105 Ways to Give a Book

Book Blogger Convention 2011

I left off with my Book Expo Experience — which was in summary, wonderful. Now to the Book Blogger Convention which took place on Friday. I’ve worked hard to piece it together from my tired, addled mind. As testimony to my cotton-filled brain in NYC, I was in a room full of book bloggers on a panel where I could introduce myself and my blog and I DID NOT mention the 48 Hour Book Challenge! Man, am I kicking myself over that.

Anyway, the BBC really started on Thursday afternoon at the meet-and-greet. I talked to some great bloggers and authors, and apparently took no business cards and now have no idea who I chatted with. Which is really a shame, as I had some interesting conversations. I can verify spending quality time with fellow panelist Amy of Amy Reads and Thien-Kim of From Left to Right talking about professionalism, diversity, and negative reviews. Really helped warm me up for the panel the next day. I had a few minutes with Ron Hogan, where we were just about to hatch a fantastic plan... but he had to leave. Later, Ron!

The Book Blogger Convention started at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast and a build-your-own-swag-bag. I was dying for the coffee and as such, missed getting the names of our breakfast buddies — except for Sam of Parenthetical Net and Paula of Pink Me. Though I did have a chuckle as one of them looked at the panels and remarked that she hadn’t heard of any of these blogs. Hello, right here. Charlotte grabbed two books from the swag that seemed my style, but I ended up going through the line anyway — mostly to get the candy that being given away.

The keynote speech was given by Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (photo from Write Meg) and it was fantastic. Energizing, even. I want Sarah to be my new best friend. (As did everyone else in the room, I’m sure.) There were three things that she said that really resonated with me.

First, she defined our blogging world as one echoed in advice from a Jewish parenting book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee. (On my shelf!) In essence, always carry two pieces of paper in your pockets. On one write, “I am but a grain of sand.” On the other, “The world was created for me.” A powerful thought in terms of humanity and spirituality, but it also does lend a vibrant note in blogging. It’s a big, big blogging world out there, but this time of online interaction is unique to us, to now. How can we accept and benefit from both?

Second, in discussing the idea of blogging success, she turned the concept back to us as the individual. What is integral to take our blog to the next level, as it were, is to understand what that level is to each of us. It’s not about being a success so much as how you choose to define success.

Third, she talked about how the most important qualities that a blog can have are Authenticity, Consistency, and Generosity. I felt good about meeting those goals, but I liked the brevity of that reminder. Maybe I’ll tattoo it on my arm. I did ask her about the vibrancy of the Romance community and how that could translate to other communities, um like the kidlitosphere. Her answer was to tap into the passion that exists there and the need for conversation.

Okay, moving on to the Ask a Publisher/Publicist session. I found this conversation interesting, but I didn’t write down much because it wasn’t new to me. In fact the only note I can translate with any relevance was “Yay! Review policies!” Which was basically that publishers/publicists are happy to see review policies on blogs because they give a good indication of what that blogger wants. The session started with the publishers/publicist giving overviews and then went to Q & A. I felt it was a pretty respectful conversation on both sides. There were a few questions that seemed a bit off-base, but then a complaint about expiration dates on e-galleys was useful in that the publisher could perhaps make a change. A second question was that e-galleys made it harder on bloggers who wanted to use them for giveaways. The publishers’ response was that they would be fine to be asked to supply a copy for a giveaway, which seemed reasonable and would certainly cut down on the number of print ARCs requested in general. Which in turn serves the publishers’ interest and stops one of their complaints that bloggers will sometimes ask for everything in the catalog. I came away from that with a good feeling that publishers were getting a better understanding of how our mutual goals could be reached together, and that bloggers were also getting a message from publishers as to what was appropriate and/or professional.

I had to duck out of the second part of this session with the smaller publishers/publicists because I suddenly hit the wall. I left debating finding a quiet corner to just sit, but ended up in a couple of conversations that perked me up. It also put me early in line for lunch, which was energizing in that I was surrounded by people at my table that I knew — Rebecca, Alex, Terry, and Charlotte.

Afterwards it was time for my panel, Navigating the Grey Areas. (Let me thank Ron Hogan of Shelf Awareness for this photo and yay!, quoting me in the post.) I was really excited for this discussion with co-panelists Heather of Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books (our awesomesauce moderator), Amy of Amy Reads, Candace of Beth Fish Reads, Bethanne of The Book Maven Media, and Kathleen of A Bookish Broad. We talked about author/blogger relationships, ethics, professionalism, negative reviews, and objectivity. Honestly, this was the kind of conversation I would have gladly had with these smart women even if no one else had been there. I love this stuff. I think we talked about important things, and didn’t always agree on how we handled them, but it provided a great framework and food for thought for other bloggers. My only issue was that I felt that the bloggers who most needed to hear the message were likely in the author speed dating in the other room. Oh, well. (I also later realized that when I heard that the mic wasn’t picking up well, I was approaching it like a singer does rather than a speaker. So if I was really loud, I apologize.)

I went in late to Blogging for a Niche Market because I needed a bit of time to decompress, so I can’t say much about the panel part. I enjoyed it when they broke into groups, because the conversation was focused and personal. I got a chance to really interact with our table moderators, Rebecca from Rebecca Reads, Amy from Passages to the Past, and Jill from Rhapsody in Books. At the end, I was able to meet Thea from The Book Smugglers and Melissa of Betty and Boo Chronicles and Marcia of The Diamond in the Window and... probably more. I had some really nice conversations, but I was sooo tired. In general, I thought that two hours was way long for the sessions, but I’ll bet feedback from last year thought the sessions were too short. But I think the ideal session length has the conversation running out of time and leaving you wanting more.

Before I left I made sure to thank our host and blogging buddy, Michelle of Galleysmith. I’d carved out a few minutes with her during the BBC events, but she was very busy running things. This is one lady who deserves a long post-BEA/BBC nap. And chocolate. I’m afraid I didn’t get a moment with the other BBC organizer, Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog — or just as likely I did and don’t remember — but props to her also for a convention well done.

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Book Expo America 2011

I had all intentions of leaving posts during my weeklong absence or perhaps stopping in for a quick post along the way. Was not to be, my friends. It was busy leading up to Book Expo America, moving to crazy-busy during it.

I flew to New York on Wednesday morning and, with charmed travel along the way, was able to hit the Javits Center floor by 10:30 a.m. I floundered a bit in that first hour, as the lines were long for every author I wanted to see, and I realized how many of my favorite authors needed tickets that I did not have. But things started to fall in place as  toward the end of the signing hour a few of the authors allowed non-ticketed participants, so long as ticketed participants went to the front of the line. In this way I was able to get signed books from Maggie Stiefvater (The Scorpio Races), Dave Barry (The Bridge to Neverland), Coe Booth (Bronxville), and a poster from Rosemary Wells. I was able to catch Coe later to check up on our mutual writer friend Caroline Hickey, who had just had her baby girl!

I ran into Sarah from The Reading Zone, and she was happy to join me on my signing itinerary. We gave a try to the Harlequin Teen books, but they were already gone, so we stood in line for Jan Brett’s Home for Christmas. It was a bit of a wait, so we were able to chat. Such a nice treat to have a friend on line with me.

She was happy to join me for one of my Most Important Author meetings — Lisa Yee! I’ve known Lisa Yee online for years, reviewed her books, read her blog, but had never met her in person. She was signing at the American Girl booth, so Sarah and I got books and pics with this lovely lady.

Then Sarah and I headed back for the autograph area for what was likely a useless pursuit of a ticketed author’s book — Goliah, by Scott Westerfield. But again, since die-hard fans had been through already, the line was shorter and they were (quietly) allowing people without tickets in line. So we were able to get signed copies of the ARC! (You’ll see it as a prize in the 48 Hour Book Challenge.)

As Sarah took off for the train station, I made my way to the BEA Middle-Grade Editors Buzz where they talked about Wildwood, The Unwanteds, The Apothecary, Icefall and The Dragon’s Tooth. I left when the moderator waxed poetic and yet without eloquence about books, and made my way to the publishers to nab copies for myself. I was able to get three of the books easily, just by asking nicely. Then I walked around, talking to publishers and browsing their titles. The smaller houses did a nicer job of showing more of their line, not just the big buzz books. The larger publishers used their space for meetings rather than for showing more of their catalog, which was disappointing to someone hoping to see the non-buzz titles. After 3:30 p.m. it was so obvious that the marketers didn’t want to be bothered that I had to check the schedule to see if maybe the floor had actually closed. (Pssst! It hadn’t.)

Thursday morning I commuted down from my friend’s house in the Bronx and made my way immediately to Steve Brezenoff’s signing of Brooklyn Burning, where his agent proposed marriage after hearing my mini-tirade about paranormal books. Then off to the talk from Jane Lynch — you know, Coach Sylvester — at the Uptown Stage, where she was promoting her book, Happy Accidents. It was packed when I arrived, but I was able to get a seat at the last minute. I had a ticket for her signing, but slipped out to get a signed poster by Sophie Blackall. Then back to get a signed promotional card for my teen. (Good call on my part, btw. I was afraid I was wasting my time, but my teen was so happy!) Then it was over to the autograph area again for Sophie Flack (Bunheads), Allisa Grosso (Popular), Kody Keplinger (Shut Out), Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds), and Maryrose Wood (I have no idea — it’s in the shipping box still).

Just after noon, some of the kidlitosphere folk had arranged to meet for lunch before our last walk on the exhibit floor. There I caught up with Charlotte, Anamaria, Alex, Terry, Anatasia, Susan, Katie, and Sheila. Many of this group stuck together as we strolled the booths, enjoying the handouts of cupcakes, candy, and soda as the exhibitors tried to get rid of their last supplies to a dwindling audience. Most booths were clearly packing up by 1:30 p.m., but we still were able to look at books, talk to publishers, score leftover swag, and pick up a book or two.

After shipping home my book haul from two days, Charlotte and I headed to the Book Blogger Convention meet-and-greet. It was indeed nice to meet and to greet bloggers, and I had some interesting conversations. But cash bar? Not so nice. I would have much rather had soda and cookies available than $7 Coronas. Later Charlotte and I also went to the Kid Lit Drink Night, where I touched base with Barry Lyga, Betsy Bird, and Alvina Ling. I had a long conversation with middle-grade authors Matthew Cody, Eric Wight, and Aaron Starmer who graciously kept me company on the perimeter of the very loud party. Through the night I was able to chat with Harold Underwood, Melanie Hope Greenberg, Cheryl Klein, Lisa Yee, Peter Brown, Matthew Kirby, and well, lots of writers, publishers, and editors. It was a fantastic turnout!

Overall, BEA was a great success for me. I did see some line-cutting, rudeness, and grabbiness, but I was generally out of the drama zone. There weren’t as many ARCs available, but I wasn’t there so much for ARCs as for connections with authors, publishers, and bloggers (oh my!). I shipped home one box of books and stuff, and now I can’t wait for it to arrive. Let it be soon, like before the 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend.

THIS WEEKEND???!!! I’d better get busy!

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48 Hour Book Challenge Around the Corner

TEN DAYS, PEOPLE! Though I guess it depends on how you count the days. Like if you include today or if you're going by the twenty-four hour day thing or the more approximate days-of-the-week count. In any case, I know that the assessment is much closer than the Rapture guy. And I won't blame my math. It is definitely happening on June 3rd. You know, unless you decide to make Saturday, June 4th the beginning of your 48 hour period - which you can set within the June 3-5th weekend - in which case it starts on June 4th for you. And then there are time zones to consider...

48 Hour Book ChallengeNevertheless. So with ten-ish days to go, where are we? Um, you tell me. Are you signing up? Getting your to-be-read pile in order? Letting your blog readers know? Great! There is still plenty of time to sign-up, review the rules, get ready, and publicize. Tomorrow, I'm heading to Book Expo America hoping to pick up some lovely signed books for our winners. I'd be delighted to take donations for other prizes as well. Past prizes have included original sketches from Mo Willems and Matthew Holm, signed and sketched-in books from Adam Rex, loads of signed books, t-shirts from Threadless, artistic blank journals, jewelry, gift cards, notecards, booklights, and more. Good stuff. If you’d like to contribute to the prizes this year, shoot me an email at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com.

Remember that you can connect the 48HBC to charitable causes as you wish to do so. I’ll be supporting book and literacy projects through Donors Choose, a great resource that connects teachers in need of supplies to donors with funds to give, and as an incentive to sign out on the official finish line post, I plan to donate $1 per finishing 48HBC participant to this DC school. Other participants can contribute to this cause and even this school as well, or to something else. Your readathon can be based on sponsors, comments, books read, or something else entirely. You can also choose not to participate in this aspect of the 48 Hour Book Challenge, though you may find a way to support others’ efforts

If you haven't done so yet, please sign up and block the dates on your calendar. If you have questions, check the FAQ's first, and then ask here if need be. I'll answer one question right now, and that is that you do NOT have to expect or in any way plan on reading the entire 48 hours to participate. Seriously. The challenge is to use this window of time to read as much as you want - and then a little bit more - along with your book blogging friends.

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TeenReader Birthday Poem

I searched online for an appropriate poem on the birthday of my special teen, but couldn’t find one. The old-fashioned poems were too stiff, the modern ones too steeped in dark irony, and the clever ones too frivolous. Should I write something that celebrates her amazing qualities? Her intelligence and wit. Her kindness and compassion. Her charm and beauty. Can I craft something that sums up how proud I am — not only of her achievements, but of the person that she is right now? Wise, sensitive and insightful beyond her years. Would I be able to capture our relationship? Its range from giggles to commiseration, funny comments and long conversations, inside jokes and special moments.

Nope, apparently not.

So, for Poetry Friday — hosted today at The Drift Record — I’ll share instead a bit from the book that we read on birthdays. The book that makes me teary every single time I read it: On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier:
On the day you were born
the round planet Earth turned
toward your morning sky,
whirling past darkness,
spinning the night into light...

On the day you were born
the earth turned, the moon pulled, the sun flared,
And then, with a push
you slipped out of the dark quiet,
where suddenly you could hear
a circle of people singing
with voices familiar and clear.

“Welcome to the spinning world,” the people sang
as they washed your new tiny hands.
“Welcome to the green earth,” the people sang,
as they wrapped your wet, slippery body.

And as they held you close,
they whispered into your open, curving ear,
“We are so glad you’ve come!”
Happy Birthday to my angel.

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Thursday Three: Cats II

Kittens! Kittens! Kittens!
written by Susan Meyers, illustrated by David Walker

Just. So. Cute. Lots of kittens everywhere doing the things kittens do in a soft lovely art style and sing-song rhymes. "Finding tails to stalk and chase, Washing whiskers, ears, and face. Pouncing, bouncing, mewing kittens, Busy, up-and-doing kittens." There may be a story involved of a family raising the kittens and at least one child getting his new kitten, but honestly, with all the kitteny cuteness, I lost track of a plot. I just wanted to jump into the story and play with those sweet, fluffy kitties. Ah-dorable.

There are Cats in This Book
by Viviane Schwartz

There are Cats in This BookBright, fun, clever and let's repeat fun, this book will surely entertain any toddler or preschooler. Using cutouts, flaps, and oddly shaped pages, the book interacts with the reader in a - can we use fun again? - fun way. The end papers even get in on the act with the first words on bright blue informing the reader that "The cats aren't on this page." They aren't on the next page either, but then move ahead to see purring and a quilt as a large flap. Lift it to find three awakened kitties, surprised and then happy to play with you. The cats address the reader the whole time, asking for pages to be turned, yarn to be tossed, and boxes to be opened. The happy cats are brightly and simply drawn, which lends even more of a surprise to finding the pages with more detail. This is a truly delightful book to share with a child and just plain - yes, I'll say it again - fun.

by Linda Newbery, illustrated by Catherine Rayner

PosyPosy is a most delightful kitten who tangles yarn, swipes crayons, and cuddles mommy. The abstract style may surprise those looking for a standard, sweet watercolor, but offers so much more in the artistic interpretation. The illustrations are amazing with a sense of texture and movement that springs from the page. The slight, rhyming text is geared to the youngest readers and the gentle story of exploration will bring them back again and again. The gorgeous illustrations will have the adults itching to tear a page out and frame it. Restrain yourself.

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TeenReader Tuesday: Never Been Kissed

It begins with a good concept: “What if there were a 16-year-old girl who had never been kissed, but wanted to change that during her junior year? Surely hilarity would ensue!” Certainly I was intrigued by a title that doesn’t support the “kissed at 13” ideal. As part of my tween novel reviews, I’ve noticed a drastic amount of characters getting their first kiss no later than 13, and any who don’t mope about being a “lip virgin.” This is so epidemic that I did not make that phrase up. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT, PEOPLE! “LIP VIRGIN” IS A THING. But yes, there are many smart, pretty girls who are not kissed at 13 years old, and a book that supports this fact has that in its favor.

Never Been KissedYet despite the leading title, Never Been Kissed isn’t a lip-locking quest but a cautionary tale. A girl who’s never been kissed is suddenly facing charges for sexting — in this case sending a nude photo to a boy. But such a photograph was never taken, let alone sent! Elise must find out who is framing her for this awful, awful crime! (Insert filler, blah, blah, blah, sexting sucks, God rocks, depression, lawyers, prom! more sadness). And the culprit is caught! Will Elise ever forgive this girl who has messed up her life? Under one condition: The girl must go to church with her. And...scene.

Did you catch the religious references above? Because the book is full of them. As main character Elise is e-mailing the cute new boy Asher, she decides to write — and I paraphrase slightly here — “I haven’t told you this yet, but I’m a Christian. What’s your religious background?” Yep, nothing turns a guy on more than talking ‘bout Jesus! The rest of the book includes similar religion placement, including Elise’s prom date giving her a picture of Jesus’s hand on the crucifix. Now THAT’S how to get a girl. The next cute Jew I meet is getting a schmear o’ lamb blood!

Now, to be clear, I have no problem whatsoever with the free and complete practice of Christianity, nor with Christian fiction as a genre. But as for the latter, I’d like to see religion incorporated in a well-written way, and I’d like to know that it is Christian fiction. Never Been Kissed isn’t noted as such anywhere but in fine print on the publisher’s page. So imagine my surprise, wondering why religion is playing such a big role in my book about the dangers of sexting. And hello? The “never been kissed” concept was dropped as soon as the drama began, and was hastily tied in again at the end: “And even though I still haven’t been officially kissed, I’m thinking that maybe I need to just wait... What I’m actually saying is that I need to just wait on God. Because I know now that his timing and his ways are a whole lot better than mine!” Not good.

So there you have it, folks. I’m hoping to get back to writing more frequently now that Dracula is over...

MotherReader breaking in: TeenReader — along with her fellow “vixens” — got a Cappies nomination for ensemble! Peer reviews consistently noted the group with thoughts like, “A captivating and chilling ensemble, Brides of Dracula were always just the right touch in every scene, sinister cackles and bone chilling screeches seemed carefully choreographed.” Congratulations!

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The Gum-Chewing Rattler

For many years our public librarians went into the schools to promote the summer reading program. Due to budget cuts, they stopped the practice for a couple of years, and are now bringing it back using volunteers to supplement the paid staff. Loving booktalking as I do, I jumped at the chance to help.

While in flush times the library system ordered new books just for the summer program, now they are pulling from previous titles to make the suggested reading list. This works out for me, because I’ve read and booktalked many of these selections before.

The Gum-Chewing Rattler One that jumped out at me as a favorite was The Gum-Chewing Rattler, written by Joe Hayes and illustrated by Antonio Castro L. I love this book, from its engaging cover of the snake blowing a bubble to the last page, where the artist describes his technique in capturing his realistic subjects. An older man is telling a bunch of kids a story from back-in-the-day. He always was chewing gum, and always kept spares in his front pocket — even though that practice wreaked havoc on the laundry. One day in the desert he stepped on a rattlesnake and that gum saved his life in a tale that no one can believe. This is a great picture book for a past-preschool crowd. I’ve read it to a third grade class and they loved it. In fact, they might have been the first grade to really get it for the modern tall tale that it is. The pictures are very realistic in style and capture the feeling of the book, amusing and fun.

In my younger-grade booktalk, I’ll pair this title with Lisa Jo Rudy’s Snakes! Maybe I’ll bring in a rubber snake prop. I’m also looking at sharing Bats at the Beach because it’s such a fun summer story. I’m also drawn to the sweetness — plus bonus origami! — of Lissy’s Friends. It’s exciting to be thinking about this again.

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Thursday Three: Bedtime Books

Nighttime is the right time for reading, and here are three fun titles to share at bedtime.

Night Lights
by Susan Gal

Night LightsTo be able to appreciate its charm, think of this book as a wordless picture book that happens to contain a little bit of text. The story is entirely in the pictures, with the words pointing out the various lights seen at night — like headlight, firelight, and flashlight. The story is of a girl and her mother biking home in the city, having a cookout and birthday cake in the backyard, and then the girl going to bed. Simple enough. But allow lingering over the illustrations to see the way the lantern light shines differently on the faces than the firelight. Notice the marshmallows that go outside in the lantern light, are forgotten in the lightning storm, and attract surprise visitors in the spotlight. Delight in the use of real fabric, elaborate patterns, and children’s drawings to add depth to the drawings. Even the endpapers have a little story. Wonderful, gentle book for toddlers and preschoolers.

Scaredy Squirrel at Night
by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel at NightScaredy Squirrel is here in his fourth book, as charming as ever. He can’t sleep because he is afraid of bad dreams in the form of bats, dragons, and polka-dot monsters. He stays up, but experiences many negative side effects of not sleeping. He faces the problem with preparations that involve cupcakes, banana peels, and a fire extinguisher. Will his plan allow him to get a good night’s sleep? Of course — but the fun is in how. Funny, silly, adorable, and clever, the book quietly contains a message about the importance of a good night’s sleep along with the series theme of maybe not needing to worry so much. Delightful book that will be enjoyed by the preschool set and up.

I Need My Monster
by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

I Need My MonsterWhen Gabe is ready to go to sleep, he needs his monster under the bed. Unfortunately, his monster took off on vacation, leaving Gabe to interview possible candidates. But each one is rejected for not having loud breathing or sharp claws or a slimy tail. It’s only Gabe’s monster who is scary enough — in a good way, understand — to keep him from getting out of bed at night. This is a great take on the traditional monster-under-the-bed story where kids conquer their fears of this beast. Here the story embraces the concept in a humorous and clever way. The illustrations are amazing in bringing the story to life, but the monsters may be a bit on the creepy side for younger readers. Know your kid. It’s perfect for the kindergarten to second-grade set, who want a bedtime picture book with a little bite. That wasn’t a monster joke. Okay, it was.

This post was previously published at PBS Booklights.

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Mo Willems, Pantless

While I had other things to share today, I couldn’t resist the chance to talk about Mo Willems without pants.

That didn’t come out right, did it?

Mo Willems made a video for the Children’s Choice Book Awards featuring the rockstar kidlit author giving advice to the current host, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, in which he mispronounces his friend’s name — and then goes on to mispronounce the names of other well-known authors in children’s literature. Given that I had to go look up the spelling of Krosoczka’s name while writing this post, I’m in on the funny. Made me laugh. But then Mo goes a step further in the video, and I love him for it. Way to commit to the bit! See the video at Mo Willems Doodles.

As to the idea that the video was not shown at the CBC awards because of a complaint on the pre-release Internet posting (Wow! Someone offended on the Internet? How can it be?), I can only say one thing: Really? I mean, really — really?

Edited to add: Apparently yes, really. Story confirmed. Hello, hypocrisy.

Touch Base Tuesday

It was to be another TeenReader Tuesday, but the sneaky girl got past me without writing her review. We did chat about the book with our usual banter, and I can say that the phrase, “Oh I’m sorry, but it seems I got a little Christian fiction on you,” was uttered. So that’s something to look forward to for next week.

48 Hour Book ChallengeInstead it will be a day to touch base on a few KidLitosphere topics. First off, the 48 Hour Book Challenge! Thanks to everyone who has helped in promoting this community event. Keep it up! Sign-ups are rolling in and it will only get bigger and better. While the challenge encourages you to block off a two-day time period, don’t feel that you have to dedicate that much effort to participate. Eligibility for prizes is set at twelve hours. Twelve. Certainly you want to set aside at least twelve hours for reading on a lovely June day, right? And besides prizes there are charities involved, like this school I’m supporting through Donors Choose. Come play along.

Speaking of charities, there is another school that needs your help. Ballou Senior High School in Washington, D.C., will be the recipient of this year’s Guys Lit Wire Book Fair. At the blog, you’ll find a link to the wish list at Powell’s Books where you can purchase a title and have it sent to the needy library in our nation’s capitol. I’m excited to send the students these Random House titles:
The Rivalry, by John Feinstein (mystery at the Army-Navy game)
The Coming of the Dragon, by Rebecca Barnhouse (Beowulf-inspired, with dragons!)
Efrain’s Secret, by Sofia Quintero (senior dreams of escaping the Bronx)
We Were Here, by Matt De La Peña (running away, self-discovery, something dark)
I Will Save You, by Matt De La Peña (ditto?)
Trash, by Andy Mulligan (not-so-distant future, in unnamed Third World country)
BookExpo AmericaThird thing. Um, I’m not sure I had a third thing, but it seems like there should be one. Let’s say BookExpo America is the third thing. I’m going. Are you? I’ll be flying in Wednesday morning and hightailing it to the book signings in the morning — which are epic! — and then I’ll take in the BEA Middle-Grade Editors Buzz from 2:00–3:30 p.m. Do not plan to engage me in conversation before that afternoon unless you are signing a book, giving me a book that is signed, or booking me for signing sessions. Yeah, I don’t know what the last one means either, but you get the picture that I’ll be very busy collecting prizes for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. But come Thursday, I’m all networking and chatting it up. I’ll be at the KidLit Drink Night and am hoping to pull together a little KidLit lunch corner on Thursday. We’ll trade ARCs like baseball cards and lament the length of the Mo Willems line. It’ll be fun.

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Best Books for Boys

Sometimes a message just clicks as everything falls into place. So it is with me and the very helpful title, Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives.

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their LivesWhile I’ve perused thoughts about reluctant readers as a synonym for boys, I didn’t really make the connection to my own tween girl. But as I read the introductory pages to Best Books for Boys, I connected to one problem we face with reading. While we’ve evolved teaching styles to tap into the different ways of learning — visual, auditory, kinetic, etc — we’ve continued to think of reading in a rather stagnant way. But Allyn challenges those notions, especially with boys in mind, and presents new ways to approach reading at home and in the classroom.

She backs up her concepts with a large selection of titles with boy-appeal. Divided into categories like Expeditions, How-to, and Sports, the choices are also noted for their most appropriate reading level. The levels themselves are listed as emerging, developing, and maturing readers so as not to lock in rigid age ranges. The books are chosen with an eye toward boy interest, but include books as varied as the silly Captain Underpants and the literary masterpiece, The Book Thief. While I cannot agree with all of the selections — The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for boys or The Boy with the Striped Pajamas for anyone — the tiles are current, diverse, and cross a broad spectrum. Certain books are even given discussion questions to open up conversation between the reader and parent/teacher.

Within the categories, Allyn offers additional titles with the signature “If you like this book, you’ll like:” — a phrase that has never worked for me. While I appreciated the extra titles allowed by the configuration, there were times it worked as well as Amazon’s random selections. If I like White Fang, I may indeed NOT like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A selection of superhero picture books was marred by the inclusion of Kajikawa’s Tsunami! — which is a great book about someone who saves his village, but not a superhero book. Other times the lists seemed only to take space by listing multiple titles by the same author. When Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is annotated, it’s unnecessary to list most other books that Mo Willems wrote — including the much younger board books. While the phrasing (“you’ll like”) and an occasional selection (“One of these things is not like the other...”) were unfortunate, the inclusion of extra, related books was very useful.

Given the kidlitosphere’s Poetry Friday connection, I was intrigued by Allyn’s statement that a book collection “should be at least 30 percent nonfiction books, 30 percent poetry and 40 percent fiction.” That seems like a lot of poetry considering the availability of new titles and the recommendations listed. I asked the author for more thoughts on that subject:
There is a wonderful availability of amazing titles in each of those genres for our children, and we generally tend to forsake the nonfiction and poetry for fiction, even though our boys truly love nonfiction and poetry... Nonfiction and poetry also offers more ample opportunities for “browsing” rather than having to read straight through, the way we do with fiction. A reader can pick up a book of poems and fall to the first page and enjoy that poem and close the book and go outside to play. But it’s much harder to fall upon a page in a chapter book and not feel you need more time for it. Having the real balance of genres allows the reader to become more adept at selecting books that match certain times, moods and interests far more easily.
So, Poetry Friday carry on! Your mission is well-served. Let me also give a nod today to Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Shelf-Employed, and Pam Allyn’s blog tour, of which this review is a part.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Poetry Friday: Instructions

Hey, I have actually have a Poetry Friday selection! Today, for teacher’s appreciation week, tween gave her sixth grade teacher Neil Gaiman’s wonderful poem-to-picture book, Instructions. I love this title because it is one of the few of these picture-books-for-adults that totally works on more than one level and with great beauty. For those of us who grew up on fairy tales, this book is an echoing of all that we’ve learned and held close — even when we didn’t quite know it.
Remember that giants sleep too soundly,
that witches are often betrayed by their appetites,
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always,
hearts can be well hidden and you betray them with your tongue.
The book trailer generously shares the whole book, perhaps suspecting that upon viewing, a purchase for the listener or as a gift — can I mention the teacher thing again? — is nearly a given. Enjoy.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Family Bookshelf.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

48 Hour Book Challenge FAQs

Do I need to have a blog to participate?
Pretty much. But if you set one up just for this challenge, you wouldn’t be the first to do so. You might find that the 48HBC kicks off a new hobby for you.

Do you have to register with Mr. Linky before you can use it?
No, you only have to register with the Mr. Linky site if you are hosting this type of listing on your blog. Since you will simply be signing in on my blog with the Mr. Linky I’ve set up, you’ll be fine.

Can I count time reading to my child? Can my kids join in?
You can certainly count time reading aloud to your child — or to anyone, for that matter — as long as you’re using chapter books. Kids can always play along for the fun of it, but no prizes are offered. However, that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t give your own prize to your kid. Why not?

How does this reading for charity thing work?
Any way you want. I’ve been reluctant to assign a specific method or charity, because I want to allow bloggers the freedom to choose — including whether they want to participate in this aspect of the 48HBC. You can donate a set amount per hour you read and even seek sponsors. You could donate based on the number of comments or books read or the total number of 48HBC finishers or something else I’m not thinking of. My default charity is Donors Choose, because you can select a particular book-related project for your own state. You are welcome to join me in supporting through that organization, or work on funding for another.

How can I contact you to donate prizes?
Write me at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com and let me know what you’d like to donate. I usually pull together a bunch of things — books, jewelry, notecards, T-shirts, etc. — to make prize packages for the winners. I also like to have a few authors who’d be willing to send a personalized, signed book to a blogger for a few randomly selected “door prizes.” I’ll also take critiques, illustrator art/sketches/doodles, an offer to name a character in a book after a winner, or an eReader. A girl can dream.

Where are bloggers putting their small kids while doing all this reading?
One word: cages.

Sixth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge

48 Hour Book ChallengeYup, it’s time to officially announce the Sixth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge — that weekend extravaganza that lets you say, “Back off, I’m reading.” Sign up in the comments today, and talk it up. It’s go time!
  1. The weekend is June 3–5, 2011. Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the third and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday the sixth. So, go from 7:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday... or maybe 7:00 a.m. Saturday to 7:00 a.m. Monday works better for you. But once begun, the 48 hours do need to be in a row. That said, during that 48-hour period you may still have gaps of time in which you can’t read, and that’s fine. (In fact this weekend, I’ll have a huge gap as I take the Girl Scouts to a Medieval Times dinner on Saturday.)
  2. The books should be middle-grade, young adult, or adult books. If you are generally a picture book blogger, consider this a good time to get caught up on all those wonderful books you’ve been hearing about. Graphic novels can be included in the reading. One audiobook can also be included in your time and book total — helpful if you have somewhere to drive to or need to prepare dinner, etc.
  3. The top three winners will be based only on time commitment, not number of books. So if you are heading into the 30+ hours club or 40+ hours club, track your time carefully. International winners may be given gift cards instead of books due to mailing costs, unless a U.S. address is provided.
  4. It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it. If you want to skip sleep and showers to do this — and some people do — go for it. If you want to be a bit more laid back, fine. But you have to put something into it or it’s not a challenge. Twelve hours is the benchmark for winning prizes.
  5. The length of the reviews or notes written in your blog are not an issue. You can write a sentence, a paragraph, or a full-length review. Up to you. The time spent reviewing counts in your total time.
  6. You can include some amount of time reading other participant’s blogs, commenting on participating blogs and Facebook pages, and Twittering about your progress (remember the #48hbc tag!). For every five hours, you can add one hour of networking. This time counts in your total time.
  7. On your blog, state when you are starting the challenge with a specific entry on that day and leave the link to that post at the Starting Line post at MotherReader on June 3rd (via the trusty Mr. Linky). And please link to the contest on your post.
  8. When you finish, write a final summary that clearly indicates hours — including partial hours — you spent reading/reviewing/networking, the number of books read, and any other comments you want to make on the experience. It needs to be posted no later than noon EST on Monday, June 6th. Also, check in at the Finish Line post on MotherReader that will be posted Sunday and please link to that post from your final summary post.
Two years ago we began to connect the 48HBC to charitable causes, and folks were able to connect their personal readathon to a Greater Good of their choice. While you may continue to select your own charity, I’ll suggest supporting book and literacy projects through Donors Choose, a great resource that connects teachers in need of supplies to donors with funds to give. As an incentive to sign out on the official finish line post, I plan to donate $1 per finishing 48HBC participant to this DC school. Other participants can contribute to this cause and even this school as well, or to something else. Your readathon can be based on sponsors, comments, books read, or something else entirely. You can also choose not to participate in this aspect of the 48 Hour Book Challenge, though you may find a way to support others’ efforts by leaving comments (if that’s what is being tallied).

I’m always looking for donations for winners’ prize packages and other “door prizes” to be awarded to participants selected at random. Past prizes have included original sketches from Mo Willems and Matthew Holm, signed and sketched books from Adam Rex, loads of signed books, t-shirts from Threadless, artistic blank journals, jewelry, gift cards, notecards, and more. Good stuff. If you’d like to contribute to the prizes this year, shoot me an email at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com.

Sign up now in the comments and block of the dates on your calendar. Questions can also go in the comments, and I will respond in the comments and add to FAQ if needed. Which means, you might check there first. Talk this up, people! I’m just one blogger, one lone voice, making an announcement on the biggest news week of the year. I could use some promotion help.