105 Ways to Give a Book

Thoughts from the Comment Challenge

Why aren't people commenting on my blog? It's a common complaint, a question for the blogging ages. There are big picture answers that highlight content, engagement and connection. But today I want to focus on some concrete things I noticed as I was making my way through the Comment Challenge participants.

1. The commenting process is difficult. At this point, most bloggers are using some sort of filter that keeps spambots out. But I've noticed that some commenting systems are harder than others. For instance, I have no problem with the ones that want a Google ID, but I shy away if a Facebook login is requested. And I'm not even sure what Disqus is. A lot of this isn't in your control, but might be worth knowing.

2. The content isn't updated. I'm one to talk after my pathetic January posting schedule, but fresh content does matter. As I visited blogs during the Comment Challenge, I commented on the post that drew my attention most - and if I didn't have much to choose from then sometimes I didn't comment. There it is.

3. The content isn't varied enough. Maybe you are focused on branding your reviewer/illustrator/writer blog, but give yourself a little room to play in the bigger world of KidLit/YA literature. Throw in something personal, book recommendations, movie tie-ins, Kidlitosphere news - just something different from your norm to engage more people.

4. The post doesn't invite comments. I've struggled with asking questions at the end of a post, and generally avoided it myself for fear of leaving it dangling out there, unanswered. But what I'm thinking of is posts that give little to latch onto. Okay, an example is posting illustrations alone. Other than "Lovely," what have you given me to say?" But add to that posting where the idea came from, what you struggled to capture... whatever went into it that gives me a way to relate.

5. The blog is continuous self-promotion. Obviously, your blog will have some self-promotion for your achievements, but if that's all your posts are about then you are not inviting engagement. You're not even inviting return visits.

I'll be back soon with winners from the Comment Challenge. I apologize for the delay, but with SCWBI's conference, coordinating with Lee at the conference, and fighting a bad cold it just didn't happen. Soon.

Comment Challenge: Finish Line

You made it! As you finish up with your blog reading today, please check in here or with Lee Wind with your totals. We have fun prizes, so leave us your final stats even if you didn’t make it to five comments a day. We’ll be picking 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 in today's comments.

I hope that the Comment Challenge has helped you connect to the community, find new blogs to read, and increased your comfort with commenting. This year with so many of the SCBWI folks participating, I found myself exposed to new ideas in writing and illustration that gave me a jump start on my own goals, so I thank you. My own comments aren't finished today as I'm making my way through the last blogs on the sign-up list (which were the first blogs, since I started in the middle). During the month, I made some great discoveries of new-to-me blogs and the commenting here has me feeling charged up for a new year of blogging. While the Comment Challenge has finished, I know that it's really just the beginning.

Poetry Friday: A Poem of Pronunciation

If you are looking for a way to be more connected to other kidlit bloggers, I can suggest no easier starting point than Poetry Friday. Started over five years ago, the meme host changes every week with the schedule available at KidLitosphere Central. The rotation allows more contributors to feature their site while sharing the workload of the event. Bloggers share original poems, reviews of poetry books, reviews of poetic picture books, links to poems at copyright protected sites, thoughts about poetry, poem writing tips, and more. Then the participants link to the host, submit their own link, and follow the other links to their heart's content.

Today I have a tricky poem from The Poke that you can only appreciate if you read it aloud - if you can:
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
The rest of the lengthy verse is here for a little English language fun, but honestly I couldn't make it even this far without getting caught up in the pronunciation. How did you do? The Poetry Friday round-up hosted at Wild Rose Reader.

Comment Challenge Check-In II

I am really loving the Commment Challenge this year because it is getting me paying attention to the blogging world around me. As I make my way through the list of participants - I started in the middle if you're wondering - I'm discovering new-to-me blogs and fresh ideas on writing. Perhaps I've erred some in not focusing on my own blogging content, but there's something to be said for taking a step back and reflecting.

The commenting has been coming easy and keeping up the numbers has not been the challenge so much as making the time to do some concentrated blog reading. Along with tracking my comments, I've been keeping some notes about things I'm finding at different blogs. Carrie Pearson had a great post on responding to writing critiques. I was stunned by the work involved in an international list of reading/literacy charities at Playing by the Book and inspired by the 12 x 12 in '12 Picture Book Challenge that I learned about from Lori Degman and Stacy Jensen, and the writing excuses post at Pen and Ink may just be enough to get me to sign up for that challenge. If so, I'll have to thank Teaching Authors for getting me unstuck and On My Mind for giving me some story starters.

Oh, and there is so much more! I hope you've been enjoying your Comment Challenge experience. Let us know how it's going at the Official Comment Challenge Check-In with Lee Wind!

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.

Science & Stories Program: Snow

There’s a new meme in town. STEM Friday focuses on books that promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The round-up this week is hosted at Capstone Connect.

Over the year I’ll be sharing the preschool program I created for the library and that I’m presenting once a month. The concept behind the program is to introduce science topics by combining fiction and nonfiction, songs and mini-experiments, action rhymes and hands-on times. The target age for the program is three to six years old, so the information and experiments are basic, and intended to encourage a questioning, observational approach to scientific topics.


Book: Snow is My Favorite And My Best, by Lauren Child

Song: "Snowflakes"
(to "Mary Had a Little Lamb")
Snowflakes whirling all around,
All around, all around.
Snowflakes whirling all around,
Until they cover all the ground.

(stand up, hands are snowflakes, bend down to put them on "the ground." Do twice)

Book: Snow is Falling, by Franklyn Branley

Experiment: "Salt and Ice"
Put the same number of ice cubes in two bowls. Stir some salt in one. Wait 15 minutes, stirring often. Which melted more? Why?

Book: The Snow Show, by Carolyn Fisher

Experiment: "Making Frost"
Fill a metal can – like a soup can – 2/3 full of crushed ice. Place on paper towel. Pour 1 tablespoon of water on paper towel around can. Fill rest of can with salt and stir. Watch frost form on the outside of the metal can.

Book: Stella: Queen of the Snow, by Marie Louise Gay

Experiment: "Snowflakes"
Make six sided snowflakes by cutting folded paper. Fold paper in half, then in thirds, cutting off the “extra.” Cut out shapes and show-off snowflakes.

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 Check-In

But not with me, with Papa Lee! Head over and share how the Comment Challenge is working out for you. After a slow start, I've found it surprisingly easy to get back into the grove of commenting. It does take a little more of my online time, but I feel more connected to what I am reading. And to whom I'm reading, because I'm making sure to explore new-to-me blogs. I'll have to talk more about that later. Right now I am on track with my five-a-day comments and loving it.

Check in with Lee Wind to share your stories and to tell that nice guy a big Happy Birthday!

Reading Anticipation

The Fault in Our StarsLike many others in the KidLitosphere, I preordered a copy of John Green's book, The Fault in Our Stars and through the magic of Amazon Prime, it's here! The funny thing for me is that I haven't been following the story of the book or the VlogBrothers, though I dip in on occasion. I happened to see that preorders were being signed and thought that would be cool and it was cheap on Amazon and mostly... well... I wanted to anticipate something.

Lately the books that everyone's buzzing about are not what I love to read. Seriously, I gave away my signed Book Expo America ARC's of The Scorpio Races, Goliath, and Legend as prizes for the 48 Hour Book Challenge without reading a single one first. Which in retrospect seems very generous and a bit stupid. So yeah, I got The Fault in Our Stars mainly to capture some of that excitement of a long-awaited book.

What have you been anticipating?

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.
Category: 18 comments

Not in Need of Improvement

Everything in January seems focused on being better. We resolve to exercise, eat healthy, and get organized in one fell swoop. So much energy is spent concentrating on what is wrong with ourselves that it's no wonder we end up on the couch gnawing a chocolate Santa recovered from the back of the pantry live-tweeting the fifth hour of a Hoarders marathon with snarky, derisive comments. Or maybe that's just me.

In any case, this time of resolutions and goals and challenges - yes, even this one - can be difficult for just feeling good about ourselves. So I thought I'd give my blogging buddies and fellow comment challengers a chance to share something about yourself that you like or do well. Not promotions or book deals or Ultimate Grand Supreme wins, but a little something like this:
My eyelashes are so long that they brush against my glasses if I wear mascara - which I don't need to do anyway because they are so dark and thick.
Yeah, that felt good. Real good. Now it's your turn to brag a bit. As you work to improve your commenting habits, exercise routine, organization skills, time management, book promotion, social media platform, etc... what can you feel good about today?
Category: 27 comments

Comment Challenge 2012: Sign-Up

Before you embark on Comment Challenge 2012 - twenty-one days of community-building through comments - let's knock out some common barriers:

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.

You’re over-thinking it. We hear about social media and networking in terms of helping our writing/blogs/careers and start worrying about how comments figure in the process. Look, no one is getting a book deal from a comment. It's about connecting, engaging and getting out there. Relax.

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. You wouldn't walk away from that, right? What would you say? Okay, now say that but in a comment.

So with that and the FAQs in mind, let's get started.

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 2012

It’s BACK! Now that it has become a habit, 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 5, and running through Wednesday, January 25, 2012. 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 25, 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 the Frequently Asked Questions to get warmed up and I'll post the sign-up tomorrow. 

Where do I sign up?

Sign up at the Thursday, January 5th, 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. The sign-up list here at MotherReader. 

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 Wednesdays with Lee as it will keep you on the commenting track. Plus, prizes.

Questions? Ask in the... comments.

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

Since lots of people in the kidlitosphere are writing about today’s announcement of the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, I wasn’t going to. But it turns out to be Walter Dean Myers, and hey, I actually talked to him for a decent amount of time at one of those ALA conferences. So the tiny personal connection makes it even a bit more real. Then I caught his platform, his motto for the year and I was hooked:
Reading Is Not Optional
In his interview at School Library Journal he goes on to say:
The value of reading has escalated in my lifetime. As a young man, I saw families prosper without reading because there were always sufficient opportunities for willing workers who could follow simple instructions. This is no longer the case. Children who don’t read are, in the main, destined for lesser lives. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to change this.
Actually, the whole interview makes me excited. Color me on board! Congratulations to Walter Dean Myers and best of luck!
Category: 2 comments

Cybils Finalists 2011

The Cybils finalists are in for all categories today, but I’ll be showing off the work of me and my fellow panelists for the last few months with the shortlist for Fiction Picture Books, and you can head to the Cybils site for the rest.

by John Rocco

Hyperion, 2011

When all the lights in Brooklyn go out one summer night, families are suddenly not busy, much to the delight of a young child. Without power, the family can’t do their many insular electronic tasks and have time to play games together, socialize with their neighbors and even look at the stars from the roof. With top-notch paneled illustrations and limited text, Blackout’s comic-like setup adds to the progressing action. It’s when the lights go out that the evening’s action begins, and the reader enjoys Rocco’s details of the character’s facial expressions and the community’s joint adventure on the streets and roofs of the city. Like the young boy and his family at the center of the story, one doesn’t want the evening in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge to come to an end.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?
by Susan A. Shea, illustrated by Tom Slaughter

Blue Apple Books, 2011

With tongue firmly in cheek, Shea challenges young children to compare living and nonliving things through a series of silly, rhyming questions. While lifting page flaps will show a stool “growing” into a chair, series of answers in rhyming couplets reinforce the basic concept. Relationships between inanimate objects small and large are established in creative ways, subtly encouraging critical thinking when kids are too busy giggling to even notice. No doubt about it, children will joyfully answer these questions with a resounding “NO!” at each page turn.

I Had a Favorite DressI Had a Favorite Dress
by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Julia Denos

Abrams for Young Readers, 2011

When a girl’s favorite dress gets too small, turning it into a new top is just the beginning, as this special item of clothing continues to change through seasons, styles, accidents and growth spurts. Lyrical language plays with rhyming and repeated words and reflects the voice of an inventive child. Soft watercolor tones are perfect in capturing the pinks of the dress and soft browns of the girl, while line drawing and actual stitching incorporated into the pictures add whimsical touches. While readers will relate to the life cycle of one dress, the book works on multiple layers with the themes of growing up, problem solving, and resourcefulness served in an engaging way.

I Want My Hat BackI Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2011

Having lost his beloved hat, a bear seeks help from a variety of other animals before finally rediscovering it. Readers may be one step ahead of the bear in finding the hat, but the author remains a step ahead of the reader with a surprise ending. The reactions of the culprit and the bear display a dark, sophisticated humor. Minimalist and muted, with careful use of color to highlight what’s important, the artwork is nicely integrated with the mood and the text. The memorable book becomes a standout with its spare illustrations, dry humor and unconventional storyline.

Me... JaneMe... Jane
by Patrick McDonnell

Little, Brown, 2011

A picture book biography in the truest sense, McDonnell has created an introduction to the life of primatologist Jane Goodall that keeps the K-2 audience firmly in mind. Themes of following your interests and achieving your dreams are woven into the story of Goodall’s childhood spent indulging her curiosity in the natural world. Expertly combining ink, watercolor, stamps, and one perfectly placed photograph, Me... Jane is as artistically ambitious as it is heartfelt.

Press HerePress Here
by Herve Tullet

Chronicle Books, 2011

Open the book. Start reading. Watch the children listening to this magical book. Watch the children as the book works its spell on them, mesmerizes them, compelling them to press the dots, to tilt the page, to blow on the dots, to shake the book. Observe the children as they press and tilt and blow and shake. Look into the eyes of the children. See the enchantment in their eyes. Listen as the children cry, “Again!” as you reach the end of the book. Go back to the beginning of the book. Read this whimsical book again. And again and again and again...

The Princess and the PigThe Princess and the Pig
by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Walker Books for Young Readers, 2011

A farmer hauling a little piglet in his cart stops for a break underneath a castle tower. Happenstance — and a very neglectful Queen — finds the piglet flying up to the tower and the newborn princess trading places with it. But no one is shocked with the switch since “it’s the sort of thing that happens all the time in books.” Younger kids will enjoy the silly story and funny pictures, while plenty of references to classic fairy tales will captivate school-age kids. With a strong plot, an unexpected ending and vibrant illustrations, The Princess and the Pig is a delightful read-aloud.

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.
Category: 5 comments