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April 2009 Archives


Picture Book Contests

Posted by Jen Robinson on April 30, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Picture Books
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In light of our recent posts about favorite picture books (Pam's, Susan's, and mine), I wanted to bring to your attention a couple of picture book-related contests.

LittlePigs.jpgFirst up, at A Fuse #8 Production, Betsy Bird just announced a contest for people to name what they think will be the top 10 in the 100 Picture Books poll (currently at #14: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka). Betsy says:

"I have a whole bunch of lovely Advanced Readers Galleys just itching to make their way in the world. Send me your predictions for the Top 10 and if you're right then I'll send you one of my precious galleys. Not old ones from two or three years ago either. Awesome ones."

See the full post for submission details. Hurry, though. You must submit your guesses by Sunday night, May 3rd.

ShiningStar.jpgAnother contest that caught my eye is being organized by Paula Yoo. Paula has declared May 1st to 7th to be National Picture Book Writing week. Here's part of the announcement, taken from Anastasia Suen's Children's Book Biz News blog:

"In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month ("NaNoWriMo") where people across the country try to write a complete novel in one month, the fine folks at have decided to start the first ever National Picture Book Writing Week, affectionately nicknamed "NaPiBoWriWee."

The goal? To write 7 picture books in 7 days.

All NaPiBoWriWee participants should register on my website ( and comment on my blogs every day with your own progress. For those of you who participate in the first annual NaPiBoWriWee, I will select a winner at random on the 7th day - that winner will receive an autographed copy of my latest picture book,"SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY" (Lee & Low Books, 2009)."

You can find more details at Anastasia's, or at Three Silly Chicks.

ShareAStoryLogo2.jpgHere's another picture-book related tidbit, though it's not a contest. At the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog, Terry Doherty recently shared a tremendous list of picture books and easy readers recommended during the recent Share a Story literacy blog tour. The list includes several recommendations from Booklights' own MotherReader. Don't miss it! (Image credit Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook.)


Favorite Picture Books: Susan

Posted by Susan on April 27, 2009 at 5:54 PM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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Jen, Pam and I are getting things started on Booklights by sharing our ten favorite picture books with you.

This was an enormous challenge for me because there are so many books I love. After a lot of agonizing, I managed to narrow it down to twenty. Here are ten of my favorites, with part two (favorite books to read aloud) coming soon. It was impossible for me to rank them, so I put the books in alphabetical order by author.

Some of these books are from childhood and others were published very recently. Every time I pick any of these books up, I know I'm holding a friend in my hand.

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.

Visitor for Bear.jpgThis book was just published in 2008, but it feels and looks like a classic to me. Bear and Mouse are such delightful characters that they make me want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next (even if I already know). The beautiful illustrations coupled with the wonderful story makes this book a true stand out.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.

Mike Mulligan.jpg I could never hear this book enough when I was a kid. I always feel like I'm part of the crowd in Popperville cheering Mike and Mary Ann to finish the cellar before it gets dark. See this post to discover a lesser known fact about this classic.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Hungry Caterpillar.jpg I've read this book hundreds of times and never get tired of it. The words and illustrations flow together just right. And happy birthday to the Hungry Caterpillar, which just turned 40 years old, but doesn't look a day older than when I first read it.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein.
Man Who Walked.jpg

This book tells the story of Philippe Petit's daring tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. Gerstein sums up Pettit's incredible feat succinctly with illustrations that are simultaneously realistic and fanciful. A beautiful book about the power of memory.

What Do You Say, Dear? By Sesyle Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

What Do You Say.jpgI think this is one of the best and simplest book about etiquette for any age. I love the delightful, witty humor by Sesyle Joslin and the perfect drawings by Maurice Sendak make this book wonderfully absurd and extremely funny. And kids may even learn a thing or two about good manners.

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway.
Giant Jam Sandwich.jpg

How did the villagers of Itching Down handle the four million wasp that flew into town? By building a huge sandwich to trap the wasps, of course. This funny tall tale with its humorous rhyming text and pictures is silly and memorable.

Zen Shorts by Jon Muth. Zen Shorts.jpg

Jon Muth's vivid watercolor paintings turn this quiet book into something quite extraordinary. The modern day story intertwines itself wonderfully with the classic folk tales. And of course, I love Stillwater the panda.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. Officer Buckle.jpg

The 1996 Caldecott Medal winner has a special place in my heart. This funny, creative and buoyantly drawn book is a joy to read every time. It has a great message about the importance of sticking by your friend, whether human or canine. It always makes me laugh and makes me wish I had Gloria for a buddy.

Cars and Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry. Cars and Trucks.jpg

This classic, oversized book grows along with a child. It's perfect for showing pictures to a baby, words to a toddler, or reading the story of the pig family to a preschooler. And of course, anyone at any age, can look for Goldbug. Whichever way you read it, it's always fun.

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. Harry the Dirty Dog.jpg

When I was little, I used to look forward to going to the doctor's office, because my pediatrician had a copy of Harry the Dirty Dog in his waiting room. I own my own copy now and still never get tired of this timeless classic about a dog who hates to take baths.

What are your favorite picture books? What are your children's favorites?


Favorite Picture Books: Pam

Posted by Pam on April 27, 2009 at 10:02 AM in Picture Books
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One of my BBF's - Best Blog Friends - Fuse#8, has put together an incredible list of the Top 100 Picture Books based on the votes of other children's book bloggers.

For my contribution, I looked to books that came top-of-mind quickly. Each also represents a connection to my life when I first read the book. So I have my own favorites as a child, my first favorites to read to my kids, and my first favorites as a librarian. There are hundreds of picture books I have loved and do love, but these are the ones that I won't ever give away from my own collection. So don't even ask. I'm going with countdown style with my favorite book listed last. It's also pretty close to the reverse chronological order of the books' publishing years.

  • The King, by Dick Bruna
    The king was sad because all he wanted was a friend, not a crown. I drew teardrops all over this book, bless my heart.
  • Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban
    Picky eaters unite! I loved all the Frances books and can only choose this as a favorite by a slight margin.
  • The Monster At The End Of This Book
    Grover talking directly to the reader made this book absolute genius.
  • The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle
    It’s hard to pick one Eric Carle book, but I really like doing the grouchy voice while reading this aloud.
  • On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier
    I never get through this book without tearing up. It’s a great baby shower gift.
  • Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney
    This book does a wonderful job of reflecting the love and relationship between parent and child.
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin
    If you think this book is fun to read, watch the video or listen to the CD of the music. Catchy.
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
    Funny, clever, and the perfect read-aloud. Mo-tastic.
  • Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems
    Again — funny, clever, and the perfect read-aloud, but with the bonus of being feeling familiar to moms and dads.
  • How to Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham
    This book may be top of my list because I’ve read it recently and can’t get it out of my mind, but I’ll stand by this year’s Cybils winner as being an outstanding book about courage, kindness, and love.

What are your favorite picture books?


Introduction: Pam

Posted by Pam on April 26, 2009 at 8:13 PM in Introductions
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I was so excited to be part of the Booklights blog that I was determined to write a hilarious introductory post. Unfortunately, this week I was plagued by planning my seventh-grade Girl Scout troop's camping trip, along with hosting their movie night on Friday and coordinating the "first aid challenge" for the area troops. It also became hard to concentrate on writing once the dishwasher started leaking water out the back of the house. Yes, it surprised me too, as it did the plumber who had to be called in to check it out, confirming that I would need a new dishwasher, but also that it was lucky the water had followed the slight slant toward the outside wall instead of the kitchen, where it would have ruined the whole floor. I've kept this good news in mind as I washed dishes by hand, since I don't have the time or energy to buy a new dishwasher yet -- not with the Girl Scouts, the fourth grader's dance and drama classes, and my work at the public library.

But Saturday, I was definitely going to write something funny and telling about me as a person, mother, and book reviewer. Taking my fourth-grade daughter to her Girl Scout field trip to explore a farm here in the Washington suburbs shouldn't have been an obstacle, but the unseasonable heat (how does it go from 50 to 90 in just two days?) wiped us out, leaving me with just enough energy to fast-forward through the commercials of our previously-recorded American Idol. By dinnertime I felt human again, and was certain I'd hit the computer after washing dishes and whip out something funny -- because I'm an optimist. So the subsequent eight-hour power outage was a bit of a setback. Of course, the tropical climate in our house made it hard to sleep, and meant that I woke up much later than I'd planned on Sunday --especially considering that my seventh grader's school project was going to take up four peak hours and completely occupy my husband. That might not have been a problem, except that my father was coming to visit with his wife, and someone had to make an effort to clean up.

So here I am now, explaining why I couldn't come up with something clever to introduce myself. I guess I'm a busy mom like many of you, trying to do the best by my kids, whether that involves their schoolwork, activities, friendships, or books. I've been reading to my kids for thirteen years, and I've worked in the children's department of a public library for nine years. For three years I've run a blog about children's books and also worked with the online book award, the Cybils, focusing on the picture book awards. I recently started a new website called KidLitosphere Central, its goal being to make the rich resources of children's book blogs more accessible to teachers, librarians, and parents. Each week at Booklights, I'll be sharing a few quick book suggestions for your library visits, reading times, and bookstore shopping.

By the way, my name is Pam -- or if you prefer, you can call me by my blog name, MotherReader. Nice to meet you.


Favorite Picture Books: Jen

Posted by Jen Robinson on April 24, 2009 at 2:13 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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200px-Where_The_Wild_Things_Are.jpgRecently, fellow blogger Betsy Bird (aka A Fuse #8 Production) asked a variety of children's book fans to each share their top 10 picture books of all time. Betsy has compiled those lists to come up with a Top 100 Picture Books list (starting here). Here is my personal top 10 list, not previously shared anywhere else. I tried to keep it a mix of older and newer titles.

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Where the Wild Things Are is a true classic, the ultimate tale of the strength of the imagination. Plus the illustrations are amazing! This was my favorite book as a child, and it holds up well.
  2. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. This choice is a nod to my childhood in Boston. The ducklings are part of many people's cultural heritage. They deserve a place on my list.
  3. A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (ill. Kady Macdonald Denton). My review. A Visitor for Bear is a book that simply cries out to be read aloud. It is pitch-perfect for toddlers, and my favorite new picture book in years.
  4. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (ill. Ray Cruz). This book captures essential truths about life, in a humorous package, and is unforgettable.
  5. The House Takes a Vacation by Jacqueline Davies (ill. Lee White). My review. This book has gorgeous illustrations, and spot-on humor for preschoolers. It offers new tidbits on every re-read.
  6. Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. My review. Scaredy Squirrel is a fabulous character - the books are funny and creative, and validating for young readers nervous about the world around them.
  7. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin (ill. Betsy Lewin). This is one of my favorite gift books for computer-savvy parents - a reminder to celebrate the ridiculous.
  8. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin (ill. Eric Carle). Brown Bear is a book that toddlers want to have read read and re-read. The rhythm is excellent for read-aloud.
  9. Duck and Goose by Tad Hills. This is a modern favorite, with gentle humor, bright illustrations, and engaging characters. A must-have for any preschooler's library.
  10. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. What can I say that hasn't already been said? The Pigeon, though relatively young, is already a cultural icon. Kids LOVE these books.

978076145331402.jpgOf course I can name lots of other wonderful books, and even now I'm tempted to replace some of these with other favorites. But these are all books that have stood, or that I feel will stand, the test of time.

How about you? What are your favorite picture books?


Welcome to Booklights

Posted by Gina on April 23, 2009 at 5:29 PM in Introductions
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We're a book-happy bunch here at PBS, and always have been. But this seems like an especially good time to be launching Booklights, our new blog spreading the fun and love of children's books.

mo_willems.jpgChildren's Book Week is right around the corner (May 11-17), and we were just treated to an office visit from Mo Willems, celebrated author and illustrator (and former Sesame Street writer -- here he is posing with Big Bird). The sixth Harry Potter movie is coming out in July, and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Graveyard Book are making new fans every day. And we know that parents are always looking for ways to get their kids reading -- on purpose, not because they're forced into it.

Parents can come to Booklights to get book ideas for kids of all ages, "Show and Tale" time, and interviews and literacy news. But most of all, Booklights is about getting kids to love reading, to experience the joy of finding a book that's so good that dinner can wait, TV time can wait, and sleep can wait.

Get to know our regular contributors -- Pam Coughlan, Susan Kusel, and Jen Robinson, who will be posting every week -- and ask all the questions you want. We love to hear from you. And stay tuned for guest blogs and book giveaways.


Introduction: Susan

Posted by Susan on April 19, 2009 at 6:53 PM in Introductions
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My name is Susan Kusel and I'm truly honored to be a Booklights blogger for PBS. I have an enormous passion for children's books dating back to my own childhood and I'm excited to share that with you in the posts to come.

I'm a children's librarian in Arlington, Virginia and I love what I do. Children's books have always been my main interest and it's fantastic to be in a job where I get to recommend books and work with children every day. I get to help kids find books about Curious George, dinosaurs, science projects and every other subject you can think of.

I do storytimes for babies, for preschoolers, for elementary school kids, and every age in between. I even do a weekly storytime in American Sign Language. I love to share wonderful books, fun music and puppets during storytime and watch children's eyes light up as they hear a new book for the first time.

It's always a thrill when I can help someone find the title of a book they've been searching for or when I can introduce new books to children who think they have read everything. And I learn so much from the kids I work with, whether it's a 2 1/2 year old who's an expert on the planets, a ten year old who is researching the expected life cycle of a toucan, or a high school student who needs information on Apollo 16.

I write a blog called Wizards Wireless, about children's books, comic strips and Harry Potter (which is one of my very favorite book series). I read and discuss children's books voraciously, am active in the American Library Association, and the Kidlitosphere (the organization of children's literature bloggers). My favorite part of every day is when I sit down with my son and read books to him at bedtime.

I'm looking forward to talking about some of my favorite topics here on Booklights: helping children love books and learn to read, wonderful picture books, and recommendations of books to share with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. I'm also going to be posting about libraries and how to use them effectively. I welcome your comments, feedback and opinions and I always love to hear about books you and your children enjoy.


Introduction: Jen

Posted by Jen Robinson on April 17, 2009 at 12:42 PM in Introductions
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JenAtALA.jpgHi, I'm Jen Robinson, and I'm thrilled to be here blogging at Booklights. A bit of background: I'm originally from outside of Boston, but have lived in the San Jose area for the past 9 years. I'm a fan of the Red Sox, chocolate in all forms, and complex television dramas like LOST and 24. I have a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, and I co-own a small software company.

But here's what you really need to know about me: I was a tremendous bookworm as a kid. I would read anywhere - up in a tree, on the roof, on a raft in the middle of the lake - you name it! As I grew older, I never stopped reading whenever I could, and I never stopped reading children's books (though I've been known to also read grown-up titles from time to time, especially mysteries). I think that many of the highest quality titles available today are published as children's books.

I've always felt compelled to share the joy of reading with children. To that end, I started my own blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, in late 2005. I write about children's and young adult books, children's literacy, and raising readers. I'm an active participant in the community of people who blog about these topics, commonly known as the Kidlitosphere, and am the Literacy Evangelist for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (Cybils). Here at Booklights I plan to share children's literacy and Kidlitosphere news and ideas, along with book recommendations. I welcome your feedback!

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