105 Ways to Give a Book

Comment Challenge 2011: Signing Off

After making sure that I included all the people who signed out in the links or comments, I picked a few winners. But before I announce those, I’ll add a final word about comments. While I was checking in with participants, I found this wonderful post at Jumping the Candlestick about the anxiety of commenting. It’s funny because it’s true:
  1. Read an interesting blog post.
  2. Think to self, “That was an interesting blog post!”
  3. Think to self, “I should comment on that interesting blog post.”
  4. Click on “Comment” button. Wait a microsecond for the comment box to open.
  5. Stare at blank comment box for 5 seconds.
  6. Think to self, “So. Well. What to say.”
  7. Stare at blank comment box for 10 seconds.
  8. Think to self, “Good blog commenters say insightful things. Say something insightful!”
  9. Stare at blank comment box for 30 seconds.
  10. Start typing something that aims for “insightful.” Type two or three sentences. Add a fourth for good measure.
  11. Reread insightful blog comment. Momentarily think, “What an insightful comment!”
  12. Reread insightful blog comment. Realize it’s not insightful. Realize it’s inane.
  13. Backspace to delete two of the four sentences
And it goes on for seventy-six brilliant steps, at the end asking for advice on what to do differently. I added a comment that followed my train of thought in writing it to show my own process. The post also helped me define three issues that serve as commenting barriers for many people, but especially book people.
  1. You’re setting the bar too high. If you need a reality check, read the comments on any YouTube video or Yahoo article. These people don’t spend time concerned with whether their comment is “witty” or “insightful” or “makes sense.” Seriously, you are in the top ten percent of commenters merely by paying minimal attention to basic spelling and verb/noun agreement.

  2. You’re over-thinking your comments. We know this social media stuff, but can make the wrong leaps to how comments help in the process. It’s not like someone will read your witty, insightful comment and give you a book deal. It’s more like being at a book event and you’re talking to this woman about how much you like zombies, and she asks what you do, and you say you write picture books, and she says that she was at this session earlier where the editor was talking about the sad lack of zombie picture books. Score! And all this from your witty, insightful comment “Great necklace! I love zombie jewelry too!”

  3. You’re reading blog posts like articles. This is understandable, because they are articles, but they are also conversations. A comment isn’t crafting a letter to the editor. It’s closer to your response after listening to someone excitedly tell you about this great novel they just read. After they finish talking, would you simply walk away? No, you’d say something like, “I’ll have to find that book, especially because I love zombie romance stories,” and you wouldn’t worry that you weren’t adding enough value to the conversation. Other times you’d have more to say. Who knows? You might even be witty and insightful about it. But it’s not a requirement.
Anyway, I hope these three weeks helped you form a new habit, gave you needed practice, or made you think about commenting in the blogging community. Now, prizes:

From the 100+ Comment Club, the winner is...From the finishers of the Comment Challenge, I selected three winners:
Thanks to all those who participated in Comment Challenge 2011, with extra super-special thanks to Lee for being the Wind beneath my wings.

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.

Comment Challenge 2011: Finish Line


Don’t you love this graphic done by our very own Lee Wind? So much work, and yet I can’t remember to put up the Finish Line post because we had a “snow day” here. And I use quotes because to my untrained eye it appears to be raining.

But back to business! The winner of last week’s Comment Challenge Check-In prize was Pen and Ink, who will receive a copy of Badd, by Tim Tharp. Lee and I have some fun prizes for winners today, so please check in with your final stats, even if you didn’t make it to five comments a day. We’ll be picking three winners from among the 100 Comment Club and also winners from everyone who participated — which requires at the very least signing up and then signing out at today’s Finish Line Mr Linky. Leave your totals in the comments.

We hope that the Comment Challenge has given you practice and inspiration to make commenting easier and a better part of your blog reading. But why comment? Because we live in a society where the question “How are you?” doesn’t require a real answer. Where front lawns are empty of people even in the summer. Where we may know more about Bristol Palin than a blogger we’ve followed during the same two years. Because we’re searching for ever more ways to connect — with blogs, Facebook, and Twitter — and yet it often feels like we’re shouting into the wind. We can be so busy trying to connect, that we fail to take the opportunities to connect that are right in front of us. Simply by saying, sometimes, to someone, “I hear you. I’m here.”

Bloggiesta Results

While Bloggiesta may not have solved all my bloggy problems, the weekend did get me on the right track. I only ended up spending fourteen hours on the challenge, which was less than I had hoped for. However, I did accomplish most of my goals.

I did finish my comments for the Comment Challenge, where I’ve been visiting the blogs of the participants. I made notes on my library books and returned them. I finished the notes on the Cybils picture books and have them packed and ready to send out. I went through my MotherReader email and deleted loads of emails. The ones that remain aren’t all that scary to deal with either. I looked at five of the mini-challenges, but I think I only officially participated in two.

I wish I could have done more, but I realized that I don’t like too much time spent on the “working” aspect of the blog. And when it’s something I feel like I have to do, then it becomes work. But in tackling the projects this weekend, I thought of some better strategies for doing the working aspects, so hopefully I can carry through on that.

Thanks to Natasha at Maw Books for organizing the event. See you next year!

Bloggiesta Update

Checking in with a Bloggiesta update. With about six hours of work yesterday, I did finish my notes
on the library books and returned them. Of course, I ended up picking up six more titles that I had on hold or grabbed from the new bookshelf, so in a way that goal ended up as a bit of a wash. But that’s a problem for later. I’m halfway through my comments for the Comment Challenge, and I started making my way through the sad, sad case that is my MotherReader email. I’ve looked at four of the mini-challenges where I reviewed info on Mr. Linky, read about things bloggers shouldn’t do, got tips about email control, and learned about making buttons and banners.

Today I’m working on the notes for Cybils picture books that I owe a reader. I have a lot more work to do in my email. I also have a few notes of things I need to change on my blog, and have a acquired a few more as I’ve been working. Other than that, I’ll be looking at the other four mini-challenges and the review of the past mini-challenges. Maybe I’ll turn some of the notes into actual reviews. It could happen.

It’s still not too late to participate. No, really! Head over to Maw Books and give yourself over to improving your blog and connecting to your community. Plus, prizes!

Bloggiesta!

Starting today — like now — I’ll be participating in Bloggiesta, a book blogging party to focus on the work of maintaining a blog. It’s amazing to me, but I actually have a free weekend to dedicate to the task. I keep waiting for someone to remind me of Something Very Important that I have forgotten, but I guess I’ll roll with it.

My plan is to finish my comments for the Comment Challenge. I’ve been visiting the participants and need to get to about half of the blogs. I need to make notes and/or reviews for a few library books, so that I can return them. I have a few Cybils picture books that I owe a reader, and I need to make any notes I haven’t done on those and pack them up. I plan to go through my MotherReader email which I haven’t been attending to properly. I also have a few notes of things I need to change on my blog, so I need to actually you know, do them. Other than that, I’ll be looking at the mini-challenges and the past mini-challenges. They have always been helpful and inspiring — whether teaching me something new, reminding me of a lost lesson, or giving me an energy boost.

If you haven’t signed up to participate, it’s not too late. Head over to Maw Books and give yourself over to improving your blog and connecting to your community. Plus, prizes!

Comment Challenge 2011: Check-In II

How’s it going? Head over and tell Lee. He’s sharing last week’s prize winner, and will pick a new winner from today’s Comment Challenge Check-In to receive a 2011 KidLit/YA book.

Here I’m going to respond to questions from my own comments:
Reading with an intent to comment... I’ll have to think about that. I intend to engage, to read more slowly and thoughtfully, but always to comment? Sometimes I can’t even find anything useful to say on my own blog, much less someone else’s.

What do you all think about responding to comments left on your blog? Do you always respond, sometimes, almost never?
There are two parts to my concept of reading with intent to comment. The first part is the mental commitment. I’ve already decided that I’m going to read actively, not passively, and that’s a big step right there. Now, I don’t decide that for every single post I read. In fact, I’ve become more discriminating about the posts I read. Everyone’s choices will be different here based on taste and interest, but as examples I don’t read In My Mailbox or Library Loot memes, or posts about upcoming books. I don’t read posts about fantasy/paranormal/sci-fi teen books, and since that genre has taken over Young Adult literature, I’m skimming a lot of YA blogs these days for books I would like. There are exceptions, always exceptions, but I’ve already narrowed my selection of posts I’ll be reading with an active participation.

Step two. When I read I turn a mental ear towards my own internal dialogue, noting my reactions and thoughts. When I get to the comments, I pretty much know what I want to say, but just have to take an extra two minutes to shape the words. Sometimes I have no real internal reaction or it’s just meh. Because yeah, there’s still a difference between “Hmm. That’s interesting,” and “Wow! That’s interesting!” Then I don’t comment, and I move on. The intent to comment doesn’t mean that I’ll comment on every single post I read, but that I’ve selected the post to read actively and that I’ll pay attention to my own thoughts with an idea to share them.

Now, what do I think about responding to comments on your own blog and what do I do? Well, I rarely respond to comments in my blog, and then generally, only if it’s a direct question or clarification. I feel that I’ve put my thoughts in the post, and it’s your turn to contribute if you choose. But more important to me is that I want that commenting energy to go outward to the community, not inward to keeping the conversation on my blog. I only have so much time, and suspect that if I were spending it coming up with things to say on every comment on this blog, I wouldn’t also be going out and commenting on other blogs. I get the argument that commenting on your own blog builds dialogue there, but it seems to me that the people who reply to every comment rarely comment other places. I may be wrong, and maybe somebody will tell me so, but that’s my impression.

Just like the original questioner, I put this to all of you for your thoughts as well. But I’ll tell you now that I reserve the right not to spend time defending my opinion in responding to the comments, because I know I feel differently about this than many.

KidLitCon: Anticipation, Preparation, and Recollections

The KidLitosphere needs your help. If you have ever been to a KidLitCon or plan on going to the next one, please fill out this short online survey. It only takes a few minutes, and you have the opportunity to comment or make suggestions to the next committee for KidLitCon 2011. To spur your suggestions, I thought I’d spend today talking about my experiences with the four conferences I have attended.

In 2007, it was just a lark. Robin Brande thought it would be cool if we got together for a potluck dinner, and the idea grew. So many people were on board that she realized that it actually could happen. With her taking the lead on location and dinner and hotel reservations, everyone pitched in to come up with sessions. What I remember most about the Chicago conference was the leap of faith we all took to be there, and how amazingly well it turned out to be. I met my blogging friends for the first time and it was incredible. These people I “knew” online? It turned out that I did know them, as so many folks were exactly like their blogs. I credit that personal interaction with keeping me going with this whole blogging thing.

In 2008, the conference moved to Portland under the direction of Jone and Laini. While the first conference introduced me to my already-blog-friends, this one found me in the company of brand new friends. I met Lee Wind, and we hit it off so well that we began doing this Comment Challenge together. I knew Colleen from Chasing Ray, but was intimidated by her blog persona — so smart and intellectual. Well, she is smart and intellectual... and funny and sharp and opinionated and so much fun to hang out with. Colleen, Jackie and I spent a lot of time together, and I’m looking forward to working with them on the 2011 conference. I remember Jone taking me to see Multnomah Falls on the Sunday after, where we talked about conference planning because I had agreed to take on the next year’s event. Gulp.

In 2009, it was my show, so I remember far more about it than I can convey here. While I went the sessions, my mind was generally on the logistics of the next event and it was hard to concentrate. No matter, as I got so much out of the planning. I was determined to take some of the best parts and lessons learned from the two previous conferences and turn them into something great. I could talk about this at length, so I’ll try to bring it down to a few high points for me. I loved how many people turned out for the informal Friday night dinner. It was a blast. Along with scheduled meals for Saturday breakfast and dinner, and a free lunch time, it gave everyone many opportunities to hang out together and meet new people. I loved the casual feel of the meet-the-author session, and learned about some great new books. My personal favorite thing was the charity raffle. The format of it gave a little something to do during cocktail hour, and I liked putting together the packages with my daughters and family friend. It was also a treat watching them announce the winners, and just basking in that kind of support from my family. I’ll never forget my DC experience.

In 2010, I took myself to Minneapolis with a need to energize among my friends. I got that in spades, hanging out with old blogging friends and meeting new ones. I reconnected with Kelly Herold, who is now back to blogging at Crossover. I loved the author event on Friday, going to hear Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, and Tess Gratton talk about their critique partner relationship. The location at Open Book was fantastic, and just a short walk from the hotel. I found the meaning of these conferences in one line from Amy, “Ah… there was a whole VELVETEEN RABBIT feel to the whole #kidlitcon day. Everyone is real at last!” So true.

Hopefully my little trip down memory lane has got you thinking about KidLitCon. So take that energy and those opinions and fill out the online survey. The future of KidLit Cons depends on it.

Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, Schneider

I know. It’s way past time to cover these ALA Awards, but I’m kind of doing it more for me than for you. So... there. I’ve decided not to cover the Young Adult awards because I haven’t read enough in YA this year to form any thoughtful opinions on the awards.

Let’s start with — on a most appropriate day — the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, recognizing an African American author/illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults. The Author winner came as no surprise to anyone paying attention in children’s literature for the last year: One Crazy Summer, written by Rita Williams-Garcia, is well-deserving of the award. Three King Author Honor Books were selected: Lockdown, by Walter Dean Myers (haven’t read it, but will), Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes (read it, liked it), and Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, written by G. Neri (haven’t read it, probably won’t).

The Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award went to Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier — apparently the best book you’ve never read. One King Illustrator Honor Book was selected: Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen this either. I wish Ruth and the Green Book had made one of these two lists. A missed opportunity to expose kids to a different topic in the Civil Rights period — that of the African American motorist. (Read the book.)

The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award went to Zora and Me, written by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon, and the Illustrator Award went to Seeds of Change, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, written by Jen Cullerton Johnson. Haven’t read the first, liked the second.

The Pura Belpré Author Award honors a Latino writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience. The winner was The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan. The three honor books were ¡Olé! Flamenco, written and illustrated by George Ancona, The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba, written by Margarita Engle, and 90 Miles to Havana, written by Enrique Flores-Galbis. I’ve read none of these. Sorry.

I had better luck with the Pura Belpré Illustrator Awards. While I have not seen the winner, Grandma’s Gift, illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez, I have read all three of the honor books. They are Fiesta Babies, illustrated by Amy Córdova, written by Carmen Tafolla; Me, Frida, illustrated by David Diaz, written by Amy Novesky; and Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin, illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh. I didn’t particularly like the illustrations of Fiesta Babies or Dear Primo, but Me, Frida is gorgeous.

The Schneider Family Book Award is given for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. The Pirate of Kindergarten, written by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Lynne Avril, wins the award for children ages 0 to 10. After Ever After, written by Jordan Sonnenblick, is the winner of the middle-school (ages 11–13) award, and the teen (ages 13–18) award winner is Five Flavors of Dumb, written by Antony John. I like how this category is divided by age group. I’ve read and like the first two, and plan to read the teen title.

So, that wraps it up for me for another year. I have a lot of catching up to do on the award reading, because I didn’t get to many of the books selected this year. Better luck for 2011.

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.

Movie Pitch: The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963

One of the options for my tween’s book report on the assigned reading was to craft a letter pitching the book as a movie. Being movie-loving people here, it seemed like the natural option. But the funny thing was that the more I worked with her writing it, the more I began to truly believe that it actually would be an excellent film. I also love her thoughts, which show her familiarity with movie and acting lingo. So just for fun, here is the letter:
Dear Producer,

I have an amazing proposition for you. Christopher Paul Curtis has this great book called The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 that would make a fantastic movie. Here’s the set-up:

It’s a family drama crossed with a road movie, but with a civil rights kicker. We’re talking Oscar material here! And here’s the hook: Will Smith and family as the Watsons! Will and Jada playing the loving and patient parents. Trey as the tough and yet caring older brother Byron. Jaden as the sensitive protagonist Kenny, and Willow as the sweet little sister. The characters in the book are younger than these actors, but we can make it work. Their age and talent will give them what they need for the emotional range of these complicated characters.

Basically, the book is about an African American family who are struggling to control the behavior of the oldest son. After one last incident, the parents decide that they will bring him to live with the grandmother in Alabama, where he can learn respect. The whole family drives down south, even though they are concerned about race relations there. They are in Birmingham when the church bombing takes place, and it tears through the family — especially affecting the younger brother, who thinks his sister was killed. No one knows how to help him recover, except for the tough older brother, who is more than a troublemaker after all.

We can film in Flint, Michigan, and Birmingham, Alabama — the two places featured in the book. With Jaden coming off of the Karate Kid and Willow’s hit song “Whip My Hair,” the film will bring in lots of kids, and you and I know that adults love Will Smith. Please contact me so that we can discuss this opportunity!

Sincerely,
ERC of Coughlan Literary Agency
Seriously, wouldn’t this be cool? We also talked about alternative casting, with Jaden as the older brother Byron and Willow as a new, refreshing choice as “Jenny.” I’m fond of that option too, though it would mess with the brotherly dynamics of the book. But hey, it would be worth it to see more of this girl:


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.

Geisel, Carnegie, Silbert, and Odyssey

I did plan to get back to the ALA Youth Media Awards before today, but I’ve been fighting an altogether annoying cold. It’s hard to focus on writing anything more than a sentence or two, but I’m going to try to get through a few more awards and reactions and hope that kicks my brain back into gear. So let’s go back to...

The Geisel Award, which goes to Bink and Gollie — written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile — with two honor books named: Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin, and We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems. These were the only titles I heard tossed around for this award, so that all three should get distinction is no big surprise. What does seem odd to me, though, is giving the “Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book” to a title that isn’t a beginning reader book. I kinda thought that there were very specific criteria for what makes a beginning reader book, and I didn’t think this winner was it. But whatever.

The Andrew Carnegie Medal is given for excellence in children’s video, and is often jokingly called the Weston Woods Award, as this seems to be the only group making videos of children’s books, thus narrowing the field significantly. (In fact, I think I may have just discovered a new career.) In any case, the honor went to Paul R. Gagne and Melissa Reilly Ellard of Weston Woods, for The Curious Garden. I liked the book quite well, and it was a Cybils finalist last year. As for the video, what up with the British narrator? Like an American isn’t good enough for you? And wasn’t the garden inspired by the elevated New York City gardens? If you needed a distinct accent, perhaps you should have headed to Brooklyn instead of across the pond.

I have the personal distinction of having read none of the winners of the Robert F. Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children. (Thank you — thank you very much.) Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot, written by Sy Montgomery, featuring photographs by Nic Bishop, is the 2011 Sibert Award winner. Two Sibert Honor Books were named: Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca, and Lafayette and the American Revolution, written by Russell Freedman. I’ve heard wonderful things about the first two books, and I have been loving Nic Bishop’s photography and Brian Floca’s artwork for years, so I’m happy for the acknowledgment for them both. Can’t say much about the third title, but I’m sure it is among the most interesting books written about the American Revolution.

I generally don’t have interest in the Odyssey Award, because I’m personally unable to listen to audio books without mentally drifting off. But I was excited by the surprise winner — and I mean a surprise to the winner himself, who had no idea his book was even being considered — The True Meaning of Smekday. The book is written by Adam Rex and narrated by Bahni Turpin. One of my favorite books, and I’m glad to see it get some notice in any format.

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.

Comment Challenge 2011: Check-In

But not here. Here. Now go on by and tell Papa Lee how it’s going. Have you stayed on the commenting track? Has it been easier than expected? Harder? How many comments do you have on your post-it note so far? Any advice to communicate? Reporting in is a helpful way to keep energized during the Comment Challenge — plus we’ll be selecting a random commenter from the check-in post to win a new Young Adult book.

I’ve had a rough time because I’ve been sick with a cold and am finding it hard to concentrate. When I’m sick, I just want to curl up in bed and read. So I had a big beginning day of fifteen comments and a rally last night of ten more. With the comments in between and ones today I’m on target, with an average of five a day.

What I rediscovered is that once I start reading blogs with the intent to comment, I do find something to say. It may not be the most clever or funny or insightful, but I’m there. And sometimes that’s what counts the most.

Now share your experience. Oh, and if you haven’t begun yet, you can still join in: Sign up here.

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.

Newbery and Caldecott 2011

The Newbery Award — this year subtitled “Did Not See That Coming” — brought us some interesting books that had no pre-award buzz whatsoever. I’m looking forward to reading most of these for the first time and I suspect that I’m not alone in this.

Moon Over Mainfest
Moon over Manifest, written by Clare Vanderpool, is the 2011 Newbery Medal winner. I have this book on my TBR shelf and imagine that I’ll be reading it this afternoon now. Total surprise in that I’ve heard nothing about this book around the kidlitosphere.

There were four Newbery Honor Books named. Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm, I have read and enjoyed. I’ve seen some talk about it for Newbery, and am very happy to see it in the list. One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, was altogether expected to make the Newbery list, and many people thought it would pull in the gold. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman, was a book I’d been hearing in conjunction with the Caldecott Award. I’d never thought of it for Newbery and haven’t read it yet. I do like Sidman’s poetry, so I expect to enjoy this title. Heart of a Samurai, written by Margi Preus, is another book that appeared out of thin air as an award-winner. I’ve seen the book, but had not heard any buzz about it in terms of awards. Shut out of the Newbery winners were Keeper, Countdown, and Forge — all books that were talked about as near-certainities.

The Caldecott was a little more in line with expectations, though the committee seriously needs to choose more titles for honor awards. This year it was really a travesty as there were some wonderful possibilities that were passed by.

I’m happy to say that two of the books are Cybils Fiction Picture Book finalists. A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (and written by Philip Stead), is the 2011 Caldecott Medal winner. A lot of folks were looking at this title for gold or silver. Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, was a surprise for Caldecott. I like the book, but had not heard it mentioned in Caldecott predictions. Out of left field was honor book Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier (and written by Laban Carrick Hill). I vaguely remember hearing about this book earlier in the fall, and then it dropped off the radar.

What is more notable are the many titles that were not represented in the Caldecotts. I was personally pulling for Chalk, by Bill Thompson, because I think that the illustrations are amazing in their details, expressions, and perspectives. I thought Flora’s Very Windy Day was a long shot, but I couldn’t help but hope for its enchanting illustrations to be noticed. I’d heard Ballet for Martha and Dark Emperor suggested from more than one source. Personally, I was never convinced of the predicted win of City Dog, Country Frog.

So, what turns out to be correct is the most widespread prediction of this years awards — that they were wide open. Back later with some more awards.

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.

Stay Tuned

This is a strange morning for me, sitting here waiting for the ALA Youth Media Awards to begin. With the conference being on the west coast, the announcements won’t begin until 10:45 a.m. EST. What to do for the next hour?

I certainly could fit in a little blog reading — and commenting — before all the fun begins. With a full day on Saturday and a head cold on Sunday, I haven’t been online that much. But I suspect that will change today as I follow the excitement in the book world around the Internet.

I can take a moment to remind everyone that it is certainly not too late to join Comment Challenge 2011. In fact, I hope that the influx of librarian folk will bring us up to a hundred participants, and maybe beyond. If it seems hard to catch up, just think of all the places you’ll be able to comment today. Oh, especially if this is one of those years of real out-of-nowhere books. We are kind of due for that.

I won’t get into discussions of the Arizona tragedy. I am relieved somewhat that the gunman was not a Tea Party follower, because I think that direct connection would have been too much to bear and even more divisive. However, I still stand on the idea that the hateful, incendiary rhetoric of the times is destructive and dangerous. I can only hope that this horrible event will bring us closer to understanding that it is time to take it down a notch — for America.

But for now, I’ll be distracted by setting up my computer to watch the awards and getting warmed up for the discussion to follow them.

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.

Comment Challenge 2011: Sign-Up

Today begins Comment Challenge 2011. Running through Wednesday, January 26, the goal is to comment on five book blogs a day. Keep track of your numbers, report in on Wednesdays for support, and comment like you mean it for three weeks. At the end, we’ll award prizes at random to bloggers who’ve passed the 100 Comment Mark — along with some random participation prizes at the ending and check-in posts. If you have any questions, check out the FAQs or ask in the comments on that page.

Edited to add: I posted at midnight last night, but now I can add the link to Lee Wind’s Comment Challenge post of amazing and inspiring ideas. So sign up here, and then go there to get motivated and, you know, to comment.

Comment away!

Comment Challenge 2011

It’s BACK! Based on last year’s success, Lee Wind and I are bringing The Comment Challenge to your January — the perfect time of year to make a new resolution to connect more with your fellow bloggers.

Since it is said that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit, we’re going to run the Comment Challenge for the next three weeks — starting Thursday, January 6, and running through Wednesday, January 26, 2011. The goal is to comment on at least five book blogs a day. Keep track of your numbers, and report in on Wednesdays with Lee. We’ll tell each other how we’re doing and keep each other fired up. On Wednesday, January 26, I’ll post the final check-in post for the Comment Challenge. A prize package will be involved, drawing from among the bloggers who reach the 100 Comment Mark (five comments a day for twenty-one days with one day free of comment charge). It’s also pretty likely that we’ll award some random door prizes for trying, because why not? I’m including last year’s Frequently Asked Questions to get this party started. Or almost started, since we’ll begin on Thursday.

Where do I sign up?

Sign up at the Thursday, January 6th, post, here at MotherReader. (Note: Direct link will be added on Thursday.)

If I don’t start on that first day, is it too late to start?

No. You can either up your number of comments per day if you want to make the 100 Comment mark, or you can set your own goal and join us for the support and camaraderie.

Five comments a day! How can I do that?

Feel free to set your own goal. Maybe start smaller and build up. Maybe aim for one thoughtful comment and two “I can’t wait to read that!” comments a day. But honestly, it’s easier than it sounds. Think how many comments you leave on Facebook or replies on Twitter. It’s doable.

Does it have to be exactly five daily comments, or can they be averaged?

I will say that it sets the habit better if you make a point to comment every day that you’re reading blogs, but you don’t have to hit exactly five comments every day. Averaging them together is fine.

Do you have to be an KidLit/YA book blogger to participate?

No, all book bloggers are welcome. We’re only pushing the Comment Challenge within the kidlitosphere to boost the energy in our community. I mean, we don’t want the knitting blogs to get the fruits of our commenting labor. The challenge is open it to any book blogger who would like to participate. Especially those who would like to find out more about the wonderful world of KidLit/YA Blogging.

Is there a special tracking system?

Well, mine is a Post-It note. We’re on the honor system here, so track your own comments however you see fit. However, I don’t recommend tattoos. Been there, done that.

What are the prizes?

I’m working on it, but I’m guessing books. If you have something special you’d like to donate — signed books, original art, crafty ventures — send me an email at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com.

Do you have to comment at a hundred different blogs or only blogs that are new to you?

No and no. You can use this as an opportunity to reconnect with the blogs you know. But personally, I find it easier to spread my comments around among lots of blogs because I find I have more to say.

Will there be a list of participants whose blogs I can make a special effort to visit as fellow Comment Challengers?

Yes.

Why isn’t anyone coming back to my blog?

Make sure that your profile links back to your blog. I’ve often tried to follow comments on my own blog back to the writer only to find that the profile is blocked or leads to an old blog.

Do I have to check in on Wednesdays to participate?


Strictly speaking, no you don’t. To be counted as a participant, you have to sign up for the challenge and you need to sign out on the last day with your totals. However, I highly recommend coming to the check-in posts on Fridays with Lee as it will keep you on the commenting track. Plus, prizes.

Questions? Ask in the... comments.

2010 Cybils Fiction Picture Book Finalists

As the organizer of the category and first-round panelists, I’m excited to present the 2010 Fiction Picture Books Finalists! I’m very excited about this list, which reflects some wonderful writing and illustration, packaged in some darn fun books. Enjoy!

A Beach TailA Beach Tail
by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Boyds Mills Press

While following his father’s direction to stay close to the lion he drew in the sand, a young boy makes the tail longer and longer as he explores the shore. Finding himself far away from the beach umbrella, the boy figures out how to get back along the trail he created. This gentle story for young readers touches on independence and problem-solving in a realistic setting, as the soft illustrations capture the subtle tones of the seashore and the wonder of exploration.
— Pam Coughlan

ChalkChalk
by Bill Thomson
Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books

When a group of children venture out to the playground on a rainy day, they discover a bag of chalk with unusual qualities: Whatever they draw magically comes true. Thing get a tad scary, however, when a little boy draws a large green T-Rex that immediately charges for the kids in hungry pursuit. Using acrylics and colored pencils to create remarkably photo-realistic images, while creating suspense with a dizzying array of perspectives and angles, Thomson’s vibrant illustrations make this wordless picture book a masterful work of visual storytelling.
— Kiera Parrot

The Cow Loves CookiesThe Cow Loves Cookies
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Marcellus Hall
Margaret K. McElderry

All the animals on the farm love their own special food the farmer feeds them every day. The horse loves hay, of course. The chickens love their feed, the geese their corn, and the pigs their slop. But the cow, well, the cow loves cookies. Clear bold lines, watercolor illustrations, simple rhyming text, repeating theme, and surprise ending makes this story the perfect read-aloud for the youngest of readers who are anxious to get in on the action.
— Natasha Maw

Flora’s Very Windy DayFlora’s Very Windy Day
by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Clarion Books

As the wind sweeps them into the sky, Flora is tempted to get rid of her little brother as a dragonfly, a rainbow, and even the man in the moon offer to take him away. But with each interaction, Flora becomes more determined to keep him and bring him home. This humorous and touching story, coupled with beautiful illustrations full of whimsy, encourages positive sibling relationships in a fun and fresh way.
— Emily Beeson

Interrupting ChickenInterrupting Chicken
by David Ezra Stein
Candlewick Press

Bedtime has come for the Little Red Chicken, which means story time! As Papa gets ready to read his daughter a classic tale, he offers a little reminder about curtailing her interrupting habit... but, of course, it’s no use, and Chicken brings hilarity to each story Papa begins. Bright and lively illustrations keep the energy high with each suspenseful page turn. Ideal for reading aloud and perfect for creative voicing, this book is a hit for fun loving (and book loving!) kids of all ages.
— Dawn Mooney

Shark vs. TrainShark vs. Train
by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
Little, Brown

The premise of the story is simple: You have a shark. You have a train. You have a series of increasingly insane situations. Who wins? Well, it all depends... Crisp, vibrant illustrations create a hilarious celebration of imagination and zany competition. Open-ended text makes this perfect for interactive read-alouds or quiet one-on-one giggle sessions.
— Jennifer Wharton

A Sick Day for Amos McGeeA Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Phillip Christian Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead
Roaring Brook

Amos McGee is a doting zookeeper who finds the tables turned when he catches cold and his animals come over for a visit. With simple text and gloriously hand-made block print and pencil illustrations, A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a timeless tale of compassion and friendship that will endear itself to readers for many years to come.
— Travis Jonker