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Each year I do this event, which features more than 60 amazing children’s book authors and illustrators, and it’s always such a disappointment. For starters, check out some of the people who’ll be there, and you’ll understand why I’m so bummed:
Tony Abbott, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Nick Bruel, Bryan Collier, Katie Davis, Bruce Degen, Jean Craighead George, Charise Mericle Harper, Susan Jeffers, Peter Lerangis, Gail Carson Levine, Carolyn MacCullough, Rafe Martin, Wendy Mass, Matthew McElligott, Helen Perelman, Wendell Minor, Gloria Pinkney, Lizzy Rockwell, Todd Strasser, Mark Teague, Jean Van Leeuwen, Eric Velasquez, Sarah Weeks, Ed Young, and more.
Why so down-in-the-dumps you ask? Because I never get to talk to any of them. I never get a chance to meet the new (to me!) people, like Will Moses (Mary and Her Little Lamb), Lena Roy (Edges), Daniel Kirk (Library Mouse), Peter Brown (You Will Be My Friend!) . . .
. . . and Jerry Davis (Little Chicken’s Big Day). Who are these people? Might they become my new best pals? Um, not likely! Because they are sitting at tables forty feet away, surrounded by happy children, shopping grandparents, and strong-armed educators, hauling bags of books like Sherpa guides.
Best I can do is throw rocks at ‘em.
And, oh, hey, look over there, it’s Jean Craighead George. She’s only a freakin’ legend. I can’t throw rocks at Jean Craighead George. She’ll throw them back — and her arm is a bazooka.
Oh, wait. Here’s old friends like Mark Teague and Helen Perelman and Peter Lerangis. Can I talk to any of them? Can we hang out? Maybe shoot the breeze? Commiserate?
Nooooooo. I’m too busy signing books, meeting young readers, gabbing with families, prostrating myself before the cheerful & smiling hordes.
Writing is a solitary business, folks. And it’s frustrating for me to sit there at gorgeous Sunnyside . . .
. . . just feet away from my peerless peers, and never have a free minute to chat with them.
So my dream is for just one year, nobody comes. No book sales, no signings, no musicians, no storytellers, no-bah-dee. Just us authors, finally (finally!) enjoying a few moments when we can hang out and complain about the crappy jobs our publishers do with publicity and marketing. It’s how we bond. We bitch and moan about Kindles.
So this coming Sunday, clean the garage, watch football, wax the car. But if you insist on coming . . . click
2. Comics contain the same story elements and literary devicesas narrative stories.
3. Comics provide built-in context clues.
4. Reading a comic is a different process of reading using a lot of inference.
5. Readers need variety in their reading diet.
6. We’re a visual culture and the visual sequence makes sense to kids.
7. Reading comics may lead to drawing and writing comics.
8. The selection of graphic novels is bigger, better, and reaches a wider age-range than before.
Yeah, feh, okay. I get that. We have to establish that comics are credible resources, that it’s valid in the classroom, and there’s a perceived need to throw in a lot of pedagogical goobledygook. But I don’t care. Because one thing I know in my bones is that many (many!) professional authors began their childhood love of reading with comic books. Those authors are almost always men (read: ex-boys).
They read what they wanted to. They read what they liked. They read, period.
One of the critically important aspect of this issue of “boys reading junk” is that well-meaning adults — and in particular, women — need to become sensitized to our bias against certain types of reading. We have to become aware of the messages we send to boy readers, the disapproving, dismissive way we view personal choices.
The Viper's Nest by Peter Lerangis is the seventh book in the 39 Clues series and, man, does it ROCK!!! In this book, Dan and Amy Cahill have to travel to South Africa in their search for the 39 Clues that will make the finders richer and more powerful than anyone on earth. On their way to find the Clue left by Winston Churchill, Dan hangs upside down over a deserted mine shaft, Nellie, their au pair, has to explain mysterious cell phone messages, and they all break into a Tomas stronghold--and have to break out again!! Plus they face death by a propeller and a horrifying poison. The suspense made me sit up and grab the book tightly! These books just keep getting better and better. NO ONE DOES IT BETTER THAN THE 39 CLUES!!
And we have a new review from a teacher who doesn't give her name but calls herself Hello! She writes about a great new Gary Paulsen book:
Okay...I'm a girl...An older girl...who is also a teacher...and a reader...I secretly lurk around your site looking for those super cool guy books I miss sometimes...because I have guys in my classrooms that need guy books. I'll keep up my secret spying in the hopes that you review the COOLEST...most SPECTACULAR book that has come from Gary Paulsen in a while...Woods Runner! BAM! SUPER AWESOME BOOK! My boys are reading this one like a wolf eats!
Check it out!
We'll certainly do that, Hello! I'll go and look for Woods Runner away. We're always glad when teachers look for good guy books. Don't forget to look at the Links on the left-hand side of the page--lots of places to find good guy books there! Gary Pauslen is one of the best guy authors of all time. Click on the "Gary Paulsen" label under this post to see what we and other guys have written about his stuff.
One more bit of news. The latest Sluggers book is out. It's called Blastin' the Blues and it's set in New Orleans. I have to say right here and now that I'm the # 1 Sluggers fan in Charlotte. These books are T-RIFFIC!!! and I'm trying to make more Sluggers fans out there. The book came out Tuesday but the library hasn't received its copies yet. You'd better believe I've got one on hold! The library system has plenty of copies. Be sure to get one. (the first few books were called the Barnstormers series, but don't let that confuse you. It's under the author's last name, whi
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Oh, wow. Just . . . wow. Some of you may already be aware of the Boogie Woogie blog, run by author/illustrator Aaron Zenz and his three kids. The fact that it may be the best blog out there in which kids participate in the discussion of children’s literature is evidenced by nothing so much as today’s video. I hope you stayed for the credits. This is their contribution to the James Kennedy 9o-Second Newbery Film Festival (to be held in my library in November) and if it doesn’t rock your socks off, nothing will. Failing that, James received some more submissions on his blog the other day, including this magnificent take on The Witch of Blackbird Pond from Mrs. Mrs. Powell’s 5th grade class at Laurelhurst School in Portland Oregon.
Remember, folks, to get you kids’ classes involved! Have them make a video of their own and submit! I admit that the bar is high, but there’s a lot of great stuff going down. We’d love more submissions. Keep ‘em coming!!!
Speaking of contests, I was tipped off about this fantastic video contest the Ottawa Public Library held for its teens. The Teen Tech Video Contest may sound like it’s YA fare, but many of the videos submitted were definitely of children’s books. And of the children’s books they covered, my favorite (hands down) was this take on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
It came it second to The Outsiders which, this being Ottawa, says that they are on the “outside” of society in a delightfully Canadian way. Be sure to check out some of the other videos going on there. These Ottawa teens have some mad talent. Big time thanks to Jane Venus for bringing these to my attention.
Picture book trailer time. I think the genius behind this take on the Katie Davis book Kindergarten Rocks is the first child featured here. Methinks the the child doth protest too much. In any case, if your cute kid quotient is low for the day, here is the perfect cure:
I read some series books this month, most of which have been reviewed countless times throughout the blogosphere, resulting in my "Mini-Reviews" feature. Just a quick synopsis and my thoughts on each title. Enjoy!
"The 39 Clues" series has appeared to be hugely successful so far. I had the chance to review books 2 and 3 this month, both of which had the same excitement and page-turning aspects as the first. In book 2, One False Note, written by Gordon Korman, brother and sister team Amy and Dan Cahill, along with their nanny Nellie are still traveling the world in search of the 39 Clues. Vienna and ultimately, Mozart, play a large role in this one.
Book 3, The Sword Thief, written by Peter Lerangis tkaes us to Japan in search of the third clue. The Cahill's Uncle, Alistar Oh, seems to be the only one that can help them locate this clue, but whether he is trustworthy or not is still yet to be determined. Lots of puzzles in this one, which makes it even more intriguing, resulting in some mind work as well!
I do have to make a complaint about The Sword Thief and though it may not be quite necessary, I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't state my thinking. The role of the "pit bull" in this third installment is absolutely horrible. I counted at least four instances where the kids were almost attacked by another team's pit bull or the dog was referred to as vicious or menacing (almost all of chapter6). Seriously? Haven't we moved on from this issue yet? I hate reading stories where a specific dog breed is stereotyped so badly that it takes my focus away from the plot and the characters and that is exactly what happened for me in this one. Not a happy camper here.
Book 4 is out in June and is being written by Jude Watson!
One False Note/The Sword Thief Gordon Korman/Peter Lerangis 160/160 pages Middle Grade Scholastic 9780545060424/9780545060431 Dec 08/March 09
Ok, moving on...I also read the first two installments of the "Blue Bloods" series by Melissa De La Cruz. Love them! After falling in love with the Luxe series earlier this month, the combination of rich people and vampires is awfully intriguing and De La Cruz can write one heck of a story!
Blue Bloods introduces us to the huge group of Manhattan socialites that just happen to be vampires as well. The plot focuses on Schuyler, a member of a very important Blue Blood family and the last of her line. When the old group of Silver Bloods, destined to kill Blue Bloods, returns and begins killing off members of their elite group, Schuyler knows there is trouble brewing but has a problem convincing others of the same thing.
Masquerade, book 2, brings even deeper into the Blue Blood world, showing us how evil rich vampires can really be...and how innocent. We learn more about Mimi and Jack Force in this novel, as well as where Schuyler's only living relative stands in with the rest of the Blue Bloods. More awesome descriptions of clothes and houses and lots of silly material things (which make us love these books so much). Oooh and the cover is great! Very creepy!
This series holds just the right mixture of action, romance, supernatural, and rich teens. It's like The Luxe gone vampire. Blue Bloods/Masquerade Melissa De La Cruz 336/320 pages Young Adult Hyperion 9780786838929/9780786838936 April 06/May 07
To learn more about any of these books, or to purchase, click the book covers above to link to Amazon.