Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blog Improvement Project Assignment #2.2

2009BIP 150x210

Sophisticated Dorkiness: Assignment # 2 Blog Improvement Project

My 'feature' of Young Readers is a shared feature. Ladybug and Snugglebug are helping me out here. :) Who are Ladybug and Snugglebug, you ask? Well, Snugglebug is my third and most prolific baby reviewer. What does a baby reviewer do? Well, he or she tests out books for me. Sometimes this involves some taste-testing. Snugglebug is the son of Ladybug, a friend I've had for over ten years. (He's almost one! I can't believe how fast time goes!) She lives nearby (relatively speaking of course) so I always set aside some books for Snugglebug to review for me. His past contributions can be found here. He'll be reviewing books every first and third Friday.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

If you're curious...

Natasha of Maw Books fame has interviewed me for her Reader Spotlights feature.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Adventures of A Plastic Bottle

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling is a picture book in Little Simon's line of Little Green Books. The book is made from 100% postconsumer waste recycled paper.

I think the cover gives you a pretty good indication of what to expect. When your plastic bottle is smiling and waving at you, you know going into it that the book is going to be flirting with dinky.

What we've got is a diary from the point of view of what will be, what is, and what was a plastic bottle. Here is an entry from January 30th:

Hi-ho, Diary!
Today, was so fun! Being a bottle is great! I was clipped onto a BOTTLING LINE. Wheeeee! I flew down the line and went round and round and up and down. Along the way I was washed and STERILIZED. Then I was filled with fresh water! I even got a spiffy label. They're putting all of us bottles into boxes now. I can hardly wait to see the rest of the world! More adventure awaits me...

With words like hi-ho and spiffy (just to name a few) you can clearly see this one is proud to be dinky. However, I will say this. It was informative. It was clear. I learned while reading the book. It may not have much to offer in entertainment, but it does offer readers user-friendly facts. And so it's not without value. So for what it is...a teaching tool...it's not bad at all.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snugglebug Friday: Reviews of the Just Like Us series

Just Like Us! Series. Stockham, Jess, 2008

Books in this series: Having Fun!; Together!; Making Friends!; Taking it Easy!

This is a series of four books. Each book has the same basic premise and layout. On the left page is the text and on the right page is a picture of animals or birds. Then the reader lifts the flap to see two children in the same activity as the animals or birds. The text might read something like, "Raccoons are hide-and-seeking," with the facing page reading, "We are too."

Snugglebug and Ladybug love this series. Snugglebug loves the animals and Ladybug loves the children. She especially loves the children because they encompass so many races and disabilities. There are several pictures portraying a child with a hearing aid and another has an eye patch. Ladybug loves the way this book teaches Snugglebug that we are all the same regardless of race or disability. Especially poignant since Snugglebug too wears an eye patch occasionally.

This is a great series. We are enjoying reading all four books over and over.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Little Green Books: My First Garden

My First Garden is part of Little Simon's Little Green Books series of environmental and eco-friendly books for kids. The book itself is made from 100% recycled material. It's a concept book--a book teaching children about colors. We've got green cabbage, purple turnips, orange carrots, yellow squash, red tomatoes, etc. What do we have after a day in the garden with mom? The makings of 'tasty' vegetable soup*.

This is neither here nor there in a book review. But cabbage and turnips will never be tasty in my book! Green zucchini, that would be tasty. Or green broccoli. How about brown mushrooms, and white onions?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thank You, God

Thank You, God (various authors), illustrated by Sophie Allsopp. 2009. (January of 2009) Simon & Schuster.

The full title of this one is Thank You God!: A Year of Blessings and Prayers for Little Ones. The art is by Sophie Allsopp. The quiet and subdued colors are so soft and inviting, in my humble opinion. The text, such as it is, consists of short quotes--some from poems, some from songs, some from longer works--taken from a variety of authors and sources.

Each two-page spread has a handful of quotes celebrating or recognizing the four seasons of the year--spring, summer, fall, winter--and various holidays, special attention being given to Easter and Christmas. Sprinkled throughout the book are ten envelopes that open to reveal little prayer cards. There is an eleventh card that is blank so your child can write a prayer of their own.

Sample quote: Now let the skies be joyful and earth sing back her praise; let all the nations worship the God of endless days.
Sample prayer: Thank you, God, for Easter time. Thank you for reminding us of Jesus' love for us and help us to appreciate everything we have, which we take for granted. Amen.

I thought it was nice to see people wanting to teach little ones gratitude and joy. I'm not sure how user-friendly the envelopes are. I don't know how little hands could work the envelopes and if they would hold up to repeated use. I suppose this depends on the child. Some being more careful and precise than others.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Clementine's Letter

Pennypacker, Sara. 2008. Clementine's Letter. Pictures by Marla Frazee.

I love Clementine. I do. And it is my hope that you'll be inspired to seek Clementine out on your own. This is her third adventure, the previous two are Clementine (2006) and The Talented Clementine (2007). "Our young heroine, Clementine is spunky and vibrant leaving a mark wherever she goes. Easily noticed by teachers and principals but not necessarily for the right reasons. But despite some behavior problems, Clementine remains a funny, lovable character....Clementine always has good intentions, but sometimes her plans backfire or have unforeseen-to-her consequences."

In Clementine's Letter, Clementine's character is challenged--or perhaps I should say tested--when her teacher, Mr. D'Matz, has the opportunity to win a research trip to Egypt. He may win which means he would be gone for the rest of the school year. The idea that Mr. D'Matz, her teacher, the only teacher who has ever understood her, could leave is upsetting. A substitute? Really? How could her favorite teacher ever be replaced by anyone else?

To say that Clementine has difficulty with the substitute teacher is an understatement! As this week--long week through the teacher's eyes I'm sure--drags along, Clementine gets in and out and in and out of trouble. When the class is given the assignment to write letters about their teachers for the judges, Clementine takes the opportunity to let it all loose. Sure that if she writes a scathing letter about how horrible he is, he'll not win the contest and be returned to the school where he belongs.

I love Clementine. I love her narration--whether at home, at school, or at play--it's a joy reading about her life.

Here's how the book starts off, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of...ouch! There is a lot of poking that goes on in third grade."

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blog Improvement Project Assignment #2.1

2009BIP 150x210

Sophisticated Dorkiness: Assignment # 2 Blog Improvement Project

Part 1 — Brainstorming Ideas:

Read the articles (below) and find a technique that you think will help you brainstorm, then spend some quality time brainstorming.

24 Things to do When Stuck for a Topic to Blog About
Brainstorming Techniques for Bloggers
9 Steps to Better Blog Post Ideas

Keep track of the topic ideas you’ve brainstormed for a time in the future when you need some ideas. Come back and comment on this post or sign the Mr. Linky below with a post about brainstorming techniques you found particularly helpful or other brainstorming techniques you use.

I read the articles. But here's the thing. When you're a book review blog, you're a book review blog. It doesn't take brainstorming to come up with things to blog about. You've got plenty of 'things' to blog about. These 'things' are called books. And if you're like me, your house is already full of them. So you don't even have to brainstorm how to come up with books to blog about. I don't want to sound bitter. I'm not. And I think the articles could prove useful to other bloggers. Especially to bloggers just starting out, or to bloggers with more diverse coverings.

The issues I deal with as a book review blog are specific.

Choosing which book to read next.
Making time to read the book.
Making time to review the book.
Deciding between publishing reviews as I go--as I write them--or scheduling them in advance.

I have other concerns of course.

I think about how to promote my blog so that it reaches the right audience.
How to keep myself motivated so that I'll post on a consistent basis--be that two times a week or seven.
How to improve the layout and look of my blog.
How to write in such a way to encourage conversation, dialogue, comments.

Maybe brainstorming to write articles or focused bibliographies once or twice a month would be helpful and bring in new readers. Who knows? It's something I'll keep in mind.

Of course, I'd be happy to pull in other types of posts occasionally.

I did gift-giving list/link type posts last fall. It's hard to judge how 'successful' this type of post was since without comments there's no determining if people liked the posts, thought them useful or thought it was irrelevant, or whatever.

I've written a post or two on the importance of parents reading to their children--yes, babies too!

My focus is so specific here that most of the other 'ideas' get written up at Becky's Book Reviews. If there's a debate, scandal, or frenzied reaction going on in the kidlitosphere, I'm more likely to write about it at Becky's Book Reviews.
If there are memes going around, again, I'm more likely to do at Becky's Book Reviews.
If I'm featuring an author interview or taking part in a blog tour, I'm going to put it on Becky's Book Reviews because it has the bigger readership.
If I'm hosting a challenge, unless it's specifically designed children's books (younger end of children's books--under ten crowd), I'm going to be posting about it at Becky's Book Reviews. Which means the Young Readers challenge is here. As are all the roundup posts.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Baby Bible: Stories About Jesus

Currie, Robin. 2004. Baby Bible: Stories About Jesus. Illustrated by Cindy Brownsberger Adams. FaithKidz.


Currie, Robin. 2008. Baby Bible: Stories About Jesus. Illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo.

This board book story-bible is great for young readers--babies, toddlers, preschoolers. The book presents a nice variety of stories centered on Jesus--from his birth to his ascension.

Each story is two pages. One of text. One of illustration. The text consists of title, scripture reference, narrative (with interaction prompts), and a concluding prayer.

For example,

Jesus At the Temple
Taken from Luke 2:41-50

Jesus and His family went on a long trip to the temple in Jerusalem. They walked and walked.

Tap your hands on your knees.

They liked to be with all their friends and pray and learn about God.

Fold your hands to pray.

In the temple lived teachers who read lots of books. Jesus asked them many questions. They were surprised that He knew so much.

Show me a surprised face.

You can learn about Jesus by reading the Bible--God's Word.

Thank you, God, for books to learn about Jesus. Amen.

I won't mention the illustrations because with one edition being out-of-print now and the newer edition being a different illustrator--one I haven't even seen--it wouldn't be all that helpful unless you happen to want to seek out this older edition and buy it used.

I will say this--I loved this book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free To Be You and Me

Thomas, Marlo. 2008. FREE TO BE YOU AND ME: 35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION. Running Press. 129 pages.

Apparently, FREE TO BE YOU AND ME is a bestselling classic from the seventies that I was clueless about*. Then again, I was more of a kid of the eighties so maybe it isn't that surprising. The book has been updated and newly published. What has changed with this release is the artwork or the illustrations.

The book features many things--it's like a variety show--there are poems, songs, comedy sketches, short stories, etc. Chances are you'll find pieces that you love, pieces that you like, and others that you'd just as soon not repeat.

In a way, I think Free To Be You and Me is a product of its time**: addressing gender, race, and other society-concerns. The book focuses on equality--especially equality between the sexes. Gender roles are tackled and deconstructed and then some. When books like "William's Doll" would have been more shocking and controversial perhaps. (There's also a story about divorce, "Zachary's Divorce.") But in other ways, there are elements of the book that are timeless.

*According to wikipedia, it was a record and songbook (1972) and later a television special (1974).
**There are bits that feel a little after-school special-ey. Which isn't a bad thing. It's okay to embrace nostalgia.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Child's Day: An Alphabet of Play

Pearle, Ida. 2008. A Child's Day: An Alphabet of Play.

This one is self-explanatory isn't it? An alphabet book featuring children at play. (A is for Act, Z is for Zoom.) What would make a book like this unique--worth your time--are the illustrations. (The children are all colors, all cultures--but they're faces are featureless.) And that's something so subjective, it would be hard to predict how YOU'll react to them. So I thought I would share what I could. I find the art interesting. Some really grab me. Some are bold. Some are subdued. All are expressive.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Young Readers Challenge: Month One

It is time to share any reviews you might have written for the Young Readers Challenge. (Sign ups are still going on here.)

If you don't have a link to share, you can always just talk about your books in the comments themselves.

As for me, I've read House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. If you haven't read any of the Pooh books, you really should! I also read Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker.

Leya has read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Debi has read three picture books. Read about them here.

Shel Burns has been busy reading as well! Here are a few of her reviews.

BookPSmith has read A Bear Called Paddington. And The Mother Daughter Bookclub.

Tif has read The Good Liar by Gregory Maguire.

Kristi's ongoing list is kept here.

What have you been reading? If you have a link, I'll add it to the round-up above. But if you don't have one--don't have a blog--no worries, no stress. Just mention in the comments what you've read so far.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Smithsonian Notable Books 2008

Read Smithsonian's list of Notable Books for 2008.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Knitty Kitty

Elliott, David. 2008. Knitty Kitty. Illustrated by Christopher Denise. Candlewick Press.

Knitty Kitty, you guessed it, is about a cat that knits. What does she knit, you ask? Why she knits things to keep her three little kittens warm and cozy.

Knitty Kitty sits and knits.

First comes a hat, then comes some mittens, and last but not least a scarf. But what happens when these three little kittens give away their presents--give them to the snowman in their yard? How will three little kittens stay all warm and cozy now? Knitty Kitty has a solution! Read and see for yourself.

I enjoyed this one. What I loved about it--however--was the detail of the illustrations. How observant are YOU? Do you see the story going on behind-the-scenes? Did you catch on about what these playful little kittens were up to before the text does the big reveal? If you didn't catch it the first time, go back and read it a second time. It adds a whole new layer to this book perfect for winter time reading.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Froggy Green

Walker, Anna. 2009. Froggy Green. Kane/Miller. (Pub. March 2009) (Originally published in Australia).

"Froggy Green" is a Toddler Tale--a book that isn't quite a board book, yet not a picture book either. (It's sturdier than the traditional picture book. Yet more-grown-up than a board book.) This book is all about colors. Everyone seems to have a favorite color. (Of course, it may be a different favorite color next week, or next month...but) Each of the kids in Froggy Green has a favorite color: fireman red, fairy pink, sunshine yellow, monster purple. But the kids all have at least one thing in common. Can you guess what it is? I scream, you scream, we all scream for....

This one is a nice and fun book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Never Talk To Strangers

Joyce, Irma. 1967/2009. Never Talk To Strangers. Illustrated by George Buckett. Random House/Golden Books.

This is one strange book. At first I kept saying to myself, "they published this, really?" Then I read that it was a 'classic' golden book from the 1960s--1967 to be more exact. That clarified it a little bit for me. I can see at least one use for Never Talk To Strangers: to present to a classroom of college students as an example of didactic literature. What does the book offer to readers? Let's see. Rhymes mostly on the silly side. Nostalgic-looking illustrations with an odd flavor that can only mean the 1960s*. And a message that is repeated on practically every page.

If you are hanging from a trapeze
And up sneaks a camel with bony knees,
Remember this rule, if you please--
Never talk to strangers.

If you are shopping in a store
And a spotted leopard leaps through the door,
Don't ask him what he's shopping for.
Never talk to strangers.

If the doorbell rings, and standing there
Is a grouchy, grumbling grizzly bear,
Shut the door. Your mother won't care.
Never talk to strangers.

You're getting the idea I'd imagine. Animals. Crazy clothes-wearing animals represent the concept of stranger on each page of this "classic" little book for kids. Of course, they present a few exceptions, if your parents (and/or teacher) know the strange animal in question, you can talk as much as you want. The only other exception? You can always talk to the easter bunny because everyone knows him (and he's harmless.)

Not only is the message repeated over and over and over and over again. It's presented in a way that's weird at best and confusing at worst. Animals are not humans. They don't walk around wearing clothes. They're not the ones posing threats to kids. "Strangers" aren't weird looking, different looking, glaringly obvious threats. "Strangers" are people like you and me. Men. Women. All ages. All sizes. All colors. Some could be dangerous. Others aren't. Because you can't tell by looking at someone if they're a threat, then it's best to be cautious. But not freaked-out-silly.

The truth of the matter is, that sometimes it's not "strangers" that present the greatest threat to kids. Family members. Friends of the family. Acquaintances. So yes, it's important to talk to kids about safety. But this book isn't really the answer.

What do YOU think? Did you grow up with this book? Was it part of your childhood? Do you plan to read this to your grandkids? Are you just discovering this book? Do you plan to read it to your kids?

*Personally, I find the illustrations a bit scary. But that's just me, maybe?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Planet Earth: Baby Penguins

Baby Penguins (Jan 2009) is a board book in Scholastic's Planet Earth series. (The book is printed on recycled paper.)

If you (or your little one) likes Happy Feet and have developed a fondness for penguins, then you'll find much to enjoy. Photographs and simple text together tell a story about a baby penguin surrounded by family and friends. Personally, I love to see photographs in books for kids--I like the realness, the details. A few well-selected photographs can tell so much more than cartoon-like illustrations.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling?

Hills, Tad. 2009. Duck & Goose. How Are You Feeling. Random House. (Board Book)

I haven't read all the books in the Duck & Goose series by Tad Hills. But the few I have read, I have enjoyed immensely. I love this pairing of friends. In this board book adventure, we see ten emotions illustrated: hopeful, selfish, proud, frustrated, scared, patient, sad, happy, angry, loving. This identify-your-emotions concept book is fun. Fun because we've all been there. My favorite illustration? Frustration.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Books Are For Reading

Becker, Suzy. 2009. BOOKS ARE FOR EATING READING. (Random House) (Board Book)

What a FUN concept for a board book. This one is sure to please both mommies and babies. Why? It will give little ones something to chew (or drool on I suppose) and mommies (and daddies) something to read. Here's how this one begins,

Books are for reading,
not eating.
Crayons are for writing,
not biting.
Feet are for stomping,
not chomping.

Isn't it a cute concept? I love the rhymes. It's just as adorable as can be. In a good way of course!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm a Happy Hugglewug

Sharkey, Niamh. 2009. I'm a Happy Hugglewug. Candlewick. (International Lit.) (Board Book)

I'm a bit at a loss of words about the Hugglewugs. I think this is a personal reaction. I mean I don't think you'd be going 'huh?' necessarily. I think the publisher says it best:

Laugh and play the Hugglewug way! A fun exploration of family life from an acclaimed illustrator.

Meet the Hugglewugs, a brand-new family – in fact, a brand-new species! Follow them as they go about their everyday lives – singing, eating, going to school, running, sliding, skipping and, of course, hugging! A great introduction to first words and counting for the very young, Niamh Sharkey's bold and bright illustrations bring these energetic new characters to life. So join in with the Hugglewug songs, games, activities and rhymes!

It's more of an experience than a book. I think lack-of-story might be one way to say it. Lots of words, but not one story in particular. There are songs, rhymes, games, etc.

"It's time for Hugglewug School!"

Here comes a Hugglewug
through the window.
Here comes a
Hugglewug through
the door.
Here comes a Hugglewug
around the corner.
Hugglewugs! Hugglewugs! Hugglewugs!
At Hugglewug School we learn to....

Any guesses? Rhymes with door. They're a bit too over-the-top in love with themselves for my taste. But maybe for its intended age group--2 and 3 year olds...Hugglewugs are irresistible.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snugglebug's review of I Love My Daddy

Galvin, Laura Gates. 2007. I Love My Daddy.

Snugglebug loves this book. Miss Becky explained it well when she reviewed it, so Snugglebug would just like to add his own kudos to the author. This is a great book especially for a little one who is a Daddy's Boy Deluxe!

Becky's review:

Drawing from scenes in nature, I Love My Daddy uses simple text and illustrations to discuss the many reasons why fathers are wonderful and loved and needed. For example, this is how it begins, "I love my daddy because...He always likes to see me play. He keeps me safe and warm each day. My daddy helps take care of me." One reason--usually--per spread. The sentences are short, sweet, and simple.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Knut: The Baby Polar Bear--A Snugglebug Review

Knut: The Baby Polar Bear

Ladybug has read this book so many times to Snugglebug that she has the text memorized. Snugglebug enjoys reading the book while cuddling his own stuffed polar bear. Interestingly enough, at 7 months, he made the connection between the story and the stuffed animal. Babies are smarter than most people give them credit. Miss Becky said it best in her review of the same book, "Simple text, actual photographs. The way it should be." We agree and highly recommend this book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 9, 2009

Questions from Little Hearts

Bostrom, Kathleen Long. 2009. (Pub. February) Questions from Little Hearts. Illustrated by Elena Kucharik. (288 pages)

This wonderful book gathers together FOUR books into one collection: What is God Like? What is Prayer? What About Heaven? and Are Angels Real?

It uses rhyme. But the rhyme stays on the good side of dinky. In other words, it doesn't cross the line into dinky. It actually works. Now, the rhyme isn't 100% perfect, there are a few places in all four books as a whole, where the rhythm or the rhyme doesn't quite flow perfectly. But if I were to give it a grade--it'd definitely be an A.

The format is question and answer. They'll be a poem asking a series of questions. And then they'll be a follow-up poem answering those questions (and so much more!).

The book uses Scripture. After both set of poems, you'll find a "Bible References" section that repeats the second poem--in bold--but this time you'll find scripture verses and references. For each line of that poem, you've got scripture proofs that it really is so.

The book is multicultural in that the illustrations are diverse--God isn't just for white folks after all. Granted, this isn't a big deal. But I like to see all sorts of children represented. And perhaps just perhaps it could have been done better. But it works.

The illustrations. I didn't love the illustrations. I did like them however. They have a Precious Moments-ish feel about them. Bordering between cutesie and dinky. I think they work relatively well. Personally, I like a different type of illustration style better. (More realistic, less greeting card) But they're nice enough, good enough.

To give you a taste of the poems...

I can't see you, God,
so please give me a clue:
Do you look like me,
and do I look like you?

Are you big or little?
Are you short or tall?
Can you really see me
when I am so small?

Do you like to whisper?
Do you like to shout?
Can you sing or whistle?
I'd like to find out.

Are you strong or gentle?
Are you ever sad?
Do you have a temper
like me when I'm mad?

Where do you live?
In a house in the sky?
How do I know
you are somewhere nearby?

Do you love me always,
or just when I'm good?
I don't always do things
the way that I should.

I have lots of questions
to ask you like these.
I wonder if maybe
you'll answer them, please?

I just love it. I do. There's an easiness to it. A naturalness that just makes this book work well. If you've read my blog long, you know that I can be harsh when it comes to picture books and rhyming. But in my opinion, this one is truly great in its field.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just to clarify...

I'm not whining or having a woe-is-me, my-life-is-awful moment about reviewing books here for Young Readers. I *like* reading books. I *like* reviewing books. I'd rather have too many books that need to be read than too few. So I'm not complaining that I have this huge problem or anything. Really. Just trying to figure out what works for me here and now so that I won't reach that point where I'm all woe-is-me.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Reviewing Picture Books..Rambling Thoughts from an Inconsistent Reviewer

I had a realization yesterday. Not during the writing of that post. But several hours later. See. Already something good has come from this! (The first task for the Blog Improvement Project.)

I love reading board books, picture books, chapter books.
I do.
But I don't *love* writing reviews.
Here's why...

I think that picture books are so very subjective.

You can love the text, but hate the pictures.
You can love the pictures, but hate the text.
You can love both the pictures and the text.
You can hate both the pictures and the text.
In addition to the love/hate options...you've got so many other responses:

best book ever,
too cute,
too glittery,
just okay,
nothing special,
very dinky,
extremely awful,
so what?,
who is this for?,
why was it published?
never again!

What one person loves, another person will see as a waste of paper altogether. Trying to find words to justify why you feel the way you do about a book--loved it, hated it, whatever--can be difficult in some cases. It's more of an instinct. You either have a taste for something, or you don't. If we happen to have similar tastes in books, then you might find we agree and that you can "trust" my thoughts on these books.

While I feel comfortable talking about the text of picture books--quality, style, rhyming and rhythm or lack thereof, I feel completely intimidated when it comes to talking art and illustrations. I just know "I like it." "I love it." "So pretty!" "Look at the details!" Those being if my response is positive. Some books I hate the art. But I won't go there.

On top of all that, as if that wasn't enough, there is the undeniable fact that adults read picture books differently from kids. Sometimes adults love a book kids just hate. And sometimes kids love a picture book that adults hate. So while mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, could just think a book was divine, the kid involved could think it was seriously-bad.

So I'm considering changing up some of my policies. It has always been my policy that I review every book I read. But I don't think I can do that for this blog. Not anymore.

I'll either

a) only post reviews of books I really love and enjoy
b) only post reviews of books that I have something to say good or bad (but not post about the ones where I had a "so what?" "who cares?" "why was this published again?" "what's up with this?" response)
c) post mini-reviews of books I read but don't have that much to say enough to justify their own posts. Like having one post about multiple books I've read, but only a few sentences (extremely short) "reviews."
d) combination a and c.

If feeling obligated to write a post on every book I read is making me feel burned-out and sluggish. Then I've got to do what I can do to make this work for me.

I may also try to come up with some general questions to ask about every book or some standard or format to get me started thinking (and writing) for when I'm stumped.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 5, 2009

Goals for 2009

The first task for the Blog Improvement Project.

Edited to add: More thoughts about the Blog.

Before I can look forward to 2009, and create some new goals for the new year, I have to reflect back on where I've been.

I started Young Readers in July of 2007. And that first year I had 101 posts in six months. Not horribly bad. But not quite what I wanted either. I don't know if I was naive to think I could do a post every day or not. In 2008, I posted 232 times. There were four months out of the year--July, August, September, October--where I seemed to have everything under control. Averaging five or six posts a week. I was comfortable in my routine. The other months I was still struggling a bit to find time to post.

I suppose I have several issues going on:

a) I'm not ever quite sure if Young Readers should remain Young Readers or if I should merge the content back into my main blog, Becky's Book Reviews.

On the one hand, I like having all my board books, picture books, early chapter books together. If I were a parent, I would find it convenient to have only reviews of books appropriate for kids. Without having to wade through all the other content on Becky's Book Reviews--my challenges, my YA novels, my reviews of adult books, my memes. Having a specific focus--book reviews for kids age 0 to 10--can be a good thing. You know what you're getting each and every time you visit.

But on the other hand, I'm not seeing much payoff. I just don't think that Young Readers has even a tenth of the readership that Becky's Book Reviews has. My stats are dismally low comparing the two. And there aren't as many comments either. Now I know that there are a few readers--hey Cynda--who keep up with Young Readers. But I don't have much "proof" that readers are out there. That they care.

Because I feel invisible, I feel okay slacking off. I feel like no one will notice if I miss a day or two or three. Hence why there are great big gaps in my posts.

I don't know if the lack of readership is because

a) I'm not consistent
b) I'm not providing quality content
c) less interest overall--more readers care about books for older readers 13-to-adult
d) parents with young readers have less time for blog reading in general, so they only follow one or two
e) parents with young readers don't have a clue about blogs to begin with, let alone mine
f) people who visit my main blog aren't aware of this one
g) people who click on blogger profile name, Becky, only visit one of the blogs I'm author of...and most likely it isn't Young Readers. It's Becky's Book Reviews. Which I suppose is as it should be. After all, it is my main blog, my baby.
h) maybe they can sense that Young Readers will never be "my baby" the same way that Becky's Book Reviews is.
i) My main readership (BBR) is not from the kidlitosphere, but from the challenge crowd and/or the general book bloggy world.

b) Do I have the time and energy to divide my time into thirds? What am I getting out of keeping everything separate? What amount of time should I be spending here?

I have a problem with balance. Technically speaking, it only takes a few minutes to read a picture book. Each book is read at least twice--that is if it's a board book or picture book--and sometimes I even take it to another person for feedback--mom, sister, friend, Sunday School class, etc. I'll then review it. Sometimes reviews take ten minutes to right. Sometimes they take a bit longer. Theoretically speaking, I should be able to set aside thirty to forty minutes a day. But for some reason, I'm not able to make myself do it every day. I don't know if it's lack of discipline or lack of motivation.

So is it realistic to set a goal for four books a week? I don't know. I know I have a problem with delivering 7 a week. Sometimes, I'm lucky to get in 2 or 3 a week.

I don't know how to do outreach. I think my blog is meant for parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents, aunts and uncles, godparents, anyone and everyone who has a "young reader" or two in their life and wants to know which books are being published, which ones are good, which ones are great, etc. How do I bring in new readers? How do I let others know about the blog?

I'm clueless as to how to go about that.

So my goals: to get a clue! Does that count? No? Okay, how about these:

To determine once and for all which direction I want Young Readers to take. Should I keep this one separate from Becky's Book Reviews?

To be more consistent in blogging. To have twenty posts per month at least.

To try to give equal time to books reviewed for this site.

To create/maintain a blogroll for this site.

To feature more books by baby reviewers.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

How Do I Love You?

How Do I Love You? by Marion Dane Bauer. Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. 2009. Scholastic.

I just love this board book. I do. The illustrations by Caroline Jayne Church had me at hello. The little girl, her curly-curl-curls, I just loved her from the get go. This book is a poem. A poem from a parent-to-a-child.

How do I love you?
Let me count the ways.

I love you as the sun
loves the bright blue days.
I love you as the bee
loves a fragrant flower
I love you as the thirsty duck loves a sudden shower.

It goes on, of course, but I wouldn't dream of quoting the whole book to you! I admit that this one might be considered cutesy. And for some folks, cutesy is a place to avoid at all costs. There is such a thing as too cutesy after all. But for me, personally, this one worked.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 2, 2009

What Is God Like?

Lewis, Beverly. 2008. What is God Like? Illustrated by Pamela Querin. Published by Bethany House.

I just love this one. Mainly for two reasons--the incredibly beautiful illustrations by Pamela Querin that I just love, and the scriptures sprinkled throughout the book. The framework of this story is simple. A father is going away on a trip--presumably a business trip--leaving his two children--a boy and a girl, a brother and sister, to wonder big things about a big God.

"But don't forget--even when I'm not here, God is always with you."

Each two-page spread reveals just a little bit more about God. Each spread highlights a particular scripture. (Scriptures used include: 1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 John 3:1, Matthew 10: 29-31, Psalm 139:1-2, 4, Exodus 34:7, Psalm 33:6, 9, Exodus 15:26, Nehemiah 9:6, Isaiah 54:10, Psalm 4:8, Psalm 145:16, Genesis 1:25, Psalm 139: 13-14, Psalm 145:18, Psalm 107:1.) The story shows a brother and sister being kids--acting like kids--but also thinking and caring about big things.

I enjoyed this one. It reminds me of "Kid Talk"

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Young Readers Challenge 2009

To sign up, leave a comment on this post.
Please make a note to come back ever-so-often to check back in and update everyone on your progress.
I plan to (I will make a note in google calendars as soon as I hit publish) POST a challenge progress entry on the Young Readers blog the FIFTEENTH of every month (Jan-December). If it is after the fifteenth, and you don't see a post up for you to leave a comment/link. Please email me a gentle reminder. Give me 24 hours for the 'gentle' reminder to work. And then if that still doesn't get me going, then email me again!

Read 12 children's books in 2009.
'Children's books' are defined as anything written to be read (or read aloud) to children 12 and under.
Examples of children's books are: board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books.
No list is required. If you choose to post one, you can change it as needed. But it isn't required at all.
Audio books work.
Rereads are acceptable, but try to mix it up old and new if you can.
Overlaps with other challenges are acceptable.
You may consider yourself 'finished' with the challenge if/when you complete the twelfth book. (You could finish it January if you're ambitious. But there is no requirement to read one book per month all year long.) If you want to keep going past twelve books, that's fine. I won't stop you!

If you want to challenge yourself further you might consider going with a theme:

*Read twelve picture books published in 2009
*Read twelve children's fantasy titles published since 2000
*Read twelve children's books that have been made into a movie
*Read three books on shapes, three books on numbers/counting, three books on the alphabet, three books on colors.

You get the idea. You can make it as simple or complex as you like!

Book PSmith
N. Vasillis
Maw Books
J. Kaye
Bent Bindings
Shel Burns
Kisha's World
Pam's Postings
Wandeca Reads
Ms. Bookish

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Toddler Bible

James, Bethan & Yorgos Sgouros. 2008. My Toddler Bible. Published by Tyndale.

This is a Bible story collection board-book featuring sixteen stories from both the Old and New Testaments. What stories do we have? Creation (But no Adam and Eve), Noah's Ark (Noah gets two of the sixteen actually), Joseph (coat, no slavery), Moses (as a babe with great promise), David (just David and Goliath, no being King), Jonah (but without the temper tantrum at the end), Daniel (lion's den), the rest of the stories are devoted to Jesus--from birth through resurrection. The stories are presented simply and matter-of-factly. Here's an example of Moses:
This is baby Moses.
His mother hid him from the mean king in Egypt. God made sure he was kept safe. When the princess found Moses, she looked after him.
God had a job for Moses.
When he was grown up, he led God's people out of slavery in Egypt to a land where could love and worship God.
See? Short and sweet. There are plenty of missing stories--I'm curious as to why there isn't an Adam and Eve story, or an Abraham story for that matter. (Though now that I think about it, Abraham is most famous for being willing to sacrifice Isaac, so that wouldn't be age-appropriate.) But the stories we do have are good ones belonging in any Bible story collection. They're safe and a bit cleaned up. But I think that has more to do with being age-appropriate--do concepts of slavery, cruelty, war, etc. really belong??? There will be a time and place for the fuller stories to be shared.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers