Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cybils Press Release


Cybils2007whiteCHICAGO – Will Harry Potter triumph among critical bloggers? Will novels banned in some school districts find favor online?

With 90 volunteers poised to sift through hundreds of new books, the second annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards launches on Oct. 1 at Known as the Cybils, it's the only literary contest that combines both the spontaneity of the Web with the thoughtful debate of a book club.

The public's invited to nominate books in eight categories, from picture books up to young adult fiction, so long as the book was first published in 2007 in English (bilingual books are okay too). Once nominations close on Nov. 21, the books go through two rounds of judging, first to select the finalists and then the winners, to be announced on Valentine's Day 2008.

Judges come from the burgeoning ranks of book bloggers in the cozy corner of the Internet called the kidlitosphere. They represent parents, homeschoolers, authors, illustrators, librarians and even teens.

The contest began last year after blogger Kelly Herold expressed dismay that while some literary awards were too snooty – rewarding books kids would seldom read – others were too populist and didn't acknowledge the breadth and depth of what's being published today.

"It didn't have to be brussel sprouts versus gummy bears," said Anne Boles Levy, who started Cybils with Herold. "There are books that fill both needs, to be fun and profound."

Last year's awards prompted more than 480 nominations, and this year's contest will likely dwarf that. As with last year's awards, visitors to the Cybils blog can leave their nominations as comments. There is no nomination form, only the blog, to keep in the spirit of the blogosphere that started it all.

See you Oct. 1!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Why? The Wars Years

DePaola, Tomie. 2007. Why? The War Years.

Tomie DePaola, in addition to picture books, has been writing a successful line of chapter books. Titles include 26 Fairmont Avenue, Here We All Are, On My Way, and What A Year. Within this series is a sub-series called The War Years. Why? is the third title in that series. (Others include Things will NEVER Be the Same and I'm Still Scared.) The series is historical. The author is recounting what life was like when he was a child. Why? is no different, though it is substantially darker than 26 Fairmont Avenue. The book opens with the New Years celebration. It is officially 1942. Big changes are on the way for the family and the nation that is now at war. The book deals with issues big and small--from school and listening to the radio to hearing the devastating news that his cousin Anthony has been killed in the war. It has an emotional ending with no resolution. Perhaps the next book in the series will show them learning to cope with the pain, loss, and confusion. Or maybe the book is designed to show that there is no resolution, that the shock of it really never goes away. That there are no tidy endings in war. Either way, I think the series will continue to be a success. I wish, however, that I had been more familiar with it before I read this one. I had read the first two--26 Fairmont Avenue and Here We All Are--but I had not read the others--specifically the two in the War Years series. I think it would have been more enjoyable--less abrupt and disjointed. But still, I imagine that the overall series is great.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mama's Saris

Mama's Saris by Pooja Makhijani. Illustrated by Elena Gomez. 2007.

Mama's Saris is a sweet story of a mother and daughter bonding. In preparation for the daughter's seventh birthday, the two are in the mom's room getting all dressed up. The mother is looking through her trunk of saris, looking for one that is just right for that special day. With each sari in the trunk, comes a story--a memory. Along the way, the daughter begins asking her mother to let her wear a sari--to dress in "grown-up" clothes, to be just as beautiful and special as her mom. She wants nothing more than to 'look just like' mom. It is a beautiful, sweet story that every person can relate to regardless of culture.

I really enjoyed this one. The illustrations are beautiful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fred Stays With Me

Coffelt, Nancy. 2007. Fred Stays With Me. Illustrated by Tricia Tusa.

Fred Stays With Me is the story of a girl and her best friend, Fred. Fred, in case you haven't noticed, is a dog. A rather playful and sometimes troublesome dog. But in all cases a loveable one. The girl, I'm not sure if she's ever named, has parents who are divorced. Sometimes she lives with her mom; sometimes she lives with her dad. The book shows that even though she's bounced back and forth from one loving home to the other--one is never viewed as "better" than the other--one thing is constant. Fred. Fred goes with her everywhere. He is hers and hers alone. While some things change, Fred never does.

When my mom and I have pizza,
or when my dad and I eat peanut butter sandwiches,
Fred waits for crumbs.

At my mom's, Fred barks at the poodle next door.
At my dad's, Fred steals socks.
But Fred always has time to play.

The text is simple. The illustrations are great. Tricia Tusa has done an excellent job there. Overall, Fred Stays With Me is an enjoyable picture book. It really captures what love and affection there is between owners and pets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hungry Monster ABC

O'Keefe, Susan Heyboer. 2007. Hungry Monster ABC. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.

I have a weakness for monsters. Particularly hungry monsters. Cookie Monster. Hungry Thing. My secret alter-egos. So I was very happy to see Hungry Monster ABC on the shelves, and eagerly grabbed it up. What happens when ten hungry monsters visit Ms. Tubbins' classroom? A lot. Most of what happens is quite messy. All of it quite fun.

Ten hungry monsters
visit school today.
They're here to learn the alphabet
the hungry monster way.

The "hungry monster way" is a fun, messy, hands-on learning experience. Sometimes it is the children--particularly the little boy in the red and blue striped shirt--giving the instruction, and sometimes it is the monster matching letters and words together.

L is always lunchtime
when monsters are around.
They want their grilled cheese sandwiches
with bacon nicely browned.

They hope that M's for Mango,
a messy, juicy treat,
because they like to end their meals
with something very sweet.

When the alphabet is exhausted--and by the time they reach X, Y, and Z, everyone will be exhausted--the teacher frightens them away with scary words: homework, grades, and test.
Overall, Hungry Monster ABC is a rhyming picture book that offers fun and giggles to those just getting ready (or starting) school. The book does come with flashcards, but don't let that frighten you away. There is plenty of story along with the "educational" aspects of the story.

The Apple Doll

Kleven, Elisa. 2007. The Apple Doll.

Lizzy is a young girl with a common fear: the fear of starting school, the fear of not being able to make friends. But with the help of the girl's favorite apple tree and some creativity, both fears are overcome rather well.

Lizzy loved her apple tree. She loved to pretend it was a skeleton rattling in the autumn wind...a gingerbread cake with snowy frosting...a blossomy springtime cloud...a leafy summer circus. She loved to eat its apples. Apples for crunching, apples for munching, apples for applesauce, cider, and pies. The day Lizzy started school, she picked her favorite apple of all. It was round as a ball, warm as the sunlight--too happy to pack in her lunch box.

This apple is too special for munching. No, it is about to have a special honor--becoming the girl's friend and starting life as an apple doll named Susanna. Susanna also accompanies Lizzy to school--at least on the first day. Soon, the girl realizes that there are plenty of friendly children she can play with instead of an apple doll. But Susanna is no less important. As the weeks pass, Susanna's looks begin to fade away. And I began to fear the worst. (After all, how long can a piece of fruit with a twig body last?) Luckily, her mother remembers how her grandmother made her a dried-apple girl when she was growing up. And fortunately, she still remembers how it was done. Now this special doll can last a lifetime.

The book concludes, as you can imagine, with instructions on how you can make your own apple doll. I really enjoyed this one, and I think that others--kids and adults--will like it as well. It is the perfect read aloud for this time of year.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Five Shiny Stars

Several months ago, Scholastic started a new line of books specifically for babies and toddlers called Little Scholastic. (Read what Publishers Weekly had to say here.) From the very first book I received, I loved this new series, this new line. Today I am highlighting Five Shiny Stars. It is in many ways a simple concept book. The concept? Counting backwards from five. The surprise? Well, let's just say there is a surprise ending that is sure to delight readers young and old.

Five shiny stars were twinkling at the cat,
Looking very pretty in the sky like that.
One of the stars found the perfect place to hide...
Leaving four shiny stars and a cloud outside.

The illustrations are great. I love the cat. (Then again, I've always been a cat person). And I think that the rhyming, rhythmic text is perfect. The repetition is fun as well. As the same words are repeated for each number...

Four shiny stars were twinkling at the cat,
Looking very pretty in the sky like that.
One of the stars found the perfect place to hide...
Leaving three shiny stars and some clouds outside.

I think you can get the basic idea now. I'm sure this one will be a hit with the big "surprise" at the end. This book is a real treat.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

When Mum Was Little

Today I bring you When Mum Was Little written and illustrated by Mini Goss. This picture book comes courtesy of Australia. Kane/Miller is the American publisher; it was published in 2004.

As you can see from this bright cover, When Mum Was Little takes the young readers back to the psychedelic sixties--1969 to be precise. (Who knew that I could spell psychedelic without looking it up?) A little girl is asking her mother to tell her stories about when she was a little girl. And through words and pictures, today's young readers find out about this 'groovy' time. The text begins, My mum wasn't always a mum. She was little once, just like us. That was in the olden days. Things were different then. The picture shows a mom with three children gathered near. Closer observation of the illustrations show that this is a special occasion--the mother is turning thirty-nine. (For the record, at my house it doesn't take a birthday for "tell me a story about when you were...." to get started!) What are some of things the mom remembers and shares with her children? Roller skates, the moon walk, going to the hairdresser with her mom and grandmother, watching her mother get dressed to go out, the birth of her baby sister, going to the beach, buying candy when it was cheap, etc. The book ends with the mother telling her children that for really interesting stories they should ask their grandmother what life was like when she was a little girl. And I think the illustrations show a pause. Like a pause before a really long story. The grandmother has a look on her face like she is getting ready to talk, talk, talk!

What do I love about When Mum Was Little? Well, though it's set in Australia. I think it rings true for any time and place. I think it is natural for children to want to hear stories about when their parents were children. Stories about their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Growing up--and even to this day--there is nothing I like better than listening to family stories. "Tell me about the day I was born...." "Tell me about what you used to do...." I love to hear my mother talk about her childhood. Especially I love to hear about what she did when she went to visit her grandma! I also love to hear her tell stories on her brothers and sister! I think When Mum Was Little shows positive family interactions and a healthy love for family traditions. It will be easy to transition from reading this aloud to creating your own family story time. While the books intended age group is probably too small for any large-scale family tree/family history project. The sharing of simple stories, looking at photographs together, etc. would be quite appropriate. Especially if the parent could share pictures of what they looked like when they were the child's age!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Millie Waits For The Mail

Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier was originally published in Germany in 2006. The American publication is 2007, and the publisher is Walker & Company.

Millie is a milk cow with one serious hobby. Her favorite thing to do? Scaring the mail carrier each and every day. As soon as the farmer is done with the milking, Millie stands on guard watching, waiting, and anticipating the arrival of the mail. "Every day Millie searched for a new hiding place...On the days the farmer didn't get any mail, Millie felt so let down." The mail carrier is one unhappy guy. He HATES delivering the mail to the farm. He HATES that cow. So he contemplates a way to tame his foe...Can Millie and the mail carrier ever get along? Is there a way for everyone to be happy at the end of the day? Read and see for yourself. This is one fun adventure!

Of course, everyone has heard about dogs chasing and scaring mail carriers. But this *new* twist on an old story is so clever, so funny, so enjoyable. It is really too fun to miss! It has earned two starred reviews--Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

Alpha Oops

Alpha Oops by Alethea Kontis and illustrated by Bob Kolar is a fun, light read about the day when Z (and the rest of the letters) decided to change things up a bit when it came to the alphabet. A, the natural leader, had some issues to work out, of course. He didn't like being bossed around by the letter Z. But all works out rather well in the end. It's a comical read that "kids" of all ages will enjoy.

I think this story would pair well with Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. And it is especially appropriate for this time of year--back-to-school.