Sep 21, 2016

It's CYBILS Time Again:

After sitting on this announcement for more than a week, I can finally share the news. I've been chosen to serve as a Cybils Round One Panelist in 2016 for Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction

Stay tuned for details about when and where and how you can nominate your own favorites from 2016 releases in each and every category. Once that nomination period ends, I and the many other panelists will get to work reading, examining, reviewing, considering, reflecting, ... and eventually reducing very long lists to the finalists for round two judges to consider.
In the process I (we) will be reviewing, sharing, recommending, and celebrating many amazing titles, so it's a win-win all the way around.
But for now... I'm dancing! (Not as cute as Snoopy here, but the spirit is the same!)

Sep 13, 2016

Revving up for Bedtime: RACE CAR DREAMS and MORE

Nothing reveals the wide range of tot-temperaments as clearly as bedtime. Some wind down willingly with a warm bath, a snuggle, and a sleepy-headed story. For others, the setting sun triggers escalating energy requiring a very different bedtime book from the likes of GOOD NIGHT MOON.  

Running Press Kids, 2016

For those whose motors rev instead of idling at sundown, RACE CAR DREAMS might lure the speedsters into bed long enough to listen to a story a time or two through, gradually idling into their own dreams. 

Written by Sharon Chriscoe and illustrated by Dave Mottram, Race Car is reluctant to leave the track but makes eventually its way into the car wash then rolls on down the road to park under the reading tree. 

Interior Spread, used with permission
The car, its ever-present buddy, Wrench, and even the scrub brush are personified with simple but appealing expressions. With generally solid rhyming text the gradual transition to sleep plays out in night-hued backgrounds under starry skies. Race Car finally succumbs to sleep when his tires literally fold under him, not unlike some bedtimers whose legs must give out before they finally let their eyelids droop. 
It's no surprise when Race Car dreams and finds itself right back on the track, winning the race at the checkered flag. Speedway fans will especially enjoy the topic-related vocabulary.

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

A similarly energetic cast of characters make an appearance in 10 LITTLE NINJAS, the August release written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Nate Wragg. Both a counting book and a bedtime book, the gradually diminishing and diverse horde of ninja-astronaut-adventurer-role-players resists bedtime successfully until a mom-figure repeatedly puts a halt to their persistent pursuits. 
The crisply-rhymed text, exuberant antics, humorous  patterns, and role-specific vocabulary make it a rich source for repeated readings. This one could be especially helpful in multi-child households.  

Chronicle Books, 2011

There's no more important time than bedtime to match the right book to the right interest, and the success of other specialized titles demonstrate that the market can support well-done offerings. Author Sherri Duskey Rinker and  illustrator Tom Lichtenheld prove that with GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE and STEAM TRAIN, DREAM TRAIN.
Chronicle Books, 2015

As long as the there are kids who need to sleep (Hmm, could that define infinity?) there will be a need for bedtimes books with special themes and varied characters. The common thread of rhyming text, deep-hued and soothing backgrounds (even when portraying energized events), and word choices that are both repetitive and engaging make all of the above worth a try in any household.
RACE CAR DREAMS and 10 LITTLE NINJAS could be your best bedtime friends. Give them a try.

Here's the blog tour schedule for RACE CAR DREAMS to check out what others think about that recent release:
9/7 MomReadIt
9/14 MamaBelly

Sep 11, 2016

History Comes to Life in Picture Books- and Historical Novels

It's been a busy few weeks (and months) as the launch date nears for Book Two, BJORN'S GIFT, in the trilogy that developed from my debut novel, ODIN'S PROMISE. In the run-up to release day I've been privileged to provide guest posts on several blogs. 

Today, the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, my post on UNLEASHING READERS blog goes live, here. In it I linked to a wonderful post by Donalyn Miller in which she shares ten important books about 9/11. 

My post emphasizes the importance of including picture books among the titles shared, especially for older readers before launching novel studies.  I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it, consider subscribing to Ricki and Kelley's blog, and click through to Donalyn's post. Those of us old enough to have experienced the unforgettable 9/11 and all that followed find it hard to imagine that the learners in our schools have no living memory of that time. They need to have meaningful access to major historical events, and we can all gain a great deal by reading books on those subjects, especially ones intended for younger readers. 


Sep 2, 2016

Everything (and EVERYONE) Is BEAUTIFUL, In Its Own Way!

One of the most important aspects of the current climate surrounding children's literature is the wide recognition that books for every age need to be considerably more representative of the population at large than they have been until now. The general public is becoming more aware of active efforts within all levels of the  publishing world to generate a universe of books for ALL kids and to support ALL those who create them. The best possible site to learn more about these efforts is the organization WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKSI hope you'll click through and explore it. 

As you would expect when dealing with a massive and traditional industry, change does not come overnight. What's exciting, though, is that CHANGE really IS coming. One example is a picture book release that might well have made it into print before this movement  but now should be met with genuine fanfare, for good reasons.
Running Press Kids, 2016
BEAUTIFUL is written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Its very simple text frames long-standing expectations for girls from a fresh perspective. You know the kind I mean:
"Beautiful girls have the perfect look."

McAnulty  relies on the illustrations to display the ironic and humorous intent of her statements and illustrator Lew-Vriethoff  does not disappoint.

Interior spread, used with permission
For example:
"Beautiful girls smell like flowers."

Interior spread, used with premission

Beautiful girls know all about make-up.

These lines and all of McAnulty's text parrot the all too familiar expectations of society, absorbed at all too young an age. In this book they take on a more inspiring interpretation with the full-speed-ahead, no holds-barred participation in life demonstrated by these beautifully diverse little girls.

I'm curious about the pitch-line McAnulty must have used to convey the clever irony of her text. This is one of the best examples of the magical symbiosis of image and text in the picture book format. Lew-Vriethoff's vibrant, dynamic young girls would leap off the pages except that these characters are so fully engaged with their own fantastic activities and with each other that they can't be bothered to worry about  those holding the book in their hands. Their energy, independence, and acceptance of themselves and others are an inspiration to anyone, any gender, and any age. 

Whether this picture book came about due to rising consciousness about diversity within the publishing community or if it had been a work-in-progress for decades that finally found its publisher match, it is long overdue and should be a welcome addition to collections in classrooms, libraries, and homes. That includes putting this one into the hands of older readers, including adults who've lost touch with the limitless nature and potential of children who happen to be girls. 

Just ask yourself how often a girl-child's image is posted on social media then generates comments focused on many of these entrenched labels: She's so... beautiful, sweet, lovely. Could we all take a moment's reflection before reverting to those responses and encourage less superficial and stereotypical labels? She's so... curious, energetic, athletic, clever, friendly?

See what others think about this concept book when you check out other stops on the blog tour welcoming these beautiful girls into the world of books:

BEAUTIFUL blog tour
9/3 MomReadIt
9/8 MamaBelly

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.