Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Welcome to the September Kidlit Carnival - a show to top all shows!

Grab your coat, put on your shoes - we're going to see a show, the greatest show on the Web: the Kidlit Carnival! We'll get tickets, have popcorn and soda, and see some amazing sights along the way. The stars of the show are bloggers from around the US and the world who are passionate about children's literature: a group otherwise known as the Kidlitosphere. Below you'll find a treasure of resources, an amazing array of books to read, and fascinating articles to read. Get ready to have some fun!

A carnival for all

This show is for readers, writers, teachers and parents who love children's books. You'll find news from the book world, reflections on the writing process and lots of book reviews. We'll start with some general pieces to get us in the mood, and then move to some Public Service Announcements before we get to the heart of the show: books for every reader!

A trailer to get us in the mood
As you take your seats, you might enjoy watching this book trailer produced by Kidlitosphere member Tina Nichols Coury for From North to South, by René Colato Laínez. This picture book tells the story of José, who misses his mother when she was deported to Mexico, and how he goes with Papá to visit her while she waits for her proper papers. Check out Tina's blog Tales from the Rushmore Kid for more information. I can't wait to get this for our school library.

News Flash:

This past July marks the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Lisa at The Book Mama wonders: Would you retire if your first novel won a Pulitzer, sold a zillion copies and became an Oscar winning film? This article is a fascinating look at a delicious literary mystery: will Harper Lee write another book?

Win a Skype Author Visit! Teaching Authors has a great offer to help classroom teachers and librarians bring authors to their schools through a Skype visit. Try their short back to school writing activity, a 6 word memoir, and leave a comment to enter to win.

Fight back against ignorance! Cheryl Rainfield alerts us to recent challenges to Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful book Speak. Cheryl writes, "I hope, too, that you’ll help speak out against this crazy silencing, this injustice. It is book banning and silencing like this that actually encourages rape and sexual abuse through the silencing of truth, and the keeping survivors from validation and support." This is a very important topic, and a thoughtful, passionate, personal reflection. Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing it.

Got your traveling shoes? Zoe at Playing by the Book is featuring a children's literature virtual tour of the United Kingdom. This month, she's going to Scotland to visit J.M. Barrie's birthplace and the Lake District to browse around the world of Beatrix Potter. Her tour will extend further south in England later this fall and winter.

We interrupt your show for a brief Public Service Announcement

The Cybils are coming - submit your nominations! The Cybils are the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. Their purpose is to reward children's and young adult authors "whose books combine the highest literary merit and 'kid appeal'", and to foster a sense of community among bloggers who write about children's and YA literature. Nominations for the 2010 Cybils begin October 1st, and close October 15th. Head over to the Cybils site for more information!

Autumn. Are the seasons changing in your neck of the woods? Is autumn on its way, or are you basking in the remains of summer? Visit Charles Ghinga's Father Goose site to peruse his poem "Autumn", and spend a moment thinking about how we know if autumn's on its way.

Our first acts: reflecting on the writing process

I hope everyone's had a chance to find their seats, get their popcorn and munchies, and is settling in for a great show. Here are a few pieces reflecting on the writing process.

"When light is added to junk"  At On Top of the Children's Lit World, Maryann Bennett reflects on the writing process, inspired by a workshop given by Rosemary Wells. When asked how she came up with new ideas, Wells told the audience that it's like having a junk world, and taking things out to look at them in a new light.

Time to PrayAt Read, Write, Repeat, Pat Zietlaw Miller shares an interesting interview with illustrator you should know: Ned Gannon. They talk about the process of illustrating, why illustrators usually do not have much contact with authors, and how Ned created the beautiful images for Time to Pray, with the setting in the Middle East, making them accurate and authentic.

How does a writer craft the setting for a picture book biography, wonders Michelle Markel at The Cat and the Fiddle. She notes that as a writer, she must vividly imagine the setting in a story before the story can flow. She immerses herself in the images and details of the geography, the culture and the times. I love the examples of other picture book biographies that Michelle shares, and her thoughts on how a writer can track down these details.

Andy Skimmer, of Demibooks, shares a post about how Stacey Williams-Ng and the team at Demibooks are writing a new ebook for the iPad: Astrojammies. I found it interesting to think about how writing an interactive ebook for the iPad is different than writing a traditional children's book. Stacey says that they are trying to create enhancements that really make the story come alive, not just gimmicks for young readers to touch and play with.

And now, the main event you've been waiting for:

Book reviews for kids of all ages!

The Other Half of My HeartHere at Great Kid Books, I'm featuring books about friendship this fall. I'd highly recommend Sundee Frazier's new book The Other Half of My Heart, about twin sisters Minni and Kiera who are each other's best friend and supporter. And yet their relationship is tested the summer they visit their grandmother and enter the Miss Black Pearl Preteen pageant. You see, Minni and Kiera are biracial, with a white father and black mother, and the two sisters look very different. This book asks readers to think about the impact of race on how each girl sees herself and steps into the world.

MirrorSusan Stephenson at The Book Chook shares a wordless picture book Mirror, by Jeannie Baker. With an introduction and author's note in both English and Arabic, the reader learns that the one boy in the story lives in Australia and the other boy lives in Morocco, in North Africa. This sounds like a fascinating comparison of how different the two boys and their families are, and yet how they (and we) share many things in common.

My Teacher Is a Dinosaur: And Other Prehistoric Poems, Jokes, Riddles & Amazing FactsAt I.N.K.(Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), Loreen Leedy shares her very funny new book My Teacher is a Dinosaur. Loreen starts by showing how much prehistory there is, and how almost all children's books written about this time period focus on dinosaurs. In this new book, Loreen starts with a newly formed Earth and follows through to the Ice Age. Each page spread has a rhyming verse, silly jokes, riddles, fun facts and full color artwork.

Survival at 40 BelowSpeaking of the Ice Age, Shirley Duke at Simply Science looks at modern day animals that can survive in the Arctic in the book Survival at 40 Below, by Debbie Miller. This explores how animals living in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, prepare for and survive the coming winter. Antifreeze frogs and fish who gulp air mix with animals that hide and hibernate. "The writing is beautiful and descriptive and wide, landscape orientation allows for full spreads that show the vast expanse of this land. Endpapers feature a map of Alaska and an inset of the park’s location within Alaska. An author’s note explains her 75 mile trek through the park and what led her to write about these animals that survive the extreme temperatures here."

The Lotus SeedAnother book with beautiful writing is featured on the Paper Tigers Blog: The Lotus Seed, by Sherry Garland. Paper Tigers is focusing on refugee stories this month, and The Lotus Seed, with its "simple and poetic" narrative is perfectly pitched for young children, allowing them to see the horrors of a family being forced to feel their home because of war, and yet surviving and starting a new life while carrying a small part of their old life with them. Paper Tigers also wants to share the deeply moving and compelling book Palestine, by Joe Sacco - a unique form of comics journalism that examines life in Palestine under Israeli occupation.

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the HolocaustAt The Children's War, a blog exploring children's and YA books about World War II, Alex Blaugh recommends The Grand Mosque of Paris, by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland Desaix. This is a moving story about people helping others in time of great peril. "When the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940 and began their roundups of Jews for deportation, it did not take long for the rector of the mosque, Si Kaddour Bengharrit, to realize that the Muslim community could do something to help the Jews – they had both the space and the means to do this. And so the Muslims of the Grand Mosque began to rescue Jews."

RevolutionMargo Tannenbaum, at the Fourth Musketeer, is also fascinated by history, especially historical fiction. This month, she's featuring the YA novel Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly, is a time-travel or split time story that has a modern teen Andi discovering the diary of Alex, "a young actress who dreams of a career on the stage, but through a twist of fate, becomes a companion to Louis-Charles at Versailles and later in Paris." Margo says that teens will be riveted by the genre-busting blend of historical fiction, realistic contemporary young adult fiction, and even some paranormal fiction too.

Charlotte Taylor, at Charlotte's Library, shares a wonderful list of 75 books she's reviewed in her Timeslip Tuesday regular feature, with time travel and time slip to different eras, ranging from pre-Roman, ancient Europe to historical China to 19th century America, and many other places and time. Stop by to check out this great resource!

The Brooklyn NineGale Gauthier, at Original Content, thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel The Brooklyn Nine, by Alan Gratz, noting that this is "Baseball the way I like it." Gratz shares the story of nine different generations of the same Brooklyn baseball-loving family, starting in 1845 and going all the way through 2002. "Many of the different generations happen to coincide with well-known, some might even say stereotypical, moments in American history, such as the Civil War or the Jim Crow period. But this is a book for middle grade students, and it seems to me as if it introduces young readers to those historical periods. For child readers who aren't taken with history, reading about a sport they're familiar with may be the lead in they need to enjoy their past."

OK, it's time to get up and stretch a while. The clowns need to come out on the stage for the intermission.

Here are some funny books to share with kids

Dirtball PeteBecky, at Young Readers, shares Dirtball Pete, by Eileen Brennan. Becky says that this picture book is a very cute, very sweet book about how Dirtball Petegets his chance to shine in the school play, no matter how dirty he is.

Boom!Eva Mitnick, at Eva's Book Addiction, reviews Boom! by Mark Haddon. She writes, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in the United States any more." This book is filled with wonderful British lingo that the editors left in. This tale has two intrepid lads, plenty of sinister aliens, a brave and reckless big sister, lots of fun and a few loose ends. It sounds like a great ride!

The Kneebone BoyJen Robinson, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, reviews The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter. Jen loved this "darkly humorous middle grade mystery/adventure sure to appeal fans of the Lemony Snicket books and Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys". She writes that it will keep kids guessing until the very end, which sometimes is a very good thing!

Smells Like DogRobin Gaphni at The Book Nosher, recommends Smells Like a Dog, by Suzanne Selfors. This delightful book will appeal to boys and girls alike. It's an adventure with laugh out loud moments, and suspense that makes you hold your breath waiting for the resolution.

My Best Friend Is As Sharp As a Pencil: And Other Funny Classroom PortraitsJeff, at NC Teacher Stuff, shares My Best Friend Is as Sharp as a Pencil, by Hanoch Piven. A young girl uses similes and object art to tell her Grandma about school that day. For example, her teacher has a voice "as sweet as candy", and so the picture of her teacher shows a mouth made out of candy. It sounds funny and a great teaching tool!

Chicken BigAnother funny book is Chicken Big, by Keith Graves. Anastasia Suen says at Picture Book of the Day, "You know the Chicken Little story – but have you heard the other tale – the one about Chicken Big?" The early reviews for this look like it's a book full of fun, foolishness and ridiculous statements - perfect for kids looking for a laugh, and knowing that kids really do know more than grown ups!

Danette Schott at Help! S-O-S for Parents shares Harry the Happy Catepillar Grows, a delightful book that helps parents teach their child that change is a normal part of life and not to fear it.

A quick note from our sponsors: Uh-oh, like the Grammy's, we're running over time! But there are so many great books to share! So read on.

Anna HibiscusJennifer at the Jean Little Library shares a great series, Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke. This beginning chapter book is set in Africa, and shows modern life in a middle class African family: a series that is "intriguing, different, and completely delightful".

Black Hole SunKate Coombs, at The Book Aunt, reviews Black Hole Sun, by David Macinnis Gill, which "takes place on a future Mars, where governments have risen and fallen, leaving behind the shreds of civilization, including our guy Durango." Terse action and complex characters will draw young adults into this science fiction.

Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America's FarmlandOver at Brimful Curiosities, Janelle shares Country Road ABC, by Arthur Geisert. This lovely book captures a way of life along Iowa County Road Y31 with beautiful illustrations that really share what life is like in a rural farming community.

Lori Kerrigan at Parenting Squad shares her favorite 5 books on adoption, looking for a tender balance that captures the love of family and offers a chance for thoughtful, caring discussion.

Have you ever wondered about the history of fairy tales? Jenny Schwartzberg explores historical versions of Cinderella over at Jenny's Wonderland of Books. It's a fascinating description of her exploration of old texts.

BonesSteve Jenkins has an amazing ability to get kids to look closely at nature. Tammy Flanders explores his newest book Bones, in her blog Apples with Many Seeds. It is full of informative illustrations, interesting facts and tidbits, and plenty of inspirations for cross-curricular inspirations.

A Wish and a PrayerLori Calabrase, at Lori Calabrase Writes!, recommends an endearing tale, A Wish and a Prayer, by Beth Bence Reinke. Jason wishes for his pet parakeet to come back home after flying out the window, but when his mother asks "Is a wish the same as a prayer?" Jason thinks about that. That evening, Jason closes his eyes and prays for Sunny to come home.Lori writes, "This is an endearing tale that reminds everyone about the power of prayer and the importance of tapping into God's love."

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques CousteauAaron Mead at Children's Books and Reviews, looks at The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, by Dan Yaccarino. This picture book biography combines great storytelling and shimmering illustrations, creating an engaging, interesting story with great reader appeal.

The GiverAmitha Knight at Monkey Poop: A Literary Weblog of Unparalleled Eloquence reflects on The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Amitha shares her take on recently reading Lowry's classic dystopian novel about the importance of individuality and choice. She writes, "I wish I’d had the courage to read it (when I was young) because I wonder what sixth grader me would have thought."

Ann Troe at shares about MarbleSpark, an independent publisher of personalized children's books, through an interview with Phil Haussler, MarbleSpark's leader. Ann is especially excited to be involved in MarbleSpark's Project Open Book, a community-generated children's book for charity.

For the grand finale: a few reflections on teaching and reading

Fiona Leonard, at A Fork in the Road, has a lovely post in honor of International Literacy Day, about reading on her new Kindle, sharing books with her daughter, and the pleasures of getting hooked by a new series. Fiona writes that with all our focus on testing and comprehension, "it's all too easy to forget about passion, about unadulterated joy of reading a book you just can't put down."

Sandie Mourao at Picture Books in ELT writes about deep and dark picture books that appeal to older readers, and especially about using picture books with English Language Learners. Sandie features the work of Shaun Tan, and Australian author illustrator with rich, complex, imaginative picture books that are full of puzzling relationships and meaning. If you work with older students, you should definitely check out Sandie's thoughtful, detailed post.

Amanda Hartman, at The Literary Family, writes about supporting a child who is bilingual, and how important it is to seek out bilingual books. Amanda has some great recommendations for children's book series in French. She also reflects on the importance of reading in different languages as a way to encourage vocabulary development, fluency and reading.

Time to go home

It's late, the babies are fast asleep in their mother's arms, and the little kids are rubbing their eyes. I hope you've enjoyed the show and found some interesting resources to explore.

The Kidlitosphere is a wonderful place, with a supportive community. Check out its home page here. Fellow performers, please let me know if I've made any mistakes or omissions. There was no ill-intent, just a hard working blogger late at night! Just email me at greatkidbooks[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll fix it as soon as I can.

Please note that if you make a purchase on Amazon using the links from this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). This will be used to help purchase more books to review and share with children. Thank you for your support!