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1. AFTER THE BOOK DEAL, Day Three: "I Hate Networking" - Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier, author of the forthcoming The Night Gardener

Today I'm pleased to welcome Jonathan Auxier for Day Three of his After the Book Deal blog tour! Jonathan is the author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, and The Night Gardener, which I'll be reviewing closer to its May 20th release date. 

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL - Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!
DAY THREE - I Hate Networking
Yesterday we discussed how to craft your online identity, and today I want to look a little more closely at how to navigate the world of social networking. There is no shortage of advice about online marketing, so I won’t waste time trying to convince you that it’s important. Instead I’ll just list a few things I have observed that might be helpful.
TWITTER – The first thing you should do is read author Nathan Bransford’s excellent post on how to use Twitter. Twitter is an invaluable tool for connecting with strangers. It was through Twitter that I discovered my favorite bloggers. It was through Twitter that I met authors, booksellers, teachers, and librarians who shared similar interests—in short, it helped me find my tribe. Case in point: when I was registering for my first ALA conference, someone shouted my name from across the room. It was an author I knew from Twitter who introduced me to a whole group of other authors, who ended up becoming friends (more on that in Week Two).
FACEBOOK – Now that I’m a bit more established, I have found that Facebook has become a more valuable tool than Twitter—it’s a way to maintain and deepen the connections that I made through Twitter. Think of Facebook as “phase two” of your social networking plan. The easiest way to do this is by accepting friends on your private Facebook account. I would recommend that you NOT make a separate “author page.” Managing two different pages can be a hassle—plus with new changes to Facebook, author pages no longer reach a wide audience (unless you pay an advertising fee!). If you worry that your current Facebook profile might turn off potential readers, then this is a good time to examine the sorts of things you’re posting. While it’s fun to vent about politics or a neighbor you hate, you should probably save such things for real-life interactions. Keep Facebook friendly, but professional.
GOODREADS – Goodreads is a unique tool insofar as it is designed specifically for the publishing world. Before Peter Nimble came out, I reached out to a group of family and friends who had read my book and asked them to review it on Goodreads—many of them obliged, which resulted in my book having a strong star rating right out of the gates. That was nice, but along with those strong reviews, I got a few zero-star reviews from total strangers who had not read the book. Why did they decide to give me zero stars? I don’t know. All I know is that it drove me crazy. I learned when talking to other authors that my experience was pretty much universal. Every new writer spends a dark week where they obsess over star ratings ... ratings over which they have no control. So here’s my advice on Goodreads. Don’t do it. Stay away. It will make you crazy. Beyond rallying a few troops to give you reviews, it’s not worth your time. Goodreads is designed for readers, not writers.
YOUR AUTHOR WEBSITE – A few years ago, author blogs were a fairly important part of online marketing. Things have changed in recent years, and author blogs are no longer essential. (Some of this might be the death of the Google’s Reader, which results in fewer blogs being read overall). When I was preparing to launch my first book, I spent a LOT of energy in crafting a thoughtful, well designed website. I was posting four times a week, which may not seem like much, but I am a SLOW writer, which meant I was spending 25+ hours per week maintaining a website. While I won some early fans and am proud of the work, the time commitment was exhausting and unsustainable.
These days, author websites seem to serve two basic functions. First, they provide a place for readers to visit and learn more about you (and about your other books!). Second, they provide a way for schools/libraries/bookstores to screen authors before booking them for events. (I know this because when people contact me for an event, they always mention that my website sealed the deal for them.) So, by all means, make an author website that is professional and reflects your platform—but don’t feel pressure to update it more than once a week. That time is better spent elsewhere—mainly in starting your next manuscript (more on that in Week Three).
That’s it for day three of AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! I should mention that you should follow me on Twitter and be my friend on Facebook, and visit my awesome website. Tomorrow I’ll be at The Lost Entwife discussing the pros and cons of book trailers!

JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores this May. You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new. 

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2. Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink -- Stephanie Kate Strohm

Pilgrims don't wear pinkI hadn't read a straight-up chick-lit rom-com in ages, and I'd forgotten just how much fun they can be.

Despite the best efforts of her best friend to convince her to go to New York City with him while he interns at a teen fashion magazine, Libby Kelting is leaving Minnesota to spend the summer before her senior year in Camden Harbor, Maine, interning at the Museum of Maine and the Sea. She'll be wearing 1791-era garb, teaching young campers about the daily life of colonial Americans, and hopefully, in her off-time, spending time at the beach in one of the many (many, many, many) cute outfits that she's dragging halfway across the country with her.

Things she didn't count on: an enormously judgmental, slut-shaming roommate; a uniform for when she's not in costume; a super-hot sailor who spouts Shakespeare and looks VERY nice while chopping wood; getting roped into sharing EXTREMELY cramped quarters with a VERY irritating budding journalist who's on a ghost hunt.


  • Oh, where to start? I cackled all the way through this one. For instance:

    "Listen, Garrett—"
    "Why do you keep saying my name like it's in air quotes?" he interrupted.
    "What are you talking about?" I snapped.
    "You keep saying 'Garrett' like it's 
    allegedly my name."
    "Maybe because it's not a name, but a small Parisian attic where writers live?"
    "Oh, as opposed to a brand of canned pumpkin owned by the Nestle corporation?" he shot back.
    We glared at each other.

    Ahahahahahaha. Anyway, she and Garrett are very obviously well-suited to each other, and their sparring is just as entertaining as their inevitable lurrrve-falling. Also, Libby's campers are HILARIOUS. 
  • Libby is a genuine history nerd, and as her focus is on fashion and the domestic arts, there are LOADS of interesting factual tidbits. Also, she's a wonderful example of a character who is a 'girly-girl' AND whip-smart, so yay to Strohm for that. Bonus: When it comes down to it, Libby is perfectly capable of fighting her own battles. Literally. So yay to Strohm for that, too!
  • Along those lines, there are some great threads about being judgemental/making assumptions about people: because Libby is interested in fashion and in boys, her roommate immediately jumps to the conclusion that Libby is an airheaded moron with red bottomosity. At the same time, Libby judges Garrett for his love of science fiction, so no-one is entirely without fault in that departmentwhich is good, because few people are!


  • Cam and most of the rest of the dudebros are totally two-dimensional stereotypes. And actually, Libby's bestie Dev is also pretty two-dimensional, but I gave him a pass because he was rad.



Behind the scenes of Austenland, starring YA characters.



Book source: ILLed through my library.

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3. App of the Week: Local Birds

local birdsTitle: Local Birds
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free





Springtime. Flowers are blooming. The sun is shining. Birds are singing… and flying by and hanging out on the lawn. Hey, what kind of bird is that anyway? If you’ve wondered about this, Local Birds can help.

photo 1

Local Birds pulls together a database of birds based on your location. If you use the browse function, birds are sorted by types, raptors, songbirds, etc and listed in order from most common to least common in your area. You can also search for birds that don’t live in your part of the world and get information about them as well. For each bird, the app gives a short description and pulls in data from around the web to provide detail. The Details tab links to the bird’s Wikipedia page, the Images tab links to Google Image search, and the Videos tab links to YouTube videos of the bird.

photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)










Birdwatching is like a scavenger hunt for getting close to nature. In most places, if you pay attention, you’ll see birds. On this New England spring morning, I woke to bird calls, Chickadees and Crows, and something else that I’m not quite sure about. (One thing I wish this app had was a more consistent means of hearing bird calls. YouTube has great videos for some birds, Crows and Ravens for example, but nothing of the American Robin or Song Sparrow). If you pay more attention, you’ll notice things about the birds you see and hear. That’s all well and good if you enjoy nature and  are interested in paying attention to birds, but birdwatching is very specific. It’s not for everyone.

Something I noticed about this app that might be interesting to a wider audience is the way the app is structured. It pulls together information from different places to make a quick and useful resource focused on its topic. This is the kind of thinking teen researchers should be using when working on a large scale project: focusing on a topic, pulling data from multiple sources, and organizing it for ease of use. In that way, Local Birds, is like a research project presented as an app. I wonder if this is a type of project we might see more of in high schools and colleges as a companion to the traditional research paper. It’s something to consider, perhaps, when you’re not checking out that Red-tailed Hawk or trying to spot a Bald Eagle.

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4. Earlier this week @KirkusReviews...

Fates...I wrote about Lanie Bross' Fates:

Ten years ago, Corinthe made a huge mistake. Since then, she’s been exiled from her sister Fates, living on Earth among the humans. To earn her way back into the good graces of the Unseen Ones and be allowed to return home, she is tasked with helping humans achieve their destinies: whether that means facilitating meet cutes, making someone late for work, preventing an accident, saving a life...or ending one.

(I couldn't post the link earlier due to the Typepad debacle.)

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5. What’s Your Process?

Listen to a group of 6th graders discuss their writing process.

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6. 2 new paperbacks

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag was absolutely charming. I don't always love magical realism, because it's rarely done well, but this one (along with those by Sarah Addison Allen) was an exception. 

The story of Alba Ashby, a young PhD student at Cambridge, and the house she falls in love with at 11 Hope Street. She has 99 nights to stay in the house and change her life. Many women from the past have entered the door and allowed the house to work its magic on them and they went on to have incredibly successful lives -- Agatha Christie, Dorothy Parker, and Florence Nightingale to name a few. Alba quickly learns, if her life is to actually be changed, this is the place to do it. 

While reading this one, I felt transported to 11 Hope Street. The writing is fantastic and I loved the premise of the plot. It was truly a charming novel and one I'll happily recommend to all readers, even those who aren't typically into magical realism. 

I also wanted to make a brief mention of the paperback release of one of my favorite books of last year, Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman. I raved about this book back in May and now it's available in paperback. If you haven't read it yet, grab a copy now -- it's a sweet, fun read with quirky, well-developed characters and lots of Southern charm.  I'll be gifting this one to a few of my favorite moms for Mother's Day! 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copies!

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7. Time is running out . . . Vote!

So, remember when you got that email from ALA that gave you the link so you could vote? Yeah, you’re right; that was a month ago. But you still have three days left to vote: voting closes on Friday, April 25. Now is the time to dig through your email, find that link, and go ahead and vote.vote

As of yesterday, 16.6% of ALA members had cast a ballot in this election. That’s a pretty low voter turnout. We don’t have numbers for YALSA members specifically, but in the past, voter turnout for YALSA has been around 20%. Still, that means fewer than 1000 people are making the decisions about things that might matter to you: who serves on YALSA’s Award committees (Printz, Edwards, and Nonfiction), and who serves on YALSA’s Board of Directors.

In March, this blog had a whole series of posts to give you information about the candidates. Every weekday, starting February 26 and running through March 19, there was at least one (and usually two) interviews each day with the candidates. You can find them easily by going to the drop-down menu labeled “Categories” on the side of this page and selecting “Election.”

For even more details, including complete biographical information on all of the candidates, check out the sample ballot.

YALSA is a member-driven organization. That means it’s up to YOU to vote for the people who will be representing you over the next few years.

Don’t let any more time go by. Vote.

Sarah Flowers, Chair, 2014 Governance Nominating Committee


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8. #544 – There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book! by Benjamin Bird

mouse hiding book.

There’s a Mouse Hiding In This Book! (Tom and Jerry)

by Benjamin Bird

Capstone Young Readers             8/01/2014


Age 4 to 7          32  pages


“This Tom and Jerry interactive picture book holds a surprise on each page! Where is Jerry hiding? On the title page, on the back cover, or somewhere in between? Little readers will howl with delight each time they open the covers and try helping Tom find the mischievous mouse. Perfect for story time. A light, quirky “meta-fictional” picture book series using the well-known, timeless characters of Tom and Jerry. Young readers will whoop with delight at the story and artwork, but parents and caregivers will also appreciate the humorous and gentle introduction to the process of reading and the parts of a book.”


“LOOK. That no-good mouse Jerry is ruining my book! Come on, help me catch him.”

The Story

Tom, the cat from Tom and Jerry™ is trying to write a book. Problem is Jerry, the little grey mouse from the cartoon duo, is wreaking havoc on every page. Tom is out to catch the little villain—wait, Jerry the villain. Well it seems Jerry is the troublemaker and Tom is only trying to write a book. Your role, should you choose to accept it, is to assist Tom in capturing Jerry. Your job: just do what Tom tells you to do and be very fast. That’s it!


I laughed aloud when reading There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book! First, there is the history of Tom and Jerry going after each other, every Saturday morning, and poor cat Tom never getting one over on Jerry, the resourceful mouse who loves tormenting Tom. As hard as Tom tries, whatever he tries, it returns to him twice his intended result. For example. Tom has Jerry cornered immediately after you join in the chase. Entering the dark mouse hole, you cannot see a thing, but you know Jerry is in there. Listening closely, you can hear him breathing. The light pops on. Run! Run! Run! It’s not Jerry . . . it’s that big bulldog, and he has huge canines. Quickly, quickly, turn the page!

That might have been too close for comfort, but Tom is not discouraged. Stick with him and you’ll find a surprise inside every spread, but will you ever find Jerry? There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book reminds me of Press Here, the picture book with colored dots on every page, the number of which changed depending upon what you did in the previous spread. Shake the page and the dots fall out. Slide the book to the right and the dots on the left move to the right. There is a review of Press Here here.


Instead of moving around dots, Tom is trying to catch Jerry by setting up traps. Tom carefully sets mousetraps then you turn the page to see Jerry trapped, but instead, something goes wrong, terribly wrong. Tom needs you to do something quickly to get him out of this mess. The surprises are hilarious. Kids of all ages will laugh aloud until their stomachs ache. I know, because I did. To further tickle your funny bone, There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book is one book from a series of, currently, 4 books.

If your child likes the Elmo series, Please Do Not Open this Book, by Jon Stone or Press Here by Herve Tullet, your child will like There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book! I also think parents who grew up with this Saturday morning comic duo will also love this book. Just seeing these characters was a delight. For the best experience, buy or borrow the physical copy of There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book rather than an eBook.

There is nothing better than actually turning those pages, slowly lifting until colors appear and then, even slower, looking for Jerry, but he is not on the page. Tom is there and he is yelling for your help. Laughing you take your time, looking at the mess Tom created by not thinking things through, and then you comply. Will there be another surprise? Will Tom be building another mouse-catching trap? Can Tom draw Jerry out from his hiding place?  Will Jerry finally appear in the book, ready to goad Tom as only Jerry knows how to do? There is only one way to find out. Get your hands on a copy of There’s a Mouse Hiding in this Book, and be prepared to laugh yourself silly.


THERE IS A MOUSE HIDING IN THIS BOOK. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Turner Entertainment Company. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone Young Readers, an imprint of Capstone, North Mankato, MN.


cat chasing me through bookdont' give book a bowl of milknot a piece of cheese


The series (L to R) A Cat Is Chasing Me Through This Book! — Don’t Give This Book a Bowl of Milk! — This Book Is Not a Piece of Cheese!


Learn more about this Tom and Jerry™ series HERE.

Pre-Order any of the series at AmazonB&NBookDepositoryCapstoneyour local bookstore.


Turner Entertainment Company website:    http://www.turner.com/

Capstone Young Readers website:    http://www.capstoneyoungreaders.com/



mouse hiding in book

Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Picture Book, Series Tagged: "meta-fictional" picture book series, Benjamin Bird, Capstone Young Readers, cat and mouse games, children's book reviews, picture books, Tom and Jerry™, Turner Entertainment Company

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9. What's in Your Purse? by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Nathalie Dion

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - WHAT'S IN YOUR PURSE -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> There are so many reasons why What's in Your Purse?, written by Abigail Samoun and illustrated by Nathalie Dion, is a fantastic new book that kids will

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10. Stoker & Holmes

It took me a long, long time to finish The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason.  But now the foundation has been set and I look forward to more of this partnership between the sister of Bram Stoker and the niece of Sherlock Holmes.

Gleason set herself a monumental task.  Not only did she need engaging characters who somehow embodied their family traits, but Gleason created a steampunk London that outlawed electricity and was built on three levels with steam powered elevators between.  AND she incorporated a 21st century time traveler. 

Young ladies of society are taking their own lives - or so someone wants the police to believe.  Somewhere near each corpse, or in the victim's belongings, a scarab mechanism is found, causing Irene Adler, -yes, THAT Irene Adler - who works at the British Museum, to call on Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker for help in hunting down this connection. 

The atmosphere of suffrage unrest and Egypt-mania that existed in Britain at the end of the 19th century is the perfect breeding ground for this mystery.  

What will Evaline and Mina tackle next?  Will their 21st century visitor find a way home?  And the character they know as the Ankh, just who was she - or he?  Wait for the next book to find out.

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11. PFAS: “Moving for Five Minutes Straight” by Betsy Franco

Leslie W. incorporates videoclips of kids exercising in perfect correspondence with the poem’s lines for her movie version of “Moving for Five Minutes Straight” by Betsy Franco.

Watch it here.

You’ll find this energetic poem in the 4th grade section of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science in Week 25: The Human Body.

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12. Open letter from the NCAC to Fauquier High School.

Two boys kissingFrom the letter:

These and other reviews attest to the literary and educational value of the book. In contrast, no legitimate pedagogical rationale has been advanced for its removal, and it is highly doubtful that any legitimate justification could be advanced, especially for removing the book from the library, the purpose of which is to give students the opportunity to explore books on their own, according to their own interests, views and values.

See also: the related press release.

See also: an article from the school newspaper:

After a group of students noticed the cover of David Levithan’s 2013 novel, Two Boys Kissing, parent Jessica Wilson launched a book challenge to remove it from FHS’s library. The complaint was officially filed on the grounds that the picture on the book’s cover, which features two boys kissing, violated the school’s policy of no public displays of affection. Furthermore, Wilson was concerned that the book had overt sexual content.

In that article, there's a quote from the challenger:

“The good thing about appealing is that it opens the matter up to public debate,” Wilson said. “It’s not like this isn’t a book that I wouldn’t let my kids read, but it’s the fact that it’s in a school. Books like The Scarlet Letter and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest don’t embrace sexuality. They have consequences, and it’s integral to the story. When you’re a teenager, it’s normal to question your sexuality, your faith, but the school isn’t your nanny; it isn’t up to the school to provide this guidance.”

I'm fascinated by her logic here: she says that the school "isn't your nanny" and that it isn't up to the school to "provide [this] guidance", but it seems to me that in asking for the library to only include stories in which sexual contact has "consequences", that's EXACTLY what she's asking the school to be and to do.

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13. #whylib - My journey into librarianship...

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->

Andy Plemmons started a campaign for School Library Month and asked librarians to share their story of why they become a librarian, which is a great idea!  I’ve read so many and all are not only inspiring, but gives a personal glimpse into the lives of some people I only know online.  I wanted to share my story as well.  

There were two factors that made me love books, reading and libraries.  The first  factor was that I lived in the middle of nowhere near the small town of Fredericksburg Texas.  Nowhere was named Morris Ranch and although I had fun playing in the creeks, old buildings and open spaces, there were many times when I stayed at home reading.  The second factor was that I grew up in a large family with strained finances.  Reading was one of those things considered both a recreation and better than that, it was FREE. 

To say I’ve known since I was a child I was going to be a librarian is an understatement.  While my sisters played with Barbies I would beg them to play library with me.  I would set up a table, and grab as many books in the house as I could (to make displays) and my sisters would check out books, “read” them, and bring them back.  And guess who was behind the circulation desk?  Yep….me.  The library was definitely embedded in my life.  During the week when my sisters and I had piano lessons, we would walk from the elementary school to the public library to wait until it was our turn. 

But it was the summers when I sought out the library the most.  I grew up without air conditioning, and the Fredericksburg Public Library was the only place I knew that was cool, quiet and filled with books.  I loved the smell of the building, looking up things in the card catalog, the children’s room, and getting my first library card with a metal embossed number on it. I even pretended it was my house, finding all the secret nooks and crannies and building my dream home in my mind. 

As I grew older, I still sought out the library as a safe haven not only in town but at school too.  Today, I am proud to admit I am a nerd, but back then as a teen, that wasn’t the case.  I was quiet, didn’t have many friends and was picked on.  So when I discovered how to live vicariously through a book, I tore through as many as I could.  In an age (mid 1980’s) when there was very little YA fiction, I read Terry Brooks, Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Michener and anything non-fiction…the bigger the better.  This also helped in my English classes as well as the SAT, where my score was so high, I didn’t have to take freshmen English in college (I consider myself a living statistic of how libraries with certified librarians directly influence academics and test scores).   

After high school, I went on to college where I had the chance to discover my  extroverted side.  I didn’t have time to visit the library anymore, and the passion subsided. I graduated with a double major in English and history and became a certified teacher, never knowing there was such a thing as a masters in library science.  So I felt like I found my niche in teaching English at the high school level, and with that, I found my reading passion again.  I also now had an audience of 14-18 year olds that I had the potential to make readers out of as well.  We read the classics and short stories out of the textbook, and I tried my hardest to make the pages come alive. I knew I hit the mark when most of the freshmen class went to see Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet together and could quote most of the movie. Then research time rolled around, and an epiphany happened….

I was gearing up to go to the library to teach students how to use the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature (if you don’t remember those, you missed out!) when the librarian told me I couldn’t use the library because I wasn’t signed up for it.  This was in a junior high/high school situation located in a small town where I was the only high school English teacher.  Well, I used the library anyway.  Little to none of the students ever used the library because of the negative connotation associated with it, which both angered and saddened me. Then BOOM!!!My passion for libraries came back with a vengeance and I decided I could be a librarian and make a difference!  So off I trotted to Sam Houston State University, where I received a masters in library science in 2000. 

I became the librarian at that school and made some major changes.  When bond money came through, the district built two new libraries (one elementary, the other at the JH/HS) and I cut my librarian’s teeth through many experiences from opening and moving a new library to learning how to work with elementary aged children as their librarian.  I got to work with other districts who didn’t have a librarian on record and continued to create relationships with the students.  Out came the cobwebs and in came couches, technology, YA books, and open doors. 

I chose a great time to become a librarian too.  The year 2000 ushered in a lot of technology, including social media and web tools I had never heard of before.  It was also a time when computers were constantly changing, along with the cell phone (anyone ever own a bag phone?).  Not only did I embrace the changes, but it embraced me back.  And as they say, the rest is history….
I still go back to where it all started – my hometown library – and see that while it has changed throughout time on the inside, it continues to be nostalgic and safe. Now, as part of the profession, I find myself looking into the future and cannot WAIT to see the changes, with the reassurance of a constant – relationships.  Change is scary but having a constant helps ease that fear.  SO glad I grew up the way I did and had those influences!  Now I get to go work at my passion every day and make the library and librarianshipjust as important as the classrooms on campus. 

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14. The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, by Jen Swann Downey

The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, by Jen Swann Downey (Sourcebooks Jaberwocky, April 2014, middle grade) is a zesty romp of a read that I thoroughly enjoyed; really truly thoroughly enjoyed.  Stripped to its barest bones, the plot might seem an old chestnut, but here the old bones are made fresh and new.  To wit:

Old Bone 1:  There is a secret society of time travellers trying to set history "right" and a bad society working against them.

But these time travellers are librarians (aka Lybrarians)!  Who combine mad shelving skills with mad sword fighting skills!  And who live in Petrarch's library where it's all a lovely geek and combat fest for both the residents and the reader, a place where books and scrolls are combined with swords and axes, and beautiful peaceful outdoor places and architecture of many times,  and tasty snacks (which appear when magically "read" from books.  (Not everyone can read snacks into material things; some can, for instance, make extinct auroches materialize).

And the Lybrarians mission of setting things right is focused on the preservation of knowledge and valuable writings!  They head back in time on dangerous missions to save books!  

Viz the bad society--they remain on the periphery for most of the book, which was fine with me because there was enough internal tension without dragging Good vs Evil into it.  And after all, epic confrontations don't have to happen every day.

Old Bone 2: two kids from our time stumble into the secret society and find out they are special.  They make friends and enemies.  An alpha girl hates the girl main character.   The boy main character gets a crush on a pretty girl.

Well, yes, Dorrie and her older brother Marcus do fall into a Magical World, and they are kind of special.  They've opened a portal to our time, and are therefore the "keyhands" who can open it for others to travel through, and keyhands are a rather special type of librarian.

But no, Dorrie and Marcus aren't all that special, and the fact that they are keyhands actually irks many people rather a lot, and other people don't trust them, and they aren't particular ept at anything of particular value.  Dorrie, for instance, is a sword-fighter, but finds to her chagrin that the standards of 21st-century amature re-enactors are horribly low...

Despite their lack of obvious talents, Dorrie and Marcus get to make places for themselves at the library, grow up a bit, appreciate books more, and start acquiring useful fighting/stealth/ninja skills--which they have to put to the test at the end of the book when things get truly dicey.  (Dorrie gets lessons in sword fighting from Cyrano de Bergerac!)

Moving on to other lines of thought:

--The library, as seen in this book, is rather focused on European civilization (I hope gets broadened in subsequent books), but there are Lybrarians and apprentices from places besides Europe, including Dorrie's new best friend Ebba, whose parents are from Mali, and who almost (but not quite) gets enough page time to be a main character.

--Time travel qua time travel is the heart of the plot (people going back to deliberately change the past), but the lived experience of travelling into different times isn't important to this particular story (and it's time travel made easy with translation magic and wardrobe help).   That being said, the story does end with an emotional zing that's dependent on time travel....

Final thoughts:

The whole set up of the library is just FUN as all get out, and the story zips along just beautifully.   And though I kind of suspected a key plot twist, this in no way reduced my enjoyment.

Best of all in my mind (given the number of books that I have put aside in the past month) I was never once kicked out of the story because of the writing. Which means that either the plot was so fun I didn't notice infelicities, or the writing was very good, or, quite possibly, both.  I think this is my favorite middle grade fantasy of the year so far, and I look forward to more!

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After days of downtime*, it looks like Typepad is back up and running, which means that so is yours truly (and Gwenda!).

So, thanks all, for your patience and concerned emails.


(Well, except to the jerks who caused all of the problems in the first place. Yeesh.)


*They were hit by some massive DDoS attacks starting last week.

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16. On BookExpo and diversity.

At Book Riot:

This utter lack of diversity is gross. It is inexcusable. And it is really, really embarrassing. Book Expo America is the industry’s flagship event, and the statement it is making on the industry’s behalf is that we believe that what readers–the kind of devoted, passionate readers who fork over thirty dollars to spend a summer Saturday in a convention center–want out of a book event is an all-white, heavily celebrity line-up.


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17. 30 Poets/Day 23 - Nikki Giovanni and Charles R. Smith, Jr.

Here on Day 23 with Nikki Giovanni and Charles R. Smith, Jr. poems, I'm reminded again that the unifying factor every day in 30 Poets/30 Days is "good poetry by amazing poets." Doesn't mean I won't search for other themes, of cousre (hey, it worked for Earth Day!), but today I am happy to share good poetry by two amazing poets!

My Sister and Me
Nikki Giovanni

Chocolate cookies
Chocolate cakes
Chocolate fudge
Chocolate lakes
Chocolate kisses
Chocolate hugs
Two little chocolate girls
In a chocolate rug

No one can find us
We're all alone
Two little chocolate girls
Running from home

Chocolate chickies
Chocolate bunnies
Chocolate smiles
From chocolate mommies
Chocolate rabbits
Chocolate snakes
Two little chocolate girls
Wide awake

What an adventure
My, what fun
My sister and me
Still on the run
Still on the run
My sister and me
On the run

©2009 Nikki Giovanni. All rights reserved.
(click here to see the original post and comments)

I Speak
Charles R. Smith, Jr.

for those who are meek,
for those who cover ears
to silence sirens and shrieks
shouted from mothers
with mascara-stained cheeks
sobbing over souls
slain in the streets
leaving generation gaps,
I speak.

I speak
for those living in silence,
quieted by criminals
with a history of violence,
for those whose lives
were changed by the demise
of loved ones lost
right before their own eyes,
for them,
I speak.

for young eyes that see
bruises branded by daddy’s
fists on mommy,
battering her body
scarring her soul
turning her children’s
warm hearts cold
forcing their faces
to hide and seek
shelter from rage
for them
I speak.

I speak
for the illiterate and weak,
those who slip through the cracks
and fall on the streets
and scratch for salvation
without food, shelter or heat,
for those who are lost,
for them,
I speak.

These words that I say,
these words that I speak
give voice to the silent,
scared and weak.

These words that I speak,
these words that I say
challenge everyone
to listen

©2009 Charles R. Smith, Jr. All rights reserved.
(click here to see the original post and comments)

Yesterday we had poems from Janet Wong and Heidi Mordhorst. Tomorrow...  J. Patrick Lewis and Georgia Heard.

Please click here for more information about this year's edition of 30 Poets/30 Days, including how to follow along. 

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18. The mysteries of marketing

Yes, that is Drew Barrymore -- the picture was taken on the steps of my building in Boston, while they were filming Feverpitch.  The pink hat is mine, but I (wisely, I think) cropped myself out of the picture.
Ordinary people rarely come off well when photographed with celebrities -- especially when the celebrities are young, beautiful movie stars!

She didn't just happen to be holding my book -- I asked her if she would, which now seems a bit obnoxious. She was really gracious about it, though. I've liked her ever since I saw her in E.T. and I liked her even more after she was generous enough to let the picture be taken.

Even though it seemed like a great marketing idea at the time, all I ever did with the photograph was post it at the bottom of a page on my old Web site. I doubt that anyone ever even saw it (this was before the days of blogging), and I'm almost positive that it didn't sell a single copy! Still, it's nice to have.

And that's the thing about marketing -- you never know in advance what's going to work and what isn't. You have to just try lots of different things, and hope some of them work..... I think it's a little like Internet dating: if you do something fun on the date, it's not time wasted even if it doesn't lead to anything. And you have to date lots of people to find someone you like and do lots of marketing things to find any that work   -- though with marketing, you'll probably never know which things worked and which didn't.

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19. Lots of Laughs: National Humor Month

We all know that April is National Poetry Month, so I’m sure many of us have special poetry displays, booklists, and programs. But did you know that April is also National Humor Month?

Books that tickle young readers’ and listeners’ funny bones are ideal for many reasons. Many parents (and fellow librarians) are often asked to be visiting readers at elementary schools.  When parents tell me that they are scheduled to read aloud at their children’s school, I usually recommend picture books that are surefire humor hits. Funny books are also fantastic for reluctant and/or readers who are new to chapter books. Everyone likes to laugh, even if they’re not so sure about reading.  If you tell a young reader that the book is hilarious, it’s a great hook to get him/her interested in the book.

Of course, humor is very subjective! What’s amusing to one person is deadly dull to another. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite funny picture books:


Chicks and Salsa

(image taken from Scholastic)

Wouldn’t you get tired of eating chicken feed day in and day out? The chickens at Nuthatcher Farm long for something with a kick and a crunch….like chips and salsa! Pretty soon, their taste for southwestern treats spreads to guacamole and nachos, until Mr. and Mrs. Nuthatcher get a little too interested in the spicy snacks. Lots of snarky humor and asides to get the attention of a wide range of ages. The “follow up”, Buffalo Wings, is just as hilarious. If you do football/Super Bowl programming, you need to include these books!



(image taken from Jan Thornhill’s website)

With its similarity to Chicken Little, this Indian folktale of animals frantically spreading the word that the world is breaking up is a funny and dramatic tale perfect for folktale comparisons and multicultural bibliographies. A hare is convinced that the world is about to end when he hears a startling crash; he manages to alarm the other hares, the deer, the boars, and the tigers, who join him in alerting the lion….who is not at all amused.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

Another fun and funny book to use for folktale comparisons is this takeoff on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The three Grubb sisters are skipping across the bridge on their way to school; underneath the bridge lies Ugly-Boy Bobby. Ugly-Boy Bobby is placated by the promise of enormous quantities of doughnuts from the biggest Grubb sister…but her demand sends him running off to school to be a model students for all his days. This is one of my top favorite read alouds for elementary school; witty and a delight to share.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

Kate Lum’s tall tale of a rather peculiar (yet extremely resourceful) granny is a rollicking read aloud. Patrick and Granny are pumped for his first-ever sleepover at her house…until he realizes that he has no bed. Or pillow. Or even a teddy bear. Never mind–Granny sews and hammers everything into place. But there’s a consequence to all this frantic activity! (I won’t spoil the ending–it’s too great.)


I could go on and on (I didn’t even cover chapter books), but I want to know about your favorite funny stories for young readers. Picture books, easy readers, chapter books, joke books–let’s dish!



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20. Free excerpt: The Chance You Won't Return, by Annie Cardi

The Chance You Won't Return by Annie Cardi Chapter Sampler by Candlewick Press

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21. Skyscrapers by Rachel Field

The Flatiron Building in NCY, home to publisher MacMillan and their many imprints! Skyscrapers Do skyscrapers ever grow tired       Of holding themselves up high?        Do they ever shiver on frosty nights     With their tops against the sky? Do they feel lonely sometimes,         Because they have grown so tall?              Do they ever wish they could just lie down And never

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22. The Opposite of Loneliness + a Book Giveaway

I rarely read collections of short stories or essays, but I made an exception for The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. It's a book written by a debut author. Unfortunately, it's her final title since she died tragically in 2012.

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23. Petition Process Update

Petition candidates will now find the process to have their name added to a YALSA election ballot a little easier, thanks to action taken recently by the YALSA Board.  What’s the change? Instead of obtaining signatures by means of a paper ballot, the petition will be electronic beginning with the 2015 election process. The second change is one that needs to be approved by the membership via a vote to change the bylaws.  In the bylaws the number of signatures required for a petition candidate is currently 25; however, the board is asking the membership to vote to change that to 1% of the personal membership.  A percentage, rather than a number that is unchanged from year to year, ensures that regardless of membership size, the number of required signatures remains proportionate to the membership.  It will also eliminate the need for future adjustments to the bylaws as YALSA’s membership size changes.  The number 25 was chosen many years when YALSA had only about 2,000 members. Since then, YALSA’s membership has grown to over 5,100.  So, what’s 1% of the personal members?  Right now that’s 48 people.  Be sure to look for this proposal on next year’s ballot, and, if you’re interested in running on the 2015 slate, visit http://www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/election to learn more.


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24. World Book Night and a Proper Celebration of the Day of Shakespeare’s Birth

ShakespeareBirthday World Book Night and a Proper Celebration of the Day of Shakespeares BirthIn terms of folks who share my birthday today, it’s a mixed bag.  On the one hand I got Shakespeare.  So . . . y’know.  That’s nice.  By the same token 4/23 was the reported date of the death of Cervantes.  On the other hand, I share my birthday with President James Buchanan.  Oog.  But then I also got Shirley Temple and Vladimir Nabokov.  Now THERE is a pairing for you!

So if we’re going to do this correctly we need to have something properly Shakespearean to celebrate today.  I suggest that you head on over to this site and read a version of The Hokey Pokey as written by the man in question.  It’s worth it alone for the line “Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.”

But wait!  There’s more!  Unless I much miss my guess tonight also is World Book Night.  What is it, you might ask?  Well, according to their website it says:

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

World Book Night is a nonprofit organization. We exist because of the support of thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in our mission. Successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2012. Thank you to our U.K. friends for such a wonderful idea!

So there you go!  If you do nothing else today, just give somebody a book.  As the bard might have said, ’tis what it’s all about.

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25. Rump (2013)

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. 2013. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What a fun book! I really, really enjoyed Liesl Shurtliff's Rump which boasts of being, of course, the TRUE story of Rumpelstiltskin. From page one, Rump makes a delightful hero in this middle grade fantasy. Here's the first paragraph: "My mother named me after a cow's rear end. It's the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it's not really true. At least I don't think it's true, and neither does Gran. Really, my mother had another name for me, a wonderful name, but no one ever heard it. They only heard the first part. The worst part." Rump lives in a world where your NAME leads to your destiny, so, you can imagine that Rump struggles with what destiny has in store for him since it "blessed" him with a name like that. Rump is NOT friendless, however. His two biggest supporters are his Gran, who has raised him from his birth, and Red, his best friend and sidekick who has a Granny of her own in the forest. The situation is relatively bleak when the novel opens. Rump lives in a poor community that is easily oppressed by the king. The local miller dispenses food to the community based on how much gold the person (family) has contributed. So hunger is a part of life for many. One day, however, Rump discovers something in his Gran's woodpile: his mother's spinning wheel. His Gran is NOT pleased that Rump wants to keep it, to learn to use it. Rump gives it a try, and, he discovers the magic within. Yes, he learns he has the magic inside him to spin straw into gold. But what does NOT come naturally is the wisdom on when to use and when NOT to use magic. He has NOT learned that all magic comes with a price. That his oh-so-delightful talent might come with a big, big price that he won't want to pay.

I love this one. I do. I love the narration. I love the storytelling. I love how the story was adapted and changed. I loved that magic had consequences. I loved seeing Rump grow and mature into Rumpelstiltskin.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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