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Posts by Susan


Board Book Suggestions

Posted by Susan on March 10, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Board BooksRecommendations
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We here at Booklights are thrilled to hear that our fellow blogger Jen will be having a baby soon! In her post announcing the big news, Jen said that she would love to hear book suggestions for babies. I'm more than happy to oblige (for Jen, and for everyone else who has a baby, knows a baby, or who has met a baby).

baby photoIf you're trying to figure out what to purchase as a gift, check out this How to Buy a Book for a Baby guide I wrote a few years back. It's got the answers to a lot of frequently asked questions such as what to buy for a third (or first baby), as well as specific recommendations, how to buy great books in every price range and which formats to choose.

For this post, I thought I'd give Jen and everyone else a list of board book recommendations, although you can certainly buy hardcover books that the babies will grow into. First, let's start with the previous board book posts that have appeared on Booklights. Here's a post I wrote about board books, why to use them, and why you should be a cautious consumer when you buy them. This post tells you how to have fun with two of my favorite board books, and it inspired this one about diverse board books. Pam also wrote a great post with board book recommendations.

Here's what not to buy: Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? These are almost always given as baby shower gifts. All of them are excellent board books, though, and feel free to buy them if you are absolutely positive that the parents don't already have them.

Here's some books that are less likely to be purchased by other people:

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann is a wonderful picture book that adapts very gracefully into a board book. 10 minutes till bedtime.jpgSee this post about how to find every last thing hidden in the illustrations of this book. After you've found them all, try Rathmann's other terrific board book 10 Minutes till Bedtime. The gorilla is hiding on every page and so is the banana. Can you find the zoo keeper's house or Officer Buckle and Gloria?

The Lady with the Alligator Purse: Remember this song? The book is great too, and is so much fun to sing. For other fun board books featuring songs, Raffi has some great versions of old classics, such as The Wheels on the Bus.

Elmo's Big Lift the Flap Book: I'm not just mentioning this book because this blog is on PBS, home of Sesame Street. It's truly an excellent board book, and one the best lift the flap books available. It's sturdy, over-sized, has great variety and pictures, and I've never met a child who wasn't immediately mesmerized by it.

No discussion of board books would be complete without mentioning Sandra Boynton. It's not just that her books are funny. Barnyard Dance.jpgIt's not just that her books are very purposefully written for babies. It's not that the writing and illustrations are good. It's that her books are funny and well written and well illustrated and great for babies. Adults can read her books again and again without going crazy, something very unusual in the board book field. Start with Barnyard Dance, Moo, Baa, La La La! and Blue Hat, Green Hat... which will lead you to many more.

Nina Laden has several baby friendly board books. My favorite is Peek-a Who?

Click Clack abc.jpgBoard books have come a long way in the last decade. The quality has dramatically improved as more publishers are creating books for babies, as opposed to just abridging old classics and jamming them into a board book. Check these great contemporary books out:

Click, Clack, ABC and Click, Clack, 123 are both fun to read, plus they feature Betsy Lewin's buoyant illustrations that jump right off the page.

EyeLike Nature Leaves.jpgBabies love looking at other babies and there are many board books that fulfill that need. But, usually, the pictures are rather bland. The EyeLike Nature books solve that problem. The pictures of the babies are great and the background pictures are even better. Excellent use of photography and color make these books feel so realistic that you want to jump in the leaf pile.

Babies and toddlers love to play with their books. Lift the flap and touch and feel books are great for this age. But be careful. Babies can do amazing damage to board books (nope, they're not indestructible). Keep an eye out for books that have sturdy pages that make it hard(er) for a baby to destroy as they lift the flaps or feel the texture.

Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy well loved version.JPGI mentioned Sandra Boynton above, and her book Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy was the first book my son ever showed interest in. As hard as it is to write a novel, think about how difficult it is to write a coherent, funny and educational book with only 26 words (or less). Here's my Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy review, and see the picture on the right to see what my copy of the book currently looks like. Like I said, nothing is truly indestructible.

Choo Choo.jpgThe irony is that while board books are made for babies and need to be sturdy enough to (attempt) survival from their demanding clientele, the stiff pages make it hard for a baby turn the the pages. Petr Horáek (yes, it's Petr, not Peter) has written several delightful board books with attractive shaped pages that are very easy for babies to turn. Plus, they feature great onomatopoeia and bold, colorful illustrations. Take a look at Choo, Choo to see what I mean.

Baby says peekaboo.jpgDK's Peekaboo! board books have lots of things that make them perfect for a baby who enjoys playing with their books. They include touch and feel; large, sturdy flaps; easy to turn pages; and bright colorful pictures of babies, all in the same book.

The most solid and sturdy touch and feel books (that I know of) currently on the market are Usborne's That's Not My... series. By this point, there are so many titles in this series that you can pick any animal or object you want such as That's Not My Kitten, That's Not My Train or That's Not My Monster. As an added bonus, a little mouse is hiding (in plain sight) on each page.

Dear Zoo.jpgI love Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo and Karen Katz's books such as Where is Baby's Bellybutton? have great flaps and simple illustrations, but the flaps are easy to rip off. Try those a little later after your baby has (mostly) gotten over their tearing apart books phase.

It's lovely to see so much progress being made in this genre. Several publishers have really stepped up to the plate with excellent board books.

What are your favorite board books? Which ones do your kids enjoy the most? Jen and I would love to hear all about them.

The adorable photo at the top of this post is of my kindergartner. He just walked in, looked at the picture and pointed out that it looks nothing like him.


The Good Doctor

Posted by Susan on March 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Authors and IllustratorsPicture Books
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Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel) wrote 63 books for children. Looking for one of them? You won't find them at my library today. They're all checked out.

Michelle Obama reading A Cat in the Hat.jpgWhy the run on Dr. Seuss books this week? As Jen talked about yesterday, Dr. Seuss' birthday (March 2) is also designated as Read Across America Day. People from all walks of life read books to children on this special day and many of them select Dr. Seuss books to read.

Ted Geisel's popularity isn't limited to March by any means. As someone who has worked in bookstores and libraries, I've found that in both venues Dr. Seuss books are consistently the most frequently checked out, purchased, and requested picture books and early readers. His books just have that special, magical something that we all look for when we read a children's book. As President Obama said in his proclamation for Read Across America Day yesterday, Dr. Seuss' "imaginative tales have helped generations of children learn to read, and they hold a cherished place on bookshelves in homes across America."

When Ted Geisel started out, success seemed a long way off. After illustrating two books written by Alexander Abingdon, (Boners and More Boners) Ted decided to strike out on his own, but it didn't go so well. Twenty seven publishers rejected And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, the first chidren's book that he both wrote and illustrated. Here's how the book finally ended up being accepted:

"On the blustery day he learned of his twenty-seventh rejection, Ted fought back frustration and anger and decided to return to his apartment, stage a ceremonial burning of the now tattered manuscript, and get back to cartooning for adults. As he walked grimly along Madison Avenue, he was hailed by Mike McClintock, who had been a year behind him at Dartmouth.

And to Think That I Saw on Mulberry Street.jpg"What's that under your arm?" McClintock asked.

"That's a book that no one will publish. I'm lugging it home to burn."

McClintock smiled. Three hours earlier he had become juvenile editor of Vanguard Press. "We're standing outside my new office," he said. "Come on up and let's look at it."

Half an hour later McClintock took Ted in to meet James Henle, editor of Vanguard Press. Henle agreed to publish the book."

(From Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan, page 82, hardcover edition).

Ted Geisel drawing.jpgHere are some of my other favorite Dr. Seuss facts:

- He won the Pulitzer Prize, two Oscars, two Emmys and the Peabody Award, but the most famous American children's book illustrator never won the biggest award in his own field: the Caldecott medal. He received Caldecott honors for McElligott's Pool (1948), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1950) and If I Ran the Zoo (1951).

- At the end of college, he was voted the "least likely to succeed" by his fellow members of the Casque and Gauntlet honor society at Dartmouth. Clearly his high school friends at Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts were more omniscient: they voted him Class Artist and Class Wit.

Green Eggs and Ham.jpg- His editor, Bennett Cerf, bet him fifty dollars that he could not write a book with a vocabulary of fifty words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham, which in 2001 was ranked by Publisher's Weekly as the fourth-bestselling English-language children's book of all time. Bennett Cerf made good on his bet, but I have a feeling that Ted made more than $50 from the book.

- He was the Berenstains first editor. He wasn't wild about their idea to write books about bears, though. He said they'd never sell. Obviously they did and after their first book The Big Honey Hunt was published, they wrote 16 more books for Ted's Beginner Books company. He was the one that shortened the author's names to "Stan and Jan" from Stanley and Janice and he also named the series "The Berenstain Bears." For more information about how Beginner Books was started, see Terry's great post on the subject.

The advertisement for And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street urged: "Booksellers, hitch on! This is the start of a parade that will take you places!"

Truer words were never spoken. The parade of Dr. Seuss books stretched from Mulberry Street in 1937 to Oh, The Places You'll Go! in 1990. Three more books were published after he died in 1991. The parade is still going on; almost every one of Dr. Seuss' books are still in print, which is truly a remarkable thing. You can find a full list of his books here.

Dr. Seuss Collection.jpgIf you're ever in San Diego, be sure to check out The Dr. Seuss Collection at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UC San Diego. It contains everything from the original art for nearly all of his books to notebooks he doodled on in college, fan mail and Seuss products.

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Which ones do your kids love? What is the first Dr. Seuss book that you remember yourself or your kids reading? Did you read a Dr. Seuss book for Read Across America Day? What's your favorite Dr. Seuss memory. I'd love to hear all about it.

The Eye Book.jpgI've got my own brand new Dr. Seuss memory from something that happened after I finished writing this post. My son (who loved seeing all the pictures in the post) asked to read Dr. Seuss books last night. And for the first time, he read a book he'd never seen before by himself from beginning to end! It was The Eye Book by Theo. LeSieg (one of Ted's pen names). A great book for beginning readers.

The photo of Michelle Obama reading The Cat in the Hat yesterday is from Getty Images. The photo of Dr. Seuss drawing sketches for the television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas is from the Wikimedia Commons.


More Than One Way to Shelve a Book

Posted by Susan on February 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Libraries
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Ask a simple question, get lots of fascinating answers. Last week, I talked about my home library and asked: "Do you organize your books? How so?" Between comments on the original post and on Facebook, I got over 200 responses. I thought you might enjoy reading a sample of them. There were lots of funny, creative and intriguing answers.

How did the majority of people say how they organized their books? By genre? By author? By subject? Nope (although all of those were mentioned repeatedly.)

Child organization 2.jpgThe number one answer was: by physical attribute. Height, size, width and weight were all on the list. Also, whether the book was hardcover or a paperback. A surprising number of people said they sorted by color. See this picture for a beautiful example.

"I live in an RV. The few precious books we keep are divided by owner (Mom/family) then fiction/non-fiction, then ordered by size (because space is at a premium)."

"Hardcovers are shelved vertically and paperbacks end up stacked horizontally."

"Height, so I can adjust the various shelves to the level of the books on them. (This drives people who organize by subject crazy by the way)."

The second most popular method was by genre and the third was alphabetical. Many adults were very specific about they shelved their books. For example:

"As a grad student I had a special system. My personal library was broken down by subject, content similarity, book size, and color, since I knew exactly in my head which books I had and what each one looked like. I could find them much quicker that way."

"I have photos of each of my bookcases, so that when I move, I can arrange the books exactly how I had them in the previous setting. I pack them according to bookcase too. Original arrangements are by topic, and size, mostly, often author, if several titles by same."

Children's books posed a much bigger challenge, and one I completely understand:

"Arrange the children's books?? Try explaining that concept to my 4 year old."

"I put them in a bookshelf. Then said child comes along and tears them all out. Then rinse and repeat."

Leon's Library.jpg"I have 3 year old twins, I am happy if their books are back on their book shelf every night!"

"My son's books always get scrambled through his room every time I try to organize them."

"If I can keep the kids' books with the spines facing the right direction, we're doing well."

"Are you kidding me? We have books everywhere. Just getting them on a shelf is an accomplishment. I take solace in the fact that the books are all over is because they love to read book, after book, after book."

"My toddler is against organization."

Here's some of the methods used by parents:

"Big books on the big shelf. Little books on the little shelf. Keep the books off the floor."

"I have the board books down low, and a big shelf of readers. Then there is a giant pit full of oversized books I don't know what to do with. All the books in the kids' room are left to their own devices. It's all about serendipity up there."

"On my adult shelves, by category, then author, then height, for visual appeal. On the kids shelves, there is a lot of traffic. So I just tidy and place by size so it looks neat."

"I've got it 'easy' since my child is a toddler; all indestructible board books on one shelf, other books arranged by publisher/series on another shelf with a special spot for 'current reading' books. We're concentrating on winter/snow-related books this week."

Child organization.jpgA few people mentioned that it was the children actually doing the organizing:

"As a child I wanted to be a librarian and taped little call letters to the fronts of all my books."

"When my daughter was 8 she began organizing her book shelf by genre. I was in chidren's literature course while finishing up my English degree and she was fascinated by the work I had to do. So one day she decided to put all of her historical fiction, fantasy, biography, etc. in respective categories. I was impressed by how much she had learned."

And I found that not everyone holds on to their books.

"I try to give my books away. I only keep those I have an attachment to. I find it's better to share with the Veterans Admin., or library, or wherever so they are read again and again."

"We recycle a lot of my son's books with their younger cousins. We lay out the books they've outgrown and invite cousins over to pick and choose what they like. The rest have gone to the friends of the library."

Plus, I discovered some interesting and creative ways to shelve books (and other objects.)
"The most fun way to organize is to have the titles of the book all tell a story as you look the spines on the shelf. Sentences and poems are fun to make that way. I also like to put them in order by relation to one another."

Flotsam"I am a self-confessed bibliophile. I live with my books, constantly making stacks of the ones I'm reading at the moment and displaying them with other furniture about the room. At school, I've arranged low, long book shelves with one standing tall bookshelf for display of children's books with great, illustrated covers/sleeves and related artifacts that go with that theme. For example: Flotsam is on display with a collection of shells, clay sea creatures, etc."

And, this was a common refrain:
"I just want to know how she gets her kids to follow the system!"

The truth is, I don't. I mentioned in my previous post that we had moved recently, but it was six months ago. My son had disorganized everything I had originally organized. Our books were everywhere, so last weekend, I made an attempt to put them back in some kind of order. We discovered lots of books this week because we were finally able to find them.

And here are my favorite comments. I kept these until the end to give you a laugh.

"By how short the errant chair leg is."

"I organize them... mess them up a bit... then organize again."

"The librarians do it for me. I store them in my library bag until they are all read, and then I drop them in the book return slot. Then I go look for more already-sorted books. It's like magic!"

"Yep, right on the back of the toilet in order of which was most recently read!"

Thanks to Lee Erickson for the beautiful pictures of his toddler granddaughter looking at books. See his whole post on the subject here (with more great pictures).

Thanks to Alex Zealand for the picture of her five year old's bedroom and his book collection.


A Children's Librarian at Home

Posted by Susan on February 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Libraries
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I spent a lot of time this weekend in the library, but I don't mean the public library where I work. I was organizing my home library.

We've moved a couple of times, and every time the bookshelves get set up, I struggle with how to arrange the books. My children's book collection has grown quite large and by now encompasses at least 5 bookcases.

This time when I shelved everything, I gave a great deal of thought to how my kids would use the library.

On the bottom shelf I always put board books (which are impossible to keep in order, of course). When my older son was a baby, we kept his toys and board books on the bottom shelves, so that he could play with anything he yanked off. At the moment, most of the board books are in the baby's room which has a built in bookcase. Baby book shelf
The picture books went on the lower shelves to make it easier for my son to reach them. I also set up a stool near the bookcases, so he can reach the books up top. (The picture books go up to the fourth shelf on each bookcase because I have so many).

My older son is starting to learn to read, so I pulled every early reader I had (2 shelves worth) and put them near the bottom also. That way, they're accessible any time he wants them. Early reader shelf
I couldn't leave it at that. I had lots more categories to organize! I made shelf space for compilations, Mother Goose, classics and poetry.
Classics and Compilations
I have a shelf for non-fiction, which I need to add to. Also, I always have a shelf for the Caldecott and Newbery winners (and I this year I'm going to add the honor books).
Caldecotts and Newberys
Comic strip books, like the magical Calvin and Hobbes have just about taken over their own bookcase. Comic Strip books
I've given holiday books their own special section. That way I don't have to search through all the picture books every time a holiday comes up. Holiday shelf
Chapter books are on the top shelves, including long series and favorite authors. Chapter books
And of course, Harry Potter gets a shelf of his own. Harry Potter shelf
Also, whenever I organize, I always leave a box open for donations. It's okay (but hard) to give away books, but it's also a good idea to remove books that you don't like or bought on an impulse. That way you'll have more room for the rest. Donation box

And yes, because I couldn't help it, I alphabetized the books by author. Only by letter though, so all the W books are on the same shelf. That makes it much easier to find multiple books by the same author author. Plus, when I'm looking for a book, it's much quicker to go to the right shelf instead of searching all the books.

So here's a glimpse of a small part of my library. (Keep in mind that you're only seeing three bookcases). I actually have ten bookcases in use, most of which are filled with children's books. The shelves are not completely full, on purpose. That's for all the books we have yet to discover!Bookcases

But really, it doesn't matter how you organize it. The most important thing is that you have a designated space to put the books you read to your children and that they're able to access it on their own. Size doesn't matter. When I was growing up, my mom kept one small shelf of picture books in my brother's closet. I can't tell you how exciting it was every time I went to that shelf and picked out a book for us to read together.

Do you organize your books? How so? Do you have a special place set aside for children's books that your kids can access? Is it in their bedroom? The living room? Or someplace else. I'd love to see your children's bookshelves. Please e-mail me at If I get enough pictures, I'll showcase all of your bookshelves next week!


A Tangled Web

Posted by Susan on February 10, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Chapter BooksClassics
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When should you read Charlotte's Web to your children?

It's a beautifully crafted book. The characters are vivid and easy for children to connect to. It's a wonderful combination of reality and fantasy. It does a "terrific" job of explaining friendship. Charlotte's Web.jpgIt's a perfect chapter-a-night book, the chapters aren't too long and there are enough pictures to keep a child's interest. Also, a surprising number of the chapters end with a description of someone going to sleep, which makes it a great book to read at bedtime.

But, but but... Charlotte dies at the end. There's no way to get around that fact or sugarcoat it. You can explain to your children that death is part of the natural cycle of things and that Charlotte's children live on. No matter what you say, though, I guarantee your kids will be sad at the end of the book. I know I am every time I read it.

Many people read Charlotte's Web as a first read aloud. As a librarian, I frequently get asked what age the book is appropriate for. My answer is always that it depends on your child. Will they be able to handle it?

I recently asked myself this same question when I was deciding whether I should read it to my son. Stuart Little and My Father's Dragon had both been big hits for him. Was he ready for Charlotte's Web?

We talked about it for a while. He loved the cover and wanted to see more. I let him look through the book, taking in the pictures. I asked if he wanted to read the book, even if something very, very sad happens in it. He said yes... and we plunged ahead.

Reading Charlotte's WebIt was a wonderful experience. He savored each chapter and always begged for another one when we were done reading. He adored the goose, goose, goose and the gander, gander, gander. He fell wholeheartedly in love with Wilbur. He was studying spiders in his science class and he soaked in all the facts about spiders presented in the book. Since he was on the cusp of learning to read, he was delighted to learn how to spell "pig" and "Charlotte" and then find those words throughout the book.

Then came Chapter 21: The Last Day. You know the one. It ends like this:

"Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died." (Excerpt from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White)

Before we read the chapter, we talked about the fact that there was something really sad about Charlotte was coming up. I told him that she was going to die and asked him if he still wanted me to read it. He said yes, and he snuggled into my lap and I held him very tight while we read the paragraph above. And then we both cried and talked about it. But then we moved onto Chapter 22 where we met Charlotte's children... and there was hope in the story again. And we were both okay again.

I asked him recently about the book (we read it a few months ago). He said it was one of his favorite books and he loved it. I'm planning to read it together again in a year or two.

eb-white-award-final-emboss.gifJen mentioned that there is now an award in honor of E.B. White. Did you know that the Association of Booksellers for Children sponsors the E.B. White Read Aloud Awards each year?

When did you read Charlotte's Web to your children? Would you do it again at that age level? Did you decide not to read the book to their kids? When did they read it to themselves? When did you read it to yourself? What was their reaction? What was yours?

I'd love to hear about your experiences with this timeless classic.


What's your favorite book today?

Posted by Susan on February 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Recommendations
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What's your favorite book?

That's an impossible question to answer.

Do I mean your favorite book from your childhood? Your favorite book as an adult? The book that most impacted your life? The book you read last week?

It's amazing to see how our tastes change over the years. As a librarian, I can't tell you how many times I've heard: "My child loves this book. It's his favorite." Yes, it's his favorite book right now. But what about last year? What about six months from now?

I Stink.jpgLet me use my own kindergartner as an example. His first favorite book was Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy! because he loved to play with it. Then he moved on to Good Night, Gorilla, Goodnight Moon, and Freight Train. Blue Hat, Green Hat enjoyed a spot on top of the charts too. As he got older, it kept changing. I Stink, Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel started appearing regularly on his must read pile. He thought Are You Ready to Play Outside? was the funniest book ever and we read that one over and over (and then some.) He's gone through Berenstain Bears, Dr. Seuss, Arthur and Curious George phases (some of which are still going). Dog Train.jpgWhen we were reading Charlotte's Web, he couldn't wait for the next chapter. I asked him today, and he said his favorite books are Rhinoceros Tap, Philadelphia Chickens, Dog Train and Blue Moo... all wonderful books/albums by Sandra Boynton. They've been on the top of his charts for at least three years.

And I've changed my favorites too. In second grade, Cam Jansen was the best thing out there. When I was in fifth grade, I thought there was nothing better than the From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and I wanted to go live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I loved Marjorie Morningstar when I was an angsty teenage. Man Who Walked.jpgAt the time, it felt magical and as if Herman Wouk had written it just for me, but it doesn't resonate as much for me now. If you asked me for my favorite today, I'd say Pride and Prejudice. The interesting thing about that book is that I've understood, appreciated and loved it in different ways at different ages. But, I'd also say that my favorite book today is The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. And as of three months ago, I'd add Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. There's no such thing as one favorite, at least, not for me.

I wrote last week about keeping a book journal and got many wonderful responses. A few people commented that the idea of recording books every single day seemed overwhelming. If that's too much for you, try keeping a favorites journal. Wouldn't it be great to have a record of that?

What phases have you and your children gone through? What worked before that doesn't work anymore? What works now?

And most important, what's your favorite book today?


Write it down

Posted by Susan on January 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Recommendations
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What book(s) did you you read to your kids last night? What book did your kids read to themselves? What book did you read?

I recently asked my friends this question, and got an incredibly varied response. It ranged from Harry Potter to the Berenstain Bears. From Little House in the Big Woods to Captain Underpants. From Raggedy Ann to Star Wars. From Richard Scarry's Best First Book Ever to Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. (Okay, so that last one didn't have a lot of range.)

One of the fun things about the summer reading program at my library is that the kids get a reading log to record all the books they read that summer. It's so fascinating to see their lists. Some kids read the minimum number of books they need to receive the prize. Others fill up the whole log. Some kids even attach extra pieces of paper to their lists. Regardless of how long or short the list is, every time I look at one, I get a sense of who that child is.

Wouldn't it be amazing if you could look back at a list of books your child (or you) read? Not just over the summer, but for the whole year? How about if you could see the titles of all (or most) the books they read while they were growing up? Can you imagine what a priceless gift that would be to both you and your child?

It doesn't matter if your journal looks like this:

Book of Kells.jpg

or this:

legal pad.jpg

or this:

good reads.gif

It doesn't matter if you arrange it by day (for picture books) or by date the book was finished (for chapter books) or by year. (However you do it, I recommend numbering your entries).

It doesn't matter if you include just the title, date and author in your entry. Or if you write down your kid's reactions to the book such as "Emily loved putting her fingers through the holes of everything the hungry caterpillar ate." Or "John just wanted to find Goldbug on each page." Or "Jennifer didn't like the part with the Wicked Witch of the West."

The only thing that matters is having one. How do you make that happen?

Step 1: Answer the question that was at the top of this post: What book(s) did you you read to your kids last night? What book did your kids read to themselves? What book did you read?

Step 2: Write it down.

Step 3: Repeat daily.

I'd love to see what you and your kids did read last night. Please comment!


An ALA Kind of Day

Posted by Susan on January 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Awards
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Monday was a huge day in the children's literature world as the American Library Association's (ALA) Youth Media Awards were announced. Curious about what won? Read the full press release here.

Check out our predictions and see how we did. Here's mine and here's Pam's Caldecott and Newbery predictions.

Maybe you watched the live webcast of the press conference. Or followed the updates on Twitter. Or read about the results online or in the newspaper. Maybe you saw the interviews with the Caldecott and Newbery medal winners on Tuesday morning's Today Show. Or maybe, you're just finding out about it all now.

What to know more? Here's my in-depth look at some of the highlights from January 18, 2010. Wondering what all these awards are? Take a look at this post.

5 am: Committee members woke up and headed over to the convention center.

6 -7 am: Phone calls were made to the illustrator or author of the books that won or received honors. As I walked through the convention center on my way to the press conference, I could hear the shouts of joy and applause from the press booth as the committees made their phone calls. Check out these photos of Grace Lin recieving her Newbery Honor call.

6:30 am- 7 am: Multitudes of people (including librarians, publishers, editors, writers and me) slog their way through heavy sleet, freezing temperatures and unbelievable wind to get to the press conference.

IMG_4241.JPG7 am: A crowd starts started to gather in front of the Grand Ballroom at the Boston Convention Center.

7:30 am: All over the country, booksellers and librarians log into the live webcast. Some are just curious, but others are all business as they try to order the winning books the second they are announced. They're ready to pick up the phone or place an online order for anything they don't already have in stock.

7:35 am: The doors open and the vast, excited, chattering crowd full of anticipation makes its way into the ballroom.

7:40 am: Twitter starts buzzing with comments.

My People.jpg7:45 am: The press conference gets off to a rollicking start as the Alex Awards, the Schneider Family Awards and the Coretta Scott King (CSK) awards are announced. Marcelo in the Real World gets a great audience response as it wins the Schneider Family teen book award. There is thunderous applause as Walter Dean Myers is announced as the first ever winner of the Virginia Hamilton life time achievement award. This is his 12th Coretta Scott King Award. My People, a book that aches to be read aloud, wins the CSK illustrator award and Bad News for Outlaws takes home the CSK author award. Kekla Magoon wins the John Steptoe New Talent Award for The Rock and the River.

flashburnout.jpg8 am: The YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) awards are announced. Jim Murphy becomes the first winner of the Margaret Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award to be honored for non-fiction books! The crowd is delighted. (Check out his books, they're wonderful). The new YALSA non-fiction award goes to Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith. The YA Morris debut award goes to Flash Burnout. Onto the big one, the Printz award for excellence in Young Adult Literature. There's earsplitting applause as Going Bovine wins. Then slowly the realization hits the onlookers that Marcelo in the Real World (one of the predicted favorites) didn't win the Printz award or an honor. The audience starts to talk amongst itself. The booksellers watching from their homes or stores, get on the phone with their sales reps or distributors immediately to make sure they have plenty of copies of Going Bovine.

Book Fiesta.jpg8:15 am: Onto the ALSC awards. Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken wins the Odyssey Award. The Pura Belpré awards are announced. Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora, the founder of ALSC's Dia de los niños wins the Belpré illustrator award. Julia Alvarez gets the Belpré author award for Return to Sender. A Faraway Island wins the Batchelder. Lois Lowry adds the Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award to her considerable resume.

8:25 am: Random House accidentally posts on Twitter that When You Reach Me has won the Newbery Medal.... 13 minutes before the Newbery is actually announced.

Benny and Penny.jpg8:30 am: Almost Astronauts takes home the Siebert Medal. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus wins the Carnegie Medal and the crowd is treated to a clip of the irascible pigeon. A few minutes later, Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! becomes the first graphic novel ever to win the Geisel Award. Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books are shut out of the Geisel (after winning two straight years in a row.) But hey, Mo won the Carnegie, which is his 6th award in the same number of years. I think he'll survive.

8:34 am: Time for the Caldecotts. I'm holding my breath, hoping The Lion and the Mouse doesn't show up as an honor book (which would mean it wouldn't have won the medal). Marla Frazee wins her second Caldecott Honor in two years for the beautiful book All the World. Pamela Zagarenski wins a Caldecott Honor for her wonderful mixed media and computer illustrations in Red Sings from Treetops.

lion and the mouse with medal.gif8:35 am: Drumroll as everyone waits to find out the Caldecott winner. And it's The Lion and the Mouse!!! Jerry Pinkney finally won the medal 21 years after his first of five Caldecott honors. There is earth shattering applause as the crowd goes crazy for this stunningly beautiful book and its wonderfully talented creator.

8:36 am: The applause keeps going. A picture appears on the big screen of the The Lion and the Mouse with a Caldecott Medal on its gorgeous cover.

8:37 am: And now it's Newbery time. A surprising number of people in the crowd are follwing Twitter and Facebook during the annoucements via their phones and laptops, so sadly, this is a bit anticlimatic since the winner has already been leaked. Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice wins its third honor of the day (it also was recognized by the Siebert and YALSA non-fiction committees. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, a lovely historical fiction book filled with great characters, wins a Newbery honor. Grace Lin's beautiful and timeless book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon wins one too. The humorous Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg wins a surprise Newbery honor.

When you reach me.jpg8:38 am: When You Reach Me is officially declared the Newbery winner. This book is a bit on the older side (recommended for grades 5-8) and it's a fantastic, wonderful book with a surprise ending. The crowd goes wild as When You Reach Me wins. Rebecca Stead wins the Newbery 47 years after the book it was based on, A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery.

8:40 am: The crowd in the room grab press releases as they slowly meander their way out. Tons of side conversations start. The crowd at home logs off from the webcast. Exhausted book buyers hang up their phones, turn off their computers and then race around to find every last copy of every book that won an award or honor.
8:45 am: A multitude of reactions to the awards start to get posted on a multitude of blogs. Listserv discussions begin.

9 am: When You Reach Me is # 613 on Amazon's list of bestsellers (this includes all books, not just children's books.)

9:30 am: The award committee members finally get to eat breakfast.

9 pm: When You Reach Me is # 23 on Amazon's list of bestsellers.

9:50 am on Tuesday: Jerry Pinkney and Rebecca Stead are interviewed on the Today Show.

10 am on Tuesday: When You Reach Me is # 4 on Amazon's list of bestsellers.

Wondering why I have exact times such as 8:37 am in this post? I ventured onto Twitter (something I rarely do) and tweeted my reactions while sitting at the press conference.

Medal stickersCurious about how Caldecott and Newbery books (and all the rest) get their shiny stickers? Here's the answer, to the best of my knowledge.

What were you doing between 7:45 - 8:35 am on Monday morning? Were you at the press conference? Did you follow the webcast? What about Twitter or Facebook? Or were you (quite understandably) asleep?

Got opinions about the awards? I'd love to hear them.


Even more awards!

Posted by Susan on January 13, 2010 at 12:00 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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We've been talking about children's book awards on Booklights quite a bit lately because award season is in now full swing. Why are we so interested in which books win the awards?

For one thing, the lists of the winners and honor books make excellent reading lists and offer good suggestions for a child looking for the next book to read.

And for another, (particularly in the case of the Caldecott and the Newbery medals) schools and libraries are more likely to buy the books that win the awards. That means they'll be readily available and it's more likely that your children may read them.

Where the Wild Things Are.jpgSome (not all) of the award winners turn into classics. Where the Wild Things Are won the Caldecott medal and A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery Medal. The classics aren't always award winners though. Dr. Seuss never won the Caldecott medal, although he did receive three honors. Eric Carle has never won a Caldecott medal or an honor.

A few words of caution before you dive into the award lists, though. It's important to know what the award was actually given for. For an example, let's look at two different awards for picture books. The Randolph Caldecott medal is awarded to the book with the best illustrations. (The Caldecott is actually only given to the illustrator, not the author.) The Charlotte Zolotow award, which Ann wrote about is given to the picture book with the best writing. The Lion and the Mouse, this year's Caldecott favorite, could never have won the Zolotow award. It's a wordless book. But the illustrations are incredible.

Also, make sure to check that the book is appropriate for your child. Not every award winner is for every kid. Take a look at part of the Newbery criteria:

A "contribution to American literature for children" shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children's understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.

Despereaux.jpgFor example, the The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo won the 2004 Newbery medal and is generally recommended to ages nine and up (although some children read it at a younger age.) The 2005 Newbery medalist was Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata which is generally recommended for ages 11-14. These two books both meet the Newbery criteria but they have two very different audiences and are intended for different age groups.

I mentioned the ALA Youth Media Awards in my post last week. The Newbery and Caldecott are the most famous children's book awards given by the American Library Association, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. The press conference where the announcements are made is an hour and a half long and many, many awards are given. It's well worth checking out the lists of past winners and honors of these awards while we wait to find out which books will be getting the awards this year. Below is a list of all the awards that will be announced at the press conference on January 18. The official description of each award is from the the appropriate American Library Association (ALA) division's website.

Awards administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC):

Mixed Up Files.jpgThe John Newbery Medal
The Newbery Medal honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal
The Caldecott Medal honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
The Arbuthnot award honors an author, critic, librarian, historian, or teacher of children's literature, of any country, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.

Esperanza Rising.jpgThe Pura Belpré Medal
The Belpré Medal honors a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award
The Batchelder Award is given to an American publisher for a children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States.

The Andrew Carnegie Medal
The Carnegie Medal honors the producer of the most outstanding video production for children released during the preceding year.

Are You Ready.jpgThe Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal
The Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children's literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
The Sibert Medal honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
The Wilder Medal 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 award is only given every other year. Since it was awarded last year, the next winner will be announced in 2011.)

Awards administered by The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):

Monster.jpgMichael L. Printz Award
The Printz Award honors excellence in literature written for young adults.

The Alex Awards
The Alex Awards are given annually to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults.

The Margaret A. Edwards Award
The Edwards Award honors an author and a specific work for significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens.

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award
The Morris Award honors a book written for young adults by a first-time, previously unpublished author. The first award was given in 2009.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
YALSA's newest award honors the best nonfiction book for young adults; the first winner will be named this year.

Jazz.jpgJointly administered by ALSC and YALSA:

The Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production
The Odyssey Award is awarded annually to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Under the auspices of the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT):

The Coretta Scott King Awards

We are the Ship.jpgThe Coretta Scott King Awards are given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society.

The John Steptoe New Talent Awards
The John Steptoe New Talent Awards affirm new talent and offer visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator.

Under the auspices of the American Library Association:

Rules.jpgThe Schneider Family Book Awards
The Schneider Family Book Awards honors an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for children and teens. The award is given in three categories: birth through grade school, middle school, and teens.

Follow the announcements live on January 18th:
Be sure to tune in on January 18 . You can either watch the live webcast or get updates via Twitter to find out this year's winners. You may be able to hear me screaming on the webcast.... I'll be in the audience at the press conference at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston. Look for a 2010 ALA award post game analysis here on Booklights next week.


Favorite Caldecott and Newbery Medal Books

Posted by Susan on January 6, 2010 at 12:00 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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January is a month of wild speculation in the children's literature world. With the ALA Youth Media Awards on the verge of being announced, everyone is trying to guess what books will win this year's Caldecott and Newbery medals. The answer will come on January 18 at an early morning press conference held by the Association of Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association).

Lion and Mouse.jpgWho will walk away the winners this year? After receiving 5 Caldecott honors, will Jerry Pinkney finally earn the Caldecott medal for The Lion and the Mouse? Will Jacqueline Kelly earn the Newbery medal for her debut novel, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate?

While we wait anxiously with the potential winners to find out whose telephone will ring on January 18, here are a few things we know for certain:

The winning books, whichever ones they happen to be, will be completely sold out within hours of the announcement. They will be purchased by nearly every school, library and bookstore (with a children's department) in the country. With very few exceptions, they will never go out of print.

The winners receive a phone call from the entire 15 member committees shortly before the official announcement at the press conference. If the ALA Midwinter meeting is on the East Coast (this year it's in Boston), a winner who lives in California can expect to get a phone call around 3 a.m. I love hearing the stories that authors and illustrators tell about when they got "the call."

I'm curious to know which past winners are your favorites. Since so many schools and libraries buy the winning books, you may have read more than you realize.

Here are my favorite Caldecott winners. This list changes every time I put it together:.

Hugo Cabret.jpg2008: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
2007: Flotsam by David Wiesner
2005: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
2004: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
2002: The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
1996: Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
1994: Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
1992: Tuesday by David Wiesner
1991: Black and White by David Macaulay
1986: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
1980: Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney; text: Donald Hall
1968: Drummer Hoff illustrated by Ed Emberley; text: adapted by Barbara Emberley
1965: May I Bring a Friend? illustrated by Beni Montresor; text: Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
1964: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
1955: Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, illustrated by Marcia Brown; text: translated from Charles Perrault by Marcia Brown
1954: Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans
1943: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
1942: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

The list of all the Caldecott medal books is here and the full list including both medal and honor books is here.

I'm more of a picture book person (as you can probably tell from the list above) but I do have several favorite Newbery medal winners.

Graveyard Book.jpg2009: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2008: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
2002: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
1999: Holes by Louis Sachar
1984: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
1982: A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard
1979: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
1978: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
1949: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
1945: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
1944: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

The list of all the Newbery medal books is here and the full list including both medal and honor books is here.

Be sure to tune in on January 18 via Twitter and/or a live webcast to find out this year's winners.

Want to find out more about how the winners are selected.? ALSC has put together a great list of answers to frequently asked questions about the awards.

What are your favorite Caldecott and Newbery medal books and why? Have you ever tried (successfully or unsuccessfully) to read all the winners? Got any predictions for this year? I'd love to hear about it.

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