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June 2009 Archives


Jen's Recommendations from the 48 Hour Book Challenge

Posted by Jen Robinson on June 8, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Middle Grade BooksRecommendations
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48hbc.pngThis weekend, in a 48-hour period, I spent 29 hours reading and blogging about books. I was participating in the 4th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, hosted by our own Pam Coughlan, MotherReader. This is a wonderful event held in celebration of reading. More than 100 people participated, and scores of others followed along, and commented to show support. You can find links to wrap-up posts by all of the participants here. My own detailed wrap-up post is on my blog. Here, I'd like to highlight a few of the books that I read, the ones that I think will be of particular interest to the Booklights audience.

wall.jpgLaurel Snyder's Any Which Wall (illustrated by LeUyen Pham) is an homage to classic children's books about magic, especially to Edward Eager's books. It's also a celebration of childhood, and a reminder not to turn away from the joys of everyday life. It's about four children who discover a magic wall, one that can wish them away to other places (including Camelot). I concluded: "I highly recommend Any Which Wall to anyone who would like a return to reading about magic, a return to old-fashioned stories in which children ride their bikes around unsupervised and eat cake with new acquaintances. It's Laurel's gift to readers, and to the ghost of Edward Eager. I think that he'd be pleased." My full review is here.

masterpiece.jpgMasterpiece by Elise Broach (illustrated by Kelly Murphy) just won the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for older readers. It's the story of an unlikely friendship between a beetle named Marvin and a quiet eleven-year-old boy named James. It strikes a perfect balance between mystery, world-building, and learning, with fascinating details about art theft and forgery. I think that it's a must-read title for children and adults, and an excellent choice for families reading aloud together. My full review is here. Also, don't miss this year's picture book winner for the E.B. White award: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton). This is a wonderful read-aloud for toddlers.

jemma.jpgJemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, by Brenda Ferber, is the perfect book for tween girls about to head off to camp for the first time. It's about eleven year old Jemma, who is excited to spend the summer at camp with her best friend, Tammy (who moved away at the start of the school year). Everything changes, however, when Tammy brings a cousin to camp, and Jemma is left fighting with the other girl for her friend's attention. This classic tween drama is set against a backdrop that shows all of the best attributes of summer camp. ("... the camaraderie, the friendships, the personal responsibility and teamwork. The songs and campfires and 'smores and swimming.") My full review is here.

calpurnia.jpgThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a coming of age novel about a girl living in Central Texas in 1899. Calpurnia is a tomboy and a scientist by nature, taught by her grandfather. She struggles to balance the expectations that society has for girls against her own desires. This is the best kind of historical fiction, a novel that conveys plenty of important information about the time period, while keeping everything organic to the story. And Calpurnia is a great character, a girl that readers will root for whole-heartedly. Although this is billed as a novel for young adults, I think it would work for strong readers a bit younger, too. My full review is here.

I also reviewed The Ghosts of Rathburn Park by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Ghost Huntress Book 2: The Guidance by Marley Gibson, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (an excellent summer read for teen boys), If the Witness Lied by Caroline Cooney, and Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (adult mystery). But if you're looking for other book recommendations, do take a stroll through some of the other wrap-up posts from the 48 hour book challenge. It is a treasure trove of books selected by avid and discerning readers.

Here are a couple of other articles that caught my eye this week that I thought would be of particular interest to you all:

I mentioned Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, in last week's post. This week, she had a post that simply cried out to me to be shared here. Susan is responding to a letter from a Mom who is worried because she knows about the importance of fathers as reading role models, but her husband has refused to read bedtime stories to their son. Susan shares a number of suggestions of other ways that the father could be a reading role model. She responds to possible objections that the Dad might have (timing, discomfort with fiction, etc.), and suggests alternatives. It's a nice positive, constructive post, with nuts and bolts suggestions, well worth checking out.

I also thought that you all might be interested in a recent post by Dawn Morris at Moms Inspire Learning, about using games to enhance literacy. She suggests options for kids of different age ranges, from packaged games to simple ideas for playing word games in the car. This post is just in time for summer vacation. Dawn has lots of other great posts, too, including a three-part (so far) series about Ways to Raise an Avid Reader. This one started as a top 10 list, but has grown.

For more news like these last couple of items, check out this week's Children's Literacy Round-Up, which will be available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub's blog, sometime today (Updated to add: here is the direct link). Happy reading!


Thursday Three: Hot Titles

Posted by Pam on June 4, 2009 at 9:58 AM in Middle Grade BooksPicture BooksYoung Adult Books
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Last weekend I attended Book Expo America (BEA) and had a blast. I met some wonderful authors, got tons of signed books, and shipped home a forty-pound box of goodies. For today's Thursday Three, I'm covering the hottest titles in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Books.

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
Catching FirePeople lined up in the early hours of the morning to get a ticket to Suzanne Collins' book signing. Others scouted out the 10:00 a.m. Scholastic distribution of the Advance Reader Copy (ARC), not wanting to wait until the September release to read the sequel to Hunger Games. But I didn't realize how hot this title was until I came home and saw bids on ebay reaching over $100. (ARC's specifically say that they are Not For Sale, often on the cover.) A few book blogs offered their copies to readers in random drawings and pulled in over two hundred comments. This book is Twilight-hot. And I picked up an abandoned copy off a lunch table at the convention. Crazy.

Meet Rebecca
by Jacqueline Dembar Greene
American Girl released a new historical character, Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish-American immigrant living in New York City in 1914. Contrary to the Catching Fire fever, this new series by American Girl slipped under the radar for most people I talked to, but it was an entirely pleasant surprise. At the book signing on Sunday morning I was very excited to meet the author and express my delight at a series chronicling the Jewish immigrant experience. I brought the book home and can't wait to read it. The doll is super-cute too. Forget my kids, I want her myself. Seriously.

Big Frog Can't Fit In
by Mo Willems
Another hot ticket was for the new Mo Willems' title, even though it's not available yet. Folks stood in long lines to get Mr. Willems signature on the promo piece for the new pop-up book. I can appreciate the excitement as I'd buy it if Mo illustrated the AIG collapse. (Actually, that might help me understand it.) So not seeing the book yet, all I can say is that the frog is apparently large and doesn't "fit in," one may guess both figuratively and literally. Hence, the pop-up.

I hadn't made it to New York in time for Mo's signing, but as chance would have it, I ran into him on Saturday on the exhibit floor. We talked a bit, and I got my signature and he said the first frog doodle. Or maybe he meant the first frog on a T-shirt. Either way, I'm happy.


Books good enough to eat

Posted by Susan on June 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Fun and GamesPicture Books
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I love cake. I love children's books. So, when my friend Kathy sent me this wonderful blog post from Cake Wrecks of culinary creations based on beloved children's books... naturally, I loved it.

It inspired me to try and find other fabulous cakes. Here's a few of my favorite ones. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. All the pictures are from Cake Central, unless otherwise noted.

Attention Fancy Nancy fans: check out this amazingly fancy cake.

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Have you ever wanted to curl up with a good book and a yummy desert? Take a look at this cake.

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This cake was made for a children's librarian who was retiring to stay home and take care of her grandchildren. Very artistic and spunky, just like Olivia .

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This is a great cake based on Where the Wild Things Are.

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I love the creativity in this 1st birthday cake. The top tier was made for the birthday kid to smash. The baker made a model of her son who looks like he's actually crawling up the cake (and wreaking the inevitable damage).

First Birthday cake.jpg

You've got to say no to this terrific cake based on David Shannon's No, David!

No David cake.jpg

This one's a little harder to turn down. But Don't Let the Pigeon Eat the Cake!

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Check out this cake of the Three Little Pigs.

3 Little Pigs cake.jpg

These houses are made out of gingerbread!

3 Little Pigs gingerbread cake.JPG

I like this cake based on the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. It's so simple and yet it tells the story perfectly.

Chicka Chicka cake.jpg

The details are amazing on this cake modeled after Guess How Much I Love You. Even the author's and illustrator's names are on the cake.

Guess How Much Cake.jpg

These Dr. Seuss cookies look delectable.

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Dr. Seuss cakes were easy to find, but I thought this one was particularly exceptional. I was so impressed with the vertical hat covered with iced sketch marks and the clothesline strung between Truffula trees.

Dr Seuss cake.jpg

The top of the hat is the kicker.

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Here's an excellent cake based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Hungry caterpillar cake.JPG

I lost my heart to this caterpillar cupcake mosaic.

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Take a closer look, and then check out the step by step photos on the baker's blog.

Caterpillar cupcakes detail.jpg

And, of course, I had to find a Harry Potter cake. After quite a bit of searching, I found this fantastic cake of Hogwarts. Truly breathtaking. And it's made from Rice Krispie treats!

Hogwarts cake.jpg

The moral of this post is: you can have your cake and read it too.


Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere

Posted by Jen Robinson on June 1, 2009 at 6:00 AM in KidlitsosphereLiteracy News
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jpg_book008.jpgSomething that I do quite a bit on my own blog is collect news from around the literary and literacy blogospheres. I work with Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub in providing weekly children's literacy round-ups (this week's roundup is available on my blog today - the next roundup will be at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub on June 8th). I also publish regular (usually once or twice a week) round-ups of other news and interesting posts from the Kidlitosphere.

What I've decided to do on an occasional basis is publish some of the more parent-focused of that Kidlitosphere and literacy-related news here to Booklights instead. I'm calling these items Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere (encompassing highlights, spotlights, etc.). I welcome your feedback.

LitLava poster.jpgAt The Book Chook, Susan Stephenson recently announced a new endeavor. She says: "It's called Literacy Lava, and it's a digital magazine (in pdf format) that you'll be able to download and use, share with others, or print and keep. The contributors are bloggers and parents who are passionate about children's literacy. This first issue is erupting with great tips for parents and suggestions for literacy activities to share with kids." I will certainly be staying tuned for this one. Susan was one of the tireless organizers of the 2009 Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, which I've mentioned previously.

Jill T. over at The Well-Read Child also recently launched a new feature -- a weekly What My Children are Reading Meme. She explains: "Thanks to Sandy at Stories Are Light for giving me the idea to create this weekly feature. Want to share what your kids are reading or get ideas from other bloggers for other books to read with your children? Create your own post on your blog, and then come to The Well-Read Child every Thursday to submit your link". The first week's post already includes 18 links to summaries from other blogs, a smorgasbord of children's reading updates. Even if you don't have a blog, these weekly posts will make a great starting point for book ideas. And (though I haven't actually asked Jill this) I'm sure that your own family's recommendations would be welcome in the comments.

books-125x125-1.pngFive Minutes for Books, edited by Jennifer Donovan, has a similar feature, that one hosted once per month (and representing a different set of bloggers). You can find an archive of past Kids' Picks carnivals. See also an interesting discussion on Five Minutes for Books about the difficulty for parents of (and techniques for) holding back kids from reading books for which they might not be emotionally ready. Be sure to read the comments. There's definitely anecdotal evidence to support one of my personal recommendations: that parents try to read the books that their children are reading, when possible. (See a longer post that I wrote about that here).

Reading the books your children read also crops up in Tim Shanahan's suggestions at Literacy Learning for Encouraging Summer Reading. Tim is Professor of Urban Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is Director of the Center for Literacy. He says: "Encourage your children (teens, too) to read over the summer. It's one of the most loving things you can do for them!". His suggestions include: "read the same book they are reading for class over the summer so you can discuss it. The point is to share the reading experience... Even if you are not reading the same books they are, talk to your children about what they are reading." But do click through for lots of additional ideas.

In Missouri Passages (the Missouri Humanities Council e-Newsletter), Julie Douglas calls upon parents to: "Be extraordinary. Read to a child." She also discusses the Dean's speech at her daughter's graduation ceremony: "He reminded them (the graduates) that we, the parents, had most likely gotten the students started on this educational journey by doing the one thing that was so vital to their learning....we read to them when they were very young." Reading aloud makes a life-long difference.

Speaking of reading aloud, Trevor Cairney has a post up at Literacy, families and learning about how to listen to children reading. He warns: "There have been many young readers demoralised by the comments of a listener while they are reading, and the stress of performing in front of others", and then offers a host of positive suggestions. For example: "After the reader makes a mistake you pause for about 3 seconds and say nothing, this allows time for self-correction."

48hbc.pngAnd last, but not least, if you're looking for children's book recommendations, next weekend will be a prime time to find them in the Kidlitosphere. Our own Pam Coughlan is hosting the fourth annual 48 Hour Book Challenge at MotherReader. The idea is to choose a 48-hour period over the course of the weekend, and spend as much time as possible reading books (and blogging about them) during that window. This will be my third time participating in the 48HBC. I've found these challenges an amazing excuse to prioritize reading for a few days. I'll report back next week, and let you know which books I read. Even if you don't have a blog of your own, you could certainly participate in spirit by making reading a priority between June 5th and 7th.

That's all for this week. But I'll be keeping an eye out for other parent-friendly news items from around the blogs to share with you in the future. Happy June!

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