105 Ways to Give a Book

What Obama Says and More News From Around the KidLitosphere

On Tuesday, I literally jumped up and cheered upon hearing this part of President Obama’s Adresss to Congress:
These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children, but it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent, for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences, or help with homework, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to their child.
Yes! It fits in wonderfully with the concept of Share a Story, Shape a Future. The initiative looks wonderful, and I hope to play a part in some way when it hits the KidLitosphere come March. I kind of missed the boat when I lost the messages in my overstuffed email box.

Through a perhaps ridiculously diligent process, I was able to bring my emails down to 1300 from 3447 on a first-look, barely skimming, toss-the-trash weeding. I also moved groups of emails to folders because they will be easier to deal with at one time rather than as I come across them. My husband did something techie to my computer that appears to be helping, and I also found that I was having more luck using my daughter’s computer account. I’m going to keep plugging at it because those extra emails are simply computer clutter.

Speaking of clutter, an article in School Library Journal talks about cluttered houses in terms of their impact on early literacy. This is gonna hurt...
Household order — characterized by regular bedtime routines, mealtimes, and chores, as well as cleanliness and being able to stay on top of things — has a positive effect on a range of early reading abilities, the report says.
Well, so much for that. Thanks to Charlotte’s Library for pointing it out, and making me laugh with her own experience.

Another shared experience caught my attention this morning as Maw Books asks for the most horrific way you’ve ever ruined a book. She already has thirty responses, and yes, one of them is mine. And no, I’m not proud.

I had to assume that she was talking about accidental book disfigurement, because otherwise I’m in real trouble with my new hobby of book altering. The one week I had few school activities and few scheduled work days, I wasted with a box of old schoolbooks and an Exacto knife. I had a lot of fun though, and I think it released some of the mental pressure I was feeling with booking the KidLitosphere Conference...

Which is now, officially, set for the weekend of October 16th–18th at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel! I’m sending in the contract today, so it’s too early to book your room, but I’ll let you know. I can tell you that the rate is $109 per night, the conference cost should be around $100 with a breakfast and dinner for Saturday included. As we’ve done in the past, Friday will feature a dinnertime outing to some local place for whomever can come. Saturday will be the conference and dinner. Sunday will be some Washington, DC, adventure — to be determined. I’ll be working on session ideas and maybe even speakers...

Like this guy, my dream speaker. Because if you’re going to dream, dream big. I forgot how much I enjoyed his videos because they aren’t on my feed, but fortunately Bookshelves of Doom reminded me with this one:


Edited to add: For more videos, podcasts, and regular old posts, don’t miss the newest Carnival of Children’s Literature. It rocks!

Technology Is Getting Me Down

Oh, and technology is letting me down. For months now my computer has been running slow, and we can’t figure out what is wrong. My techie husband has tried just about everything, but I still get the whirling Beach Ball of Death far, far too often. Today I realized that the reason I had such a huge inventory of undeleted emails is because it had been taking so long to delete them that I simply gave up from September to January. In the last few days, I’ve sucked it up and deleted over 1500 messages.

So now my computer is one more place I keep clutter. It’s one more thing to maintain. And I lose important emails in the mess of store ads, random reminders, and sneaky spam. How do people stay on top of the constant stream of email?

Now, Facebook, that’s another story. A lot of time could easily be wasted on Facebook, though so far I’ve not been sucked in completely. I do have a Facebook quandary. I’d be happy to friend more kidlitosphere blogs, but I don’t know the bloggers’ real names. I have the opposite problem with authors, where I know their names, but I don’t think that they know me. What do true Facebookers do with these situations?

If it helps, I’ll say now that if you’d like to friend me on Facebook, tell me your blog or book in your friend request and we’re good to go.

Along with the computer, the email, and Facebook, I’m learning about updating a website. It’s somewhat the same as my blog, but not the same. It also requires that I have time to burn using my crappy Apple because the updates love to stall out. At this point I must refuse to Twitter, because it would kill me.

ABC Storytime: O is for...

Wow, ABC Storytime two weeks in a row. It’s almost like I originally intended it.

The Letter O

Book: My Very Own Octopus, by Bernard Most

Book: Olivia, by Ian Falconer (or any of the Olivia books)

Fingerplay: “Open, Shut Them”
Open, shut them, open, shut them.
Give a little clap, clap, clap.
Open, shut them, open, shut them.
Lay them in your lap, lap, lap.
Creep them, crawl them, creep them, crawl them
Right up to your chin, chin, chin.
Open wide your little mouth...
But do not let them in.
(Act out the hand motions.)
Book: Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, or Little Hoot, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Fingerplay: “Five Little Owls”
The first little owl has big, round eyes.
The second little owl is of very small size.
The third little owl can turn her head.
The fourth little owl likes mice, she said.
The fifth little owl flies all around,
And her wing hardly make a single sound.
(Count owls on fingers, and then “fly” hands around.)
Book: Over in the Meadow, by Olive A. Wadsworth (I sing it instead of reading it.)

Alternate Books: Olvina Files, by Grace Lin; A Lot of Otters, by Barbara Berger; Otto Goes to Camp, by Todd Parr

The Library: It’s a Place Where Books Are Free

In the current economic death spiral, my public library system, like many others, is facing cutbacks in materials, hours, and — ahem — staff. The irony is that public libraries are never more important then when times are bad. People come for Internet access to look for jobs, submit applications, and rewrite their résumés. Students find a place to study and work where you don’t have to spend five bucks on a cup of coffee. Book lovers borrow a few more books, instead of buying. English language learners join conversation groups to improve their communication.

Parents bring their children for storytimes, book groups, puppet shows, science programs — entertainment on a tight budget. Together they browse the shelves, read on the couches, and get away from the house. They leave with armloads of books and hours of something-to-do. And it’s all free.

Amazing.

I was going through some very old saved emails and found this video tribute to libraries. I haven’t thought of it in a while, though now that the song is back in my head I probably won’t be able to think of anything else. There’s better quality at the original site, but I had to embed it here for your viewing pleasure. The animation is a bit odd, but the message couldn’t be better.

Poetry Friday: Stitchin’ and Pullin’

Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend QuiltStitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt, by Patricia McKissack, tells the story of a young girl growing up in a community of quilters. As a small child, she watches the quilting, and then under the tutelage of the women, she begins her own quilt. These women are making more than lovely quilts. With each stitch, they are keeping tradition and history alive. For generations, the quilts have combined the practical traits of reusing old fabric to make warm blankets with the creative endeavors of employing cloth and color to make art.

Patricia McKissack uses poetry to capture the journey of a girl on the path to making her own quilt, alongside the history of a particular community and a people. Illustrator Cozbi A. Cabera pulls out all stops on the palette, drenching us with the vibrant colors of the quilts and the stories they represent. This is a beautiful book that presents a different angle on African American history. The poems themselves are about quilts and relationships, tradition and community, heritage and history. For today, when I feel like I’m pulling together lots of pieces of my own projects, I’d like to share this poem:
Puzzling the Pieces
A quilt
is a puzzle made of cloth —
Squares of
red and white gingham;
Solid rectangles, print ones, too;
Dotted triangles and a few plaids mixed in.
Flowered circles and long, narrow strips,
spread out on the floor.
Now comes the puzzling —
mixing and matching
colors, shapes, and patterns;
Finding combinations of pieces that
fit like a puzzle — making a picture,
telling a story.
Poetry Friday round-up is hosted at The Holly and the Ivy. The schedule of upcoming hosts is available at KidLitosphere Central. Oh — don’t forget to find or write your post by February 23rd for the preferably-multimedia Carnival of Children’s Literature, with the easily workable theme We Love Kid Lit! I’m thinking of doing some audio stuff with the kids. It’s exciting.

ABC Storytime: N is for...

My computer is giving me grief today, so I’m keeping this short and sweet. If you have “N” book suggestions for storytime, leave them in the comments. I would have liked to have provided more titles, but I’m giving up in frustration. Stupid computer.

The Letter N

Book: The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell

Book: Our Nest, by Reeve Lindbergh, or The Perfect Nest, by Catherine Friend

Rhyme: “Little Birdie”
Little birdie in your nest.
Little birdie it’s time to rest.
When the sun comes out to play.
Little birdie — fly away!
Book: The Napping House, by Audrey Wood

Song: “Brother John”
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John.
Morning bells are ringing.
Morning bells are ringing.
Ding Ding Dong, Ding, Ding, Dong
Book: Whose Nose and Toes, by John Butler

Action Rhyme: “I Have a Nose”
On my face I have a nose,
And way down here I have ten toes.
I have two eyes that I can blink
I have a head to help me think.
I have a chin, and very near,
I have two ears to help me hear.
I have a mouth with which to speak,
And when I run, I use my feet.
Here are arms to hold up high,
And here’s a hand to wave good-bye.
(Point to body parts as mentioned.)

Conference Question and Courage Campaign

I am taking the first steps toward organizing the Annual KidLitosphere Conference — or if you’d prefer, The Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature Annual Conference. It will be in the Washington, DC, area, though not exactly in the actual city. I’m looking at Arlington, Virginia — and more specifically Crystal City, where there is easy access to National Airport, the Metro, and mall shopping. It’s a fifteen-minute Metro ride or a six-minute drive to DC, so pretty close. Yom Kippur knocked out my original dates, and Columbus Day weekend is booked at two hotels I’ve found — one of which I love. So, now I’m looking at the weekend of October 16th–18th and wanted to put it out there in case I’m unaware of some major impediment to that weekend. It’s not ALA, BEA, or SCBWI. The Jewish calendar looks clear. Anything I’m missing?

On Valentine’s Day, I almost posted this video, which I found through Ready When You Are, C.B. But while the video is beautiful, moving, and powerful, it is sad in its ultimate concept — and I have enough issues with Valentine’s Day without laying that trip on you. So, President’s Day seems like a good choice for featuring videos that are also calls to action and/or calls for equality.

Cybils Award Winners!

The Cybils Award winners have been announced, and I᾿m especially excited to share the winner for Fiction Picture Books, where I served as a panelist and the category organizer. Here’s the write-up from the Cybils site:
How to Heal a Broken WingHow to Heal a Broken Wing
written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press


This deceptively simple book achieves so much more than telling the story of a boy who notices a wounded bird in a busy city. By alternating single and double-page spreads with clusters of small panels, Graham creates almost a film strip of time passing. The artistic technique lends both intimacy and urgency to the boy and his family’s precarious mission to save the injured pigeon. The text is commendably lean, supporting the strong visual narrative and keeping a lighter touch to the theme. The cartoon-style, watercolor illustrations provide the perfect tone, and the accessible story offers connections for picture book readers of all ages. For all of these reasons, How to Heal a Broken Wing distinguishes itself as the rare picture book that speaks quietly, yet has volumes to say about courage, kindness, and hope.
Want the rest of the awards? I know you do. Head over to the Cybils page to see the other winners. And hey, while you’re there, buy a book. The purchases help show how the award has a relevance in the language of Amazon ranking, plus the Cybils get a referral fee for Amazon purchases. I can easily recommend purchasing How to Heal a Broken Wing not only for parents of young kids and general picture book lovers, but as a gift for teachers of preschool or early-elementary students. The end of the school year is just around the corner — or at least it feels like it should be.

Edited to add: Oh yeah, VALENTINE’S DAY! Here’s a video I posted last year that again can serve as my Valentine to all of blogger friends.

My Brother Abe

My Brother AbeIt’s Abe Lincoln’s birthday today, in case you missed the recent Lincoln Book Blitz. Let me add one more review in honor of the birthday boy.

My Brother Abe, by Harry Mazer, should really be called Abe’s Big Sister, because it is certainly more about young Sally Lincoln than it is about her brother Abe. When the family is forced to leave their home in Kentucky, they take their most precious belongings and walk to Indiana territory to begin again. After an exhausting journey, they arrive at their new land, a wilderness with few neighbors. Abe and his father work to build a log cabin home as Sally and her mother tend to meals and other chores. It’s a difficult life that takes a tragic turn as sickness hits their corner of Indiana.

I enjoyed this book and the fictionalized look at Abe Lincoln’s early years. It read a lot like the Little House on the Prairie books. Actually, it read a lot like I remembered the Little House books, because when I read then again as an adult I was put off by the racial insensitivity and choppy text.

I was most impressed by the Lincoln family walking to their new frontier home. I can barely walk the mall without getting tired. Two hundred years back, I’d have been left by the side of the trail clutching my one pair of silk shoes. What do you think the equivalent of Prada was in the 1800s?

Books for Black History Month II

[This article was originally posted February 2008 at Foreword’s Shelf Space.]

Previously, on Books for Black History Month, we covered the earlier part of African American history with fiction and non-fiction books that were educational while telling a good story. Now it’s time to march forward in time with historical fiction, biographies, and poetry.

Langston’s Train Ride, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins (2004)
Fantastic illustrations by Leonard Jenkins make this book a pleasure to peruse, no doubt about that. But the reader will also enjoy being taken along on a journey with Langston Hughes as a young man. As he rides on a train across the country, he is moved by the crossing over the Mississippi River. Words and phrases rush into his head, especially the phrase, “I’ve known rivers.” This book is about personal history, about heritage, and about writing. The full poem, “A Negro Speaks of Rivers,” is included at the end of the book, along with a short biography of Langston Hughes.

Dizzy, by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Sean Qualls (2006)
With rhythmic — dare I say poetic — text, this book brings the world of Dizzy Gillespie to life for those who never experienced the musical revolution of the 1920s. This particular chapter in American history shouldn’t be passed by — and no one can afford to miss it with lively, fresh artwork and passages like, “It was like he had taken a wrecking ball / and SMASHED IN / The House of Jazz, / ’til the walls came tumbling down.”

Jackie’s Bat, by Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (2006)
It’s 1947 and Joey is going to be a batboy for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He’s excited about it, but conflicted about the new player, Jackie Robinson. Joey’s father doesn’t think it’s right for a white boy to serve a black man, so Joey steers clear of Mr. Robinson. But as he continues his time with the Dodgers, he begins to see Jackie Robinson as both a baseball player and a man, which brings forth his own feelings of acceptance. The small story of one boy echoes the larger feelings of the world’s response to this revolutionary baseball player. The book includes some biographical information. The soft, watercolor illustrations complement the text perfectly.

Goin’ Someplace Special, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (2001)
It’s the 1950s and ’Tricia Ann is heading downtown in Nashville to go “Someplace Special.” Her grandmother is reluctant to let her go on her own, but when she relents, ’Trica Ann faces a journey of pride, humiliation, encouragement, and ultimately joy as she reaches her destination — the public library, open to whites and blacks alike. The injustices of the segregated south are made all too real with this likeable character facing off against the obstacles. Pinkney’s lovely watercolors bring just the right feeling of the era to the book.

Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier (2005)
The basic story of Rosa Parks is well known, but you’ll think you’re in for something different after seeing the cover of this book with the ominous man looking down at — the whole thing is so in-your-face and bold. The art in this book is evocative, gripping, and Caldecott Honor-winning. Rosa Parks’s personal story moves into her turning point in the civil rights movement and then continues beyond, covering many of the events surrounding her place in history. The text doesn’t complete her biography by any means, but does provide a starting place for discussion of her role and the larger context of the boycott.

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jerome LaGarrique (2004)
Connie would love to sit down at the counter at Woolworth’s and have a banana split, but she knows that African Americans aren’t allowed to do that. Living in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, she knows her color dictates where she can drink and eat and much more. But things are changing in town with Dr. King’s speech at a local college chapel and Connie’s older siblings joining the NAACP. The paintings in the book capture the sense of emotion, as well as the more tangible evidence of segregation.

I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins (2003)
A straightforward and brief biography of a hero becomes much more than that in the hands of noted author Walter Dean Myers. The content is just enough to introduce young readers to Dr. King and to his accomplishments and struggles, but not get bogged down in many details. The basics of his personal journey are presented along with essentials of the civil rights movement itself. The text is well done, but it’s the illustrations — the powerful, dramatic art — that make this title extraordinary.

Of course, these books are the tip of the iceberg in exploring African American history, but hopefully will motivate young readers to learn more. And just as important, these titles could prove inspiring for teachers, librarians, and parents to seek out books that are not only good for the mind, but good for the soul.

Books for Black History Month

[This article was originally posted February 2008 at Foreword’s Shelf Space.]

This time of year I find myself feeling a vague discomfort. And, no, it has nothing to do with polishing off a box of Thin Mints in two nights. (Don’t judge me!) During the month of February my librarian version of “Spidey sense” is tingling with the vague knowledge that all over America, teachers, librarians, and parents are picking out boring books for Black History Month. I don’t blame them, because I’m sure they are not aware of some of the newer, spectacular titles that are perfect for exploring the history of African Americans. These books cover a broad range of ages in elementary school, but as picture books they keep the storyline tight and the art engaging. For teachers or librarians who want to take the opportunity to educate their students, or for parents who want to open up conversation about their heritage, these are books that don’t put forth pages of facts and dull pictures. No, these are the books that say, “Let me tell you a story.”

Henry’s Freedom Box (Caldecott Honor Book), by Ellen Levin, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007)
At a young age, Henry is given to his master’s son and begins work in a tobacco factory. Allowed to marry a slave of another owner, he is torn apart when his wife and children are sold. With the help of a white abolitionist doctor he arranges to have himself mailed to Philadelphia and to freedom. It’s a brave and dangerous escape, and is based on a true story. This book was a Caldecott Honor Book for Kadir Nelson’s stunning and evocative illustrations.

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (2007)
Oney Judge grew up as a house slave and seamstress for Martha Washington, living with the family in Mount Vernon and moving with the family to the new capital of the country, Philadelphia. As Oney grows into a young woman, she finds out that instead of being set free when her mistress dies, that she will be given to one of Martha Washington’s relatives. She decides to escape and free herself from the grasp of one of the greatest icons of American history. The watercolor and ink artwork complement the story perfectly, and additional information is provided about Oney Judge’s later life.

Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth, by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2002)
Isabella lived a particularly difficult life as a young slave, having been sold three times before she was thirteen. At sixteen, she could do the work of a man, but was forced to marry so she could bear children. Living in New York, she was to become free in 1827 according to the law, though her owner tried to cheat her of her freedom. As she grew older, Isabella grew stronger in her desire to fight slavery however she could and she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and spoke out against the evils of slavery. The illustrations are abstract and interesting, as different and unique as the woman herself.

Night Boat to Freedom, by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (2006)
At his grandmother’s urging, a young black boy rows other slaves across the river and to freedom. While John is strong, it’s thought that he is young enough that his absence at night will go unnoticed. Eventually though, he needs to make the journey to freedom himself and he’s not going without the older woman who has given him strength. Punctuated with passages where the grandmother sews a quilt based on the color the freed slaves are wearing, it lends a poetic sense to the phrase, “What color is freedom tonight?” The illustrations are stunning, bringing into focus the subtle shades of night and the sharpness of color. There’s a two-page spread of slave traders leading the younger Grandmother aboard a slave ship with promises of bright red flannel that is absolutely mesmerizing.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor Book), by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2006)
Steeped in the religion that formed a deep influence in her life, this book shows Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery, led by the voice of the Lord. She subsequently is compelled to go back and rescue her family and numerous other slaves. The story is heavy in its religious tone, though appropriate in terms of her beliefs and experiences. The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are breathtaking, making the Caldecott Honor award for this book well-earned.

Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria, by Kyra E. Hicks, illustrated by Le Edward Fodi (2006)
In 1830, Martha Ann and her family bought their freedom, and with the assistance of the American Colonization Society, moved to Liberia to live. The children could attend school in Liberia, and they were finally free from slavery in America. Even after a deadly fever took away her mother and father, the children decided to stay in the country far from their home. When the queen of England sent ships to patrol the coast of Liberia to keep slave catchers away, Martha Ann made herself a promise to meet Queen Victoria someday. Through years of waiting and some hard times, Martha Ann never forgot her goal, and worked to make it come true. This book shows a different perspective on this time in history, and offers a lesson in reaching for our dreams.

Show Way (Newbery Honor Book), by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott (2005)
This Caldecott Honor Award-winning book is a true stunner in both the illustrations for which it was judged and the text that shapes the stories of generations of African American women. Starting with Soonie’s great-grandmother, who was sold away when she was seven, and left her with muslin, two needles, and red thread from her mama, the story follows the trials and paths of the next seven generations up to the author’s baby. The story covers the “show way” quilts, which were sewn to give other slaves messages to help them on their journeys. The story goes along the path on the Civil War and to a time of reconstruction and then of civil rights. Throughout there are echoes of the quilts from that first piece of muslin and red thread. An amazing and moving book that may have readers tearing up at each repeat of, “Loved that baby up so. Yes, they loved that baby up.”

Tomorrow I’ll continue with picture books that cover the 1900s and the Civil Rights Movement. For now work on making sure the previous seven titles are part of your public, school, and/or personal library.

Blog Advice II

I got such good blogging advice in my comments that I’m making it into another post — under the assumption that many of you didn’t come back to read the comments. I had started off with two bits based on major things I’d noticed:
  1. All blogs should have dates on their posts. (Most blogs do date their posts, but when they don’t, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.)

  2. Authors and illustrators should have their personal names listed on their blogs. Also, authors and illustrators should have their books listed on their blogs. Your readers shouldn’t have to dig around for that basic information.
I had a few thoughts from readers (both in and out of the comments) that they didn’t know how to put their names and books on their blog without feeling like it was too much somehow. My answer: Get over it. Your blog isn’t just a marketing tool, but that is one aspect of it in this Internet age. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be low-key. I found a couple of examples of author and illustrator blogs that say who they are and what they wrote.

Blogger wins in my book for being most like a website in format, so there are lots of sites using Blogger that work well. I’ll point to Silberbook-Blog, because his “About Me” is short, relevant, and mentions his book by name. He also has a picture of the book cover, which is very important. People are more likely to remember the book cover image than the title — take it from a librarian. As an illustrator, Nicole Tadgell is on the right track, showing her picture and the covers of all of her books. I’d suggest that Nicole move her “About Me” to the top of the sidebar, with her books underneath. Also, if possible, to make that line-up of book covers the background of the header. (MotherReader pimps your blog!)

LiveJournal doesn’t seem nearly as compatible with the best format for personal marketing, given how hard it was for me to find good examples. At the minimum, you need your book, LiveJournal name, and personal name. As an example, I’ll use the blog of Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. The blog doesn’t list all of her books, but does provide a link to her website directly under her name. Laura Purdie Salas seems to have made the LiveJournal template work with her picture and her book shown in a decent size.

After looking at blogs for examples, now I would add that not only should authors/ilustrators should have their personal name and books on their blog, but that they should have them at the top of the sidebar along with contact information and their website link.

But enough from me — listen to Gail Gauthier, author and longtime blogger who commented:
I think authors really need to understand that a blog is not a website and that they need a traditional website as well as a blog. I often look up authors after I’ve read a book, and I’m always surprised to find writers who have only a blog or a LiveJournal. Basic info — background on the books, author bio, new books that are in the works, etc. 73151; will often be discussed in the blog, but for a newcomer it’s essentially buried there in hundreds of posts and inaccessible. Whereas with a website, it should be quick to find.
Colleen Mondor, author, longtime blogger, and primo interviewer, adds:
Following up on Gail’s comment — having a blog separate from a site is fine but it should be very easy to navigate between the two. Sometimes you can’t find the blog link from the site or vice versa. You can have the blog as the main point of your site though (like at Chasing Ray) and then just link off of that to pages about your books, etc. That would work well if blogging is your main point.

My main pet peeve is trying to find how to contact some writers. It should be obvious — either on their main page or “about” page how to send an email (if they want email). If I can’t find the email address in a couple of clicks then you likely won’t hear from me, which could mean losing an interview op.

I also can’t stand blogs that only exist to update on news about publication status, etc. This is news and you can have a news page (if you want to run reviews, signing dates, awards, etc.) but putting it into a blog just shows that you don’t want to blog and/or you don’t know what a blog is for. Readers want to know about you or what you’re interested in — not the latest review. Justine Larbalstier and Scott Westerfield are great YA bloggers with big followings that everyone should read to see how it is done well.
There are other gripes that people mentioned that apply to all blogs. Automatic music players were generally not appreciated. Also on the annoying list was SnapShots, with its little window that pops up to show a screenshot of the link. Commenters mentioned that long sidebars are harder to download and read. Dead links are universally despised.

If you use acronyms — like ALA, SCBWI, etc — refer to the whole group name first. If your library has a blog, the city and state should be included, since — surprisingly — there is more than one Springfield Library in the United States.

On writing tone, one commenter suggests that whining be kept to a minimum, while other reminds us watch the snark. Or in other words, “Don’t be a [jerk].”

Oh, and you have to code your links. It’s rare that bloggers write out website addresses, but it looks so bad. I’ve found that you can search for html code pretty easily for almost anything. I’d like to show the code for links, but I can’t, because it keeps putting it in code! Well, go to WebSource to find what you need. (Or, I suspect, someone in the comments will figure out how to share this information.)

Blog Advice

It turns out as you add and check the links for more than five hundred blogs, you learn a few things. I’m not talking about in-depth, content stuff. These are basic things I noticed.

All blogs should have dates on their posts. ALL. There is no acceptable excuse for not saying when your post was written. I can’t imagine that there is a blog template that doesn’t give the date automatically, but if there is, then you have to put it in at the top of your post. Looking at some blogs, I couldn’t tell if the posts were from last week or last year. Um, and if I can’t tell, I don’t use them.

Authors and illustrators should have their personal name listed on their blog. Your reader shouldn’t have to dig around for it. Also, authors and illustrators should have their books listed on their blog. I can’t tell you how many blogs I found where the author talks about her book without any indication in the post or on the page of what that book might be. Perhaps what happened is that your blog was an extension of your website, so you didn’t feel the need to say who you are and what you wrote. Maybe you were only writing for your friends who already knew these things. But it’s a brave new interconnected world out there, and you want your blog to be part of the whole package in selling yourself and your book.

There is an exception to identifying yourself by name, if you choose, and that is if you are writing a book blog rather than an author blog. Certainly, there is a lot of overlap, but basically a book blog focuses on book news, writing ideas, kidlitosphere happenings, and a little bit of your own book and life stories. An author blog focuses more on your own experience, your own book, and the other things are secondary.

What have you noticed in your blog reading that you’d suggest to other bloggers?

Introducing KidLitosphere Central

KidLitosphere CentralThis isn’t a press release.

It may sound like one, as I announce KidLitosphere Central — with the content and collaboration support of Elizabeth Burns, Kelly Herold, Jen Robinson, and Anne Levy — or as I introduce it with excerpts from the website:
What started as individuals blogging independently about children’s and young adult books became a collective of like-minded people. While maintaining our own sites and unique perspectives, shared activities made us a thriving community. Now — with weekly celebrations of poetry and nonfiction, an online literary journal, a shared database of book reviews, discussion groups, contests, social networks, an annual conference, and our own book awards — we’ve become a society.

KidLitosphere Central strives to provide an avenue to good books and useful literary resources; to support authors and publishers by connecting them with readers and book reviewers; and to continue the growth of the society of bloggers in children’s and young adult literature.

Welcome to KidLitosphere Central: The Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature at www.kidlitosphere.org.
But I can’t call it a press release. That phrase implies that the website is ready to be proudly trotted out before an audience. Instead, I feel more like K Central is trotting out as I run behind yelling, “Your pages aren’t done! There are blogs to add! And the links! We have to check the links!”

But it’s all right, because this isn’t a press release. It’s a community release, in that KidLitosphere Central is being released to the community for your feedback, suggestions, and ideas.

While the website remains a work in progress, I ask for patience. I may not be able to get to things quickly, and sometimes I’m going to be climbing the learning curve. (I’m not as technologically savvy as I’d have you believe.)

As you offer your feedback, I ask for understanding. I can’t take every suggestion or make every change. Sometimes I will have to chose between two conflicting ideas. Sometimes there will be limitations to my skills, the web template’s flexibility, or the available time.

Most of all, I ask for collaboration. By offering ideas and initiatives, by informing me of events and opportunities, together we’ll make KidLitosphere Central a resource that is invaluable, polished, and dynamic.

And then I’ll say, “This is a press release.”