105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Colbert and Elizabeth Alexander


Inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander talks with Stephen Colbert about poetry. She gets in some wonderful explanations, even as he gets the laughs with such questions as: “What’s the difference between a metaphor and a lie?” Good stuff.

Poetry Friday round-up is hosted at Adventures in Daily Living. Hey, did I just submit the first video for Poetry Friday? I’m a maverick.

Edited to add: For some great weekend reading, don’t miss the January Carnival of Children’s Literature hosted at Under the Covers. Great timing. Now I have something to do at work today. I mean, on Saturday... on my own time.

Notables, Best Books, and Mo

Ah, the ALSC and YALSA lists. These are a few of my favorite things. In the ALSC 2009 Notable Children’s Books, let me note the inclusion of a couple of picture books that made the Cybils short list. Namely, A Visitor for Bear, How to Heal a Broken Wing, and Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek. I can’t believe that Wabi Sabi didn’t make this list either. What did Ed Young do to librarians to deserve this total shut-out. Moon them?

2009 Best Books for Young Adults has some great selections — some of which I’ve even read. Hats off to Portland KidLit Conference attendee Christine Fletcher for getting a spot on the Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults with Ten Cents a Dance. Not too shabby.

Another of my favorite things, along with ALA booklists and whiskers on kittens, is my statcounter, because occasionally the keyword searches amuse me. Today the keywords at the top of my statistics — with ten uses — was this search: Is Mo Willems married? Now, I can see wanting to know such a thing. But I can’t figure out if ten women had to find that out today or just one woman needed to know it with a compulsive certainty. (In case that comes up again, yes, Mo Willems is married with a little girl and a house in Massachusetts.)

ABC Storytime: M is for...

Before I get into the ABC Storytime, I have to point out two things. First, color me impressed with this Neil Gaiman interview at Just One More Book, one day after his Newbery win. Worlds better than the spot on The Today Show. (Quoting from Facebook friends: “Sara wonders why the ALA winners still go on the Today Show. How about some place that appreciates them more? Like SNL?”)

Second, once the morning coffee kicks in, I’m heading over to a discussion at Jen Robinson’s book page about a campaign to encourage reading aloud to kids. I know for twelve years our bedtime reading ritual was as routine as eating dinner, and in many ways was just as important. Can we get that concept out to all parents? Discuss.

Okay, now ABC Storytime:

The Letter M

Book: The Grumpy Morning, by Pamela Duncan Edwards, or Good Morning Sam, by Marie-Louise Gay

Song: “Good Morning Song”

Book: The Magical Mystical Marvelous Coat, by Catherine Ann Cullen [I really love this book.]

Book: When Mommy Was Mad, by Lynne Jonell [This one, too.]

Rhyme: “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed.
(Continue with four, three, two, one monkeys.)
Book: Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, by Eileen Christelow

Book: Today is Monday, by Eric Carle, or Meow Monday, by Phyllis Root

Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and More

Yes, I missed the Youth Media Awards announcements. I took my Girl Scouts snow tubing on the teacher work day. Of course, I wish I had known that it was a teacher work day for all the surrounding counties. Perhaps then we wouldn’t have had a three-hour wait for our tubing time and wouldn’t have had to fight with crowds the entire time and I wouldn’t have come home so late and wouldn’t have run out of steam to the point where I don’t even care any more about the awards.

I’m sorry, I’m obviously not myself to have even said such a thing. I admit to feeling a little disconnected from the Newbery Awards because out of all the winners, I only read The Underneath. But I did think it would get an honor award, so I was right there. I did know all the Caldecott winners, and while I may not have chosen them myself, I didn’t find them a surprise. I had also thought that How I Learned Geography was going to win an honor award. Apparently, I am not even trying to predict the winners anymore. Just the honors.

Popping around through my blog reader I noticed others’ reactions, more interesting than mine:


Newbery Medal: The Graveyard Book
Newbery Honors: The Underneath; The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba; Savvy; After Tupac & D Foster

Caldecott Medal: House in the Night
Caldecott Honors: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever; How I Learned Geography; River of Words: the Story of William Carlos Williams

Printz Award: Jellicoe Road
Printz Honors: Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume 2; The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks; Tender Morsels

Geisel Award: Are You Ready to Play Outside? [by Mo Willems]
Geisel Honors: Chicken Said Cluck; One Boy; Stinky; Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator

Coretta Scott King Author Award: We Are the Ship
Coretta Scott King Author Honors: The Blacker the Berry; Keeping the Night Watch; Becoming Billie Holiday

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award: The Blacker the Berry
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors: We Are the Ship; Before John Was a Jazz Giant; The Moon Over Star

Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe New Talent Award: Bird

Schneider Family Book Award for Young Children: Piano Starts Here: the Young Art Tatum

Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grades: Waiting for Normal

Schneider Family Book Award for Teens: Jerk, California

Sibert Medal: We Are the Ship
Sibert Honors: Bodies From Ice; What to Do About Alice?

Pura Belpré Illustrator Award: Just in Case
Pura Belpré Illustrator Honors: Papa and Me; The Storyteller’ s Candle; What Can You Do With a Rebozo?

Pura Belpré Author Award: The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom
Pura Belpré Author Honors: Just in Case; Reaching Out; The Storyteller’s Candle

Three Years Later: 100 Things About Me

Today this blog is three years old. It seemed like a good time to repost one of my favorite things ever — 100 Things About Me.

The 100 Things meme was going around a little before I began blogging, but I liked the concept of it. Break down the essence of who you are into a simple list. Some people missed the point by starting with statistics from their driver’s licenses. Other lists read like poetry. It’s harder than you think to get to one hundred things, but I highly recommend it as an exercise for writing, self-knowledge, or mental challenge.

The best thing about this list is that I’ve made only minor changes to it since its creation three years ago. What’s true about me... well, it stayed true. The blog has made some changes over three years, but for the most part, it too has stayed true to its roots.

I know that blog birthdays can inspire well wishes. That’s a good thing. I also know that it can be hard to make a comment when you feel like you’re saying the same thing as everyone else. But now instead you can mention the number or numbers below that you like best, that are most like you, or that inspire you. Then we’ll do it again in another three years.
  1. I read almost compulsively.
  2. Some people think I’m funny.
  3. I am a packrat.
  4. I usually know where to find things.
  5. I don’t like having my picture taken.
  6. People’s stories intrigue me.
  7. I could probably sing professionally.
  8. I am a dedicated mother.
  9. I love to help people.
  10. I can be a good liar.
  11. I crave sweets.
  12. My current weight bothers me.
  13. I still don’t exercise enough.
  14. I’ll never, never understand how a computer works.
  15. I love cats.
  16. I don’t like dogs.
  17. But I’ve been known to make exceptions.
  18. I don’t drive in D.C. because it scares me.
  19. I hum in public places.
  20. And sometimes sing out loud.
  21. Without my glasses, I’m helpless.
  22. I would drive an hour to spend time with a friend.
  23. I hate indoor pools.
  24. I love indoor roller rinks.
  25. I cry too easily.
  26. I don’t get the point of frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  27. Or frozen garlic bread.
  28. I’m not sure who my best friend is.
  29. My family is my first priority.
  30. I have ten watches.
  31. But I am never on time.
  32. I talk on my cell phone while I’m driving.
  33. I’m always surprised when it rings.
  34. I don’t really read the newspaper.
  35. But I’m trying to read more of it.
  36. My kitchen has to be clean.
  37. But nothing else is.
  38. I love shopping.
  39. I really love a bargain.
  40. I will never own a bread machine.
  41. Or a quesadilla maker.
  42. I can’t decide whether to go to grad school.
  43. Or whether to get laser surgery on my eyes.
  44. Or what dentist to go to.
  45. Basically, I can’t make decisions.
  46. I’d like to live by the ocean.
  47. Summer is my favorite season.
  48. I get a great deal of my news from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
  49. I can rollerblade fairly well.
  50. I would like to publish a book.
  51. I have a terrible sense of direction.
  52. I hold up my hands to tell my left from right.
  53. I don’t use the ATM.
  54. I think I’m allergic to melons.
  55. I love New York City, but I can’t imagine living there.
  56. I can’t follow football.
  57. I’ve seen 90 of the 100 top-grossing movies.
  58. I often drive with no music whatsoever just to enjoy the silence.
  59. I can identify four different kinds of cows.
  60. Centipedes freak me out.
  61. I usually have a crush on someone.
  62. Which my husband knows.
  63. But not always.
  64. Considering I work in a library, I buy a lot of books.
  65. Most of them are used.
  66. In college, I was a psychology major.
  67. I used my major after college for one year.
  68. Unless you include counseling my crazy family.
  69. I yell at my kids too much.
  70. When I let it out, I have a funky sense of style.
  71. I am not very patient.
  72. Except at work.
  73. Stupid people drive me crazy.
  74. I have been to Europe and Canada, but not Mexico.
  75. I am a natural flirt.
  76. British accents melt me like butter.
  77. When people spell words out, I can’t follow it.
  78. I am not a morning person.
  79. If I don’t shower by noon, I won’t shower.
  80. I’ve lost the ability to truly sleep it off.
  81. Which makes for occasional tough weekends.
  82. I’ve had my heart broken.
  83. Sunrises make me sad.
  84. I still love stuffed animals.
  85. When salt spills, I throw it over my left shoulder.
  86. I wish I appreciated poetry more than I do.
  87. Before this blog, I had written seven poems.
  88. And two haiku.
  89. I can’t always work the DVD player.
  90. For years I drove, and loved, a VW Karmann Ghia.
  91. I wrecked it in the only car accident I ever had.
  92. In 24 years of driving, I’ve gotten two speeding tickets.
  93. Which is amazing luck.
  94. I love arts and crafts.
  95. I tend to repeat myself.
  96. I tend to repeat myself.
  97. When my alarm goes off, I snooze for nine minutes.
  98. I don’t always feel like a grown-up.
  99. I don’t share the good chocolate with anyone.
  100. I still make wishes when I blow out the candles.

Change Has Come

I rarely request a title from the publisher, but when I heard about this book, I had to ask. Obama and Kadir Nelson? Lay it on me.

Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American SpiritChange Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit was a bit of a surprise. For one thing, it’s small. Like smaller than a breadbox. (Does anyone use an actual breadbox or do we just use the expression?) I was expecting a regular picture book and instead it’s the size of a half-sheet of paper. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I thought you should know.

The second thing shouldn’t have surprised me at all since I’d seen the cover of the book, but it threw me anyway. This isn’t We Are the Ship Kadir Nelson or even Please, Puppy, Please Kadir Nelson. You won’t find his intensely real and lush painting here. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I thought you should know.

What you will find are significant phrases from Obama’s speeches paired with sketches inspired by those words. Some of the sketches are very loosely rendered, like one featuring the backs of several people at voting booths. There are scenes from the rallies that are simply sketched, yet capture the feeling of the crowd and the energy. The illustrations of Obama are the most meticulously drawn, with an accurate and vibrant representation of the man.

Change Has Come offers a quiet, short space for reflection on this amazing election. I kept returning to one picture of a serious, resolute Obama that was accompanied by this phrase: “The audacity to hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.” Because it is tomorrow.

The American Journey of Barack Obama (and the Greatest Gift to Future Leaders)

As I watched the Inauguration yesterday, an insight came to me as to the one gift that we give our children as future leaders of this great nation:

Digital photography.

You see, when I was growing up — as when all of our current leaders were growing up — the cameras were crap. The pictures were often blurry or overexposed. Someone’s elbow was in the shot. Or there wasn’t enough light or too much flash. Or the pictures simply faded in their albums. Let’s not even start on Polaroid.

It didn’t really matter then if the photos weren’t great, because these were our memories. Without digital cameras, parents took the picture and hoped for the best. With the cost of film and processing, people didn’t take that many pictures. And it was fine.

Until you become President of the United States and Life writes a book about you and all the pictures covering your earliest years are not good.

The American Journey of Barack ObamaDuring the slower parts of the Inaugural day, I skimmed through The American Journey of Barack Obama. I won the book from Book Dads (Thanks guys!) and was really looking forward to spending time in the Obama world. But now I realize that I was mostly looking forward to the photography of a Life publication. What I didn’t think about was that only a fraction of Obama’s journey was photographed by the experts. A great deal of the book relies on the photographs from his family. Pretty much the same type of blurry, overexposed, faded, poorly framed photos that I grew up with.

I still enjoyed the book and am looking forward to really reading it, including the essays at the end from some great writers. I can still highly recommend it for Obama fans. But personally, I may look around for a book that only chronicles the campaign with fantastic photography. I’ll also look at my digital camera with new respect, knowing that if one of my daughters is ever leader of the free world, the biographers will have more than five thousand pictures from which to choose.

Leaders of tomorrow, we give you digital photography. You’re welcome.

The Inauguration

Barack ObamaGoing to an Inaugural Ball is a surreal experience. You are dressed like a movie star, but you are checking in for the party at 5:00 p.m. like you were a senior citizen catching the Early Bird special at Denny’s. You’re prepared to wait in the cold with your warm dress coat and cashmere scarf, but there is nothing you can do about your feet frozen in their strappy Prada heels you bought on eBay. The music is too loud to talk, but you don’t know anyone to chat with anyway — even though you share the crowded space with hundreds of people. But for all this, the five minutes that President Obama and his wife grace the room will make the experience completely magical.

Or so I hear.

I was at home cleaning the hamster cage and wondering why the stylish Mrs. Obama chose to wear the dress of a 1980s debutante.

Like Cinderella, I didn’t get invited to the ball. And without a fairy godmother to swoop me into DC over the closed bridges (do pumpkin coaches count as official vehicles?), I stayed home with the family for the day and watched the whole Inauguration on TV. But it is a really good TV.

My family vetoed the trip downtown. Repeatedly, since I kept bringing it up. I think it was the last rally that did them in, and I honestly can’t blame them. The day before the election we spent an hour in traffic, ended up parking our car in a subdivision, walked two miles to the rally, waited an extra hour for Obama to get there, slowly made our way out with a crowd of 100,000 people, and walked two miles back to the car. The idea that the Inauguration could be more difficult to attend was far too much for my family.

And really, until they closed our highways and bridges into the District, Virginia had been lucky in the Obama camp. My family saw him three times. At an event in Fairfax, we were so close that could see his every gesture. As he walked out, my youngest got to shake his hand.

So yesterday, I left the TV on all day and we watched. We were reverently silent as he took the oath of office and as he gave his address. We smiled at Sasha’s thumbs-up gesture to her dad. We cheered as the millions of people on the mall waved their flags. I couldn’t be there, unless I acknowledge that we were all there. In spirit, in dreams realized, in hope unfurled — we were all there.

Eh, who am I kidding? She was there. She was really there (waiting for the story...). I was on the couch in my Obama T-shirt and ripped jeans eating Fritos. But it was still good.

The Cybils Experience

On Wednesday I met one of the judges of the Cybils Fiction Picture Books and handed over five copies of titles from my library for her to use. On Thursday, I mailed my review copies to three other judges to fill in the books they couldn’t find at their libraries. While I’m not done in my overall role as organizer, I’m feeling like I’ve passed the torch to the next set of bloggers.

I could tell you what it’s like being a Cybils Fiction Picture Book panelist, but Stephanie at Children’s Literature Book Club has such a fantastic write-up that I feel safe in directing you there for the description of the process and experience. I’ll add that I love being part of this panel because I enjoy shortlists of awards more than the final winners. Plus I like the challenge of finding and reading so many books.

The Cybils represent a balance of literary quality and kid appeal. I’d say that the shortlists also need a balance of the best representations of that goal and the best shortlist of books are diverse in style, culture, and reading level. I find working under both mandates to be challenging and exciting. I think that we’ve passed along a wonderful list of books for our judges to consider.

My absolute favorite books did make it on the list. I also had some compromises of books I didn’t love, but thought were good additions. In a perfect Cybils world, the three books I would have liked to see included are Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears, One Hen — How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference, and Sourpuss And Sweetie Pie.

I’d love to say more about each, but instead I’m off to work. IOU three reviews. ’kay?

A Mo Willems Encounter

I haven’t written about Mo Willems for a while. Partially because I didn’t want to seem completely obsessed — and partially because of the “Cease and Desist” order. I didn’t say much about The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, even though I loved it. I stayed quiet as the new Elephant and Piggie books came out, even though I had waxed poetic about the first ones with the ladies at 7-Imp. I didn’t even squee on this blog about getting the Mo Willems sketchbook for 2009 as a Christmas card (though I did squee internally and it was quite painful). But now, with a new stand-alone book out and with the restraining order expired, it was time to go to a Mo book signing.

I brought the fourth grader so I could look legit. We got to the Barnes and Noble about thirty minutes early and it was already packed. I bought the book, The Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, and got number 74 for the signing. Eventually they would give out tickets past two hundred. And each ticket was per family. That’s a lot of fans.

Since there were so many people there, it was hard to find a good place to see Mo (and be seen by Mo). I had the kid sit on the floor up front. In fact, right up front, since we came over from the side instead of from the back like normal people. In retrospect, this seems quite rude. Oh, well. While most of the adults were standing in the back, I managed to find a place to the side behind a stationary display and adjusted my view by wrenching the sign off the top. Perfect. (I put it back later.)

I talked with a mom who voiced her concern that her son wouldn’t stop reading his Star Wars book when Mo came out. As I had a similar concern that my daughter wouldn’t remove her iPod headphones, I saved us both my reminding our kids. They took it well. The mom turned out to be a blogger too, which I wouldn’t find out until later, when she commented here. She got arguably the best picture of the reading — maybe of any book signing ever.

Mo was introduced by the store manager, who requested no flash photography or videotaping. Oh, well. Mo read from The Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed and was wonderful. The book was funny and enjoyable. Mo was a delightfully expressive reader. I actually found it hard to concentrate since I was trying to get my camera to take pictures without flash but in focus. Not easy.

He took questions from the kids, and my clever darling asked the first one, which was “What was your inspiration in writing this book?” Mo said that it was a good question (That’s my kid!) and said that his inspiration comes in the mail each month, and “it’s called a mortgage.” The adults all laughed. Another child asked how you say Knuffle Bunny, and Mo replied, “That all depends on how you pronounce it.” Again, laughter. He went on to say that he pronounced the hard K, because it comes from a Dutch word, but that whoever reads it can pronounce it however they want — just not around him. Another child asked if he was the man in the Pigeon books. Mo answered that the man in the books is the bus driver, but added, “If anyone in the pigeon books is me... it’s the pigeon, unfortunately.”

After the questions, Mo read from his new Elephant and Piggie book, Are You Ready to Play Outside? Again, great book, great presentation. Then it was time for the signing. As I grabbed my kid from the front before she got trampled, I was able to catch Mo’s eye. He did not — as you might guess — duck and run, but instead said, approximately, “Hey! Blogger!” He shook my daughter’s hand, and said it was nice to see us there. I told him that we were glad that we could make it and we’d get in line for our signing. Notice the perfect decorum displayed there.

At our turn, my daughter asked when the Pigeon was going to get clothes, now that the Mole Rat had them. Mo replied that the Pigeon spends all his money on bus-driving lessons. I had Mo sign my sketchbook. (He signed it, “Rock On Mo Reader! Thanx for the support! MO!”) I asked how he was liking his new home outside the city. He said that he did like it, and that there were lots of children in the neighborhood for his daughter. I said that it was good to see him, and he said it was good to see me too (Squeee!) and we shook hands.

I had a contact high for an hour. I think I’m addicted. Again.

Israel and Hamas

I’m not going to get into this at any length, but I had to say that the best thing I’ve read on the conflict in Gaza is from KidsPost. It clearly lays out the history, the issues, and the conflict in a way that doesn’t make me feel like an idiot for not knowing everything.

Actually, the connection to reading children’s books just came to me. I think I’m spoiled by reading good children’s nonfiction, which explains things plainly and without preconceived notions of what the reader should already know.

Or maybe being submerged in children’s literature has reduced my reading level, thus making me unable to comprehend articles in The Washington Post intended for adults.

You know, one or the other.

Blog Award: Premios Dardo

I’ve been given the Premios Dardo (Prize Darts) Award by Book Dads. This award “acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.”

Wow, Book Dads, I’m honored! I don’t know that I live up to transmitting those values every day. I don’t even shower every day. So, really, thank you!

Passing this award on to just five bloggers is truly difficult as there are so many out there who deserve this award, but there are some people who come top of mind.
  • Mitali Perkins deserves recognition for her commitment to the discussion and cause of diversity in our literature — and for that matter, in our lives.

  • Jen Robinson continually has me in awe with all of her work for literacy and plain ol’ good reading, while at the same time supporting the greater kidlit community and writing detailed book reviews.

  • Sara Lewis Holmes at Read Write Believe is my touchstone in working for your goals, believing in yourself, and reaching out to others.

  • Vivian at HipWriterMama conveys the delicate balance of living life as a parent and as a writer, and choses to use that experience to challenge us all to live our best lives.

  • Kelly Herold and Anne Boles Levy have both sacrificed their own blogs to the greater cause of the Cybils Awards — something that enriches our whole kidlit community. They amaze me with their dedication.
I am thrilled to be in the same community with these wonderful people — and they are truly special people — and to call them my friends. They inspire me, they encourage me, and they keep me going. If you don’t know their blogs, get to know them. And say “hi” for me.

National Delurking Week Extended!!!

DelurkIt seems that National Delurking Week caught everyone off guard, and that’s a shame because it’s a great chance to meet some of your less comment-prone readers. So I’m extending it to this week. Yeah, who’s going to stop me? The Delurking Police? I think not.

Once again, I’m using the graphic I got from Paper Napkin in 2007, but there are plenty more out there through Google or Yahoo images. Go find your favorite and encourage folks to delurk on your blog, too. There’s such fun in finding a quiet but dedicated reader. Sometimes you find a new blog or even get a compliment — or a pony! Okay, maybe not the pony.

I hope my readers will continue to delurk at MotherReader, because I need far more external validation than you would ever guess. In fact, if I don’t reach my magic number by the end of the week, I’m shutting the whole blog down and taking up water polo. People say it’s the new golf.

National Delurking Week

Delurk Hey people, apparently it’s National Delurking Week!!! I know, I also thought it was next week. That will teach me to pay attention, because first it’s National Delurking Week, and next thing you know it’s Get to Know Your Customer Day and then the month is practically shot.

I’m using the graphic I got from Paper Napkin in 2007. It is one of my favorite things ever. There are plenty more out there through Google or Yahoo images. Go find your favorite and encourage folks to delurk on your blog too.

But back to me. Take a minute to say hello. Let me know you’re out there reading this time-sucking distraction I affectionately call my blog. If you are stuck on what to say and extolling my fantasticness seems awkward, you can use this easy topic: Name one of your favorite children’s or teen books of 2008.

Ten Dollar Dreams

Along with my seventh grader’s cell phone (which she adores past all logic) and my fourth grader’s iPod shuffle (which she has barely removed from her person), the best gift the family received was the DVD of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. We enjoyed watching the show again, but have been completely taken over by the musical commentary. The entire thing is sung, and none of it is actually commentary on what is happening on screen. It features songs like “Ninja Ropes,” about the game they all played on set, and “Better Than Neil,” in which Nathan Fillion describes all the ways he’s better than Neil Patrick Harris. But the song that keeps coming back to me is from Groupie #2, in which she pays the director to be on the musical commentary with her “Ten Dollar Solo.” I can’t get this part out of my head:
They say Hollywood is heartless
And only the strongest survives
But I like it plenty,
I gave Joss a twenty.
And got back a dream and two fives.
I love the last line. Totally perfect. It’s also about reaching dreams, which is on my mind in the new year. HipWriterMama started me on that path with my favorite quote, and then hooked me into her Thirty Day Challenge. I’m focusing on organizing. Not that I’m saying that my dream is finding matching socks without turning the house upside down, but it’s close.

My dream may run more in line with Robin Brande’s challenge, which encourages writers to, you know, write instead of over-thinking the writing or just thinking about writing. I’m not sure that her exact approach is for me, but I get the point. You have to work for it.

Going back to the line from “Ten Dollar Solo,” part of the appeal is the idea of a dream that comes easily. I could use that about now. For instance, I’ve written a picture book for preschoolers that’s lightly funny with a touch of wordplay, and it’s ready to find a publishing home. Interested? I’ll give you ten bucks.

ABC Storytime: L is for...

I had some more Cybils stuff and even some Deep Thoughts, but I’m just not in the mood. Instead, I’ll continue my ABC Storytime feature with the letter L. Today’s program includes many classic rhymes, and I have to admit that the Ladybug one gives me pause. I mean, “Your house is on fire”? What kind of sick image is that for kids? Sometimes I call on the older children to help me rewrite it, and it becomes very silly very fast. (Um... anyone want to guess why the Hebrew version of the Carle book is the first one listed on Amazon?)

The Letter L

Book: Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems

Book: Ladybug Girl, by David Soman, or The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle

Rhyme: “Ladybug, Ladybug”
Ladybug, Ladybug
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire
And your children all gone;
All except one
And that’s little Ann
For she had crept under
The frying pan.

Book: Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, or Russell and the Lost Treasure, by Rob Scotton

Rhyme: “Little Bo Peep”
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And can’t tell where to find them
Leave them alone,
And they’ll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them

Book: One Little Lamb, by Elaine Greenstein

Song: “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
Mary had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb.
Mary had a little lamb
whose fleece was white as snow.

Book: Lizzy’s Do’s and Don’ts, by Jessica Harper

Cybils Finalists: Fiction Picture Books

Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: the Cybils Finalists. There are some amazing books on these shortlists. And some books I’ve never heard of, which means I’ve got some reading to do!

I was the organizer and panelist for the Fiction Picture Book list, and from that perspective I can tell you how hard it was this year. In our category we had 186 nominations, and about a third of those books we had to find on our own — including four of the books that ended up on our shortlist. I was lucky to have a large library system to rely on, but Cheryl ended up reading many titles huddled in the bookstore aisles, afraid of getting thrown out.

With a dedicated group of panelists, an incredibly useful database to track our progress and favorites (Thanks, Sheila!), and a fantastic, intelligent, thoughtful discussion, we arrived at a shortlist. I’m proud of it, as I believe it presents great books across a variety of styles, targeted readers, and even genres. Enjoy.



2008 Fiction Picture Book Finalists

Abe Lincoln Crosses a CreekAbe Lincoln Crosses A Creek: A Tall Thin Tale 
(Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend)
written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by John Hendrix
Schwartz and Wade Books
In a year abundant in releases about our 16th president, this picture book title stands out for its originality, vibrant illustrations, and interactive flair. While the setting is historical, the mood is thoroughly modern in this clever celebration of the oral storytelling tradition.
— Travis Jonkers, 100 Scope Notes
The Big Bad BunnyThe Big Bad Bunny
written by Franny Billingsley, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Atheneum
No rushing stream or mucky swamp can stop Big Bad Bunny and his long sharp claws. Through the tangly bushes he marches, fierce and scowling — and a worried mama mouse has just discovered her baby mouse is missing. Suspenseful pacing, engaging art, and a delightful twist ending make this an enchanting tale for the preschool set.

— Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen
Chester’s BackChester’s Back
written and illustrated by Melanie Watts
Kids Can Press, Ltd.
A sublimely pushy cat vies for attention and control with his author and illustrator in this wildly funny book. With creativity and innovation, the author allows her persistent character Chester to scrawl over her illustrations and text with a red marker, creating immediacy, tension, and humor.
How to Heal a Broken WingHow to Heal a Broken Wing

written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press
When a pigeon is injured in the middle of a busy city, no one stops to help until a little boy and his family take the bird home to heal it. Told mainly through pictures with minimal text to drive the plot forward, the story is a touching one of kindness, patience, and humanity.

— Pam Coughlan, MotherReader
Katie Loves the KittensKatie Loves the Kitttens
written and illustrated by John Himmelman
Henry Holt
The dog Katie can’t contain her desire to play with the new kitten companions in her home, but unfortunately her exuberance is overwhelming to the tiny creatures. With redirection and restraint, Katie finally finds a way to show her love for the kittens. The humor in the situation, the storytelling, and the illustrations will engage kids of all ages in this fun, romping story.

— Pam Coughlan, MotherReader
The Sea Serpent and MeThe Sea Serpent and Me
written by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin
An extraordinary friendship begins when a sea serpent drops from a faucet into a little girl’s bath. As their friendship grows, so does the sea serpent, until the girl has to admit that this creature belongs in the sea. This charming tale of friendship is propelled by lovely, energetic watercolor illustrations that create a world full of whimsy the reader will find hard to leave.

— Stephanie Ford, ChildLit
A Visitor for BearA Visitor for Bear
written by Bonny Becker,
illustrated by Kady Denton
Candlewick Press
When a mouse ignores the sign on Bear’s door that reads “NO VISITORS ALLOWED,” Bear can’t get back to business as Mouse continually reappears in Bear’s home, finally making Bear wonder if he really prefers to be alone after all. The text begs to be read aloud, and the subdued watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations chock full of personality create a tale every member of the family will adore.
— Stephanie Ford, ChildLit
Wabi SabiWabi Sabi

written by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown
A Japanese cat searches for the meaning of her name, and discovers that beauty can be found in simple, ordinary things and experiences. The text shows many layers and depth, the haikus are well integrated into the story, and the collage illustrations are astonishing in their texture and beauty.