies or stuffed animals.)

Book: Bounce, written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Scott Menchin

(Then let the kids bounce on out.)

BBAW Interview Swaps

With more than a hundred and fifty book blogger interviews noted so far at the Book Blogger Appreciation Week site, it’s no wonder that my blog reader is filling up so quickly! I’m seeing a bunch of bloggers from the kidlitosphere taking in part in this interview trade, which is wonderful. I’m getting a chance to find out about blogs that I didn’t know before, and I’m sure we’re introducing some KidLit and YA bloggers to other folks. What a great opportunity!

I had signed up for an interview partner, but wasn’t paying attention enough to realize that I hadn’t been assigned one. My bad. By the time I noticed that the interview thing was moving on, I was afraid to be that last idiot person in the meeting who comes late and doesn’t have their agenda and forces everyone to dig through their papers to figure out if they got two copies of the agenda instead of one or could someone share the agenda or it’s okay someone will make another copy but nevermind I’ll do without, but what are we talking about now because you see, I don’t have the agenda.

I suffer that person too much in my life to be that person.

So I’ll take a page from the book of Everything Distils into Reading and interview myself:
What’s one thing that you’d like other book bloggers to know about the kidlitosphere community?

Well, KidLitosphere Central for sure, which offers an access point to the blogs, resources, news, and events in the area of children and Young Adult Literature. I’d also let them know about KidLitCon, taking place on October 17th in the Washington, DC, area, which is open to people who write, illustrate, and/or blog in the area of children’s and Young Adult Literature. Oh, and about the upcoming Cybils nominations, which are awards to given to books and judged by bloggers — again — in the area of children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Um, that was three things.

Yeah, but since I’m writing the questions I thought that it would be okay.

That’s really taking advantage of the interview structure. No wonder no one wanted you as a partner.

That’s not what happened! There were a lot of people who wanted to participate and it’s perfectly understandable that some would have been lost in the shuffle.

Okay, if that’s what you want to think...

This interview is so over!
Maybe the wrong approach. Instead, enjoy the real interviews of and presented by our KidLit/YA bloggers at a number of sites including:
Be sure to let me know in the comments if there are more KidLit or YA blogger pairs I should have noted.

Tracks of a Panda

Have you ever continued to look for something after you’ve found it? This happens to me a lot. Like I’ll have to replace a white shirt because it’s stained, or dated, or... ahem, tight. When I’m shopping, I’ll be looking for a replacement. But after I find a new white shirt, I keep noticing white shirts because I used to be looking for one. Not only can I not reset my search mode, I end up with three new white shirts because in continuing to look for one, I’ve found two more that I can’t live without.

It happens with books, too. I used to look for panda books for my younger daughter, who was fond of the animal. Now she’s moved on, but I have not. I keep noticing books about pandas. So even though I had a panda book recently for Nonfiction Monday, you’re going to have to hear about another one.

Tracks of a PandaTracks of a Panda, by Nick Dowson, came out in 2007, but I ran across it again recently. Intended for younger readers, the text is sparing and sweet with the sentences arranged in verse style. The story follows a mother and baby panda, starting with the animal as “small as a pine cone, pink as a blob of wriggling sunset.” (Perhaps Dowson was unaware of the standard description of “size and weight of a stick of butter.”) As the baby grows, the pair travels the mountain forests in search for more food, facing danger along the way. Facts about pandas are incorporated into the story and are explained in short captions. The illustrations of Yu Rong deserve particular notice for their gentle beauty. The watercolors are soft and evocative, with an Asian sensibility. Pages of the book are positively framable.

Nonfiction Monday round-up is hosted today at Wild About Nature, where you are sure to find books about something other than pandas.

Booklights, ForeWord, KidLitCon Meme, and BBAW Awards

If you’re a parent, you know of The Reading Game and have probably been forced to play along. Unsure? Maybe this will ring a bell: “Well, we can’t tear little Jacob away from the Harry Potter books. He’s sooooo advanced. What is your child reading?” Ah, yes — parental competition as practiced through one’s children. At Booklights, I talk about the only way to win The Reading Game, along with ways to help your child and your child’s teacher this school year. Head over and add your opinion. (And no, winning does not involve my trademark response of, “Oh, my girls are really into Balzac right now.”)

My special articles at ForeWord are done, but my relationship with this wonderful review site continues as part of their blog network. I believe they are still tweaking the format, but they’ll be pulling some blog posts over with a blog aggregrator, and MotherReader will be among them. That is, until they realize how I really write.

KidLitCon 2009 - Washington DCWe’re continuing the last-week push for registrations for the KidLitosphere Conference, but are keeping it fun with a meme for past conference attendees. It has started to make the rounds at Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Finding Wonderland. Posts are on the schedule for Fuse#8, 7-Imp, and Lee Wind. You don’t have to wait to be tagged to participate — in fact, I’d prefer that you not wait. Because while we are sure to have a flurry of posts after the conference that makes people wish they could have gone, what we need now is a flurry of posts about such conferences that makes people decide that they will go. The conference will likely be in the Midwest next year, so East-Coasters especially won’t want to miss this chance. Register now.

There are two more days to vote for the awards for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. In the Kidlit category you are on your own to choose among Jen Robinson Book Blog, Fuse#8, Seven Impossible Things, Maw Books, and Shelf Elf. I won’t direct you there or in the YA Book Blog category.

But I will draw your attention to several kidlitosphere blogs that are showing up through the rest of the categories. Pop over and put in your vote for such blogs as Chasing Ray, I’m Here, I’m Queer, What Do I Read?, 100 Scope Notes, Semicolon, Becky’s Book Reviews, BookDads, The Story Siren, Collecting Children’s Books, Guys Lit Wire, Color Online, and me.

Oh, and the winner of the Hiccupotamus books from the MotherReader tour is Deliah. Hey there Deliah, enjoy your prize!

The Hiccupotamus Blog Tour

I could talk at length about how funny and cute The HICCUPotamus is, or rave about the bright and humorous illustrations, or wax poetic about the clever and silly rhymes. I could do that, but honestly I couldn’t come close to the awesome descriptions given at Fuse#8 and 5 Minutes for Books on Tuesday and Wednesday of this Blog Tour. I can’t corner the adorable market when Aaron Zenz’s own kids have knocked it out of the park on the first day of the tour on his own blog, Bookie Woogie. (By the way, if you don’t know about this blog’s unique approach to children’s books, now is the time to correct that error by reading their post and commenting for the chance to win ten books. Yes, that’s ten books.) But what I can do is share some of the funniest responses ever to my MotherReader Five Ws Interview, with only slight trepidation that said interview reveals the author to be much funnier than... um, me. Enjoy.

The Great Crayon EscapeWhen did you start writing?

I was born with pencils in hand. Although this made for a very uncomfortable delivery for more than one of us involved, it led to many early writing experiences. Here’s the cover from one of my first stories, called “The Great Crayon Escape,” which you can read in its multicolored entirety here.

Where do you do your best thinking?

Typically in my head.

I’ve considered getting one of those puffy thought bubbles, so I can think ABOVE my head. But have you priced those things? Outrageous. I’m going to have to stick with “inside my head” for the time being.

Who inspires you, personally or professionally?

I have to choose either or? Gosh. Well, Personally is an awfully nice fellow. And I really don’t want to hurt Professionally’s feelings. But if I have to choose between the two... Personally. Yep. I’d say Personally inspires me more.

(Man, I hope Professionally isn’t going to be reading this...)

Why did you want to write this particular book?

Hiccup. Plus. Potamus. It all started with a single awful pun in 1996.

The title came first: “The Hiccupotamus.”

Nanoseconds later, the first verse arrived perfectly intact: “There was a hippopotamus / Who hiccuped quite-a-lotamus / And every time he got’emus / He’d fall upon his bottomus.”

After that it took eight years of pounding and hammering and scraping and carving for the rest of the book to come together.

The HiccupotamusThe funny thing is, I later discovered that the “hiccuping hippo” book is almost a genre unto itself. However I have NO idea why. I suspect it’s because they both start with “H.” But if that’s the case, where are all the hiccuping hamsters? Or hiccuping hedgehogs? Type Hippopotamus+Hiccup into Amazon sometime. (Mercer Mayer’s is the best, by the way.) It’s hard to believe that none of these others books were titled “Hiccupotamus” first. Seems like a no-brainer. What other good reason IS there for creating a hiccuping hippo than to use such a wonderfully horrid pun?

Hey I just took my advice — I typed Hippopotamus+Hiccup into Amazon, and I see that Mercer Mayer wrote his on Jan 1, 1976. That’s six days before I was born. That’s cool!

Wait a minute... what was the actual question? Oh yeah, why did I write The Hiccupotamus. I think that Mercer Mayer/birth connection explains everything pretty well.

What’s next for you?

I illustrated a book called Nugget on the Flight Deck (written by Patricia Newman) that comes out this month side by side with The Hiccupotamus. I also have a number of manuscripts that are in publishers’ hands right now. I’m waiting and praying for one of these projects to green-light. If it doesn’t happen soon, I’m going to have to abandon the world of kid lit and go work in a factory. Ha, ha, ha! Actually... that’s true. This is the only answer where I haven’t joked. Publishers? Yoo-hoo? Any green lights out there?

Admit it, you’re intrigued about the book this clever guy wrote. Well, you can win two signed copies of The Hiccupotamus — one for you and one for a friend — by leaving a comment on today’s post with the title of any of your other favorite funny picture books. (Contest open to U.S. mailing addresses only.)


KidLitCon 2009 - Washington DCOkay people, it’s go time. There is only ONE WEEK remaining to register for the KidLitosphere Conference on October 17th in Washington, DC, and to seal the great rate offered by the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel.


Many have registered, but there is still room for more. Now I understand about procrastinating — more than you’ll ever know. I understand about weighing costs — says the currently unemployed library person. I understand about wondering if it will be worth it — having flown across the country to attend the Portland conference.

If you’re procrastinating, I’m giving you a deadline of one week. After that I can’t focus any more energy on registration and have to turn my attention to the conference itself. So, the time to sign up is pretty much now.

If you’re weighing the costs, I’ve broken down some of the expenses here. I think you’d be hard pressed to get blogging sessions, networking time, and a nice dinner for $100 anywhere else but here.

If you’re wondering whether it will be worth it, I can only assure you that I haven’t talked to anybody after the two other conferences I attended who left without feeling that it was a fantastic experience. And in that vein, I’m going to introduce a meme to make the rounds of previous KidLitosphere Conference attendees. Please pass it on.

Why did you decide to attend the KidLitosphere Conference?

I went to the first one that Robin Brande started by suggesting that it would be fun to get together. Then we thought that if we going to get together, we might as well share some ideas in sessions. And if we were going to share some ideas, then wouldn’t it be great if authors showed their books? It was amazing. After that I was sold on the next one, even knowing it was across the country, because it was so exciting to meet these bloggers and authors in person.

Who was most like their blog? Who was least like their blog?

In Jen Robinson I found the same kindness and generosity that I also find in her blog. Elizabeth Bird had the same quirky humor and great storytelling that I see in Fuse#8. Colleen is just as opinionated as she is on Chasing Ray (in a good way). Both Adrienne and Farida were both quieter than I would have thought from their blogs, but extremely delightful.

What surprised you at the conference?

I remain surprised that the KidLitosphere is the first book blogging group to my knowledge that has been able to pull together conferences like these. Knowing that makes me want to work harder to support our own community. I have to mention my biggest moment of surprise at the Portland conference was when a gentleman stood up and talked to the group at the first session and it was well-known author Eric Kimmel.

What will you always remember about the last conference?

Lee Wind. How many people will say that? He was a model for how one should approach a conference. He had notes, he met everybody, he networked, he created new initiatives, he made more friends in one weekend than I have in twenty years. I’m sorry that he isn’t able to attend this year, because no one should have to miss the Lee Wind Experience — soon to be a ride at Busch Gardens.

Did you blog about the conference?

Yes, right here.

I’ll tag five of the blogs featured in the shortlists of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Jen Robinson Book Blog; Fuse#8; Seven Impossible Things; Chasing Ray, and I’m Here, I’m Queer, What Do I Read?.

If you’re one of these bloggers, past on the meme. If you’re not one of these bloggers, go and vote in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards — not forgetting our other KidLitosphere nominees like 100 Scope Notes, Semicolon, Becky’s Book Reviews, BookDads, The Story Siren, Collecting Children’s Books, Guys Lit Wire, Maw Books, Shelf Elf, and me.

ABC Storytime: A is for...

Last fall I introduced ABC Storytime here at MotherReader, a weekly preschool program centered on the letters of the alphabet, and I’m going to repeat it this year. I’ll be striving to make it a weekly feature. I have done these programs in my library for years, and have a full complement of them to share. Perhaps they’ll be useful to beginning librarians, preschool teachers, day care providers, homeschooling parents, or just plain parents.

I may skip words to some of the songs if they are particularly obvious. I also may have to play around with some of the songs or rhymes if I’m not sure of the copyright issue. As to my book selection, I generally pick books that have the letter of the week featured in the title. For instance, my pick below of Snip, Snap! What’s That? for alligator is unusual. I also welcome additional book titles in the comments, especially books that work well as read-alouds.

The Letter A

Book: Alphabet Rescue, by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

Song: “The Alphabet Song”

Book: Snip Snap! What’s That? written by Mara Bergman, illustrated by Nick Maland

Rhyme: “Five Little Monkeys”
Five little monkeys swinging in a tree
Teasing Mr. Alligator,
Can’t catch me, you can’t catch me.
Along comes Mr. Alligator quiet as can be
(Continue with “Four little monkeys…”)

Book: Up, Up, Up! It’s Apple Picking Time, written by Jody Fickes Shapiro, illustrated by Kitty Harvill

Song: “Apples and Bananas”
I like to eat, I like to eat
I like to eat, eat apples and bananas…
(Repeat, substituting a, e, i, o, and u sounds for the vowels all through the song.)

Book: I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track, written by Joshua Prince, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan

Song: “The Ants Go Marching”
The ants go marching one by one
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one
The little one stops to have some fun.
And they all go marching
Down to the ground to get out of the rain
Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum
(Continue to four, using “The little one stops to say ‘no more!’”)

A Political Interlude

Obama is giving a speech to students on Tuesday that will focus on the need to work hard and stay in school. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will include something about the value of reading books as well. Seems like pretty basic stuff. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why people are losing their shit over this.

Here’s a sample of the opposition’s viewpoint, as reported by The Washington Post:
Some conservatives, driven by radio pundits and bloggers, are urging schools and parents to boycott the address. They say Obama is using the opportunity to promote a political agenda and is overstepping the boundaries of federal involvement in schools.

Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer said in a statement he was “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

“As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” said Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”
Political agenda? Socialist ideology? Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? WTF!

I was agitated by the shout-downs in town hall meetings and the gun-toting nutjobs outside of them, but at least I understood the fear behind those actions. Health care reform is big and complicated and kind of scary. There’s a lot of bad information out there that people take as fact instead of doing the reading themselves.

In fact — if I might digress for a moment — the best thing I’ve seen on health care reform and the real issues is a four-minute video from John Green. Actually, the best best thing is from ThoughtBubbler, which takes John Green’s words and puts them with illustrations that brought my eighth grader up to speed. It should be required viewing for everyone before saying one word in the health care debates.

Anyway, my point is that there are a lot of actual issues to expend your energy on, and this back-to-school speech is so not one of them. If you think it is, then it is time to turn off Fox news, go outside, and take a deep breath. Let it out — along with all the displaced anxiety that’s feeding these ridiculous debates. Now is the time to Open Your Minds, America, before we tear this country apart.

Booklights, ForeWord, and Carnival

Today I’ve got a few penguin books over at Booklights. Wow, that sounded even more boring as I typed it. Maybe you should visit Jen’s post on series books instead.

At ForeWord I pulled together some of our thoughts on book buzz from the KidLitosphere Listserv discussion. Laurel Snyder contributed her extremely clever, funny and spot-on summary of the issue. I then attempted to categorize different types of buzz with examples, key words, and actor equivalents. I know you all have opinions on the topic, so head over and share them at ForeWord.

I missed the Carnival of Children’s Literature because I was in Virginia Beach getting in our last ocean visit of the summer. But actually, that works out well because the Labor Day weekend is bound to be a quiet blogging week, allowing all of us some blog reading time. And what better place to see the best posts of August then at the official round-up of such things at the Carnival of Children’s Literature? Go and enjoy.

Now with the middle-school Open House behind me — where the kids looked like real teenagers, heaven help me — I’ve got the elementary school version today along with school supply shopping. I know. We’re like the only place in the country who isn’t back to school yet. In Virginia they call it the Labor Day Law, and we’re soooo happy with it. Not.


KidLitCon 2009 - Washington DCAs folks return from their vacations, it’s time for a total reminder about the KidLitosphere Conference, taking place on October 17th, 2009, in Washington, DC. The conference is open to bloggers — and wannabe bloggers — in children’s and young adult literature — which includes YA/Kidlit authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers who blog or would like to blog.

The day starts with breakfast from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m, where you can catch up with old friends or meet new ones. The sessions go from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will cover:
  • The Blog Within: An Interview With Your Inner Blogger
  • Building a Better Blog: Best Practices, Ideas, and Tips
  • Split Reviewer/Author Sessions:
    It’s All About the Book: Better Book Reviews
    It’s Not About Your Book: Writing Ideas for Blogging Authors
  • Split Reviewer/Author Sessions:
    Social Networking for Fun (and Profit?)
  • Authors, Publishers, Reviewers (and ARCs): A Panel Conversation
  • Coming Together, Giving Back: Building Community, Literacy, and the Reading Message (KidLitosphere Central/PBS/RIF/Literacy)
There will also be a “Meet the Author” time during the day, where writers and illustrators can share their books. A fun dinner to mix and mingle is scheduled for 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. with the continuing party moving to the hotel bar. The registration fee for all of this — including the breakfast and dinner — is only $100. It’s a total bargain.

We have tour of the Library of Congress scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon and a tour of the children's section at 3:00. On Friday evening, we’ll gather for dinner near the hotel around 6:00 p.m. Sunday’s expedition may involve a local DC bookstore, Politics and Prose. We're still working on the details.

Rooms are currently on hold at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel for the amazing rate of $109 a night. They will only be held until September 16th, and if our block is filled before then, that low rate may not be available.

It should be noted that the hotel is a mile from National Airport and free shuttle service is available. A Metro Station is on the same block, allowing travel to Washington in minutes. In fact, downtown DC is only two miles away. The hotel is right next to the Crystal City Shops and a few blocks from the upscale Fashion Center at Pentagon City. If you want more information about the hotel, visit the website of the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel.

The registration form is available at KidLitosphere Central. There are a limited number of spaces available, so please sign up soon. Here are some of the bloggers who will be coming to the conference:
And authors and publishers including: