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Heart of a Mother, Soul of a Reader, Mouth of a Smartass
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26. Decisions, Decisions...

It's been an intense, soul-searching time for the Teen and I as we analyzed, compared, deliberated and ruminated on colleges. I'm excited to say that she's decided on George Washington University!

It fits everything she is looking for in a college, put together in parts. It's an urban campus offering the city of Washington, DC to explore. Yet, it also has a smaller, greener campus that is mostly residential and a short shuttle ride away from the main campus, four blocks away from the White House. It offers the resources and variety of a large university, but being admitted to the honors program gives her a small, nurturing community of advisors and intellectual challenge. There are great programs in political science and public policy, which is where her interests are leaning, and several combined programs for earning a Masters degree. She was offered a large scholarship that puts the school in our price range, plus they'll take enough of her AP credits that she may be able to knock out a semester. The school is very focused on internships and since she lives near, she may be able to turn one into a summer job. She'll be close to home, but the environment is completely different from the suburban area where we live.

And omigod the dorm! The honors program offers housing in a dorm that has four single rooms that open into a common area with shared bathroom in a hall with a full kitchen and laundry in a building that houses the dining area and - I swear it's true - a black box theatre space. Could it be more perfect? Oh yeah, the Shakespeare learning community is housed in the same campus.

Okay, that long description was indulgent, but it's for the five or six people who may be interested in the decision process. I'm available for personal college consultation on request. I also do children's parties.

I'm happy that things look so ideal for her, and also that we're done. Honestly I'm ready to have my brain back from thinking about colleges and you know, her "future." It's tiring. Deciding whether to read the new teen book OR the adult bestseller is more my speed. (Answer: duh, both.)

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27. College Update

March has been an anxious month waiting for college acceptances to arrive, and I suppose I don't write when I'm anxious. I can't say what else I was doing, besides churning over the same college information and cleaning out the computer/storage room. Oh, and shoveling snow, which was flippin' weird in March.

But the results are in, and they are good for the Teen. She didn't quite make her reach school Columbia, but was admitted to its sister school Barnard. She swept our Virginia colleges with acceptances from University of Virginia, University of Richmond, and William & Mary, along with UNC at Chapel Hill. A last minute addition of George Washington University is looking promising with an admittance to a selective honors program and a large scholarship.

With such a variety of good schools to consider and such a big decision to make, I can't say how present I'll be online this month either. Though there is a significant difference in the tension of not being able to move forward because you have no idea what to decide among, and the tension of having many good choices to decide among. If it's any indication, this nagging lower back pain I've had for weeks is suddenly gone.

If you have anything to share about the schools, I'd love to hear. Especially about GWU or Barnard, where I don't have any insider view. William & Mary is safely covered by its two alumni in this very house - which is probably killing Teen's view of it - and Richmond is too expensive.

All right, I'm going to move on because I could write for hours comparing what we know of those schools and how they fit my daughter and what that could eventually mean for her future and if any will affect her potential as President...

Oh, yeah everything else is fine. The Kid is on a chorus trip to DisneyWorld and auditioned for a summer theatre program of Legally Blonde, which should be fun. My mom is doing fine from her recent follow-up appointment and got a new kitty friend. The husband and I are coming up on our twentieth year anniversary, and will likely have to pretend that it is actually occurring at a more convenient time to celebrate. Like 2016.

If you're reading this, thanks for staying around. I haven't been a great citizen of the KidLitosphere, but I love my friends in it too much to disappear entirely. Just sometimes, for odd stretches of time. Be well!

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28. Thursday Three: Hide and Seek

Some library books I liked that helpfully fit into a theme of hide and seek. But they all also have classroom or home use for demonstrating values like working together, gratitude, and acceptance without being heavy-handed.

Come Back, Moon
by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian

Beach Lane Books, 2013
Come Back, Moon
When Bear is bothered by the light of moon and can’t sleep, he steals the moon. Under the clever leadership of fox, the forest animals work together to get it back. Simple text makes this ideal for younger storytimes or even as a beginning reader book. The soft, watercolor illustrations bring to life a serene forest scene, with special acknowledgement to the orange fox — who looks so darn cute and cuddly. The book would also be useful for themes of working together and conflict resolution.

Never Ever
by Jo Empson

Child's Play, 2012
Never Ever
A girl complains that nothing exciting ever happens, yet as she walks with her stuffed bunny a world of excitement is going on around her. Flying pigs, a flower-loving gorilla, and a brave lion join her on her walk — right into a dragon’s mouth! But she continues to be unimpressed, even with one more surprise in store. The illustrations in watercolor and pencil depict a world both gentle — with the soft blues of the girl’s dress and pink of the pigs — and lively in the yellow flowers and bright green dragon. Simple in words and concept, but high in imagination, this book is an invitation to play and think about what is right in front of us.

How to Hide a Lion
by Helen Stephens

Henry Holt, 2013
How to Hide a Lion
The book sets it up nicely: “One hot day, a lion strolled into town to buy a hat. But the townspeople were scared of lions, so the lion ran away.” A little girl find the lion, and decides to help him out with a bandage, a comb-out, and mostly by hiding him. But her mom finds him, screams, and the lion runs away. Hiding himself in town, he finds an opportunity to save the day and is accepted by the townspeople. Fun story that has an actual plot line to it. The bright yellow lion is visually captivating, and the relationship with the girl is adorable. The book would also be a good example for not judging someone too quickly.

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29. Boardbook Bonanza

Since I haven't been reviewing much, I don't get much to review. That's totally fine and in fact preferred as I don't want to waste anyone's review copies and I can get much of what I want at the library where I work. But occasionally a package comes my way, as with a little collection of 2014 boardbooks from Chronicle. Now I don't actively look for boardbooks or tend to review them, so let's call this a set of "reactions." Because it sounds less formal.

by Andrew Zuckerman

CreatureI received both Numbers and Colors from the set, which also includes Sounds and Baby Animals. I am familiar with Andrew Zuckerman's photography of animals, and I love the idea of bringing his work into young hands. My nagging complaint about the set is that I wanted the pictures bigger. Partly because the books are small, meaning the pictures get smaller still. But also because I don't think babies are as invested in the concept that Zuckerman's work highlights the animals with plenty of white space. They just want to see the green frog. But you know these kids are going to get books of colors and numbers anyway, so it's a great idea to enhance the experience for both child and parent reader with some artistry. That you'll get.

You Are My Baby
by Lorena Siminovich

You Are My BabyI received both the Ocean and Garden from the set, which also includes Safari and Farm. Boardbooks are pretty basic, so when someone comes up with any new idea, it's worth a mention. These books have a smaller book embedded within, so that you can turn the pages of the little book - which focuses on the baby - separately from the larger book. While obviously related, you could read each "book" alone. (Big book: "You sing a happy song in our leafy tree." Little book: You are my baby, little hatchling.") The illustrations are cute, bright and friendly. I wonder how the book will hold up physically, but I also think it would be fun to share with a little reader.

Going to the Farmers' Market
by Stefan Page

Going to the Farmers' MarketI shouldn't fault the concept - at least it's something different - but it got a little eyeroll out of me. I certainly can't fault the illustrations, which are cool in a retro, Charley Harper way. (Now you can roll your eyes.) But the text misses the mark. Overall it covers from market to meal, but not as cohesively as it could have. Parts of it go for the "to market, to market" rhythm, but not all. Parts of it detail the foods, but not all. Maybe it seems picky, but I want a boardbook to have internal consistency, whether it's with story, rhythm, or learning concept. But hey, if you need a gift book for the hipster parents in your circle, this is perfect.

Daddy Wrong Legs
by Nina Laden

Daddy Wrong LegsThis is one of the books where you can turn the bottom pages separately to mix up the tops and legs of the creatures. I'm sure that lots of parents and kids love this idea. It. Freaks. Me. Out. I'll admit that I have a low creep-out threshold, but this is the kind of book that would have given me bad dreams. ("Daddy has spider legs!") But look, I like this author (see below) and her illustration style. So for those who like the concept of funny animals and people with the wrong legs, here's your book.

by Nina Laden

Peek-a-Zoo!I consider myself an explorer of the new and different, but it was the most traditional boardbook of the bunch that won me over. Very simple in concept, with the words "Peek a" on one page facing a page with a hole through which you can guess at the animal behind. Thus the black and orange stripes turn to a tiger, where now "Peek a" is viewed through the hole and added the word "MEW!" So simple, but a nice twist on traditional Peek-a-boo. The whole thing ends with a mirrored page for "Peek a YOU, TOO!" The fun illustrations have a woodblock-print look to them, and feature lots of bright colors from a secondary pallate of purple, orange, turquoise and pink. Also a nice size for little hands. This is one I'll recommend to my library system, especially for mother/baby program kits.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

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30. Poetry Friday: Forest Has a Song

So excited to share the winning poetry book for the Cybils Awards!

Forest Has a Song
by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Clarion Books, 2013
(review copy received)
Forest Has a SongPoems document the seasons in the woods with sensory reflections on everything from the spongy feel of a dead branch to the sound of a proposal in a tree frog's song to the taste of a wintergreen plant. The beautiful watercolor illustrations capture the gentle feel of the forest and the poetry itself. Simply a lovely book to enjoy and share. So with the sharing in mind, here is one small sample poem. And yes, I am showing my weariness of winter in selecting one about spring.

April Waking
Ferny frondy fiddlehead
unfurl curls from dirty beds.
Stretching stems they sweetly sing
greenest greetings sent to Spring.
-Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten.

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31. Personal Update

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! That is the sound of me relaxing for the first time in... I want to say... years?

Maybe it just feels that way, and certainly everything in my life hasn't reached a positive plateau. However, two big things are squared away. My senior was basically accepted into an excellent, affordable college, and while she hasn't decided on William & Mary, it's a relief to know that it's there as an extremely attractive option. She also just got the part of Cleopatra - the role she's been wanting and working towards, in a way since she starting acting. She's put a lot of time into this theater department and has truly earned this part with both performance skills and hard work.

Also the kid - who is really a teen - is settling into high school quite nicely. She's finding her own place in theater and chorus with parts and solos, both well-deserved. She's really shined in Unplugged with an original song and a beautiful cover, and that venue has given her incentive to keep working on her guitar. We watch American Idol together with an analytical approach to what she should do when she auditions.

And they get good grades, have friends, enjoy each other, and still hang out with me.

I've hit the parenting jackpot, and I'm so proud and happy.

So, time to breathe and figure out what is next.

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32. Cybils Awards!

Today in the KidLit community we celebrate Love... of books with the announcement of the Cybils Awards! Some wonderful titles across the board, but I'll give a special shout-out to my committee of Picture Books. From an incredible list of finalists, the judges selected a book that I would have personally chosen myself to win. The perfect Cybils selection:

Mr. Tiger Goes WildMr. Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown

Little, Brown and Co., 2013
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild opens to muted tones of a proper Victorian society of well-mannered animals, living in houses and walking on two legs. Surrounded by an abundance of subdued suits, ties, dresses and tea, the daily hum-drum pushes Mr. Tiger outside the city limits to a place where he can ROAR! But first he undergoes the drama and surprising silliness of life on four legs, a swim in the water fountain and *gasp* a view of his magnificent, naked self. Confident artistic elements start on the decorative endpapers, capitalize on the freedom of double page illustrations, built intensity with the color palette, and combine seamlessly with the lean text of most carefully selected words. With great comedic timing and a light-handed touch on message, Peter Brown has written a clever, compelling invitation to self-discovery.

Congratulations to all the Cybils winners!

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33. Poetry Friday: "The Snow Man"

I haven't done a pure Poetry Friday entry in a while, but I came upon this poem during this past week of bitter cold and it felt just right.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
to regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
-- Wallace Stevens
For more verse, look to our Poetry Friday host, Mainely Right!

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34. Picture Book Donations

In December a local organization here sets up a Christmas shop for their needy clients to find presents for their children. For the past several years I've brought them books that I received as a reviewer and Cybils panelist. Now, since I haven’t been serving on the Cybils panel or receiving much for review, I’ve been weeding my shelves of older copies I didn’t give the first time around.

It always makes me feel bad that I can't review so many of the books that I have received, but I am grateful to the publishers who have sent me books over the years and allowed me to pass them on to others. Thank you, and know that your books went to a child in need

 All the Way to America All the Way to America
by Dan Yaccarino; Knopf Books, 2011

Story of a legacy of an immigrant and his little shovel.

Beaver is Lost
by Elisha Cooper; Schwartz & Wade, 2010

Beaver floats down the river to New York City.

Because You Are My Baby
by Sherry North, illustrated by Marcellus Hall; Abrams, 2008

Gentle imagining of all the things mom would do with her baby.

Big Words for Little People
by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell; HarperCollins, 2008

Words to learn, like Privacy, Celebrate, and Different, with context.

TITLE Black Beauty
retold by Sharon Lerner, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Random House, 2009

Classic story made simpler with pretty pictures.

The Boat in the Tree
by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by John Shelley
Front Street Press, 2007

Story of getting along with a new adopted brother, and of finding a boat in a tree.

Born to Read
by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown; Knopf Books, 2008

A baby is born with a love of reading, which saves the day.

A Carousel Tale
by Elisa Kleven; Tricycle Press, 2009

A carousel dog’s tail is turned into something special.

The Day Leo Said I Hate You!
by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Molly Bang; Little, Brown, 2008

Sometimes we all say mean things – and things we don’t mean – but it can be all right.

 Do You Have a Cat?</ Do You Have a Cat?
by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio
Eerdmans Books, 2010

Different historical figures with their clever cats.

Dog Loves Books
by Louise Yates; Knopf Books, 2010

Dog opens a bookstore to read and share great books.

Drum City
by Thea Guidone, illustrated by Vanessa Newton; Tricycle Press, 2010

An impromptu parade with makeshift drums and lots of noise through the city.

Ella May and the Wishing Stone
by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Genevieve Cote; Tundra Books, 2011

A wishing stone can’t always bring you what you want. Friends are better.

 The Firehouse Light The Firehouse Light
by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Tricycle Press, 2010

A century passes around a firehouse, but the light never stops burning.

How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps
by Jennifer LaRue Huget, Edward Koren
Schwartz & Wade, 2010


Huff & Puff
by Claudia Rueda; Abrams, 2012

Very simple three little pigs story.

It’s Picture Day Today!
by Megan MacDonald, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson; Atheneum, 2009

Making pictures to take a picture.

 The Longest Night The Longest Night
by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ted Lewin
Holiday House, 2009

Animals in the coldest, longest winter night want to bring back the sun.

Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here!
by Barbara Park, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli
Random House, 2008

A baby soon to be born is bored with the womb.

Mail Harry to the Moon!
by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley; Little, Brown, 2008

Little brothers are annoying.

Mother Goose’s Little Treasures
by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells; Candlewick, 2007

The old rhymes you never knew you never knew.

 Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers
by Sam Lloyd; Atheneum Books, 2008

Mr. Pusskins and the new kitten work things out.

by Norton Juster, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Schwartz & Wade, 2011

A lonely boy in a new home ends up making friends.

Night Lights
by Susan Gal; Knopf Books, 2009

All kinds of lights at night.

Orangutans Are Ticklish
by Steve Grubman with Jill Davis; Schwartz & Wade, 2010

Fun facts about animals, with photos.

 POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum
by Meghan McCarthy; Simon & Schuster, 2010

Fun story about bubble gum, with bonus facts pages.

Princess Baby
by Karen Katz; Schwartz & Wade, 2008

Some babies are just born to wear a golden crown.

Samuel’s Baby
by Mark Elkin, illustrated by Amy Wummer; Tricycle Press, 2010

A kindergarten class practices babies.

Seasons Seasons
by Anne Crausaz; Kane Miller, 2010

Nice things happen in all different seasons.

Seed by Seed
by Esme Raji Codell, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
Greenwillow, 2012

Story of Johnny Appleseed, with lessons for us all.

Small Sister
by Jessica Meserve; Clarion Books, 2007

Sometimes it’s hard to be the small sister, but small people can do big things.

Snow Happy!
by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Tricycle Press, 2010

Fun in the snow!

 Splash! A Little Book About Bouncing Back Splash! A Little Book About Bouncing Back
by Maria Van Lishout; Fewel & Friends, 2008

When we’re feeling bad, giving a lift can help everyone feel better.

by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Kids Can Press, 2010

Spork finds his place among the utensils when a baby starts eating.

Thunder - Boomer!
by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Carol Thompson; Clarion Books, 2009

Out in the countryside, a big storm comes in and cools off the summer day.

 Twelve Dancing Princesses Twelve Dancing Princesses
by Brigette Barrager; Chronicle Books, 2011

The fairy tale made lovely.

Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant,
by Leslie McGuirk, Alex von Bidder; Candlewick, 2009

Going out to dinner has a lot of rules, particularly for dogs it seems.

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35. Cybils Finalists 2013

It’s New Year’s once again — and that means it’s time for the 2013 Cybils Finalists! A lot of great books on this year’s shortlists, but I want to take some time to call out the ones from my Fiction Picture Books committee:

Count the MonkeysCount the Monkeys
by Mac Barnett

Disney Hyperion, 2013

Looking at the troop of monkeys on this cover, young readers may be in for a bit of a surprise as they begin to turn the pages. Where did all the monkeys go? No need to fret, though, for each page brings a new (and increasingly ridiculous) possible factor in their disappearance. Expect a rowdy story time experience with this hilarious, unique addition to the counting book genre.

If You Want to See a WhaleIf You Want to See a Whale
by Julie Fogliano

Roaring Brook, 2013

There’s a lot going on beneath the peaceful surface of this slow-building, contemplative deep blue sea of a picture book. As a small boy meanders toward his goal of seeing a whale, he must decide whether or not to pause in order to investigate insects, roses, smiling pelicans, or other things that are not whales. The deliberate pace, simple word choice and list-like structure mimics process writing, but unpredictable, stuttering line breaks undermine the authoritative tone with a jazzy rhythm. Charming, textured illustrations by Caldecott Medal winner Erin Stead subtly rock the boat — balanced, yet always with an off-kilter, asymmetric element, and sometimes revealing the boy’s actions to be at odds with the prescriptions of the text. Is this book about achieving a goal? Or about observation? It is certainly fertile — and beautiful — ground for conversation.

by Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2013

With a subtle nod to Harold and his purple crayon, a bored young girl draws herself a door into a magical world using a red crayon she finds on her bedroom floor. Lush and detailed double page spreads draw the reader into the imaginary world, while well placed panels of action sequences along with picture clues lead the reader through this wordless adventure. Like the magic in the story, additional details seem to suddenly appear on re-reads, rewarding readers who are sure to take the Journey again and again.

Mr. Tiger Goes WildMr. Tiger Goes Wild
by Peter Brown

Little, Brown, 2013

Claiming Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is, perhaps, his most autobiographical book to date, Peter Brown shares a story about a tiger, growing up in a prim and proper place, who looks for that appropriate place to release his wild side. Once sent into the wilderness where being wild is most appropriate, Mr. Tiger feels lonely, misses his friends, and makes the decision to return and settle in to his own unique style. He decides to be himself. This story resonates with readers and celebrates an author-illustrator who is fully in charge of both brush and pen. Brown writes slim, allows art to support and carry the story, and paces this story well. Rhythm, repetition, and dramatic, comedic action on each and every spread beg for interactive attention to the details of story. Parallel house images, parallel text in the before and after of his “wild” and the repetition of one word: ROAR! make this book a performance kids will scream to experience again and again.

Open This Little BookOpen This Little Book
by Jesse Klausmeier

Chronicle Books, 2013

In an era of enticing digital media, here’s a book that celebrates the magic of paper and ink. A ladybug opens her little red book, and inside is nested a frog’s even smaller little green book, and so on through a series of quirky creatures until we arrive at the tiniest book of all — which happens to belong to a friendly giant, who will need a reader’s help to turn the itty-bitty page. With gorgeous, whimsical, richly detailed illustrations, this charming story pulls young readers right into the action, and may very well inspire them to create little books of their own. The final drawing of the animals curled up among stacks and stacks of books is an irresistible invitation to dive into another tome — or to turn back to the beginning and enjoy this one all over again.

Sophie’s SquashSophie’s Squash
by Pat Zietlow Miller

Schwartz and Wade Books, 2013

Which came first, the text or the illustrations? It’s difficult to tell in this picture book because the two work so well with — and off — each other. The story (created by both text and art) is tender and funny with a big dose of comfort. Kids, who so easily grant inanimate objects the ability to feel emotion, will relate to Sophie’s attachment to a butternut squash with a magic-marketed face. Parents will love the inside jokes (ex., mom prepares to make squash for supper, but after learning Sophie has named her squash Bernice, says she’ll “call for pizza”). The story smoothly transitions over time as Sophie’s fresh squash begins to soften, becomes planted, sprouts in spring, and grows two new butternuts that, as Sophie declares, “look just like your mom.” It’s a contemporary book with an old-fashioned storytelling feel that can be read again and again with pleasure.

The Bear’s SongThe Bear’s Song
by Benjamin Chaud

Chronicle Books, 2013

First sight of this book hints at its uniqueness with the large format bathed in deep colors and intricate illustrations. The Bear’s Song, by Benjamin Chaud, is a gorgeous French import with spare narrative text and humorously packed illustrations that have an almost Where’s Waldo? characteristic in a more sophisticated flair. Chaud’s lightly clever narration follows Papa Bear as he attempts to track down his bee-following Little Bear through forest and city, busy streets and bustling opera house; until a final hilariously misunderstood, climactic performance by Papa Bear clears the stage for an endearingly cuddle-worthy ending. The Bear’s Song begs for rereads; moves with powerful, yet lilting pacing; and invites lingering over each scene to relish the many added details as well as help spy on the trail of that adventurous little bear.

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36. Tuesday Ten: 2013 Picture Books

Over the last year or two, I've backed off from receiving review copies. Between working at the library and attending events like Book Expo America, I have books galore. But I do still get some books, and like to pass them at the holiday season to a family shelter. Here are some books that are finding a new home this December:

999 Frogs Wake Up999 Frogs Wake Up
by Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami

North South, 2013
A whole lot of frogs wake up in the springtime and set out to wake up all sleepyheads, including one who should be left alone!

How Far do You Love Me?
by Lulu Delacre

Lee & Low Books, 2013
A mother expresses her great love against the terrains of the world, from tops of mountains to depths of caves, from desert sands to blue glaciers.

I Can See Just Fine
by Eric Barclay

Abrams, 2013
Even though she insists she can see just fine, a little girl gets glasses that make things much clearer.

I Scream, Ice Cream!I Scream, Ice Cream!
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Serge Bloch
Chronicle Books, 2013
Interesting wordplay as similar sounding words and phrases are illustrated with humor.

Ol’ Mama Squirrel
by David Ezra Stein

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013
Ol’ Mama Squirrel takes care of her babies, no matter what it takes!

Peace, Baby!
by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Chronicle Books, 2013
Lessons in letting go of little conflicts and bad times with an attitude of peace.

Rainbow StewRainbow Stew
by Cathryn Falwell

Lee & Low Books, 2013
A family of color works together at grandpa’s house to make a vegetable stew.

Someone’s Sleepy
by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Dan Andreasen

Abrams, 2013
A little girl gets ready for bed in all her sleepy sleepiness.

Steam Train, Dream Train
by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Chronicle Books, 2013
In the nighttime, a train is loaded up by a busy animal crew.

There’s No One I Love Like You
There’s No One I Love Like You
by Jutta Langreuter, illustrated by Stefanie Dahle

North South, 2013
A little rabbit, annoyed at home and mom, gives another homes a try. But of course, home is where the heart is.

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37. What Does the Fox Give? Books!

I’ll continue to plug my 150 Ways to Give a Book throughout December, but with some new ideas, twists, and commentary. For instance today, I’ll be connecting the concepts of three separate posts. I know, radical.

When I discussed a certain book born from the success of a viral video, I was ambivalent. Is this the very thing BACA should rail against, or was it an insightful marketing campaign? And what can I even say when the whole thing is just too perfect.

“WhatSay you choose to give the book What Does the Fox Say? for Christmas this year. Well, your gift pairing options are wide open. You could go with the simple, yet classic, cute plush fox. An excellent choice, sure to appeal across a wide age range.

You could pull together a collection of recent fox-themed books, like Come Back, Moon and OutFoxed. Tie the whole thing together with a little felt fox ornament. I’ve seen cute ones at Target and Kohl’s, but you can’t go anywhere now and NOT find a fox ornament. Yeah, this trend is big.

fox hatYou could give a little fox necklace or a little fox hat. Both so cute. If you're the crafty type, you may be able to make the hat. Or search for the many choices for either on Etsy. Or going another way, you could give the book with the movie The Fantastic Mr Fox especially if you make extra time to watch it together.

If you’re rewarding the adult in your life for their excellent taste in viral videos, you might consult the Land of Nod post noting the fox trend in various household items. Or just keep it simple and give fox socks, if only so you can say ‘fox socks’ over and over again. Fox socks fox socks fox socks. So fun to say!

Or you could go creepy and dark and give an actual fox tail. Yup, you can buy actual fox tails through Amazon. On one hand I’m appalled. On the other, disappointed that I didn’t know this sooner before I destroyed the hood of a thrift store coat to retrieve the fox fur lining for my daughter’s theatre costume. By the way, I wouldn’t suggest the actual fox tail as a children’s gift. Though a simple costume could be fun, I’m having trouble searching for it online without getting either terrible costumes where the tails are like rolled up felt or some variation on “foxy” costumes, which is NOT what I want.

So there you have several - let’s say inspiring - ways to give just one selected picture book titles. For more pairings and ideas, shop 150 Ways to Give a Book.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

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38. 150 Ways to Give a Book

For all of your holiday shopping needs, here are 150 Ways to Give a Book, grouped by (approximate) age. They are all MotherReader-approved titles — i.e., Good Books. There are a lot more choices for younger kids, as that’s the group we adults most fear disappointing with giving “only” a book. And picture books are my specialty. After the book and gift selections, I’ve also included ways to wrap a book, and book-themed gifts to include for a variety of ages. There are new 2013 titles mixed in with older ones — though there aren’t many classics, as I’ve tried to select books that kids would be less likely to have on their shelves.

Sometimes I choose the hardback when the paperback is also available, so check if that is important to you. I’ve also linked to the fun extras through Amazon, for example, to save you shopping time, and because I get some small credit for your purchases through the Amazon Associates program. But know that you can find cheaper alternatives for some small things — paints, pens, journals, etc. — at a local discount store. On the other hand, doing all your purchases online and having them sent to your door is priceless.

Leave suggestions for titles in the comments, as I'm always looking for new ideas. I hope you'll share this link as you promote giving books as gifts for the holidays and that you find some great ideas for your own friends and family. Enjoy!


  1. Give an experience like a trip to a zoo, aquarium, museum, aviary, arena, or city. Put the passes, tickets, or homemade gift certificate with a relevant book to make it feel more tangible.
  2. Take a road trip with Ask Me so you can use the driving time to ask each other the interesting questions from the book.
  3. Give a book with a movie theater gift card to see the upcoming film.
  4. Give a book with a gift card to rent the movie. Include a box of microwave popcorn.
  5. One Hen - How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference
  6. Give One Hen — How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference with a loan to Kiva or a donation to Heifer International to buy chicks. For more charity and book matches, look to this list from Abby the Librarian.
  7. Pair any book with another book from the bargain section, maybe something silly or crafty or gimmicky.
  8. Pair a detective book with a magnifying glass.
  9. Match poetry books with word beads or magnetic poetry.
  10. Pair a picture book with a related stuffed animal.
  11. Give an interesting, insightful book with a restaurant gift card and a date to discuss the book together over a meal.
  12. Honor the book enthusiast with necklace along with a new title.
  13. Celebrate writing too with special journals from Tara Books, an independent press based in India.
Picture Books
  1. Learn letters with ABC, Baby Me! board book or The Sleepy Little Alphabet and letter links.
  2. Or work with numbers (and colors) with 10 Hungry Rabbits and magnetic numbers.
  3. Or let them battle it out with 123 vs ABC and bath toys
  4. The Day the Crayons Quit
  5. Give The Day the Crayons Quit with a pack of fat crayons and a stack of copy paper from an office supply store.
  6. Or go with Art and Max or Blue Chicken with a paint set.
  7. Pair The Curious Garden with gardening tools and seeds.
  8. It’s almost dessert when you give The Cow Loves Cookies with a cookie counting game.
  9. What else can go with Extra Yarn but extra yarn? Well, and knitting needles and instructions.
  10. Pair Kite Flying and/or Kite Day with a new kite.
  11. Give Bats at the Ballgame with a bat and ball. You can throw in a coupon book for practice sessions.
  12. Take a bedtime book like Little Owl’s Night, A Bedtime for Bear or Sweet Dreams and add a night light.
  13. Or choose A Full Moon is Rising or Moonlight with glow-in-the-dark moon and stars — or go high tech with this Moon in my Room.
  14. Giant Dance Party
  15. Get moving with Giant Dance Party with Kids Dance Party CD.
  16. Keep up the music by giving Drum City with an old-time tin drum.
  17. Pair Bubble Trouble with touchable bubbles.
  18. Ballet dancers will love the classic Angelina Ballerina or the slightly edgyVampirina Ballerina (or both) with a fancy tutu or two… two.
  19. Give little superheroes SuperHero ABC along with a superhero cape.
  20. Encourage a future Iron Chef by giving Rainbow Stew or Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon with a cooking set.
  21. Silliness ensues with Pigs to the Rescue and the Pass the Pigs game.
  22. Take it outside with Chalk with 3-D sidewalk chalk.
  23. The Monstore
  24. Pair Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site or Building with Dad with toy construction vehicles.
  25. Give The Monstore with the monster game.
  26. Who can resist that match-up of Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek with Lincoln Logs?
  27. Give your little dragon-lover Hush Little Dragon or Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood with a cute dragon.
  28. Is there a doctor in the house? There will be with picture book Doctor Ted along with a doctor kit.
  29. Future firefighter instead? Give Fire! Fuego! along with Firefighters A to Z and firefighter gear.
  30. Pair picture book Crafty Chloe with a selection of craft supplies.
  31. What else can go with Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum other than lots of bubble gum.
  32. Cat lovers can enjoy picture books I Don’t Want a Cool Cat, Katie Loves the Kittens, and Won Ton with a cat card game.
  33. Here Comes Trouble!
  34. Or let the dogs out with Dogs, Here Comes Trouble!, and If You Give a Dog a Donut and dog themed dominoes.
  35. Add a car to a child's train set, but include Steam Train, Dream Train or Elisha Cooper's Train.
  36. Nature lovers will enjoy Birdsongs along with a guidebook like Backyard Birds and some binoculars.
  37. For more nature, pair A Butterfly is Patient with a butterfly garden kit.
  38. Give your favorite girly-girl Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy with dress-up jewelry and/or a fancy poodle.
  39. Give your rough little boy Pirates Don’t Change Diapers along with genuine pirate gear.
  40. Another nighttime choice is Goodnight, Little Monster with an Ugly Doll.
  41. Give picture book The Moon with a special flashlight and a promise for a nighttime walk or two.
  42. Blackout
  43. Or for a different angle with that flashlight, pair with Blackout and prepare for indoor fun with the lights out.
  44. Take sweet picture book Lissy’s Friends and pair it with an origami kit.
  45. Picture books A Sick Day for Amos McGee or Pssst! would be perfect with a zoo animal collection or game.
  46. Or head down to the Farm, adding a Lace and Trace Farm Set.
  47. 999 Frogs Wake Up goes nicely with Flingin' Frogs game.
  48. For a western theme, give A Night on the Range or Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo with a cowboy hat.
  49. Take a special book, like Wow! It Sure is Good to Be You (which is about an aunt loving her far-away niece), and make a CD recording of you reading it.
  50. Pair Duck and Goose with a bright ball.
  51. Dusk
  52. Celebrate the season with the beautiful Dusk and appropriate lights or decorations.
  53. The funny wordless book Once Upon a Banana is a perfect fit with a stuffed monkey — but show your sense of humor by throwing a banana into the gift bag.
  54. Another wordless book choice is the visually stunning The Tree House, which works surprisingly well with Littlest Pet Shop brown bear and polar bear.
  55. Give The Snow Globe Family with a snow globe.
  56. Pair Lilly’s Big Day with dress-up clothes.
  57. Or another dress-up option is the Ladybug Girl books with wings and antennae.
  58. Pair Bubble Bath Pirates with a cool rubber duck.
  59. Give the wonderful The Day the Babies Crawled Away with a baby doll.
  60. Everyone needs Mo Willems’ book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, maybe adding a toy bus and a cargo truck.
  61. Pair classic A Bargain For Frances with a tea set.
Early Elementary
    Boy! Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs
  1. Pair a nonfiction book about dinosaurs, like Boy! Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs, with a bunch of plastic ones.
  2. Give Instructions with a book of classic fairy tales, and make time to read them together.
  3. Introduce a folktale with Maneki Neko: the Tale of the Beckoning Cat and giving lucky cat bank.
  4. Pair silly beginning reader book The Monster in the Backpack with a cute backpack (monster additional).
  5. Give beginning reader books Amazing Sharks! and National Geographic Readers: Sharks! and throw in a shark on a stick.
  6. Take to the ice with book choices Katie Kazoo, On Thin Ice and passes to the local ice-skating rink.
  7. Soccer Cats
  8. Give a title from the Soccer Cats series with a soccer ball.
  9. Pair Toys Go Out with a red bouncy ball, or a plush stingray or buffalo.
  10. Pair Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs with a kazoo.
  11. Give early chapter book series books Rainbow Fairies or Flower Fairies with lovely little fairies.
  12. Blooming fashionistas will appreciate Paper Fashions (Klutz) (all thirty-five Amazon reviews gave five stars!) along with Fashion Kitty.
  13. Combine sweet Jenny and the Cat Club with a red scarf (don’t worry if it’s too long — so is Jenny’s) and a black cat.
  1. Satisfy a sweet tooth with The Candymakers with a candy making kit.
  2. Pair Operation YES! with green army men.
  3. Be a hero and give Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set with Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths.
  4. Pair fantasy book The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda with a Stars Wars 'Ask the Force' top.
  5. Give What the World Eats with a promise for an international dinner out or in.
  6. Pair Every Soul a Star with The Kids Book of the Night Sky and plan a date to look at the stars together.
  7. For business-minded kids, pair The Lemonade War with a coin counter bank.
  8. Expand the idea of giving with The One and Only Ivan with an adopt-an-animal program at your local zoo.
  9. All the elementary school kids will love The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but you can pair it with tin wind-up toys for extra flair.
  10. Give Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little with um, Stuart Little.
  11. Frankenstein
  12. You can’t go wrong with the funny poems and outstanding art in Frankenstein Takes the Cake along with a cake-baking session, followed by reading the book together. As a matter of fact, throw in Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and make a whole day — and meal — of it.
  13. Speaking of the amazing Adam Rex, give the hilarious book The True Meaning of Smekday with a the related T-shirt Regarding Stickyfish Teams, I Favor the Bigfield Fighting Koobish.
  14. Give Kimchi & Calamari with a promise for a dinner out Korean style, or Italian style, or both.
  15. Wrap up A Crooked Kind of Perfect with excellent toe socks.
  16. Perhaps Fabulous Hair with a collection of hair accessories will make someone smile.
  17. Pair a diary-format book like Lucy Rose: Big on Plans (3rd/4th grade), Amelia’s Notebook (4th/5th grade), or The Princess Diaries (6th/7th grade) with a journal and fun pens
.Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck
  • For a boy, how about the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck with the Do It Yourself Journal?
  • Have fun with Clarice Bean Spells Trouble and a game of Scrabble.
  • Pair Phineas MacGuire... Erupts! with a science kit, or the next book in the series, Phineas MacGuire... Gets Slimed! with the slime science kit.
  • Look to fantastic nonfiction, giving Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon with a homemade coupon for a visit to the Air and Space Museum (okay, this might only work around Washington, D.C.) or astronaut ice cream.
  • Give a drawing book like Draw 50 Aliens or Draw 50 Animals with a couple of nice sketch pads.
  • Pair a spy-themed book like Harriet the Spy (chapter book) or The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy (nonfiction) with rear-view sunglasses and/or a fingerprint kit.
  • Bigger girls like stuffed animals, too. How about Hoot with an owl or The World According to Humphrey with a hamster?
  • Select a magic book and fun magic tricks.
  • Pair D.I.Y.: Kids with a gift card to a local craft store, and maybe some shopping and crafting time together.
  • Book of Animal Poetry
  • Match the book and the movie, like The Spiderwick Chronicles with the DVD.
  • Pair a theme book like Katie and the Mustang with a horse charm and a satin cord from a craft store.
  • Or maybe Fairy Realm with a charm bracelet.
  • Give the first books of The Series of Unfortunate Events with a brass telescope.
  • Pair The Art Book for Children with watercolor paints or an art set.
  • Give National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry, Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart or Poetry Speaks to Children with hot chocolate, a mug, and a gift certificate for time to read it together.
  • Teen
    1. Give the companion books Goth Girl Rising and The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl , and throw in How to Draw Comic Book Heroes and Villains.
    2. Pair a book that you and a teen can enjoy with a gift card to Starbucks and a promise to talk about the book over coffee. Some suggestions? Liar, Candor, or The Adoration of Jenna Fox have interesting issues.
    3. Beauty Queens
    4. Give Beauty Queens with a small makeup kit, and a healthy dose of irony.
    5. Rock out with Beige along with a mix CD of the songs in the chapter titles (or an iTunes gift card).
    6. Buy a teen Dramarama along with tickets to a show.
    7. Pair House of Dance with ballroom dance lessons.
    8. Give delicious book A La Carte with personal cooking lessons.
    9. Match casino gambling themed Drop with a deck of cards and a family game of penny poker or blackjack.
    10. Pair King Dork with a CD of The Mr. T Experience.
    11. Treat a tween to
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    39. What Does the Fox Say? Hold it. WHAT?

    Can we talk about this? I feel like we should talk about this.

    On one hand as the founder - and what the hell, president - of Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors (BACA), I need to come out firmly against the idea of a viral video becoming a children's book. However, is a viral video star really a celebrity? I'm not sure about that.

    Also, I read something that indicated that the book was already in the works, which makes the video more like brilliant marketing. I'd like to believe this is true, because otherwise I'm a bit disturbed by the speed in which this picture book developed. And because I love the video. Like, obsessed. The simple words matched with the dance tune performed with stellar production. Yeah, I'm a fan and it would be hard to rule against it.

    Yet giving this clearance under BACA would only encourage more crossovers. I'm surprised "Charlie Bit My Finger!" isn't a book. Wait......

    Whew. It isn't. But that's what's coming if we let one video become a picture book. Next it's a whole "Wrecking Ball" series.

    But then I'm back to this brilliance:

    And I don't even know, man. Discuss.

    By the way, BACA's back! All right!

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    40. Storytime: What Does the Fox Say?

    My story time program for twos and threes is What does the Fox Say? The concept will only amuse me, but there you have it. I’m using some new and some older titles, but it’s a nice little collection, if I do say so myself.

    Book: Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, by Julia Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
    Greenwillow Books, 2006
    The little fox Fletcher worries as his favorite tree starts losing its leaves, but is awed by the beauty that winter’s snow brings. Great books for autumn with soft, watercolor illustrations.

    Song: “One Little, Two Little”
    One little, two little, three little foxes
    Four little, five little, six little foxes
    Seven little, eight little, nine little foxes,
    All with bushy, bushy, tails.

    Book: Fox Forgets, by Suzanne Bloom
    Boyds Mills Press, 2013
    Fox is supposed to pass on a message to Bear about their friend Goose, but forgets to do so. It all works out okay. Bright blue backgrounds and cute animals accentuate the simple text.

    Song: “Little Foxes” (loosely tuned to "Little Boxes")
    Little foxes, little foxes, all lined up in rows
    Little foxes, little foxes, bushy tail and black nose.
    Little foxes, little foxes, in orange, white, and gray.
    Oh, I love those little foxes, don’t take them away.

    BookThe Fox in the Dark, by Alison Green (JP GRE)
    Animals run and hide from the fox, but the fox is just looking for her baby, so they all get along. Longer, rhyming text with moments of storytelling suspense. Cute illustrations too.

    Song: “The Fox” (folk song)
    The fox went out on a chilly night
    He prayed for the moon to give him light
    For he’d many a mile to go that night,
    Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o.
    He’d many a mile to go that night,
    Before he reached the town-o.

    Book: Come Back, Moon, by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
    Beach Lane Books, 2013
    Bear takes the moon and Fox takes the lead in finding it again. Simple story and text, with a subtext of working together. Soft and lovely watercolor illustrations.

    Fingerplay: “The Fox in the Box”
    From under the bushes
    Comes the red fox.
    He runs over the grass
    And jumps into a box.
    He swishes his tail.
    And jumps out again.
    Ducks under the bushes
    And back in his den.

    Book: OutFoxed, by Mike Twohy
    S & S, Paula Wiseman Book 2013
    A fox steals a duck to eat, but the duck convinces Fox that he is a dog — not a duck. Funny and clever, with cartoon-style illustrations and a graphic novel feel. Total fun.

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    41. In Support, Forever, of Junie B. Jones

    I was so sad to hear that Barbara Park passed away this weekend. Ms. Park was a wonderful writer who understood kids in all their funny, awful goodness. When parents shy away from her Junie B. Jones books, I talk about how they show kids writing with voice, humor, wordplay, and great characterization. I couldn't be a bigger fan, and wanted today to share an article I wrote years ago on just why Junie B. Jones books are so fantastic for young readers. I debated updating the article - the seven year old referred to is now seventeen and finished submitting her strikingly amusing college applications essays - but leaving it alone adds a pathos that seems particularly appropriate.

    Recently, my seven-year-old approached me with this statement: “I know why jockeys get the trophies in horse races,” she said. “Why?” I asked. “Because jockeys make the horses go faster with the whacker sticks. They whack the horses until they go fast enough to win.” Yes, whacker sticks.
    An adult would have searched for the correct word for whacker stick (which I believe is crop), but a kid plows forward with the confidence and creativity of youth and the belief that she will be understood. Children see language as pliable, moldable, and ultimately useable. It is only later that we will stifle their confidence and creativity with rules and structure and grammar.
    And that vision of communication exemplifies why I love Junie B. Jones. She captures this elusive stage of childhood and reflects it back to the reader. And that is just part of what makes her so special. So I offer six reasons why the series — now twenty-six books strong — rocks. Illustrated with examples from the latest book, Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha.
    1. It’s been said that Junie B. teaches children incorrect English. If books had that much influence over children’s speech patterns, then the Brer Rabbit stories I read my kids last week would surely have come out by now. Yet they have never uttered a “b’rer” in conversation, nor has the term “tar baby” come up. (If only the same could be said for the Governor of Massachusetts.) Junie B. just expresses herself as naturally and unselfconsciously as any first graders I’ve known.
    I threw out my arms real thrilled. And I flinged myself way high in the air.
    “I can’t wait, Mr. Scary! I can’t wait! I can’t wait!” I said. Mr. Scary grabbed my arms. And he kept me from flinging.
    1. If Junie B. doesn’t teach children the correct way to speak, Barbara Park does teach them the correct way to write. My daughter’s third grade teacher complimented my daughter’s writing by telling me what a wonderful voice she expressed in her writing. She informed me that she could help her writing structure, but finding a voice in writing was harder to teach. Barbara Park does that — by example — in the Junie B. books. We can tell that we are dealing with a first grader when we read the lines. We can hear this child, and it’s a great lesson for kids in conveying a character or capturing a voice in their own writing.
    I bounced up and down at that exciting idea. “That sounds like a D-E-E-L!” I said.
    1. These are books written for kids with a character they can understand. Everyone knows a kid like Junie B. — or is a kid like Junie B. Kids will cut their own hair. They get little kid crushes. They do the wrong things sometimes. Seeing someone else do these things is reassuring to kids that they are not alone and reassuring to parents that their kids are not the only rambunctious ones.
    When teachers don’t look, you have to stand up and shout. Or else how are they supposed to notice you?
    I stood up and shouted..
    1. Barbara Park treats the adults in her books like real people. Sometimes they are supportive and kind, but sometimes they are mad or just annoyed. Sometimes they don’t even know the right thing to do. When Junie B. gets stuck in the parrot swim ring she insisted on buying, her mom says she will have to cut it off.
     “For heaven’s sake! What kind of mother would cut a little girl’s parrot?” said the grandpa.
    “I don’t know, Ed,” said the grandma. “But it sure don’t seem right.”
    Mother stood there kind of frozen.
    Then she and Daddy picked up our pool towels. And we moved to different lounge chairs.
    After that Mother sat back down again. And she said she wouldn’t get the scissors.
    1. Barbara Park understands that if the parents are entertained, they’ll read with (or to) their kids. A lot of what is in the Junie B. books is funnier to parents than it is to the kids. I mean, the kids think it is funny. But the parents really get the joke. It’s the Sesame Street idea of programming: Keep something in there for the grown-ups and everyone is happy. You’ll see this trend in the kids’ movies and better cartoons of the last decade as well, where many of the jokes involve cultural references intended for older viewers. Like this passage at the security at the airport:
    Then a lady pulled us out of the line.
    And she made us hold out our arms.
    And she waved a giant wand all around ourselves.
    I clapped very thrilled.
    “Hey! This is just like America’s Most Wanted!” I said.
    The lady said this was not a joke, little miss.
    I stopped clapping.
    The airport does not have a good sense of humor.
    1. Kids know that the creative language and grammar is part of the joke. I found that when my first daughter was old enough to read Junie B. to me, she sometimes corrected the grammar and words as she was reading. She couldn’t help it. She had already listened to seven years of the word ran, so Junie B’s use of runned wasn’t going to change what she knew. But more significantly, she knew that this is how kids talk. Just this minute, my seven-year-old told me Junie B. was funny because she uses the wrong words. And — also true to what I was saying — her seven-year-old way of telling me was disjointed and kind of funny, but I couldn’t get her words down accurately enough to convey it here. The fact that Barbara Park can get those words — the true spirit of how children communicate — is amazing. Plus also (that’s a Junie B.), kids adopt odd strings of parental expressions, and when they come back from a child’s mouth, it’s funny. And it’s real.
    “How many minutes is shortly?” I asked. “Is it one minute or eight minutes or eleven minutes? On account of it it’s one minute, I can wait, probably. But eleven minutes would be out of the question.”

    Most importantly, Junie B. books make kids want to read more. And really, when it comes right down to it, isn’t that what it is all about? Reading for fun. Growing up, there will be plenty of time for grammar, structure, and the correct words. Right now, kids can’t wait to see what Junie B. will do next. And you know what? Neither can I.

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    42. Thursday Three: Just STOP!

    I didn't want to write about the woman who is reading Harry Potter to her five year old son while censoring the difficult parts with a technique she calls "pinkwashing." The whole thing seems too stupid by half, but it continues to gnaw at me with an idea of three things that just need to STOP!

    1. Stop sharing every thought as some universal truth. 
    Certainly our social media has brought us to the point that people believe every idea in their heads needs a form of expression - Twitter, Facebook, or the goddamn New York Times.  Could we all agree to stop and think, for a minute or two, whether our supposed brilliance represents something other than our truth. And our truth at a very specific moment in time. I am so over caring whether marriage is improved by having children, not having children, or cage-training children. I'm done with the volley of discussion on the darkness of Young Adult literature by "journalists" who've read four books, one of which is Twilight. If you want to spout opinions on your own blog, go nuts. That's what I'm doing. Like, right now. But placing these clever thoughts in the mainstream online world lends a credibility that hasn't been earned. Which means that I'm placing most of the blame squarely on the New York Times  who needs to hear....

    2. Stop whoring yourself out for hits.
    Look, we expect this from the Huffington Post. They're like the nerdy, older sister of a Sigma Chi sweetheart who some weekends, when she feels particularly overlooked, has a few too many shots and ends up doing an impromptu strip tease before passing out in the bathroom. It's not pleasant for anyone involved, but it can be forgiven. You, New York Times? You're the professor who gets drunk in the college bar and talks about your failed marriage. It's embarrassing, but no one can stop talking about it. Is that what you want from years of stellar investment in your reputation? When you can publish some insight about poverty or invest in actual reporting, do you need to give voice to every person with a half-baked thought? I know it's so easy when the material is right there in front of you, but really...

    3. Stop saying "Yes" when you should say "No."
    This goes for major media outlets and individuals across this great nation and beyond. It's such a simple word that it forms the majority of a two year old's speech, and yet grown-ass women and men can't utter it. "No." Give it a try.  Feel how right the vowel sound plays on your tongue. "No." Understand that as a parent it isn't a word of control or deprivation. It's the word of an adult helping making adult choices for children who may not know better. So if your five year old wants to read Harry Potter and you aren't comfortable with the content, you can pick up another book instead. I know. Revolutionary. And if your child asks again, you can say, "No. It's a book for later." I'm still baffled as to why the simplest solution of choosing another book wasn't an option in this story. Maybe the mom just really wanted this experience of reading Harry Potter to her kid and couldn't wait. To that, again, say to yourself, "No." Because all you're doing here is ruining the pleasure of reading the right book at the right time. Put the book down, and back away. And keep it to yourself, because we don't need to know. 

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    43. KidLitCon Austin Recap

    In a retro way, I pulled together a document of names, blogs, and web addresses of the KidLitCon attendees. Looking over, I can say that I interacted with every person on that list. And that's a pretty cool thing.

    So Friday, after an overpriced slice of pizza, Jen, Sarah, Charlotte and I headed over to the iSchool for the pre-con Meet and Greet. Kelly, Kimberly, and Leila were waiting expectantly for us. (Leila had even sent a tweet into the void, "@MotherReader where are you?") Set-up was easy, and we soon had piles of ARC's from Bloomsbury and bound books from First Second Books, along with ARC's and books that our attendees were sharing. The book table was a real draw, as everyone grabbed the titles they had missed and gave enthusiastic recommendations.

    After everyone was loaded down with armfuls of books, we headed to a local Mexican restaurant. Through the evening, I had JenSarah,  and Lee Wind on my right and we chatted about family stuff and overloaded schedules and our own insecurities. It was deep. On my left, I had author Molly Blaisdell to talk writing and college applications. In front of me I had chips, tacos, and a beer. It was a good night.

    Back at the hotel, we hung out at the tech station near the bar with a series of laptops and iPads to show each other books, apps, and apparently Candy Crush. I finally got to catch up with Melissa and talk kids and colleges. There was more beer.

    The day of KidLitCon went smoothly. The venue at St David's was so perfect, and inexpensive as well. (Contact me if you want info for an Austin event at a fraction of the price, and twice and nice.) I made sure that local do-everything librarian Jen Bigheart and local author Chris Barton met the facilities manager, because people need to know about this place!

    Cynthia Letich Smith gave a wonderful keynote speech, with great advice, humor, and inspiration. And she gave away books too! I loved Lee Wind's talk about diversity in our world, and how that can and needs to be reflected in children's and young adult literature. I was inspired by Maria Burel's story of how writing a blog ended up connecting her with a friend who became her agent. The panel discussion on blogging of Sheila Ruth, Jennifer Donovan, Sarah Stevenson,  Lee Wind  and Leila Roy led to the great words round-up of KidLitCon: Literacy. Connection. Community. Opportunity. And my fav, Kindred Spirits.

    After the official sessions (which I've chosen not to describe, but are done well on other blogs), we went to Scholtz Garten for dinner. And beer. Of course beer. Here I got to chat bookstores, Cybils, and atrocious books with Maureen, MelissaCharlotte and Paula. Rosemond Cates gathered the stragglers of the group together for a photo, before some headed out to a local bookstore and others back to the hotel bar. Guess which group I was in?

    Actually, I didn't drink at the bar, but enjoyed the procession of characters in the lobby which included attendees of a Marine Ball, a bachelorette party, a bunch of band roadies, possibly some hookers, and that guy that played Darryl on The Office. I'm not kidding.

    I got in one more outing before Jen took me to the airport, and that was brunch at the Blue Dahlia Bistro which had food so lovely that I took a picture. But instead, I'll share the one of our little Breakfast Club.

    As we walked back, I was able to talk with Sherry Early, who I met for the first time that weekend. She confirmed the feeling I'd had all weekend, that the smaller scale had made it so easy for people to really get to know each other. I know that I was glad to have met her and another long-time blogger Camille Powell, because KidLitCon came to Texas. Overall, a great time.

    I'll be rounding-up posts at KidLitosphere Central, so look for more details - or any details - about sessions there. Thanks again to all who came and all who supported KidLitCon 2013.

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    44. KidLitCon Austin: Photo Opportunity

    After coming home from KidLitCon, I had dinner, watched some TV, wrote an email, and then slept for twelve hours. It was a good weekend, but I'm soooo worn out.

    Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let me put off my descriptive posting with this photo from the dinner at Scholtz Garten. Everyone having a great time, hanging out with blogger friends new and old. And, you know, beer.

    I am so grateful to my fellow organizers for making this happen and keeping it real. I'm also grateful to the KidLitCon attendees for making it special and keeping it going another year. Details later here and round-ups coming at KidLitosphere Central. For now, for me, some rest.

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    45. Three Things Your Author Blog Needs (and May Not Have)

    At KidLitCon this weekend I'll be presenting my "Beyond the Blog" session for authors, focusing on what resources and connections are out there for kidlit/YA authors and illustrators. While I won't be able to touch on every aspect of building a blog for this community, I will be going over some basics. Basics that far too many authors and illustrators are missing.

    Since I maintain the KidLitosphere Central site, I need to check the hundreds of links to blogs to make sure that they are still active. I don't have time to spend on each blog, I know what I'm looking for, and I expect to find it in seconds. Often I don't, and it signals to me a problems that may be unique to our kid lit and YA authors, so often humble individuals. It's time to fix that, staring with:

    1. Your Name
    Seriously, your author name belongs on your author blog. I'm baffled as to why this is even an issue. Sometimes it's authors or illustrators using only a first name or a cute nickname. Sometimes - and I'm looking at you LiveJournal - the format makes it hard to find and tech-challenged writers left it alone, leaving their online ID as 'writergirldeb' and me wondering who the hell this is. If you want a cute blog name, be my guest. But then your full name belongs on the first page of the blog.

    2. Your Book(s)
    This is where I suspect the humble streak of so many kid lit and YA authors/illustrators comes into play. You don't want to brag about your work. But you are not doing yourself, your readers, or your potential readers any favors by leaving off the books that you have written or illustrated. A list of titles is barely okay. Images in the sidebar is much better. The visual impact makes connections for the blog reader far faster - especially in this era of single-word titles like Torn, Entice, Dangerous, and Papaya. And I'm not even sure which of those titles I'm making up. If you have to narrow it down, your most recent and best known books should have cover images on your blog, on the first page. Not after the archives, followers, and cute blogging awards like "Hot Mama Blogger." (Again, not sure if I'm making that up)

    3. Dates
    Not your social ventures or fig-like fruit fetish. The dates of your blog entries. As a reader, I want to know if I'm reading an active blog. Also, why it's November and I'm reading about your spring book tour. I prefer the date at the top of blog entries, because it provides a time context for what I'm about to read - especially if you don't update a lot. The date at the end of the entry is acceptable. No dates anywhere, is not.

    If you are in the Austin area - and I'm including all Texas in this, because what do I know of Texas - you can learn more about kidlit and YA blogging at KidLitCon on Saturday, November 9th. I'll be presenting more on this topic and offering to look at author/illustrator blogs with my critical eye. Registration is available online and on site. Oh, and we've added an afternoon-only option for SCBWI members who may be attending one of the local events that morning. Hope to see you there!

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    46. Yes, More KidLitCon Austin

    With the planning coming to a close, it was exciting to see this article from YAInterrobang covering the seventh year of KidLitCon so well. The emphasis on connection versus size, people versus swag, and casual versus sleek, represents my own experience of attendance at all six previous conferences.

    I know my fellow organizer and best blogging friend Jen Robinson won't mind if I lift her quote:

    "KidLitCon isn’t about catching a glimpse of big-name authors, or getting books signed, or scoring free books. Instead, KidLitCon is a chance for the community of children’s book bloggers and authors, many of whom interact with one another online, to meet in person. It’s about turning virtual friends into real world friends."
    That's it. She nailed it. And the reminder was uplifting, because this has been a hard conference to organize. Mostly because all the people organizing it, myself included, are absolutely swamped with other conflicts. For heaven sakes, Jackie is a new mom, a working mom, and had surgery in the middle of getting the schedule together. None of us had planned on this level of involvement. Truly.

    But it's a labor of love. It's too important a conference for our online community to not have it. Even if it's difficult or running behind schedule. Even if room selections fell through, leaving us wondering if maybe we could just quietly set up shop on the grounds of the capitol. Even if arranging a block of hotel rooms was more like getting an IRS audit. Even if we found that we were conflicting with another event in the morning targeting our exact potential attendees. It hasn't been easy.

    But this week, I hope that I'll have a chance to turn more virtual friends into real world friends. We're keeping registration open, and I hope that you'll consider joining us. Visit the KidLitCon website for more information and register today.

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    47. KidLitCon Austin: Don't Miss Out!

    If you are a book blogger, author, or illustrator in children's or young adult literature, living in or near Austin, Texas you need to register for KidLitCon. Seriously. Don't miss out on this amazing opportunity to socialize with fellow bloggers and writers, while learning more about your craft all at a bargain price of $65. 

    The fun starts on Friday, November 8th with a Meet-and-Greet session where authors/illustrators can talk about their books and everyone can share in the freebies and food. Then join the group for a KidLit Drink Night at a local restaurant.

    On Saturday, after the keynote address by Cynthia Leitich Smith of Cynsations, the sessions lineup offers:

    It's worth traveling far - says the woman from Virginia - to attend such a conference. A fact that will be backed up my great blogger friends who are heading to KidLitCon this year. But if you are local to Austin? Yeah, you should be there. No doubt. 

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    48. Poetry Friday: "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"

    Another in my song as poetry series, in a throwback sort of way. It came back to me when Teen shared another Paul Simon song, Me and Julio, from her playlist and so I suggested this one. I had forgotten how great it was.

    People say she's crazy
    She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes
    Well that's one way to lose these
    Walking blues
    Diamonds on the soles of your shoes

    She was physically forgotten
    And then she slipped into my pocket
    With my car keys
    She said you've taken me for granted
    Because I please you
    Wearing these diamonds

    Poetry Friday is hosted today at Merely Day by Day.

    Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

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    49. LAST DAY!!!

    Yes, I'm SHOUTING! Because it is the LAST DAY to nominate a book for the Cybils award. If you haven't put in your favorite titles, head over there and do so. I'm loving the picture book nominations that have come in, but that doesn't mean that there's not more that should be included. For instance, I'm still waiting to see some that I liked and will now suggest if by chance you haven't nominated a picture book.

    Here Comes Trouble!Here Comes Trouble!
    by Connie Demas, illustrated by Norah Jones

    A Long Way AwayA Long Way Away
    by Frank Viva

    Red Kite, Blue KiteRed Kite, Blue Kite
    by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Greg Ruth

    I'm Not ReadingI'm Not Reading
    by Jonathan Allen

    It's also the LAST DAY to book a hotel room for KidLitCon Austin with our supremely discounted group rate. You'll even get the early registration discount if you register for KidLitCon today, you know, while you can still join the fun bunch at the Sheraton. There is more information about KidLitCon, including our Friday event, and more time to register, especially for local Austin folk. But this special hotel rate disappears at midnight, so get on this registration thing!

    Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

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    50. Thursday Three: KidLitosphere Support

    Thinking today about ways to contribute to our online kidlit community, the KidLitosphere.

    1. Register for KidLitCon 2013
    KidLitCon is a conference bargain, especially at the early registration rate of $55. Register by Monday - I'm extending early registration because I can - and you'll also be entered in a drawing for a special prize package of books and treats, lovingly put together by your conference hosts. PLUS you'll also have access to the discount rate to our block of rooms at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Austin. It's about a half a mile from the conference site, and will be populated with some of your favorite bloggers who like to hang out by the bar. However, this rate of $189 a night is only available until Monday, so I hope you'll sign up soon. Since I spent all my energy writing up the basics of registering, I'll leave the why KidLitCon is so amazing to Jen and Kelly and Leila and (earlier) me. Since I've been to all seven of them - that's right bitches! - here are my 2012 reflections and an earlier round-up of KidLitCons.

    2. Nominate for Cybils
    Cybils nominations are coming to a close next week, so get in your book nominations for these special online awards. We are looking for quality books, and we know they are out there. Look to the lists for what has been nominated already, and then submit overlooked titles. Some bloggers have been putting out suggestions, so take a look at Semicolon and more Semicolon, Jean Little Library, Great Books, Charlotte's Library and more Charlotte's Library, Family Bookshelf, Finding Wonderland, and Miss Print. These are OUR awards - from, by and of the KidLitosphere - so please, participate.

    3. Publicize Cybils and KidLitCon
    I'll admit that I've been doing a terrible job with this aspect. Though to be fair, I am running components of both of them which is a lot of work in itself. We could use your help to get out the word about ongoing Cybils nominations and our upcoming KidLitCon in Austin. If you have a post about KidLitCon or Cybils nominations that you'd like to share, please leave a comment with the link.

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