105 Ways to Give a Book

Comment Challenge End

With twenty-one days of commenting awareness under our belts, we have reached the end of the Comment Challenge. With the morning off work, I have only five comments to go to reach the one hundred mark, so I'm feeling good. In other years the daily routine was most helpful, but this time I found myself reading and commenting in blocks of time. It may have a lot to do with when I was keeping Teen company as she worked through her endless amounts of homework. Either way it got me more connected to blogging and responding, and that's what I love most about doing this Comment Challenge.

My takeaway is the idea that there are two types of comments. In one we offer a connection to the topic, adding opinions and contributing to the dialogue. In the other we offer a connection to the writer, adding support and contributing to a community feeling. I think our hesitation comes often from our fear of not doing the first adequately, when in truth any comment is adequate in the second because it lets the writer feel heard. Okay maybe not any comment, if it say advertises products of dubious nature. But still, I'd like to worry less about what I'm saying when much of the value in commenting is saying anything.

Thanks to all of you who have commented here this week. I didn't respond individually, but I was especially grateful for your comments on my daughter's video of Crazy Dreams. The song itself has been so meaningful to me as a crossover from my theatre kid world to the community of writers: "Hello, you wild magnolias just waiting to bloom, there's a little bit of all that inside of me and you." Of course, I love her performance and I know how well she sells those words, so I appreciate knowing it was heard in the world.

Okay, so back to the bigger picture of Comment Challenge 2013. By the end of the day, please comment with your totals, experience, etc so that Lee Wind and I can give out some prizes. Don't worry if you didn't meet the one hundred goal, or even your own goal. We would like to know who was along for the ride and how you found the journey. Thanks for playing!

Caldecott and Newbery Awards 2013

I know that no one is breathlessly awaiting my post on the winners when the news is all over the Kidlitosphere, but for my own sake of fulfillment I'll cover the Newbery and Caldecott Awards - the "biggies" of the ALA Youth Media Awards.

The One and Only IvanThe John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature went to The One and Only Ivan, written by Katherine Applegate. I loved the book and thought it had a good chance at a medal. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of the three honor books Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, or Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Of them, the last is first on my list to read as it was also named in other nonfiction awards. I was surprised that Wonder was not on the list, but am thinking that it may have peaked too early in the Newbery season.

This Is Not My HatThe winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book was This Is Not My Hat, illustrated and written by Jon Klassen. I thought it was too similar to the first book to win, but what do I know. Two of the Caldecott Honor books were also Cybils finalists, Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds and Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett. Among my personal favorites of last year was One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small and written by Toni Buzzeo. I have never understood the buzz about Green, illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, but figured it would be honored. I actually don't know Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, but since I love the illustrator Pamela Zagarenski, I'm looking forward to the book. I was disappointed that Chloe and the Lion didn't appear on the list, especially with so many selections named this year. When it was announced that there would be five honor books, there was an obvious murmur from the ALA audience, and I'm glad to see a bigger list than last year.

What are your thoughts on the Newbery and Caldecott awards this year? Did they get it right?

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: "Crazy Dreams"

Another installment of song as poetry, this time with a side of story.

Last weekend my daughter and I went to New York so that she could attend workshop through the Broadway Artists Alliance program she does there. She was very excited to participate because it was set up around the theme of Smash and one of the ensemble members of the cast, Wesley Taylor, would teach a class. What we didn't realize until later was that the other part of the day would be run by Ceasar Rocha, the casting director of Smash and many Broadway shows. So my girl sang this song for him and he told her she had a great voice. Just, wow. And look how perfect the song is. And watch how perfectly she sings it:
Crazy Dreams
Hello, you longshots, you dark horse runners
Hairbrush singers, dashboard drummers
Hello, you wild magnolias just waitin’ to bloom
There's a little bit of all that inside of me and you
Thank God, even crazy dreams come true
I stood at the bottom of some walls I thought I couldn't climb
I felt like Cinderella at the ball just runnin’ out of time
So I know how it feels to be afraid
And think that it's all gonna slip away
Hold on, hold on

Here's to you free souls, you firefly chasers
Tree climbers, porch swingers, air guitar players
Here's to you fearless dancers, shakin’ walls in your bedrooms
There's a lot of wonder left inside of me and you
Thank God, even crazy dreams come true
Never let a bad day be enough
To go and talk you into givin’ up
Sometimes everybody feels like you
Oh, feels like you, just like you
Thank God, even crazy dreams come true

This video is from a showcase, so ignore the terrible piano, but let the message come to your life, "There's a lot of wonder left inside of me and you."

Poetry Friday is hosted at The Opposite of Indifference. Tune in to the blogs on Monday for the results of the ALA Youth Media 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.

Comment Challenge Check-In

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 am 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 with my pathetic January posting schedule, but fresh content does matter. As I've been visiting blogs during the Comment Challenge, I comment on the post that drew my attention most - and if I didn't have much to choose from then sometimes I didn't comment.

3. The content isn't varied. 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. Personally, 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.

What have you noticed on your commenting travels? How are doing on your commenting goals?

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: Shake It Out

Another in the ongoing installment of songs as poetry is this one from Florence & The Machine. As usual, I've included just part of the lyrics and cut the song-like conventions, which in this case includes the title bit. So watch the video and enjoy!
Shake It Out
Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It's always darkest before the dawn

And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around
And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it's always darkest before the dawn

I have to admit that I first heard this done on Smash by Katherine McPhee, and given my love of that show and singer, I prefer that version, though this is certainly a better video. I'm also back on a Smash kick since The Kid and I are headed to New York tomorrow so that she can attend a Broadway class with the theme of the show and led by one of the ensemble cast members. Very cool! Anyway, for real poems look to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Violet Nesdoly.

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

So how's the Comment Challenge going? Struggling for something to say? Well, maybe recognizing some common commenting barriers will help:

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.

Now the comment section is yours for progress reports, lessons learned, and commenting insights so far. Don't forget that you can lend support to your fellow participants who you'll find listed at the Comment Challenge sign-up. Go to it!

The Comment Challenge 2013

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 today Friday, January 11, and running through Thursday, January 31, 2013. The goal is to comment on at least five book blogs a day. Keep track of your numbers, and check in here on Thursday for an inspirational post and group support. We’ll tell each other how we’re doing and keep each other fired up. On Thursday, January 31, Lee will post the final check-in post for the Comment Challenge. Prizes 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 and pointing you to Lee Wind to sign-up... TODAY!

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 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.

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 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.

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 at I'm Here I'm Queer, What Do I Read?

Questions? Ask in the... comments.


Quickie review today of a middle grade and/or middle school book that should be required reading for every young teenage girl who wonders what boys could possibly be thinking with courtship techniques that sometimes involve spitballs.

by Gary Paulsen

Wendy Lamb Books 2012, review from library copy
Crush“I’m the most romantic guy you’ll ever meet. Potentially, that is.” Kevin Spencer, 14 yrs old, would love to be Tina’s boyfriend, but first he has to be able to talk to her without making a fool of himself. He decides to make a study of love and dating to improve his chances, as his ego needs no work. Though he makes some wrong turns – hilarious ones, mostly – he also brings some people together and resolves his own crush. Paulsen has created a character with a lot of charm and humor. The book is full of funny lines, for instance Kevin's view of his parents' relationship: “In summation: Don’t annoy her, listen – and hear – her, and feed her. Except for the listening/hearing part, it’s kind of like having another cat. And I’m an excellent pet owner.” Does he stop experimenting and get the girl? Sure, but the fun is along the way. The shorter length of the books in the series – which includes Liar, Liar and Flat Broke – are great for reluctant readers in middle school. Boys will enjoy this relatable character and girls may find usable insight into the mind of a teenage boy in love.

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 Songs: "Little Talks"

In my continuing series of songs as poetry, I checked with TeenReader for some of her favorite hipster songs because she finds the best music. "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men is one we've been enjoying a lot recently. The video is super trippy too.
Little Talks

I don't like walking around this old and empty house.
So hold my hand, I'll walk with you, my dear.
The stairs creak as you sleep, it's keeping me awake.
It's the house telling you to close your eyes.
Some days I can't even trust myself.
It's killing me to see you this way.
'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

There's an old voice in my head that's holding me back.
Well, tell her that I miss our little talks.
Soon it will be over and buried with our past.
We used to play outside when we were young
And full of life and full of love.
Some days I don't know if I am wrong or right.
Your mind is playing tricks on you, my dear.
'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.

Pretty cool, right? Poetry Friday is hosted today at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

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.

Giving Back: A Mo Willems Inspired Post

Killing time on New Year's Eve, an email reminder about Donors Choose sent me looking around the site. As I always do there, I searched for book projects in either Virginia or D.C., not committed to giving a specific amount as much as seeing what might connect. I was caught by this request looking for specific beginning reader titles:
These books, by Jan Thomas and Mo Willems, are ones that young readers will read again and again and again. The stories are hilarious, the illustrations are simple, but brilliant. The vocabulary and wording are accessible. These are the first books my students search for when we visit the library each week.

My students are willing to struggle and work hard to become readers. They love books, both independently and when shared. These books will ensure that every student can find a copy of a book they want to read.
Oh yeah, I can connect to a book list of Mo Willems titles. Without a second thought, I donated enough to buy all the Elephant & Piggie series (plus a contribution to Donors Choose). Others donated enough for the rest of the books, meaning that the class will be able to enjoy them very soon. The teacher's thank you note made me so happy, so I'll share it too:
Happy Pig Day!I am so excited to return to school tomorrow and tell my students that we will soon be receiving a huge box full of Jan Thomas and Mo Willems' books. I know these titles will all be in their book boxes as soon as they arrive in our classroom. These two authors are favorites of everyone in our class (including me) so these books will be highly anticipated and much loved. Thank you so much for your generosity towards my students and myself. These emerging readers will grow quickly and with great excitement in their reading thanks to you.
What a great way to begin a new year! Giving books to kids who want, need, and love 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.

Cybils Finalists

The new year brings the new crop of Cybils Finalists! There are some great books on those shortlists, but I have a special interest in promoting that of my picture book committee:

Black DogBlack Dog
by Levi Pinfold


One day a black dog of inderminate (but undoubtedly large) size scares the Hope family terribly, leaving the youngest member, called Small, to face the animal. In her bright yellow jacket, she leads the dog on a merry chase with the refrain, "You can''t follow where I go, unless you shrink, or don't you know?" The dog does follow, and as he shrinks the reader's heart swells, for Small Hope is a picture of brazen confidence and the face of the dog shows the reader that the only thing he's hungry for is a friend. Both the text and illustrations offer much to ponder, with younger readers able to enjoy the delicious wordplay and adventure while older readers can explore the allegory of the black dog on a deeper level. -- Julie Jurgens, Hi Miss Julie!

Chloe and the LionChloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex


Author and illustrator appear in their own book as sculpted doll versions of themselves working together to tell the story of Chloe, a young girl who saves her money to ride the merry-go-round in the park. When author Mac decides to fire illustrator Adam over artistic differences, the variety of styles used to tell Chloe’s story creates the perfect illusion that multiple illustrators are taking his place. The differentiation between the “on-stage” happenings of Chloe’s story and witty behind-the-scenes banter of Mac and Adam is expertly defined through the use of different media and fonts for each. Readers are sure to remember the difference between an author and an illustrator after enjoying this clever story-within-a-story. -- Laura Given, LibLaura

Creepy Carrots!Creepy Carrots!
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Simon & Schuster

Jasper Rabbit has a big problem: he can't stop chomping down all the carrots in Crackenhopper Field, and they've had enough! As Jasper's love of carrots turns to fear, he attempts to conquer the Creepy Carrots once and for all. Through vivid noir-style illustrations, readers young and old will be captivated by the pop of bright orange against a Twilight Zone feel of background colors and characters. A perfectly creepy and hilarious story of a gluttonous bunny that may even help little readers conquer their fears of what goes bump in the night. -- Danielle Smith, There's a Book

Extra YarnExtra Yarn
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzer + Bray

In a dreary town, young Annabelle finds a box filled with yarn of every color. Incredibly, the supply never seems to run out. Annabelle decides to share, slowly changing her world for the better. "Timeless" can sometimes be code for "old-fashioned"--that's not the case here. In Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen craft a story with staying power that feels fresh and modern. Barnett touches on themes of giving while Klassen works wonders with the visuals, covering the once-drab town in technicolor yarn. It's funny, it's quirky, yet at the core Extra Yarn is an engaging story that kids won't soon forget. -- Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes

A Home for BirdEA Home for Bird
by Philip C. Stead

Roaring Brook

A carved bird is launched off the back of a truck and discovered by a cheerful frog who adopts the silent creature as his new friend. As Bird says nothing, Frog decides he can only make Bird happy by finding his home, and he bravely takes on that important quest. The reader always understands what Frog does not--that this bird belongs in a clock--and that knowledge makes the completed journey rewarding as the right home is found and Bird finally speaks with a loud CUCKOO! Sweeps of bright colors and playfully sketched illustrations convey the light tone, while underneath lies a heart-warming tale of friendship, dedication, and the beauty of caring for another. Powerful, engaging, and beautifully crafted, this is the perfect book for parent-child reading time. -- Jodell Sadler, Picture Book Lunchables

Infinity and MeInfinity and Me
by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Carolrhoda Books

As she stares at the night sky, young Uma wonders about the confusing concept of infinity and she decides to ask her friends what it means to them. Infinity and Me introduces a challenging mathematical concept though the creative explanations of her friends and Uma’s own wonderings, as well as through the mostly muted illustrations that have just enough personality (the bright red of Uma’s precious new shoes, for example) to give them life. The almost abstract illustrations perfectly suit the mathematical theme of the book, and the child-like, yet accurate, understandings of infinity work together to provide a discussion of a mind-boggling topic, well disguised as a compelling story about one girl and her friends. Inspired by the author’s discussions with children about infinity, Infinity and Me includes a two-page author’s note in which she mentions a bit of the history of the concept of infinity and also shares what some other children think about it. -- Rebecca Reid, Rebecca Reads

One Special DayOne Special Day
by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve


Spencer is just as strong and fast and loud as any of the wild animals that inhabit his world. Yet when a new sibling comes along, Spencer has no trouble adding "gentle" to his list of personal qualities. Simple text provides a fun introduction to similes, cleverly allowing children to fill in missing blanks. Gorgeous art swirls with motion and emotion until the climax which, by contrast, becomes dear and intimate. One Special Day is an engaging book that thankfully depicts the experience of getting a new sibling in a positive light. -- Aaron Zenz, Bookie Woogie

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