Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just a Bit

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and received all the gift books your hearts desired. While I was traveling over the holiday, I took a break from "new" books and read some older ones that were sitting in my pile, like A Northern Light, a wonderful historical mystery by Jennifer Donnelly.

Last night I finished Seven Paths to Death, the sixth volume in the always fascinating Japanese mystery series by the Hooblers. This last installment was not my favorite and had a weak conclusion, but it doesn't diminish the rest of the series. If you haven't read this series yet, start with The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn. The third volume, In Darkness, Death, won an Edgar award.

I promised that if I found the other Newbery article I had read I would post it. Here is a link to the December 16th article from the Washington Post.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arguing the Merit of the Newbery

It seems like this year the voices of the children's literature world have really spoken up against, and in defense of, the Newbery Award. The Newbery is an award given each year by the American Library Association's Association of Library Services to Children to the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year." For more on the criteria click here. The committee that awards the medal changes each year and is made up of librarians, booksellers, publishers, and sometimes other authors.

Suddenly, there is a really vocal outcry about the recent winners of the medal and whether they "appeal" to the audience who usually is assigned to read them - generally 5th graders handed a list by their teacher and told to pick a Newbery. Or by parents who want their child to read something "good." My former professor, the children's literature expert Anita Silvey, formerly editor of The Horn Book, wrote the first incendiary article this fall that sparked conversation and controversy all across children's bookdom. Here is a link to her article in School Library Journal from October. One of my colleagues was passing around another article this week (which I have since misplaced...I will post it when I see her tomorrow) that expressed displeasure at the seemingly esoteric recent choices. Finally, in defense of the Newbery, children's author Erica S. Perl rebutted on Slate.com yesterday.

I am torn by the whole issue. I advocated for both Criss Cross and Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! at Newbery time in 2006 and 2008 and was pleased when those books won. Both of those titles are attacked by librarians. On the other hand, I agree with the disappointment in The Higher Power of Lucky and Kira-Kira of 2007 and 2005. Honestly, the disagreement here seems to me like any other award from the Oscar to the Pillsbury Bake-Off--it's all a matter of taste.

The argument that makes me feel more passionate is this: now that the ALA has the Printz Award that recognizes contributions to the field of literature for teens, could the ALSC not change the upper age level considered by the Newbery committee for its prize? I think for some of the recent titles that would assuage some of the concerns felt by librarians and teachers. Now, when we have our mock Newbery discussions we're always leery. Last year it was this: "Does The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian fit the Newbery criteria? Because we think it's too old." Both Kira-Kira and Criss Cross walk that age line, as do recent honor books The Wednesday Wars and The House of the Scorpion.

Whatever happens this year and no matter what side of the issue you might take, I'm glad the issue has been re-visited. If nothing else, it's an exercise in critical thinking that I have enjoyed. Read the articles for yourself and let me know what you think.

In January, I will revisit the whole topic after our library's mock Newbery discussion.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mock Caldecott

I swear this is the last "list" post for another month! Yesterday, we held our annual mock Caldecott discussion and these are the books that we thought had the most oustanding illustrations by an American this year. I'm going to give you the whole list that we considered and then our collective vote at the end, so scroll down to the bottom of the post if you can't stand the suspense! These are alphabetical by title...

Cat & Mouse, by Ian Schoenherr

The House in the Night, illustrated by Beth Krommes

How I Learned Geography, by Uri Shulevitz

In a Blue Room, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger

The Moon Over Star, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

My Friend the Starfinder, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Old Bear, by Kevin Henkes

Trainstop, by Barbara Lehman

Twenty Heartbeats, illustrated by Ed Young

The Umbrella Queen, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

The Vanities, by Terence Lawlor

Wabi Sabi, illustrated by Ed Young

We Are the Ship, by Kadir Nelson

After taking a vote from the dozen librarians in attendance, our award this year went to We Are the Ship with honors for Wabi Sabi and Old Bear.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I'm not very far at all into Nancy Werlin's Impossible and I am already loving it so much that I just had to tell you. That's it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best New Fiction for Kids

It's getting late for me to post my last best-of list of the year - hopefully you're not quite finished choosing marvelous books to purchase for the kids in your life, or for yourself! These are the novels that I loved best this year.

Hummingbird by Kimberly Greene Angle

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty

Masterpiece by Elise Broach

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

Swindle by Gordon Korman

My Chocolate Year by Charlotte Herman

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

Escape the Mask by David Ward

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Best New Picture Books

There are always so many wonderful picture books published, it's hard to keep up with them all and very hard to choose favorites. My favorites are a mix of gorgeous illustrations, fabulous writing, or sheer readabilty with kids - you're lucky if one book is all three. That said, here are my personal picks for the best of the year and the ones I would give as gifts to the kids in my life.

Hush, Little Dragon by Boni Ashburn

M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children by Linda Ashman

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck

Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Behtold

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

Old Bear by Kevein Henkes

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman

Trainstop by Barbara Lehman

Santa Duck by David Milgrim

Penguins by Liz Pichon

The City Kid & the Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti

A Kitten Tale – Eric Rohmann

Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz

The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson

Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri

The 3 Bears and Goldilocks by Margaret Willey

The Animals Came Two by Two by Christopher Wormell

Wabi Sabi by Ed Young

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Brand New Board Book Blog

Today a colleague sent me a link to a brand new board books blog, readertotz , which looks like it's going to be fantastic! A couple of picturebook authors/illustrators are the bloggers, so it already has a leg up. Check it out - I'm adding it to my blogroll.