Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Happy Halloween With Vunce Upon a Time

Happy Halloween Everyone! Here is Ashland, Oregon, Halloween is celebrated in a big way. Schools have Halloween parties and parades, and in the afternoon the whole town turns out in costumes for the annual Halloween parade. The costumes are often very creative. I remember that in last years' parade I saw a goldfish, a bag of groceries, and a fortune telling booth in the parade. I am not doing anything quite so exciting. My daughter and I are going to be going as a Snow Queen and a Snow Princess. I am sure that we will be finding glitter on our persons and out clothes for weeks to come.

Through the Looking Glass has a terrific Halloween feature where you will find a collection of books about Halloween. One of the books that I reviewed this year was Vunce Upon a Time by Jotto Seibold (who gave us Olive the Other Reindeer) and Siobhan Vivian. This book is delightfully funny and children will really enjoy getting to know a little vampire who is a vegetarian with a sweet tooth.

The publisher of this book, Chronicle Books, has created a splendid website that is packed with Vunce Upon a Time Halloween activites. Do take a look at this page and have a wonderful Halloween!
If you would like your own copy of this title drop me a line. I have one book to give away

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alan Gratz Blog Book Tour - Day Three

Today I want to tell you a little bit about Alan Gratz, the author of Something Wicked:

Alan Gratz is the author of the historical young adult novel Samurai Shortstop (Dial 2006), which was named one of the American Library Association's 2007 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. His second book, a young adult murder mystery based on "Hamlet" called Something Rotten (Dial 2007), was named an ALA 2008 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers, and a sequel based on "Macbeth, " Something Wicked (Dial 2008), is on sale now. He is also the author of the forthcoming novels The Brooklyn Nine (Dial 2009), and Nemo (Knopf TBA). A former bookseller, librarian, eighth grade English teacher, and TV and radio scriptwriter, Alan is now a full time novelist for young readers. He lives with his wife and daughter in Penland, North Carolina.

If you would like to read one of Alan's books you can of course go to a bookshop or the library to get a copy. You can also go to his website where there is a complete copy of his book Something Rotten for you to read. There are also reader's guides for both Something Rotten and Something Wicked. These guides will really enhance your reading experience of both books.

Please visit the other blogs that are participating in this tour:

the 160acrewoods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Hyperbole,, Looking Glass Reviews, Maggie Reads, Never Jam Today, Reading is My

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alan Gratz Blog Book Tour - Day Two

Welcome to day two of the Alan Gratz Blog Book Tour. Soon after reading Something Wicked, I was able to interview Alan. Here is the interview.

1) How did you get interested in creating stories that are somewhat based on William Shakespeare’s plays?
To tell the truth, it began with Horatio almost seventeen years ago. One of our first assignments in a Mystery and Detective Fiction class I took at the University of Tennessee was to create a detective for our fiction. I was also taking a Shakespeare class at the time, and I liked the character of Horatio from Hamlet. Not only was he down to earth and rational in ways Hamlet wasn't, he was also one of the very few characters who didn't DIE at the end of the play. I figured that was the kind of guy I wanted to be my protagonist. So I called him Horatio and based his practicality on the character from the play. Wilkes was just an invention--no real significance there. In Horatio's original stories, he was a thirty-something forensic detective. I liked the character I had created, but I didn't like his job, so I next recast Horatio as a columnist for a newspaper. When that didn't work, I made him the owner of an independent theater. I kept changing his jobs, looking for the right fit, but nothing worked. Then, years later when I was writing YA fiction, I had the idea to take Horatio out of mothballs and make him into a teenager. He was already snarky and a bit lazy, so I figured it was a perfect fit! But what to do about the plot? Well, I figured Horatio was already in a good plot as it was, and struck on the idea of remaking Hamlet into a modern day murder mystery. I've had a blast taking that idea and running with it ever since.

2) Your first two books are based on Hamlet and Macbeth. Do you see yourself doing one that is based on one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays, "Midsummer Nights Dream" perhaps?
You have, in fact, guessed the next play I'll be doing! If the sales hold up for Something Wicked, I'll be turning in Something Foolish, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. I figured after Macbeth I would need something a little lighter. It's more of a challenge, of course, because no one dies--but I've found a fun way to combine Midsummer and The Maltese Falcon, which are strange bedfellows indeed. :-) I also have ideas for Julius Caesar (Horatio on a college visit, at a toga party), and The Tempest (Horatio works as an intern at a Disney World-like theme park ruled by a "wizard" of animatronic creatures).
3) Something Wicked has a fair bit of explicit sex in the story. Did you at all worry that parents, teachers, and librarians might not like this?
Ack! Wait. There's no explicit sex in Something Wicked. Explicit sex, to me, is SEEING two people have sex, and I just don't go there. Yes, that the teens in Something Wicked have sex is explicitly STATED. I'll cop to that. And yes, I know that will keep some parents, teachers, and librarians from sharing my books with their kids, and I hate that. But I strive for verisimilitude in my YA novels, and in real life, many teenagers are sexually active. I think to pretend that all teenagers are chaste--or to imply that consensual, responsible sex is a bad--does a disservice to young adult readers. A book like that would run counter to what they're already experiencing in the real world. And I think we're not giving teenagers much credit when we assume that just reading about some behavior is going to make them go out and imitate it. Teens are curious about their bodies and the things they can do to feel good, and I would much rather a young adult satisfy that curiosity by READING about sex or drugs than go out and try to experience either one first hand.

4) Did you base the character of Horatio on someone you know?
As I said, he's partially based on Horatio from Hamlet. I also borrow liberally from Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, one of my favorite literary detectives. As for real life inspirations, no. I only wish I had been like Horatio in high school. He's smart, tough, a hit with the ladies, and he always knows the exact right thing to say. Reverse all that, and you have me as a teen. :-)

5) How do you get into the heads of teenagers so well?
First off, thanks for saying so! I'm never quite sure if I'm tapping into teens' heads perfectly, and I suppose until we all have chips in our brains like in M.T. Anderson's Feed we'll never know for sure how teenagers think. But I did teach eighth grade English for a time, and I got to know 12 and 13 year olds pretty well during that time. I could probably say too that I haven't grown up very much since high school, so maturity-wise, I'm pretty close to my audience. :-) There are some "adult" things I can't escape, like that pesky mortgage payment, but otherwise I like reading YA novels, watching programs aimed at teenagers, and hanging out with teen readers. I can't quite keep up with teen music though. That's beyond me.

6) When you wrote "Something Rotten" did you know that you would be writing a second book?
I knew I wanted to put Horatio into Macbeth, but I didn't know if I would have the chance. I sold Something Rotten as a stand-alone book, a one novel deal, but I deliberately called it "Something Rotten: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery," as a sort of wink-wink, nudge-nudge that I would like to write MORE Horatio Wilkes mysteries. When the editing on Rotten was finished, I approached my editor with a pitch for Something Wicked, and she eagerly bought it up. When I told her how relieved I was, she was surprised. "Oh, we always imagined this as a series!" she said. Ha. Well, they could have told ME! It would have saved me quite a lot of anxiety.

7) Your two other books are about baseball. Have you always had an interest in this sport?
I've been an avid baseball fan since high school, but before that I wasn't into much of any sport. I tried playing baseball in high school too--and I was a pretty good hitter--but I hadn't played youth sports consistently as a young kid, so I didn't have the skills in the field that so many others with years of Little League and travel teams had. So I guess I've been a much better fan than player over the years. I was also really into fantasy baseball for a long time, where you draft players based on how you think they'll perform, and then collate stats through the season and make trades with other owners. I was playing fantasy baseball so long ago that we had to send off our rosters each week to have a stat company crunch the numbers on a computer. These days, you can play fantasy baseball online with daily transactions for free. I have a few other baseball novel ideas, but I don't want to do them all at once. I have lots of other non-baseball ideas, and I don't want to get locked into being the guy who only writes about baseball...

8) You clearly have a decidedly unique sense of humor which allows you to laugh at yourself. Do you find that this helps you with your writing?
I do like to make fun of myself, and it helps that I'm such an easy target. :-) I figure if you can't laugh at yourself, you're not trying very hard. And I suppose it helps with my writing too, in that I don't take myself so seriously. I think if I did I wouldn't have been able to take two of the darkest, heaviest plays in the Western canon and have fun with them. Just the weight of taking on a master would have been too much for me. In Something Rotten, I have Horatio make a comment like, "I was a little tired of every no-talent hack without an original idea taking classics and 'updating' them," and that line has gotten me a lot of attention. People ask me, "did you write that to make fun of yourself?" and the answer is, "Of course I did!" I can't take myself too seriously. I'm not writing Deep, Meaningful Books here. If you want deep and meaningful, I can recommend a couple of good Shakespeare plays!

9) What kinds of books did you like when you were a teenager?
I didn't read much outside of school as a teenager, an oversight I'm playing catch up for now. What I did read in school that I liked were things from the canon, like the short stories of Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger, Crime and Punishment, Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby (maybe my favorite book ever!), Leaves of Grass, Huck Finn, and of course Julius Caesar and Henry IV. I had a healthy appreciation for the things we read in English--except, oddly, a lot of older British lit. I was never happier than to be done with The Canterbury Tales, and I never had much patience for the Romantic poets. Ha.

10) Are you at all interested in writing books for younger children?
I do have a squarely middle grade novel (ages 8-12) coming out next spring just in time for baseball season: The Brooklyn Nine. It's the story of nine "innings"--nine generations--of an American family from the 1840's to the present, and their connections to baseball. We focus on a kid in each story, and that kid grows up to be a parent in the next story, and a grandparent in the next. It was a pretty exciting and exhausting project, as I had the thrill and the challenge of researching nine different eras of American history and baseball development. I'm eager to see how it will be received. I also have an idea or two for picture books, but those are so tough to write well, and so tough to sell once you have something good. We'll see. I've always said, it gets more difficult to write the younger your audience is. With Ya, anything goes. With middle grade, it has to be clean, AND you have to worry about how to write something heavy enough to warrant a novel but light enough to have a middle grade protagonist be the hero. With picture books you're really in trouble, because not only does the content have to be exceptional, the words have to be PERFECT--and short. A lot of editors today want to see picture books with texts of less than 100 words!
That's like writing poetry, and as my college poetry professor can tell you, I'm no poet. :-)

Thanks for the interview, Marya! Oh, and if I can jump in with one more thing here at the end: To celebrate the debut of Something Wicked, my publisher is putting Something Rotten online for FREE until the end of November. Not just a chapter, not just an excerpt, but the WHOLE BOOK. I'm really excited about this offer, and I hope a lot of people take advantage of it. To read Something Rotten for FREE, go to and click on the link to the free book.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Alan Gratz Blog Book Tour - Day One

This month I have had a splendid time reading Alan Gratz's books. He has found a very compelling way to retell two of Shakespeare's stories. Using a punchy and contemporary style of writing Alan has his teenage hero solve two murders, that of Duncan in Macbeth in Something Wicked, and that of the King in Hamlet in Something Rotten.

For the next three days I will be highlighting Alan's newest book, Something Wicked. Here is my review of the book:

Something Wicked
Alan Gratz
Fiction (Series)
Ages 14 and up
Penguin, 2008, 978-0-8037-3666-5
Horatio Wilkes is going to a Scottish Highland Games on Mount Birman with his friends Mac and Banks. Both Mac and Banks are pretty serious about the games, donning kilts and participating in events at the games. Mac is pretty firmly under his girlfriend’s thumb and he does almost everything she asks of him. So when Beth announces that she wants to go to Madame Hecate’s to have her fortune told, Mac readily agrees – much to Horatio’s disgust.
Madame Hecate tells Mac that he will become “king of the mountain.” Mac is thrilled, believing everything that the fortune teller tells him. He is not best pleased therefore when he hears that Banks – his cousin – will not become king of the mountain, instead his will “own” it.
Mac’s father has long wanted to own the mountain so that he can turn it into a money making resort, but the man who owns the land, Duncan MacRae – who is Mac’s maternal grandfather - has always refused to sell it. That very evening Horatio finds Duncan MacRae brutally murdered. Evidence at the scene of the crime suggests that Duncan’s son Malcolm was responsible but Horatio is not convinced. Why would mild mannered Malcolm do such a terrible thing? It just doesn’t make sense. Furthermore there are other people around who had a much bigger motive than Malcolm. Mac’s father, Beth’s father, and Mac himself would all benefit if Duncan MacRae died.
In this second Horatio Wilkes mystery, readers will be taken into the American Scottish clans community, a community that has its own traditions, rules, and culture. Readers who are familiar with Shakespeare will quickly realize that this story is based on the tale of Macbeth, the ambitious Scot who could not let go of a dangerous dream. Alan Gratz’s gritty story shows how a simple ambition can become a corrupted passion. His characters are incredibly lifelike, and true to the feelings and thoughts that teenagers experience.
In his first book about Horatio Wilkes, Something Rotten, Alan Gratz gives a unique interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which is also set in modern day America.

Tomorrow look for an interview with Alan right here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Interview with Amy Bates and Amy Hest

Last week I read and reviewed a wonderful picture book that warmed my dog-loving heart. The dog who belonged to no one is not only wonderfully written but it is also beautifully illustrated. Wanting to talk to Amy Hest, who wrote the book, and Amy Bates, who illustrated it, I contacted them and asked them a few questions about their work.


1. You have illustrated many different kinds of picture books and chapter books. Was this book different in some way from the others?
This book was different for me because it allowed for a lot of the
narrative to take place visually. I loved the text and it was a lot
of fun. The author and the editor made it a real collaboration. I think the emotions in the book are ones that everyone can relate too.
2. How did you create the pictures for The Dog Who Belonged to No One?
All the illustrations are watercolor and pencil.

3. Do you have to draw a lot of sketches before you begin working on the final version of an illustration?
Sometimes. Sometimes it all comes together immediately. You can imagine I prefer the later :)

4. Did you use a model to create the image of the homeless little dog? If yes what was your model like?
I usually don't use models directly. However I did see a jack russell out walking one day, and I thought "that 's it! but with a hint of shaggy mutt thrown in.

5. You so beautifully captured the emotions of the dog in the story. Have you had dogs in your life?
I actually sort of think of my animals as people, even going so far as to pose in their position, so I can sort of "feel" their emotion. My kids think it is funny because if I am painting someone or something that is sad, I often have that expression on my face while painting. I did have a labrador when I was young. Unfortunately I have bad allergies, but I love other people's dogs! My kids are a great inspiration too.

6. The layout of the text and the artwork is so beautifully done in this book. Did you come up with this format or was that the work of a designer?
I wanted it to look old, maybe like a silent movie. we talked about some ideas, and the designer at Abrams did an absolutely beautiful job.

7. Have you always loved to draw and paint?
Always loved it. My Dad is great at drawing and we loved it when he would draw us funny pictures and play drawing games with us (although professionally he is a Professor of Computer Science ) also my Uncle is an Illustrator and a Professor, he taught me so much about the business and drawing the figure. My Grandma always encouraged me and filled me with a great appreciation for art.

8. Did you like to read when you were growing up?
My Mom would laugh at that question. The problem wasn't getting me to read, I guess it was getting me to stop. I lived in books. SO I loved reading and I loved drawing. If there was an interesting character in a book I liked to find all the details about that character and draw him/her. I liked visualizing the imaginary world that a book could make. I think of my work as a stage where anything can happen. And really what I do is one of the very oldest art forms.
All the way back to cave painting people were painting stories. I love stories.


1. The way in which the little girl in your story connects with the dog suggests that you know something about the child/dog relationship. Did you grow up with a dog?
Yes, we always had a dog when I was growing up. There was Sleepy ... there was Taffy ... then Rusty ... and Mr. Chips. The most misbehaving dogs in the world but we adored them .

2.What inspired you to write this story?
I wanted to write a love story .

3.What do you feel this story tells children?
It tells children that loneliness need not be forever .

4. In this day and age life can sometimes be so complicated. Do you think that we should simplify our lives somewhat and focus on the important things like family relationships, friendships, finding our own way, and appreciating the lives that we have? – These are all sentiments that I have picked up from your books!
Absolutely! Thank you, Marya, for getting me!

5. It would seem you that you have always loved books and made them a part of your life. What do you think we can all do to help our children appreciate and love books?
We should read to babies ... read to toddlers ... read to all kids ... read with joy and gusto and drama ... read!

Thank you ladies for giving us such wonderful answers and for letting us into your lives for a short while. You can find out more about these talented people on their websites:

If you want to know more about this delightful book take a look at my review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Giveaways - America: The Making of a Nation and Fanny

On October 13th I asked you to "Vote to make a difference." This Little Brown initiative was launched to help promote their book America: The Making of a Nation. This incredible novelty title not only makes the history of our country accessible to younger readers, but it also makes it interesting. I am delighted to be able to offer my readers a copy of this book. If you are interested drop me a line. Do take a look at my review of this title on Through the Looking Glass Book Review.

I also told you about Holly Hobbie's new book Fanny. In this new title Holly Hobbie explores the idea that it is all right to be different. One does not always have to be a part of the pack to fit in and to be happy. I have a copy of this book to give away as well. Many thanks to Little Brown for these giveaways.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The 2008 Cybils Award Nominations are in!

Though the winners of the Cybils Awards will not be announced for a few months, the final nominations are in. If you are not familiar with this award here is a little information as written by editor of the Cybils blog, Anne Levy:

"One of the most innovative aspects of the Cybils--something that differentiates it from other children's and YA book awards--is the fact that it's a grassroots effort to find the best in kids' books. Our nominations are drawn from the internet public, and our nominating and judging panelists comprise a broad cross-section of bloggers with a common interest in recognizing quality literature for children and young adults."

So, you, the reading public, made these nominations. Now it will be up to a panel of blogger judges to decide which of the splendid books nominated will be chosen to win awards. If you are looking for new books to buy for children this Holiday Season you might like to look at the nomination lists. You will find the best of the best here. For more information about this award please visit the Cybils Awards blog.

Calling all Harry Potter Fans - Want to meet J.K. Rowling?

To celebrate the launching of her new book The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J. K. Rowling is going to be hosting a special event at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Five lucky American children between the ages of eight and seventeen will be selected to attend this event. All your child needs to do to be considered is to write an essay of no more than 200 words about how they have helped others, which they need to send to Scholastic Books in New York City. Entries need to be in the hands of the people at Scholastic by October 30th so get writing! For more information and for all the official rules for the contest please visit the contest webpage.

Monday, October 20, 2008

First Book, Random House and The U.S. Deparment of Education give books to children

These days many people are feeling pretty low about the economy, they are worried about the future, and they are not hearing many feel-good stories. Here is a story about something positive that is being done. The federal government, a non-profit group, and a business, are working together so that children in need can have some much needed books in their lives. Here is the press release about this program:

"U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon and First Book Senior Vice President Lynda Lancaster have announced the availability of free books through the 2008 Back to School Book Donation. The initiative will make available more than 300,000 new Random House books, which will be distributed nationally to schools, libraries and literacy organizations serving low-income youth.
"Reading is the foundation of all academic success," said Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. "I'm proud that by giving children their own books, this partnership is helping to foster the love of learning in schools and communities across our country."
"There is no better way to transform children into readers than to grant them access to books and the power of book ownership," said First Book President Kyle Zimmer. "We are grateful for the reading heroes at the Department of Education and to our steadfast partner, Random House Children's Books, who have helped bring literally hundreds of thousands of books to children who need them most. That's thousands of children turning millions of pages, and learning the joy of reading one page at a time."
First Book is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. They provide an ongoing supply of new books to children participating in local mentoring, tutoring, and family literacy programs. Since its creation in 1992, First Book has distributed more than 60 million books to children in over 3,000 communities around the country.
"Reading is a gift that sparks the imagination and opens new doors for children of all ages," said Chip Gibson, president of Random House Children's Books. "Random House is proud to be part of the 2008 Back to School Book donation to help make a lifetime of difference to children in need."
Random House Children's Books is the world's largest English-language children's trade book publisher, creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats, from board books to activity books to picture books and novels. The company's website, offers an array of materials and activities free of charge for children, teens, parents and educators.
This announcement marks the latest phase in the Book Donation Campaign. The Campaign is a multi-year effort of the U.S. Department of Education, First Book and a host of major U.S. book publishing companies to promote literacy and supply books to children in need. Since June 2006, the Department, First Book and major book publishers have collaborated to distribute over 2.9 million children's books to schools, libraries and literacy organizations serving low-income youth across the country.
For more information on the U.S. Department of Education and First Book's book donation campaign, visit:
For more information on First Book, visit:"

I know that things are not rosy out there in the big world, but at least a few people are working together to bring some brightness into the lives of others. Surely we should take heart from this.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The National Book Award Finalists are announced and Samantha retires

This Wednesday the National Book Award Finalists were announced. The books are:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
What I Saw and how I lied by Judy Blundell
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks By E. Lockhart
The Spectacular Now by Tom Tharp.

I have, alas, only read and reviewed one of these titles, The Underneath, which I thought was quite remarkable. If you have read any of these books please let me know what you thought of them. The winner will be announced on November 19 at the National Book Awards in New York City. For more information about the National Book Awards please visit the National Book Foundation website.

Another piece of news that I would like to share with you is that American Girl's Samantha is officially retiring. Her books will still be available but that doll that has charmed doll lovers of all ages since 1986 will no longer be for sale in the American Girl stores and on the American Girl website. American Girl has put a "Share your Samantha Memories" page on their website for everyone who has enjoyed having Samantha in their lives.

“As one of American Girl’s most beloved characters, Samantha has been a friend and role model for millions of girls since her debut in 1986,” says Ellen L. Brothers, president of American Girl. “Moving Samantha to the American Girl Archives allows us to preserve her honored place in American Girl’s history and make it possible for us to introduce new characters and product offerings for our customers to enjoy.”

"Samantha, a kindhearted girl of privilege living with her wealthy grandmother in 1904, has captured girls’ imaginations with her compelling story of compassion and friendship in turn-of-the-century America. Although Samantha will be moved to the American Girl Archives, she retains her place within American Girl’s family of historical characters—nine-year-old heroines that give girls today a glimpse of what life was like growing up during important times in America’s past."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vote to make a difference

Show your children that their vote can make a difference in the lives of others. Visit the Little Brown America Your Vote Counts Page and help you children vote on a number of issues. For every ten votes cast, Little Brown will give First Book a book to give to a child in need.

This initiative by Little Brown was "inspired" by their new book America: The Making of a Nation.

A New Book by Holly Hobbie

Holly Hobbie has long been admired for the little girl character that she created many years ago. Her images of the child with the big bonnet has appeared on everything from lunchboxes to summer dresses. Then she brought us Toot and Puddle, a wonderful pair of little pigs whose stories reminded us of how important the simple things in life are. Now Holly has a new character to share with us. Meet Fanny on Through the Looking Glass Book Review

Little Brown publishing has created some wonderful Fanny activity pages for your children.

You can find out more about Holly Hobbie on the profile page that I have created for her.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Student Contest: President for the day

Peachtree Publishers is hosting a contest for school children. Teachers and librarians can ask their students to answer the question "If I were president of the United states for the day I would..." Three winners will be "selected to receive a complete library of Peachtree's 2008 picture books for their classroom. Contest winners will be announced November 4, 2008."

For more information about this terrific contest please visit the publisher's website. The contest information is at the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Calling all readers - It's time to nominate books for the Cybils

For the last two years bloggers all over the world have come together once a year to choose the books from that year that they liked the most. The books they have been chosen have then been given Cybil Awards. The process begins with members of the public nominating their favorite books in several categories. These are: Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Easy Readers, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Novels, Non-Fiction (Middle Grade and YA), Poetry. Once the nomination period is closed, a collection of knowledgeable bloggers get together to read the nominated books and to decide which of the nominated titles are the winners.

The nomination period is now open, so if you are a reader of children's literature, or if you read a lot to your child or children and remember the books that you liked, take the plunge and submit the names of your favorite books that were published in 2008.

To find out more about the Cybil awards and this process please visit the main Cybils Awards webpage. To nominate a book or books in the categories please visit the nomination webpage. Have fun!

Monday, October 6, 2008

David Macaulay Webcast

If you are a fan of David Macaulay's books then you might like to register for his live webcast which is taking place on Tuesday October 7th at 10:00am (EST). The plan is to talk to him about his new book The way we work, to see him talk to students, and to ask him questions, all in real time. To find out more about David Macaulay please visit his website.

Jumpstart's Read for the Record campaign is a huge success

On October 3rd children all over the United States participated in Jumpstart's Read for the Record campaign. Now in its third year, this campaign helps to raise money for the Jumpstart early education programs, and it also puts free books into the hands of children who do not have many books in their lives. So far the campaign has raised $1.5 million through the reading efforts of children, and 200,000 copies of Coduroy - the campaign's official book - will be donated to children in need. For more information about how this event went take a look at this Marketwatch article.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bookish Happenings in October

October is a great month for book lovers. In the United States October is National Book Month and I hope you will take this opportunity to read, discuss, share and enjoy books with the young people in your lives. Do visit the National Book Foundation website to get ideas about what you can do to make this a really bookish month.

October is also the month when we in the United States celebrate Teen Read Week. The week is from October 12th to October 18th and the theme for 2008, Books with Bite, is sure to provide teen readers with lots of entertaining possibilites. For more information visit the ALA Teen Read Week website.

The UK also has a book celebration during October. From October 6th to October 12th libraries, schools, and book shops will be participating in Book Week festivities. To find out more about this event visit the Book Trusted website. This years theme is Rhythm and Rhyme and I am sure you will be able to find all kinds of creative ways to make this week special.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jumpstart's Read for the Record Challenge

Don't forget that October 2nd is Jumpstart's Read for the Record Day. Here is some information about this very worthwhile event.

Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is a national campaign to encourage hundreds of thousands of children and adults to read the same book, Corduroy, on the same day, October 2, 2008. The expansive shared reading experience will raise public awareness about the early education gap that exists between income levels, as well as raise money to support Jumpstart’s national early education programs.

Each year, one third of America’s children arrive at their first day of school developmentally behind their peers and without the skills necessary to succeed at grade level. When children begin behind their peers, catching up, especially without additional assistance, is difficult and unlikely. Children who miss out on key cognitive, social and emotional experiences are more likely to repeat grades, drop out of school, and engage in criminal activity. To help children from lower-income communities advance academically in pace with their classmates, Jumpstart recruits and trains adult mentors to work one to one with the children and help build their reading, language and social skills. Last year, Jumpstart’s Read for the Record raised more than $1,000,000 to finance the organization’s early education work in low-income communities.

Jumpstart’s Read for the Record day is October 2, 2008.

The campaign will generate public awareness by creating the largest shared reading experience ever and by breaking the record set on September 20, 2007, when 258,000 people read the same book across the country as part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record 2007campaign. Participants can purchase this year’s official campaign book, Corduroy, at Hanna Andersson’s retail locations, through their clothing catalog, or online at Jumpstart will receive 100 percent of all the money raised through the sale of these special edition books, which will be available for purchase beginning this summer. Reading activities on October 2, 2008 can range from personal sessions between an adult and a child to big group events with hundreds of people gathering together for a large community reading session. For more information about getting involved, visit

One of the best things about reading is that it can take place anywhere and everywhere. Group reading events will be held in schools, libraries, hotels, playgrounds, offices, and homes. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is not limited to large events. Any child and adult can participate just by sitting down to read.

Parents, teachers, community members, college students, and children of all ages.

Banned Books Week - September 27 to October 4

Support the First Amendment, Read a Banned Book

I know this is little late, but I wanted to remind you that this is banned books week. I don't know about you, but the idea of banning any book appalls me. If we all work together we can make sure that this blatant attack on our right to read is thwarted.

You might be thinking that banning books can't be that bad a thing to do. Think again. These are just a few of the books that people have wanted to remove from libraries over the years:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Harry Potter series
Bridge to Terabithia
The Goosebumps series
A Wrinkle in Time
To Kill a Mockingbird
James and the Giant Peach
Where's Waldo?

You can see a more comprehensive list on the American Library Association website , and I think you will be surprised to see what is on this list.

Random house has created a fantastic website, their First Amendment First Aid Kit. On this site you will find out how truly frightening book banning is, and you will also find out what you can do to make sure that out First Amendment right is honored and that our books, and our right to read what we wish, are protected.

For more information about Banned Books Week take a look at these other websites and web pages:

The Banned Books Week website
The Info Please "Books Under Fire" article
What you need to klnow about Banned Books Week on
2008 Banned Books Week Report on

“[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”
—Judy Blume

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Book Book Tour with Jeanne DuPrau - Day Three

For this third day on the Jeanne DuPrau blog book tour I have two things to share with you. One is a bio of Jeanne, and the other is book giveaway. If you are interested in a SIGNED advanced reader's copy (ARC) of The diamond of Darkhold please drop me a line with your name and your address. Two winning entries will be chosen at random. Please remember that ARCs should not be sold or quoted from. If you win one of these giveways keep it and treasure it.

Jeanne DuPrau's bio:
Jeanne DuPrau was born in San Francisco, California. She credits her mother with inspiring her to read and write well. Jeanne’s mother would read her school papers and help her clarify and organize her work. Her mother encouraged her to look hard at her work and express herself clearly. At the age of six Jeanne wrote her first story, “Frosty the Snowman.” Jeanne still has the illustrated five-page story bound with yarn and written in crayon. Another influence in her early life was a seventh grade teacher who encouraged her love of the English language, grammar, vocabulary, and word usage. But she says that her imaginative side of writing comes from her love of reading. All through school she wrote and wrote. Some of the writing was for school but she also assigned herself other types of writing to do on her own: poems, stories, journals, and letters.

After graduating college Jeanne DuPrau worked as a high school English teacher, a technical writer for Apple Computer, an editor in educational publishing companies, and a freelance writer. Jeanne used her experiences, the people she knew, the books that she had read, and ideas that occurred to her as her subject matter.

Jeanne DePrau has lived in Menlo Park, California for over 23 years. She likes playing the piano and growing a big vegetable and flower garden. Jeanne and her small cairn terrier named Ethan enjoy long walks, naps, car trips, and working in the garden together.

To find out more about Jeanne please visit her website.