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Pam

Thursday Three: Book Events

Posted by Pam on October 1, 2009 at 11:03 AM in Authors and IllustratorsAwardsBook Events
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1. National Book Festival
I packed my pockets with tissues and cough drops, and went to the National Book Festival on a chillly, rainy day certain to exacerbate my cold. Totally worth it. The fifth grader and I went to the Mo Willems signing, while the teens tried for Rick Riordan's autograph waiting in a line that defied description. After missing out on his signature, the teens went to his author session early to make sure they didn't miss that too. The fifth grader and I went to see Mo Willems' presentation.

tn-7.jpegMy daughter was picked to go up on stage and read/act the book Today I Will Fly, with her as Piggie, Mo's daughter Trixie as the dog, and Mo as Gerald the elephant! My heart was bursting with pride as my daughter turned in a wonderful performance for a packed house, and now we can't wait to see the webcast on the National Book Festival site.

The whole bunch of us also saw Jeff Kinney, who was delightful, funny and truly humble, and Rick Riordan, who shared the news of his upcoming books. Patrick Carmon talked about his new titles along with The 39 Clues Series. Judy Blume held the crowd mesmerized just by being there. My whole story is available in at MotherReader in two parts.

2. Banned Book Week
With everything I've got on my plate this week, I've let others carry the online efforts for Banned Book Week. Fortunately, they've done a wonderful job. While a Wall Street Journal op-ed questioned whether you can even call a book banned in this country, Colleen Mondor wrote a reply at Chasing Ray that amounts to the world's most eloquent Yes. My good friend Lee Wind has a exceptional two-part interview with authors of challenged books. A letter posted last year at MyLiBlog (and tweeted by Neil Gaiman this year) offers an incredible answer to a patron who wanted a picture book removed from a public library. I also can't help returning to the Banned Books Week manifesto, a jarring poem of Ellen Hopkins, "Burn every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible."

3. The Cybils
Cybils.gifNomination season has begun for the 2009 Cybils, also known as the Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards. If you have a children's or teen book that you loved that was published in 2009, you can nominate it at the Cybils site. You can submit one book per genre, and nominations are accepted from today through October 15th. At that point, a panel for each genre reads, analyzes and discusses the books to come up with a shortlist of finalists on January 1, 2010. Then a second round of judges take those books and in the course of a month an a half come up with a winner for each category. With all the genres and judges and rounds, the Cybils involves many bloggers in the KidLit and Young Adult online communities making it a festival season for book lovers. This year I'll be the organizer and a panelist for the Fiction Picture Book category, so I'll be bringing you lots of the best picture books over the next few months. Of course, you don't have to look just to me. Check out the Cybils page for reviews of great titles across the genres.

Ann

International literature for children

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As I mentioned at the end of last month's posting, I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in September to attend an international symposium on picturebook research. What a thought-provoking meeting it was! I want to share some of what I learned as it relates to the September postings on Booklights.

One very interesting presentation dealt with the end papers of picture books. As you are reading to your children, be sure to talk about the entire book....the cover, the title page, but also notice the end papers. More and more frequently, illustrators are using the inside of the front/back covers to tell part of the story.

cover missing sheep.jpghands end page.jpgFor example, in Mircea Catusanu's new picture book The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep, Catusanu includes hands for counting sheep.This serves as a preface to the actual story. A book created for children ages three and up, the humorous text and illustrations will also keep the adult reader entertained

chicken .jpgchicken papers.jpegYou may remember that Susan T. included in her introduction her latest favorite book, The Chicken - Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice N. Harrington, pictures by Shelley Jackson.The end pages of this book cleverly lead the reader to know that feathers will fly as the chickens are being chased.

Another picture book with fabulous end papers is Peter Sis' Madlenka's Dog. Madlenka's neighborhood is "in the universe, on a planet, on a continent, in a country, in a city, in a house on a block where everyone is walking a dog." The end papers start narrowing the story in by showing the view of the universe, with the planet. Sis then zooms in closer on the page opposite the book's title page. So the end papers actually start to establish the book's setting.madlenka end page.jpeg

When reading this book with your child, also be sure to remove the cover and look at the front and back illustrations. Sis has even used the covers to help describe the setting for Madlenka's search for a dog.madlenka cover01.jpg

another world.jpgThis month's postings have provided many great suggestions for books to read aloud to older children. A book by Brazilian author Ana Maria Machado that would be an ideal read aloud for sixth/seventh graders is From Another World. The book won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2000. It reminds us all that the horrors of slavery were not limited to the United States. Brazil shared many of the same brutalities toward African slaves that our own history includes.

big spill.jpgFinally, I can't help but add a penguin book from South Africa to Pam's September 3rd Thursday Three. Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000. I think that reader Terry who posted a comment and must enjoy nonfiction will also like this link that supports the story told in picture book format.

Happy Reading, Ann

P.S. It is not only our nation's capitol with a fabulous fall book festival; Nashville has many of the same authors visiting us the weekend of October 9-11. I hope that all of you in the area will come visit us for the Southern Festival of Books! And like Pam, I'd love to host you.

Jen

The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards

Posted by Jen Robinson on September 21, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Awards
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eb-white-award-final-emboss.gifPam and Susan K. have both written recently about reading aloud with kids (here and here). Pam asked readers about their favorite read-aloud chapter books, and received some excellent suggestions. I thought that this would be a good time to talk about the E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, another great source for family reading titles.

The E.B. White Read Aloud awards are awarded by the Association of Booksellers for Children. Here's the description from the ABC website:

"The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, established in 2004, honor books that reflect the universal read aloud standards that were created by the work of the author E.B. White in his classic books for children: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. In the first two years of the award, a single book was selected. In 2006, in recognition of the fact that reading aloud is a pleasure at any age, the award was expanded into two categories: Picture Books, and Older Readers. Books are nominated for their universal appeal as a "terrific" books to read aloud."

The books are selected and judged by ABC Booksellers. And I, for one, think that they've been doing an excellent job. Here are the recent winners (note that the award is given for books published during the previous year, so the 2009 winners were published in 2008, etc.):

Visitor for Bear.jpgThe 2009 Award for Picture Books: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick). A Visitor for Bear is one my all-time favorites. It's about a grumpy bear, dragged reluctantly into friendship by a determined mouse. I reviewed it here. I said: "what really made me LOVE the book is the tremendous read-aloud potential. By the second page I was reading aloud to myself in an empty house. The use of repetition, the presence of informal asides, and the varying font sizes to indicate emphasis all contribute to what is nothing less than a compulsion to read this book out loud."

masterpiece.jpgThe 2009 Award for Older Readers: Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Henry Holt). I read Masterpiece in part because it had won this award. It's about an unlikely friendship between a boy named James and a beetle named Marvin. While Masterpiece is about art forgery, and Marvin's adventures out in the wide world, at it's heart it is a story of friendship. My review is here. I said "Masterpiece is wonderful! It's the type of book that ought to become a classic over time, set alongside The Borrowers and A Cricket in Times Square... This is a must-read title for children and adults."

The 2008 Award for Picture Books: When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small (Simon & Schuster). This one, I must confess, I have not read. But fellow Cybils organizer Kerry from Shelf Elf reviewed it back in 2007. She said: "All kids love free stuff. A lot of kids love dinosaurs. So, for many kids, a world where dinosaurs came free with everything would more or less equal total bliss. A picture book that is cute, clever and charmingly illustrated is for me, more or less total bliss." It sounds fun, doesn't it? I'll have to give this one a look.

mysteriousbenedict.jpgThe 2008 Award for Older Readers: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). This book is an exciting adventure story, filled with puzzles, for middle grade readers. It's about a group of talented children recruited to work as investigators for a mysterious benefactor. As I noted in my review, the book has a bit of an old-fashioned feel, but it's also funny on multiple levels. My review of this title is here, and of the sequel is here. I am eagerly awaiting book 3.

The 2007 Award For Picture Books: Houndsley and Catina by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay (Candlewick Press). I haven't read this title, but another book in the series, Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time, was shortlisted last year in the Easy Reader category of the Cybils, for which I was a judge. I liked it very much. Cybils panelist Andi from A Wrung Sponge reviewed it, saying: "Howe's language is so poetic in spite of the limited vocabulary and concrete imagery that beginning readers require... I find this book to be a gem that will hold readers of all ages in the magic. It's as sweet as a read-aloud as it is a beginning reader. You must find this and snap it up!"

The 2007 Award For Older Readers: Alabama Moon by Watt Key (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). I read Alabama Moon earlier this year, because one of my blog readers recommended it to me. It's about a 10-year old boy named Moon who is raised alone in the woods by his survivalist father. When his father dies, he has to learn to interact with other people. It's an excellent adventure story, great for boys, one that is also genuinely moving. I think that what makes this book a good read-aloud title is the strength and uniqueness of Moon's voice. My review is here.

As you can see, the ABC Booksellers have an excellent track record in picking fine titles for this award. To see the E.B. White Read Aloud Award titles from 2004-2006, click here. What titles do you think will make the E.B. White Read Aloud shortlists for 2010?

Gina

Reading Rainbow Winners

Posted by Gina on July 31, 2009 at 10:40 AM in Authors and IllustratorsAwardsShow and Tale
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RRContestWinners.JPGSharing a story with a child is a true pleasure. But here's something even better: having a child share a story with you.

Reading Rainbow -- a longtime favorite of bookworms -- announced the winners of its 15th annual Young Writers & Illustrators Contest. Nearly 40,000 kids participated, with first, second, and third place winners being named for each of the participating grades (kindergarten through third).

The stories are just as much fun to read as published books. There's Michaela's tale of a nearsighted caterpillar (I can relate, at least to the bad vision), Rachel's industrious spider, Ethan's brave exploration of his mother's purse, and Abigail's tear-jerker "Finding Grandpa." And that's only a sampling. All the stories are well worth your time, and I bet you'll be as blown away as I was by the creativity and imagination of the kids.

This is also a great excuse to have your own child start writing and drawing their own tales. The Reading Rainbow winners narrated their stories. With a tape-recorder or a computer mic, you can do the same. If you're looking for a good story starter, try Dot's Story Factory on PBS KIDS. This month's theme is Carnivals.

Susan

How do we pick the winners?

Posted by Susan on July 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Awards
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In 1980, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund held a national competition to solicit entries for the design of the Vietnam Memorial. Any U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older was eligible to enter and 1,421 entries were recieved. The names were taken off the entries and replaced with numbers. A 21 year old college student by the name of Maya Lin won the contest with her design, beating out many famed and more experienced architects.

Every time I hear that story, I'm inspired by the fairness of the contest and the level playing field it offered to every participant. I realize this is a Utopian and completely impractical fantasy, but picture for a moment if the Newbery and Caldecott awards were judged that way. What if the committees didn't know the names of the publishers, authors or illustrators of the books under consideration?

Keep in mind that committees can only focus on the eligible books for the current year. If David Wiesner or Marcia Brown have an eligible book, it's irrelevant to the discussion that these illustrators have already three Caldecott medals. And it's irrelevant what the illustrator's race, age or gender is, because the only thing that matters is the book itself.

But is it really possible for anyone (no matter how hard they try) to be completely unbiased? What would the results look like if the awards were truly "blind" like the Vietnam Memorial competition? Such a thing is probably not physically possible, but wouldn't it be interesting if it were?

Usually, I answer my own questions. But, as Roger Sutton mentioned in his recent Horn Book editorial, I think a topic like this merits a good discussion. What are your thoughts about how these two major awards are chosen?

If you're unfamiliar with the process, you can find the Caldecott Medal criteria here, and the Newbery Medal criteria here.

Susan

What a Night!

Posted by Susan on July 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Authors and IllustratorsAwards
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The 2009 Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet was fantastic. Wonderful. Sparkling. Funny. Exciting. And it was also something extremely odd (for me, at least): Visible.

Why was this so strange? The vast majority of the tables at the banquet are reserved by publishers for their invited guests. If you buy a ticket through the regular conference registration, the only place to sit is at the unreserved tables near the back and along the sides (and you've got to fight for a decent spot). Here's a picture of David Wiesner's Caldecott speech from the first year I attended. (Keep in mind that I stood up to take this picture).


After doing this for two years, I wanted to find out what was going on in the good seats. Since I knew I'd never be invited by a publisher, I decided to buy a table myself. (Little known fact: any group of 10 attending the banquet can do this, if they purchase the table in advance and by the deadline). I recruited 9 lovely librarians, and this year my table looked like this:

Wondering what is sitting on all the plates? It's the program for the banquet, which always features artwork from the Caldecott medal book plus a CD recording of the acceptance speeches. The first year it struck me as pretty odd to have the speech in my hands even before it had even been presented!

What was more amazing about the table (other than the fact that it had my name on it) was that it was in the center of the ballroom and only two rows from the front. Not only could I finally see the podium, but I was also able to get a good look at all the other people in the good seats.

Jon Sciezcka was sitting directly in front of me. (This picture gives new meaning to the Heavy Medal dinner I mentioned in my last post.)


Brian Selznick was a foot away at the next table.

And I was able to take this picture from my seat, sitting down.

Okay, I admit it, I used the zoom feature on my camera. (But the David Wiesner picture was zoomed all the way in too.) And, um, the flash didn't work and you'll have to take my word for it that it's a picture of Neil Gaiman during his Newbery speech. But still!

The other neat thing about being so close was that I could see who was sitting in the front row. I was able to talk to Beth Krommes' teenage daughter and ask her the only question I could think of: "Is this the best night of your life?" Her face glowed as she answered yes.

And I also was able to see, that during dinner and for the briefest of moments, Neil Gaiman had stepped off the dais. I grabbed my camera and a very nice friend and managed to get this picture:


I did know who I was getting my picture taken with. To prove it, here's the actual transcript of the moment when I first met him:
Neil: "Hi, I'm Neil. "
Susan: "I know."

But I didn't realize he was famous. I knew his children's books and was excited to meet him because he was this year's Newbery Medal winner, and because I loved The Graveyard Book. I posted the picture above on Facebook, and was shocked at the number of people who recognized him. My friends have since informed me (in a very nice way) how incredibly ignorant I am and that I'm the only person in the entire world who doesn't know that he's a literary rock star. That's what I get for reading far more children's books than adult ones.

Despite his fame, I think I deserve more credit for my outfit than he does. I feel I had a much harder time finding a formal maternity dress than he did finding a black suit. Huge thanks go to my sister-in-law for loaning me her beautiful dress.

If you look closely at his suit, you'll see a dagger in his lapel. A member of the Newbery committee had them made for all the committee members and Neil.

But, I think that it's probably a good thing that I didn't realize there was an aura surrounding him or I probably wouldn't have kept talking to him for so long. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten these questions answered, which have been nagging me since I finished reading his book.

Question: How do the ghouls in The Graveyard Book get their names?

Answer: There's been a lot of debate about this, and with good reason: it's confusing. According to Neil, only one line was changed between the British and American editions of the book and it was this one:

British edition: "They told Bod how they had got their names and how he, in his turn, once he had become a nameless ghoul, would be named, as they had been, after the main course of his first dinner."

American edition: "They told Bod how they had got their names and how he, in his turn, once he had become a nameless ghoul, would be named as they had been."

Neil said that his American editor thought the reason for the ghouls names was very obvious and that the rest of the sentence was redundant. The full line will most likely be added back into the paperback edition. But the important thing to understand is that the ghouls are not actually Victor Hugo or the Emperor of China... those are just the names of the first people the ghouls ate.

Question: Why is one of the ghouls named after Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States?

Answer: Everyone I've asked about this has given me the same answer: It is an allusion to the fact that Truman was the one who made the decision to drop the bombs during World War II.

The only person who refuted this brilliant explanation was Neil himself. Here's the actual reason: he wanted to use a president from that era and FDR was just too cool to turn into a ghoul. He thought about Eisenhower, but in the end, he thought the number 33 sounded better than the number 34. There's nothing more to it than that. Moral: sometimes things are really that simple.

Question: Will there be a sequel to The Graveyard Book?

Answer: Possibly, but it's not an immediate priority since he's working on tons of other projects. If there is one, Neil says it'll be the what the Lord of the Rings is to The Hobbit. The Graveyard Book was the initial look at the world, but he said he'd want to develop it much further and explore Silas' universe more fully.

Question: Was Neil nervous before his Newbery speech?

Answer: He said he was absolutely terrified. By the time I talked to him (about ten minutes before the speeches started) he said he felt as if he had already jumped off the diving board and had begun the long descent down.

Here's a shot of him talking to Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes before the big moment. Beth was also terrified (according to her daughter). Who wouldn't be?

After all that wonderful schmoozing, it was time for the main event: the acceptance speeches. Beth Krommes gave a lovely speech about the importance of books in her own family and talked about her inspiration for the book. One of the most poignant moments was when she told the audience about a nine day period in the winter where her town was without power. When she stepped outside in the dark, she finally saw her House in the Night.

Neil Gaiman's speech was funny. And moving. And powerful. And funny again. He hit all the right notes, told us that the Newbery Medal had actually made him cool to his kids and talked about the incredible power of books. One of my favorite moments was when he asked the crowd what the first sentence of A Wrinkle in Time is, and the whole audience immediately gave the correct answer in unison. He hit it out of the park with his speech and I thought it was the highlight of the evening.

As far as Ashley Bryan's acceptance speech for the Wilder Award, all I can say is this: you had to be there. The speeches are written several months before they're given, in order to be printed in The Horn Book. I got a copy of the July/August issue of The Horn Book the morning after the speech. It's hard to see in this picture, but if you look very, very, very closely at the front cover of this issue (between the bird's wing and the tree, under the letter H), you'll see that Beth Krommes has added a graveyard to her lovely illustration. It's much easier to see on the actual magazine cover.

Horn Book cover.jpg

I immediately turned to see what Ashley Bryan had written in The Horn Book. It was a few short pages, talking about what the award meant to him and how his career developed. He did, in fact, say all those words. But that was only the beginning of his speech.

He also devoured poems and let the juicy words run from his lips. He led several sing alongs. He drew the crowd in as if he was a gospel preacher. It was an incredibly uplifting, emotional experience. Later in the evening I told him I'd never heard anyone read poetry the way he did: lyrically savoring every mouthful. He said that's the way poetry should be read, and I agree completely.


I also got to talk to Beth Krommes after the banquet. I repeated what her daughter had said earlier... that it was the best night of her life. Beth gasped and said "Better than the prom?!" and then told me how much hearing that meant to her.

In the end, the banquet was exactly what I predicted last week. It was just me, Neil, Beth and Ashley. Oh, and a thousand or so other people.

To quote Kevin Henkes, "What a night!"

Susan

Heavy Medal Dinner

Posted by Susan on July 8, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Awards
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I can't wait for dinner on Sunday. It'll just be me, Neil, Beth and Ashley. Oh, and a thousand or so other people.

Where am I having dinner? At the Newbery/Caldecott banquet which recognizes the honorees of two of the most illustrious awards in the children's book world. The banquet is held every year at the American Library Association's (ALA) Annual Conference.

The winners and the honor books get announced at a press conference at the ALA Midwinter conference in January. I was there this year, and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. It was so exciting to hear the applause, cheers, and exclamations of surprise.

Graveyard Book.jpgWhat won this year? The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes won the Randolph Caldecott Medal and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman won the John Newbery Medal.

Click here for the complete list of all the 2009 winners and honor books.

The winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Medals get honor, glory, increased book sales, and gold stickers on their books. And an actual medal. But they also have to give an acceptance speech. A speech that will be heard in front of a ballroom full of librarians, authors, illustrators, editors and publishers. A speech that will be published and studied for years to come. A huge, important, career-defining speech. But other than that, there's no pressure.

House in the Night.jpgAn interesting note about the Caldecott Medal: the award actually goes to the illustrator of the book. Although The House in the Night was written by Susan Marie Swanson, it's Beth Krommes who gets the medal and has to give the speech.

There's also a third speech this year. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is given every other year. It honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. This year's recipient is Ashley Bryan and I'm looking forward to his acceptance speech.

Last year, Jen and I went to the banquet together. And we even got interviewed on the red carpet. See this post for more details and an embarrassing YouTube video.

Hugo Cabret.jpgIt was an unforgettable night. First, Caldecott winner Brian Selznick wowed the crowd with his intelligent and heartfelt acceptance speech for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, complete with a movie! It was an impossible act to follow, but Newbery winner Laura Amy Schlitz was equal to the task. A storyteller through and through, she mesmerized the crowd and told beautiful stories as she accepted the Newbery for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Her speech looked effortless, but it was much harder than it appeared. Good Masters Sweet Ladies.jpgI recently had the opportunity to hear Laura Amy Schlitz speak about what that night was like for her. She had memorized her entire fifteen minute speech. It had already been submitted for publication in The Horn Book, so she couldn't change even one word as she delivered it.

She said she would love to get those magic, unforgettable fifteen minutes of her speech back. It sounded like a roller coaster ride she never wanted to get off.

This year it will be Beth Krommes', Neil Gaiman's and Ashley Bryan's turn to ride the roller coaster. I wish them joy and exhilaration and hope they enjoy every moment. I'll be cheering them on from the sidelines and will tell you all about it next week.

Pam

Thursday Three: Cybil Winners

Posted by Pam on May 21, 2009 at 9:08 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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Since Jen talked about the Cybils awards on Monday, I'm making my Thursday three about the Fiction Picture Book, Nonfiction Picture Book, and Easy Reader winners.

How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham
BrokenWing.jpgA pigeon is hurt on the city sidewalk, and everyone walks by -- except one boy and his mother. They bring the bird home, take care of it, and let it fly away. I'm keeping the plot simple, so that I can leave room to say that I have not shown this book to one adult yet who hasn't been deeply moved by it. Kids may see the simple story first, and then the kindness beneath. Adults can see the deeper levels of helping others, healing wounds, and letting go. Or even, as I told my seventh grader, "that sometimes we're the bird." Bob Graham's illustrations are wonderful, and truly tell the story more than the simple text. Look for the way the pictures gain color as the decision is made to Do the Right Thing (see a hint of it on the cover). It's an amazing book.

Frogs
by Nic Bishop
NicBishop.jpgThe brilliant cover will draw you into this nonficition book, and the fantastic photos will keep you there learning more about frogs than you ever thought you wanted to know. This guy is the Monet of nature photography, drawing out the color and essence of all the creatures he captures on film. The text is pretty simple, making it perfect for the late preschool to early elementary crowd. While those with arachnophobia may want to skip an earlier title in this series, Frogs shouldn't raise any alarms -- especially when the deadly poison dart frogs are so cute!

I Love My New Toy!
by Mo Willems

I Love My New Toy.jpgMo Willems has found continued success with his early reader series featuring Elephant and Piggie, and deservedly so. This is a man who can convey more humor and emotion with four pen strokes than an entire season of SNL. In this title, Piggie has a new toy, but doesn't know what it is. In trying to identify it, Elephant breaks it. In the end, everything is fixed -- the toy and the friendship. The expressions and situations are funny, but what wows me about this title is the entire range of feelings captured in one little easy reader book. There's pride, delight, remorse, anger, embarrassment, irritation, forgiveness, and love. That's packing a lot in! If you haven't seen this series yet, you need to. (Um, now might be good, since the book is bargain priced at Amazon to reduce inventory.)

Jen

The Cybils Awards

Posted by Jen Robinson on May 18, 2009 at 6:00 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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CybilsLogoSmall.jpg Are you, as a parent, teacher or librarian, looking for well-written, kid-friendly books to recommend to your kids? If so, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to learn about the Cybils awards. The Cybils are a series of book awards given by children's and young adult book bloggers in nine categories. The Cybils awards highlight books that have both literary merit and kid appeal. Anyone can nominate books (one nomination per person per category), resulting in a wide array of nominated titles (see the 2008 nomination lists here). Nominated titles in each category then go through a rigorous two-round selection process, the first to identify a short list of five to seven titles, and the second to select a winner. The judges for this process are children's and young adult book bloggers, including parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and literacy advocates. People who read, review, and recommend children's books every day.

The Cybils awards were founded by Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold. More than 80 participants are involved each year from the Kidlitosphere, in addition to many members of the public who nominate titles. I've been on the organizing committee for the Cybils since the awards were launced in 2006. My current title is Cybils Literacy Evangelist. Booklights' own Pam Coughlan was the organizer for the Fiction Picture Books category this year, while Susan Kusel was a tireless promoter for the Cybils (especially the new Easy Reader category) at Wizards Wireless.

The Cybils winners and short lists are an excellent source of well-written, engaging titles. They've been called the "organic chicken nuggets" of the children's book world. One of the best things about the Cybils is the range of categories, fiction and nonfiction for different age ranges, along with poetry, graphic novels, and fantasy and science fiction titles. The Cybils short lists have something for everyone!

Here are the Cybils winners to date:

EPNewToy.jpgEasy Readers
2008: I Love My New Toy by Mo Willems, Hyperion. This is the first year that the Cybils has included an Easy Reader category. You can find the full list of nominated titles here.

GraveyardBook.jpgMiddle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction
2008: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins.
2007: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, Disney/Hyperion.
2006: Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud, Hyperion: Miramax.

HungerGames.jpgYoung Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction
2008: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic. My review.
2007: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books.

BrokenWing.jpgFiction Picture Books
2008: How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham, Candlewick Press.
2007: The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, written by Janice N. Harrington and illustrated by Shelley Jackson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
2006: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, Kids Can Press. My review.

RapunzelsRevenge.jpgMiddle Grade Graphic Novels
2008: Rapunzel's Revenge written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale, Bloomsbury USA.
2007: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna, Hyperion.
2006: Amelia Rules, vol. 3: Superheroes by Jimmy Gownley, Renaissance Press.

EmikoSuperstar.jpgYoung Adult Graphic Novels
2008: Emiko Superstar written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Steve Rolston, Minx.
2007: The Professor's Daughter written by Joann Sfar and illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert, First Second.
2006: American Born Chinese by Gene Yang, First Second.

LondonEye.jpgMiddle Grade Fiction
2008: The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, David Fickling Books. My review.
2007: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, Harcourt. My review
2006: A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick. My review.

YearWeDisappeared.jpgMG/YA Nonfiction
2008: The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby, Bloomsbury USA. (I nominated this title!) My review.
2007: Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
2006: Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman, Holiday House.

NicBishop.jpgNonfiction Picture Books
2008: Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop, Scholastic Nonfiction.
2007: Lightship by Brian Floca, Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books.
2006: An Egg Is Quiet written by Dianna Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, Chronicle Books. My review.

Honeybee.jpgPoetry
2008: Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye, HarperCollins.
2007: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, Houghton Mifflin.
2006: Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes, Houghton Mifflin.

disreputablebig.jpgYoung Adult Fiction
2008: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Hyperion.
2007: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Houghton Mifflin.
2006: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Knopf Books for Young Readers. My review.

You can find printable lists of the Cybils short lists for the past three years on the Cybils blog (in the right-hand sidebar), along with blurbs about each title. I think that these short lists are a tremendous resource. Think about it. Five to seven high-quality titles in each of the above categories, from each year. I think you'll find the lists well worth a look. And when the time comes for nominations for 2009 titles, I'll be sure to check back in with you for your input. Happy reading!

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