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1. Hooray to Simon & Schuster for dropping the “Buy It Now” requirement on their ebooks!

In June, when Simon & Schuster made their ebooks available only to libraries who agreed to add a “Buy It Now” option to their catalog, I was torn between two important promises libraries make to kids and families: we will do everything we can to get you the books you want, and everything we offer is free.

My library holds the line on keeping things free in many ways, even to the point of refusing to offer summer reading coupons that require an additional purchase to get that free ice cream cone. Parents value libraries as places where they know they can escape the relentless pressure to buy stuff, and our commitment to keep it so extends online.

But what happens when the trade-off is keeping popular titles out of our ebook collection? I was stumped. I spent the past few months not taking a stand, simply delaying. Looking askance at every detail of the program and trying to find a good way out of two bad choices.

So I’m thrilled now that the requirement is gone and I can welcome Simon & Schuster to our ebook offerings! Welcome Bunnicula, Olivia, Lucky, Caddie, Derek and Rush! Thanks to libraries who tried “Buy It Now” and those who didn’t and everyone who keeps lines of communication open and advocates for books and readers. Thanks Simon & Schuster for listening and being flexible and working with us to find the way.


This month’s blog post by Rachel Wood, ALSC Digital Content Task Force & Materials Division Chief at Arlington (VA) Public Library.

We would love to hear from you. Please email us at digitalcontenttaskforce@gmail.com.

0 Comments on Hooray to Simon & Schuster for dropping the “Buy It Now” requirement on their ebooks! as of 11/23/2014 12:38:00 AM
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2. Nominate Yourself or a Peer for the 2017 Wilder Committee

Due to the ALSC Board of Directors recent action to annually award the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the 2015 ALSC Nominating Committee is seeking recommendations for candidates for membership on the Wilder Award Selection Committee. This ballot will be voted on in the spring of 2015 and members elected will serve on the 2017 Wilder Award Committee.

Do you work with a youth services professional whose knowledge, skills and experience you admire? Do you have a colleague who can communicate clearly, critically and concisely about children’s literature? Have you served on a committee with an ALSC member who embodies our core values like respect, collaboration and leadership? We want to know about them.

Don’t be shy – if you are interested in one of these positions and possess these qualities, put your own name forward as a possible Wilder Award candidate for the 2015 slate.

The members of the ALSC Nominating Committee look forward to your suggestions!

Please be sure that your nominee’s ALSC membership remains current. Nominees who have let their membership lapse are not eligible for consideration. Also consider encouraging your nominees to nominate themselves, as this provides us with more complete background information.

DEADLINE: Sunday, August 31, 2014

Access the ALSC Nominee Form for 2017 Wilder Committee.

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3. Author, Not Illustrator: My Perspective on the Caldecott Honor

Our guest blogger today is Liz Garton Scanlon,  author of All the World, a 2010 Caldecott Honor Book.


As a picture book author (but not illustrator), I’ve always viewed the Caldecott Awards at some remove, as if looking through a concave lens.

The Caldecott is specifically for illustrators, after all, and so while I’m wildly admiring of (and inspired by) the recognized artists, it’s never been something for me to focus on or fret over.

Plus, getting a taste of what’s happening in the land of reviews, awards and critiques is often just distracting. Like Google alerts and Amazon rankings, thinking about what goes on inside the Caldecott committee can serve to pull our attention from work to worry, and to feed the disease of comparison. I’ve always preferred blissful ignorance.

But then, one of my own books got a silver sticker on its cover.Yipes. Suddenly it was impossible to stay in my own blurry bubble.

When you are the author-but-not-the-illustrator of a Caldecott-honored picture book, you don’t get The Call (the famous, middle-of-the-night, top-secret bombshell that, in this case, went to the exquisitely talented Marla Frazee), but you don’t get left alone, either.

You get 13 zillion emails.

You get 10 zillion voicemails.

You get flowers from your mom and dad.

You get to buy a fancy dress.

You get invited to more schools and you get to talk with more kids.

You get to sign more books.

You get handmade cards from your kids and your friends’ kids.

You get to drink champagne.

You get to go to D.C. (or Dallas, or New Orleans, or L.A.)

2010 Caldecott committee


You get to have lunch with the Caldecott committee and find out all sorts of cool and amazing things, like that some committee members have to put their furniture in storage as whole rooms fill up with books.



And, yep, you get to sign even more books.

I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t say it is an all-around lovely thing to have happen – to a writer and a book. In huge part because it means the book will not be going out of print in the next 20 minutes, and it will, by consequence, be read aloud in a lot more rocking chairs and in a lot more story-circles than it would’ve otherwise.

But it is also true that I found that tiny bit of author’s remove to be a comfort during this crazy time. I was allowed to celebrate the prize, and the incredible, jaw-dropping art that won the prize, without being the center of attention.

I was allowed to thank my lucky stars that the words in my head had come together on the page, that my editor decided to turn them into a book, and that I was paired with a brilliant illustrator who turned them into something so beautiful as to be transcendent.

I mean, honestly.

I have way more than my fair share of lucky stars.

And now here I am again, back at my desk, looking at sketches for my next few books, blissfully ignorant of everything beyond the fact that I get to write words for kids, hand them over, and be a part of something kind of magical. I know there’s other stuf

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4. ALSC Announces Graphic Novels Reading List

ALSC Graphic Novel Reading List

ALSC Graphic Novel Reading List, image courtesy of ALSC

ALSC recently announced the creation of the Graphic Novel Reading Lists, intended for children from kindergarten through 8th grade.

These Graphic Novel Reading Lists are available for students kindergarten to 2nd grade, 3rd to 5th grade and 6th to 8th grade. PDFs of the book lists are available online in full color and black and white and are free to download, copy and distribute. Libraries are able to customize the lists with their own information, hours, and list of programs before printing and distributing.

“These book lists are full of fun titles that will help to grow a child’s love for reading,” said Starr Latronica, ALSC president. “We encourage librarians to make copies of these lists available to families at their library and in their community.”

Graphic novels on this list are defined as a full-length story told in paneled, sequential, graphic format. The list does not include book-length collections of comic strips, wordless picture books, or hybrid books that are a mixture of traditional text and comics/graphics. The list includes classics as well as new titles that have been widely recommended and well-reviewed, and books that have popular appeal as well as critical acclaim.

The titles were selected, compiled and annotated by members of the ALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee.

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5. Nominate the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecturer!

The 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee seeks nominations for individuals of distinction to present the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture. The lecturer, who will be announced at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, may be an author, illustrator, publisher, critic, librarian, historian, or teacher of children’s literature, of any country, who shall prepare a paper that will make a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature. Additional Information about the lecture can be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/arbuthnot.

Nominations should include the following:

  • Name of nominee
  • Professional title/occupation
  • Biographical sketch
  • Justification for consideration
  • Major publications

The committee recommends that the body of the nomination be 2-3 pages with a separate bibliography. Nominations should be submitted as an attached document to committee chair Julie Corsaro at juliealsc@gmail.com. The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

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6. Free tickets to see Andrea Davis Pinkney!

2014 Arbuthnot Lecturer Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney (image courtesy of Scholastic)

ALSC and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Children’s Literature Research Collections (CLRC) would like to remind the public that tickets for the 2014 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture featuring Andrea Davis Pinkney are available.

The lecture, entitled “Rejoice the Legacy!,” will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Willey Hall on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. A reception and signing will follow the event. Required tickets are free for the lecture and must be obtained through the University of Minnesota website. To learn more about acquiring tickets, please visit the 2014 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture website.

The May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture is sponsored by ALSC. The lecture title honors May Hill Arbuthnot, distinguished writer, editor and children’s literature scholar. Each year, an author, artist, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature is selected to prepare a paper considered to be a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature.

* * *

2014 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture With Andrea Davis Pinkney
University of Minnesota Libraries, Children’s Literature Research Collections
Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (CDT)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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7. An Invitation from the ALSC 2011 Batchelder Award Committee

The 2011 Mildred L. Batchelder Award Committee invites you to help identify eligible titles. The terms of the award are as follows:
“The Mildred L. Batchelder Award shall be made to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during the preceding year.” Honor books may be named.

There are additional considerations. Eligible books are for readers within the age range of 0-14 years. Readers “should be able to sense that the book came from another country.” Books should have a “substantial” translated text since this award focuses on text rather than illustration. Books should not be unduly Americanized. Both fiction and nonfiction are eligible, but folklore is excluded.

For your information, the 2011 Award will be announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference at Midwinter in January 2011 (San Diego) and presented at the Annual Conference in June of 2011 (New Orleans).

To learn more about the Award and for listings of current and past winners, see the Mildred L. Batchelder Home Page

: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/batchelderaward

With these terms and considerations in mind, please suggest titles by contacting me at


Thank you for participating in this important work of ALSC.


Susan Faust

2011 Mildred L. Batchelder Award, Chair

Committee Members: Sheila Cody, Adrienne Furness, Tessa Michaelson, and Kristy Lyn Sutorius

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8. Get Your Name in Print!

ALSC’s official journal, Children and Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children (CAL), is now soliciting manuscripts for its 2011 volume year and beyond.

Cover of Children and Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to ChildrenCAL, which publishes three times per year (spring, summer/fall, and winter), is a refereed publication with a target audience of more than 3,700 children’s librarians (public and school).

Any topics of interest and import to children’s librarians are welcome. It’s a great way to get published in the profession and to share your research and program successes, as well as lessons learned, with thousands of colleagues in the field.

All academic manuscripts are reviewed by at least two peer referees in consideration for publication. Accepted articles will carry the author’s byline and a brief bio; articles are unpaid.

For more information on how to submit articles for consideration, please contact Editor Sharon Korbeck Verbeten at CALeditor@yahoo.com.

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9. Want To See Your Name In Print?

Have you always wanted to be a published author? Would you be interested in writing a chapter in a new anthology designed to help other librarians? Your expertise is sought for several new books.

Are you a practicing librarian who has worked with the media, worked on National Library Week activities, written newsletters for your library, held open houses, or developed online promotions or outreach through social media? You might be interested in sharing some of your practical knowledge by submitting a chapter for a forthcoming book Marketing Methods for Libraries to be published by McFarland & Company, Inc.

Are you an innovative librarian? Have you worked with visual or performing artists to bring the arts into libraries to keep them as vibrant community cultural centers? Have you worked to encourage painters, photographers, musicians, writers, and other creative talents at your library? You might be interested in submitting a chapter for a forthcoming book Bringing Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts into the Library to be published by American Library Association.

Are you a practicing librarian who has successfully mentored students or adults? Would you be willing to share your personal knowledge about using one-to-one contact to further librarianship? You might be interested in submitting a chapter for a forthcoming book Librarians as Mentors in Librarianship for Adults and Students to be published by McFarland and Company, Inc.

Want more information? Contact co-editor Carol Smallwood at smallwood@tm.net.

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10. Double Your Día Resources!

Think of how exciting your Día event will be after you take the ALSC webinar, Día 101 and add a new Día book to your collection!

Available April 1, 2011 from the ALA StoreALSC is offering a $5 discount for Jeanette Larson’s book, El día de los niños/El día de los libros: Building a Culture of Literacy in Your Community through Día. This discount is only available for those who sign up Día 101.

The book, which will be available starting Friday, April 1, 2011 from the ALA Store is a great resource for librarians interested in the history and practice of Día.

Día 101: Everything you need to know about celebrating El día de los niños/El día de los libros takes place on Friday, April 1 @ 1 PM CST. Taught by Beatriz Pascual Wallace, this hour-long webinar will help prepare you for your April 30 celebration.

Spots are still available, but hurry!

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11. Back-to-back ALSC Webinars and Fall 2011 Online Courses

ALSC Online EducationIn two weeks, ALSC is offering back-to-back – one on Tuesday, one on Wednesday – webinars which offer great back-to-school planning ideas. Both webinars are a fantastic way to open up the school-year and a gread lead-in to a new semester of ALSC online courses, which start September 26th!

Leveling Easy Readers
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 @ 1 PM CT (2 PM ET, 12 PM MT, 11 AM PT)

Leveling Easy Readers is an examination of books focused on emergent literacy. In this webinar, participants learn the criteria for placing these materials in different levels. With strategies for selecting and organizing these materials, this session is highly valuable for children’s librarians.

Newbery and Caldecott Mock Elections Toolkit
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 @ 12 PM CT (1 PM ET, 11 AM MT, 10 AM PT)

This webinar takes you behind the process of running a mock election at your library. Mock book award programs can develop multiple skill areas, including reading motivation, critical thinking, and interpersonal communication, both for young readers and for professional staff.

[ALSC Note: A discount on the Newbery and Caldecott Mock Election Toolkit webinar is available to anyone who purchases the Newbery and Caldecott Mock Elections Toolkit digital download, now available at the ALA Store]

Fall 2011 Online Courses Announced

ALSC has also recently announced the release of the 2011 Fall Online Course schedule. Five courses are being offered, between four and six weeks long. Courses start September 26. For more information see the Fall 2011 Online course flier!

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12. Children and Libraries honored with writing award

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is pleased to announce that its journal, Children and Libraries, (CAL) received a 2011 Apex Award for Publication Excellence.

Three Children and Technology columns from the 2010 volume year won an Award of Excellence in the category of “Writing: Regular Departments & Columns.” Members of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee authored the winning articles: “Coloring a New World of Librarianship, Participating in the 21 Tools Program” by Gretchen Caserotti and Kelley Beeson; “Technology and Television for Babies and Toddlers” by Natalie Arthur; and “Consumerism, How it Impacts Play and its Presence in Library Collections” by Jill Bickford. The CAL columns were among 192 winners in the Writing category, which received 643 entries judged primarily on the basis of editorial quality.

“We are delighted with this honor,” said ALSC President Mary Fellows. “We’re terrifically proud of our member authors, our editor, Sharon Verbeten, and our member advisory committee for Children and Libraries. Their excellent work, like that of so many other ALSC members, is helping ALSC create a better future for children through libraries.”

The Apex Awards are sponsored by Communications Concepts, Inc., an organization that supports publishing, public relations and marketing professionals in the improvement of publications and communications programs. For more information about the awards, visit www.apexawards.com.

1 Comments on Children and Libraries honored with writing award, last added: 8/18/2011
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13. It’s all fun and games until the goldfish dies

Imagine this setting…

It’s a lovely fall evening at the public library. A therapy dog is lounging comfortably on the floor in the children’s area. A mom and dog owner are chatting agreeably. The librarian is helping child choose a “level one” book to read aloud to the waiting dog. The child chooses a book featuring one of her favorite characters – a character who earned picture book fame, and made the leap into easy readers. It’s a pretty book with a pretty cover and a perky title. It’s a perfect combination of community togetherness – the library, the public, the volunteer, the eager reader.

fish bowl

by Kreative Eye - Dean McCoy CC 2.0

Everything is going, say, swimmingly? Until the goldfish dies. The girl pauses in her reading. Perhaps the fish is just sleeping? She turns the page. No. The goldfish is decidedly dead and is summarily deposited into the ground, though not without some amount of ceremony. Everyone glances around silently, awkwardly. The young girl soldiers on and finds another book, another easy reader – featuring, this time, a gym class bully. Thankfully, a certain Elephant and Piggie come to the rescue and the night ends on a humorous note – complete with newly hatched birds.

So, here is my musing, my opinion, and a query for you:

Have Beginning Readers, long the milieu of simplicity, friendship, silliness and love, taken a turn toward deeper and more complicated topics? Realistic fiction is a wonderful genre that is well represented in picture books and juvenile novels and early chapter books. Difficult topics fit well in these formats. Picture books are a shared experience, with adults on hand to answer questions, or place new situations in an understandable context. Juvenile novels are read independently, by children who have mastered the skill of reading, and can understand a concept in its entirety. The “easy reader,” however, is for a child who is often learning to understand a single word’s place within a sentence or a sentence’s place within a paragraph.

I’ve not seen too many examples of deep topics in easy readers, but I wonder, is this a trend, and if so, is it a good one? Your thoughts?


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14. Meeting Gandhi’s Grandson, the Making of a Picture Book

Arun Gandhi

My next book is Grandfather Gandhi, a picture book that I co-wrote with Arun Gandhi—grandson to the Mahatma. Upon learning this, I am most frequently asked, “How did you meet Gandhi’s grandson?’’ My answer isn’t a short one. I didn’t run into Arun Gandhi at the grocery store, or a dinner party. We weren’t colleagues or long lost college friends (though we now are facebook friends). What led me to meet and later ask Arun to work with me was a devastating act of violence—9/11.

In 2001, I was an aspiring author. I worked as a receptionist on the 31st floor of the World Financial Center, diagonally across the street from the WTC towers. I was there that Tuesday morning, and not only was I there, I was a fire searcher for the financial firm I worked for and was one of the last to evacuate our top floor. (For more of my 9/11 experience, see here.)

The sights and sounds of that day broke me, as it broke so many of us. In late October, still haunted by nightmares and visions of people jumping to their deaths, I attended a talk Arun Gandhi gave at Town Hall. There he spoke to a packed audience about the two years he lived with Gandhi at the Sevagram ashram as a boy. Arun stood before us and shared how in South Africa, where he was born, he was beaten by whites for being too dark and weeks later beaten by Zulus for being too light. He was aware of his grandfather’s work, and his father, Manilal’s. He lived at the Phoenix ashram. He was raised with the concept of non-violence, but that didn’t stop Arun from carrying rocks in his pockets and subscribing to the Charles Atlas bodybuilding program to build muscle for if and when he would be attacked again. Arun was not going to strike first, but he was going to strike back. That is, until his grandfather sat across from him and shared a life-changing story of how anger can be like electricity.

I sat in my wooden seat in the middle of Town Hall and turned to a friend and said, “These stories would make a beautiful picture book.” She agreed. But it was an idea for someone else. Not for me. I left Town Hall, after hearing Arun speak, stronger, less broken, and more able to forgive, albeit slowly. I took the postcard advertising the event with Gandhi’s strong and serene face, back to my desk in a new office building in midtown. (The company I worked for was displaced from downtown due to the devastation.) I continued answering phones, greeting guests, and working on my first novel. But that small thought—that Arun’s stories should be a book did not leave me.

Surely, they should be a book but I wasn’t the one to write them—I was a young white woman. I knew little about the Quit India movement or Gandhi’s work aside from feeling gratitude that he inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , a personal hero of mine. I had these reasons and many more. I wasn’t published. Who was I to think he would work with me? Then, I distinctly remembering hearing my inner voice saying, “Gandhi wouldn’t see you as less than. Why should you?” But how would I get in contact with Arun? Seeing him speak was not the same as meeting him face to face and shaking his hand. In America, you needed an in—and I had no “in.”

But what I did have was being touched by what I heard from that Town Hall stage that night. It had helped me heal and I wanted, I needed— to contribute to something good. Something personal that came out of witnessing and surviving 9/11. That desire to put something positive into the world gave me the courage to lo

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15. Author Spotlight: Barbara Jean Hicks

Barbara Jean Hicks
Barbara Jean Hicks is the author of the 2006 ALSC Notable Children’s Book, Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Barbara lives in Oxnard, California.

What is your personal history and how has it informed your work?
I grew up in a small farming community in Washington State, the middle of seven children. My parents (who’ve been married 67 years and still live on their own) didn’t have a lot in worldly goods. Nine of us, for example, lived in a two-bedroom, one bath house. Honestly, I didn’t realize how poor we were until long after I went away to college. Our home life was secure and happy, filled with books, music, pets, and projects. We rented a tent-trailer in the summer and went on vacations together. When I was in high school, we even built a house together. (I remember helping mix concrete for the foundation and pounding nails on the roof two stories up!)

We went to the library every Saturday and Sunday School every Sunday. Both were religious experiences. We were encouraged to read and observe and think for ourselves. I loved school, loved learning, even loved homework! I grew up confident in my abilities and believed I was special. At home, I WAS special—as every child should be. The trouble was, the shock of discovering that in the larger world I WASN’T special absolutely threw me! As a skinny, near-sighted, pimply teen, I was shy, insecure, and preferred staying in with a book to going out with anyone, anywhere. I sometimes wonder if there’s a YA novel in me that I haven’t yet been brave enough to write because I don’t want to revisit those times and emotions! On the other hand, it’s huge fun writing for the person I was at a younger age. Fun is important. Picture books give me the opportunity to play.

But it’s serious play. Like a typical middle child in a large family, I grew up being the mediator. I still am, trying to understand everyone’s perspective and foster communication between people with diverse points of view. I’m drawn to write from unique perspectives, like the little monster in Jitterbug Jam who finds a scary boy hiding under his bed, or the cat in The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, whose real name is Fang. If kids can learn to empathize with a monster or a cat with an attitude, maybe they’ll learn to empathize with people different from themselves. If they can, there’s still hope for the world.

Describe your writing process.
Some writers are planners. I’m a seat-of-the-pants-er. For me, starting a story is always an adventure, a leap into the unknown. I might start out with a curious bit of dialogue, a vivid description, or a word or phrase that tickles my funny bone. Once I set pen to paper or sit down at the computer (I do both), I let the writing take me where it wants to go—no roadmap.

I love the poetry of picture books. I write for both the eye and the ear, constantly looking for ways to sharpen the imagery and finesse the cadence. I read my work aloud so often that by the time I’m done with a story I practically have it memorized. I tend to pay more attention to the music and the images than I do to the storyline—which makes for a very slow and inefficient process, as I end up having to throw out beautifully polished scenes that don’t belong in the story. But writing this way also gives the story time to work itself out, to find its own meaning. The act of writing teaches me what the story is, how it wants to be told, and why it matters. It’s a very organic process. Unpredictable, messy, and great fun!

How do you select your books’ topics?
I sometimes say that everything I know about writing, I learned from my cat. One of those things is to “scratch where it itches”! What are the ideas that just won’t leave me alone? What do I keep coming back to? What do I fall asleep thinking about? What moves me, intrigues me, makes me laugh? I write about those things.
Appropriately for a picture book author, many of my ideas come from visual images: scenes from real life, photographs, performances and visual art. The idea for Jitterbug Jam came from a Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon and was further developed from observation of kindergartners on the school playground. I Like Black and White began when I noticed how incredibly black and white my tuxedo cat looked against the lush, rain-fed lawn of our Seattle home.

I also get story ideas by playing with perspective, as I’ve already mentioned. I try to put myself inside the mind and experience of another person or creature, to see and explain the world from a unique point of view. I think part of a writer’s job is to provoke readers to think about the world and their place in it in new ways. A unique perspective can give a story meaning beyond pure entertainment.

Why do you write for children? What experiences have influenced your writing for young people?
My last five works for adult readers were romantic comedies set in the fictional and very quirky town of Pilchuck, Washington. These were not typical genre romance novels, and one online reviewer who clearly thought they were meant to be expressed the opinion that I “really ought to be writing for children, as no one else could appreciate such silliness.” Ouch! But I’d always been interested in children’s books and was ready for a new challenge, and the comment gave me the kick in the pants I needed. (Thank you, reviewer, wherever you are! I have truly found my calling.)

I always wanted children, but motherhood never happened for me. I find great joy now in writing children’s literature as a way of sharing myself and my values, perhaps influencing kids in a way I would have as a mom—letting them know how special they are and how much power they have in their abilities to think, consider and choose for themselves and in the ways they interact with other people.

Please describe a few of the collaborations that you have developed because of your writing, either during the writing process or after the project is completed.
Unless you’re an author/illustrator (which I am not—yet!), picture books are a necessarily collaborative process. But it’s an odd sort of collaboration, mediated completely by the editor and art director—who thus also become part of the collaboration. Authors and illustrators are actively discouraged from contacting each other until after a project is completed. I’ve never met Alexis Deacon, the phenomenal illustrator of Jitterbug Jam, who lives in England. But I am amazed and incredibly moved by how much he added to the story with his exquisite artwork. I have a new book coming out next summer, Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli, which is unique in that the sketches and some of the finished artwork were completed before my editor asked me to write a text to support them. Without the two of us ever speaking or writing, Sue Hendra’s images communicated with me in much the same way my texts must communicate with the illustrators who are assigned to them. Matching author and illustrator is a real art, and my editors have done superbly!

Another note on collaboration: I belong to several critique groups, and I really depend on the feedback of the talented writers and artists who belong to those groups. Working on a story for days and weeks and months (sometimes even years) can make it almost impossible to be objective about one’s own work. While I don’t always agree with or follow the advice of every person who shares his or her opinion about a story, I consider every comment. I know my work is greatly enhanced by that consideration. I truly value the members of my critique groups as collaborators in the process. Thanks, friends!

Share any experience you may have regarding audiobooks.
Picture books rarely become audiobooks because “true” picture books are dependent on the illustrations for meaning. Jitterbug Jam, however, was written as a picture storybook in the oral tradition, so it’s perfect for an audio format. I’m disappointed that the reader selected for the current recording has an East Coast accent, however, because the story is written in my grandmother’s Southern voice! I really feel some of the story’s charm is “lost in translation.”

I’ve just received permission from my publisher to record my own podcast of Jitterbug Jam for use in a Los Angeles Public Library program, and I plan to post it on my website as well. I love to read aloud and look forward to sharing the book this way.

I also love to be read to! I’ve only recently discovered the joys of audiobooks as traveling companions, especially on long road trips to speak at schools, libraries and conferences. They truly do make time fly.

Describe yourself as a reader. What books influenced and inspired you as a child? As an adult?
I was such an avid reader as a child that my parents had to shoo me out of the house so I’d get some exercise. Then after they put me to bed and turned out the lights, I’d read under the covers with a flashlight! But really, it was their fault. Without a television when I was growing up, books were our major form of entertainment. My favorite picture book as a child was about a puppy named Timmy, and had as its refrain: “And there was Timmy—right spang in the middle of everything.” Have no idea who wrote it or what the title was, but I still love that word “spang”! My parents read all the classic children’s novels to us. I particularly remember The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and Robinson Crusoe. We also had a set of Childcraft books, and I especially loved the poetry volumes. I still remember lines from “Sea Fever” by John Masefield and “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.

My favorite authors as a child reader were C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle. As an adult, I still like stories with a fantastical element of some kind. Not pure fantasy, but something beyond pure realism. I read widely, both adult and children’s books, and I always have a book going. There are so many good books out there that whatever I happen to be reading is my favorite at the time! I do read more fiction than nonfiction. For me, good fiction is more compelling and in some ways “truer” than nonfiction because it speaks to the heart. Whatever the genre, the emotion has to be true for me. I have to believe in the experience of the characters to be able to lose myself in the imagined world.

I also love what my family always called “the funny papers.” In just a few strokes and a few words, a good cartoonist can make me smile, chuckle, or even howl with laughter. And of course I read lots of picture books.

What role did libraries play in your childhood? What role do libraries play in your life now?
Books were revered in our home. When we built that house during my teenage years, it included a library, filled with after-Christmas sales books and discarded volumes my dad brought home from the library at the hospital where he worked. But most of our reading material came from our public and school libraries. The weekly trip to our community library was a much anticipated treat. When I was a little older I was allowed to walk the half mile by myself. I spent one summer there researching Russian history just for the fun of it. Ah, Rasputin! Later, when I was an insecure teenager, the school library was my haven, especially during lunchtime. Libraries still feel like that to me.

Now, as a visiting author, libraries are among my favorite places to do children’s programs. I like doing large school assemblies, too, but the more intimate setting of a library is so special. When I read my books to kids in a library, I get their immediate reaction—I can see them lean forward, wide-eyed, and hear their intake of breath, or see them smile and hear them giggle. Kids are so in-the-moment, and library visits take me back to being in-the-moment too. On top of all that, children’s librarians are about the nicest people in the world!

I use the Internet for quick-question sorts of research now, but for broad-based background research I still want real books. My local library is my second office.

What do you consider the challenges and rewards of being an author? Of being an author who visits schools and libraries?
My challenges are similar to those that any self-employed person faces. As a fulltime writer and speaker, not getting a regular paycheck or having health and retirement benefits is very stressful. I’m constantly scrambling to sell my manuscripts and promote my books and my services as a visiting author. Being a writer and speaker isn’t just about writing and speaking, it’s a great deal about marketing—which requires lots of time and energy and a whole ’nother skill set.

I will often get so caught up in my writing that I forget to eat—which unfortunately has not kept me from gaining unwanted pounds. Maybe it’s the fact that I forget to exercise, too… I really have to make a conscious effort to get up and move around during the day, or get to a yoga class, or take a walk, or go dancing.

However… I am doing work that I love, work that often feels like play, work that makes me feel alive and happy. Writing for children is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the kid inside me, and speaking in schools and libraries is a wonderful opportunity to connect with kids “out there.” I love knowing that as a picture book author whose books are read aloud, I’m helping bring families together. I love that my books might challenge kids (and their grown-ups) to think about the world in new ways. It’s also been such a surprise to me, remembering how painfully shy I was as a teenager and young adult, to realize how much I love being in front of an audience. Where did that ham come from?!

What do you want children to come away with after reading one of your books?
My ultimate hope is that kids identify their own experience in my books, that there is a heart-to-heart connection, and that they learn new things about themselves. I also hope that in my books they will find a friend, the way I found friends in books when I was a child.

Please share a little about your current work.
Abelard and the Big Bad Why-Bother Blues is a multi-cultural tale about a boy who wants to bake “a cake that tastes like summer” to blast his Gran-Daddy’s blues away on a gloomy winter day. He’s successful, but not exactly in the way he’d planned. The tale is a picture storybook that has more similarities to Jitterbug Jam than anything I’ve written since. I had a difficult time selling Jitterbug in the United States—it was rejected by 22 U.S. houses before it sold to Random House England, who later, ironically, sold U.S. rights to FSG. Jitterbug is long for a U.S. picture book, language rich, with a fairly complex story line. It’s also told in dialect, which you don’t see much in U.S. picture books. Abelard shares those characteristics, and my first thought was to send it directly to a couple of English publishers. But I really don’t want to count on foreign sales to see my work published in the U.S., so I thought I’d try my connections here first. I’m happy to say I have some interest from Knopf, who published The Secret Life of Walter Kitty. Keeping my fingers crossed!

At this point in your career, what has been your most memorable experience?
I have two that stand out: Having a full-page review in the New York Times Book Review when Jitterbug Jam was named on their list of Best Illustrated Books of 2005; and having a classroom full of fourth graders at one of my earliest school visits react like I was a rock star when I walked in. Two things I never in my wildest dreams imagined!

In this world of instant communication and concerns about privacy, how does the Internet (if it does at all) affect you personally and as a writer?
E-mail and the Internet are both a boon and a curse. Almost all my business communication takes place through e-mail, from submitting manuscripts to negotiating contracts to making editorial changes to finding speaking venues. But I can check my e-mail a dozen times a day, interrupting my creative flow, and spend hours responding to messages instead of writing. The Internet gives me instant access to information when I need it for something I’m working on, but one link leads to another and pretty soon I can’t remember what it was I was looking for—or why! Writing is such a solitary pursuit that it’s great for writers to be able to make connections with other writers through social networking sites and blogs, but again, it can get out of hand. There’s only so much time in a day.

I’m also concerned that teens and young adults of the Internet generation seem not to value privacy at all—either their own or others’. Yes, I think we are born with a need to know and be known, but not universally! Sometimes when I stumble across something I wish I hadn’t, I just want to say, “People! Have you no shame? Set some boundaries!”

What are your goals and aspirations?
Very simply, to continue to be able to make a viable living doing what I love to do best—writing, teaching and speaking. Oh—and I’d love to be interviewed by Oprah and Terri Gross!

What piece of advice has been the most valuable to you?
As a writer: “Show, don’t tell.” As a speaker: “Imagine the audience in their underwear!” As a person: “Be true to yourself.”

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Blog?
I confessed to my editor at Knopf recently that I am terminally “un-hip.” (Turns out she already knew. Huh.) Probably another reason I’ll never get to that YA. In a world where “edgy” is “in,” I’m about as un-edgy as anyone gets. (Quirky, maybe; edgy, not.) Fortunately, there are still readers out there who like playful language and a tender story. To you, I say thanks!

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16. 2008 National Book Awards:Young People’s Literature

This week the National Book Foundation announced this year’s National Book Award Finalists.

The Young People’s Literature judges nominated the following:

This year’s judges for the Young People’s Literature category are Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, and Cynthia Voigt.

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17. Author Spotlight: Jon Agee

Jon Agee

Jon Agee is the author/illustrator of Nothing (Hyperion), an ALSC 2008 Notable Children’s Book; Terrific (Hyperion/Michael di Capua), an ALSC 2006 Notable Children’s Book; and Milo’s Hat Trick (Michael di Capua/Hyperion), an ALSC 2002 Notable Children’s Book. He lives in San Francisco.

Check out Jon’s answers to 20 Questions on his official website.

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18. Publishing Opportunity!

Many ALSC members not only work with children, but also with teens.  Some of you may also be members of ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association.  Well, YALSA member, Jenine Lillian is working on a new professional resouce called Cool Teen Programs on a Shoestring.  The book will consist of different programs that are fun and appealing to teen audiences, and Jenine is looking for ideas from all of you!

 This is not only a great publishing opportunity for any Librarians who have had great and inexpensive teen programs, but also, there is the potential for them to share their ideas at a YALSA event at the ALA Annual Conference in July, 2009 with the editor. 

 I’ve attached the submission form here for those of you who would like to get involved. The deadline for submissions is Novmeber 20th!

Cool Teen Program Submission Form

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19. Book Links Quick Tips e-Newsletter

If you aren’t receiving the free Book Links Quick Tipes e-newsletter, you may want to sign up. December’s theme is cooking.

Subscription prices for the bi-monthly Book Links magazine, a publication of the American Library Association, are listed on the ALA website –> Professional Resources–> ALA Publications–> ALA Periodicals–> Book Links. Its mission reads:

Book Links: Connecting Books, Libraries, and Classrooms is a magazine designed for teachers, librarians, library media specialists, booksellers, parents, and other adults interested in connecting children with books. In response to the use of children’s trade books in the classroom, the curriculum role of the school library media center, the increased programming in public libraries, and the heavy reliance of child-care centers on children’s literature, Book Links publishes bibliographies, essays linking books on a similar theme, retrospective reviews, and other features targeted at those educating young people.

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20. StoryTubes 2009: Voting has begun

StoryTubes - the 2-minute or shorter “my favorite book” video project sponsored by public libraries has accepted videos from across the United States and Canada in 2009. The number of contest participants tripled from last year (over 400)! Now it’s time for voters to view and choose their favorites.

This week. March 16-19, anyone can vote online for individual entries made by students in grades K – 4 and students grades 5 - 8. Just go to www.storytubes.info to vote this week and
during the following weeks:

March 23 – 26 Individual entries grades 9 and up
March 30 – April 2 Group entries grades K – 6
March 30 – April 2 Group entries grades 7 and up

StoryTubes recently was awarded the 2009 PLA Polaris Innovation in Technology John Iliff Award, which recognizes the contributions of a library worker, librarian, or library that has used technology and innovative thinking as a tool to improve services to public library users.

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21. Blog on Latino Authors and Books

Hello everyone!I was thrilled to listen to the interview with Dr. Jaime Campbell Naidoo on the work that he is doing to reach out to Latino children, and inspired to take advantage of Teresa Wells’ gracious invitation to participate in this forum to let you know about my own outreach efforts in this area.     

I know many of you, but please allow me to introduce myself to those of you who don’t know me: I have over 10 years of experience in Latino publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where I managed the children’s division of the Latino imprint, Rayo. Prior to that, I was Children’s Reviews Editor at Críticas magazine, published by School Library Journal. I’ve worked for a number of publishers, both on a full time basis and as a freelance consultant, on English and Spanish language books.  

After leaving Harper, I decided that I would take all of the knowledge I have gathered during my career in Latino publishing and share it with others interested in Latino authors and books. This led me to launch VOCES (http://adrianadominguez.blogspot.com/); a blog that focuses on providing readers with what I call “an insider’s perspective” of the Latino book market. The blog breaks news on the market, highlights Latino books and authors that deserve notice, and provides relevant information on issues that affect Latinos—for instance, I recently posted some clips from ABC’s “We the People” series, which explored the demographic growth of Latinos in the US, and its impact on the country’s culture, and future. ALSC members will be interested to know that my latest post is about El día de los niños/El día de los libros! I have worked very closely with ALSC to promote Dia in the past, and I plan on continuing to do so via this new medium. I recently added a calendar of book-related events from all across the country, such as readings, workshops, and conferences that I encourage you to explore as well. I would love it if you would submit your own events so that I may list them in the calendar.    

I want to share this blog with you because through my work with ALA, ALSC, and REFORMA, I have become fully aware of the extents that librarians will go to in order to keep informed about books for the sake of their patrons! I hope that this blog provides you with some of the information that you thirst for, in particular as it relates to the Latino market, since that is a sometimes a challenging area to learn more about. So, please subscribe and support this blog and what it tries to do. And provide feedback—I am always looking for ways to make it more useful to readers. This blog’s goal is to become the place where Latino authors and books are the #1 priority. We need such a place, particularly during these tough times, that have been particular hard on the Latino publishing industry. Thank you in advance for your support; I look forward to seeing you there! 

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22. ALSC Journal, Children and Libraries, Seeks Manuscripts

Hello everyone! Just wanted to put the word out that ALSC’s refereed publication Children and Libraries is seeking your manuscripts for possible publication in our journal (published three times a year).

While we are always seeking best practices, profiles and shorter essay pieces, we are especially in need of scholarly/research manuscripts to round out our coverage. These manuscripts are also put through a blind referee process, ensuring they are appropriate for our readership.

Previous topics published have ranged from storytime procedures to Every Child Ready to Read to literature reviews or examinations of award-winning books. All topics of potential interest to children’s librarians are welcome.

Please feel free to contact me for more information if you’re interested in submitting to Children and Libraries. I’m looking at copy now for our winter 2009 and entire 2010 year of publication.

Thanks for your consideration.

Sharon Korbeck Verbeten
Editor, Children and Libraries
820 Spooner Ct.
De Pere, WI 54115

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23. Book Links to Become Booklist Supplement

Starting in October 2009, Book Links magazine will be published as a quarterly print supplement to Booklist, the book review magazine of the American Library Association. The complete press release is available here.

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24. “O Publisher, O Publisher, How Do You Rate?”

by Lisa Taylor

I just completed another great ALSC online class, Reading Instruction and Children’s Books, taught by Kate Todd.

While I learned a lot about reading and “leveling” methods, I also learned that librarians across the country are frustrated with the publishers of “easy reader” books. Not only do they use widely different methods of classifying the “level” of each book, they neglect to tell us which method they use (Lexile, Flesch-Kincaid, whim?)!

Why is one publisher’s Level 1 book so different from another’s? I vented my frustration in this open rap to the publishers of easy readers. One of my clever classmates, Leslie Bolinger, suggested a title – “O Publisher, O Publisher, How Do You Rate?”

Librarians –

we’re a scientific bunch.

We need more to go on

than just a hunch.

We help children find books.

Some use the 5-finger rule.

We help teachers and parents

and we work with school.

“This Level 2 is too easy?

Well, this one’s just right!

Here’s another Level 2 -

Too hard! Not quite.”

Is it Lexile? Is it ATOS?

Is it Flesch-Kincaid?

Please don’t keep us guessing,

‘cause we need your aid!

Tell us how the books are leveled

all across these lands,

and we’ll make sure they end up
in just the right hands!

Lisa Taylor
Youth Services Librarian
Barnegat Branch
Ocean County (NJ) Library

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25. The Maureen Hayes Award

“What was this writer thinking?!”
“Would you like to ask the writer yourself?”

Maureen Hayes knew the importance of bringing children and author/illustrator together and the impact it can have on their lives. In 2005 the Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Visit Award was established with funding from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. The award honors Maureen Hayes life-long effort to make such visits a reality. The award provides up to $4,000 towards the honorarium and travel costs of a writer/illustrator to visit a location where children might otherwise never have this amazing opportunity. Applicant must be an ALSC member, work in conjunction with other organizations, and be able to supply administrative support, facilities and visibly promote this presentation as a distinctive event.
For more information or to apply for the award, visit the ALSC Web site. The deadline to apply is December 1.

Questions? Please contact Linda Ernst, chair of the ALSC Grant Administration Committee, at lindaern@kcls.org.

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