Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wonderful Wonder

A few months ago, I was invited to a small children's book preview event, where twelve authors were going to talk about their new or upcoming books. I tried to read as much as could before attending the event... I  always like to be as familiar as possible with an author's work before meeting them.

One of the books, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, only became available at my library the day before the event, so I found myself in my hotel room the night before with a long unread book. I figured I'd read the first chapter or two just to get a sense of the setting and the characters. I loved it. So I read another chapter. And another. Until it was four hours later and I'd read all 315 pages without stopping, writing down questions along the way. And then I just sat there in awe.

The next morning, I was surprised and delighted to find author R. J. Palacio sitting at my table. I told her how much I loved the book, and that I had a long list of questions to ask her. I think this put her off a bit, because it took her a few hours to start talking to me again. But she did- and we ended up having a lovely conversation. And she even answered all my questions.

I've waited a few months to post this because I wanted to let this book sink in. When I think about it, I can't help associating it with that mad, frantic rush I read it in. But really, Wonder is a book to savor and to enjoy over time. The craftsmanship, the exquisite turn of many a phrase, the humor, the way the author captures the essence of middle-schoolers... it's really something to slow down and appreciate.

I almost don't even want to tell you the plot because I don't want you to categorize or dismiss the book before you read it. Ostensibly, it's about a boy named August Pullman who has a facial deformity and who is starting public school for the first time. But it's really a lot more than that, and there's so much to learn as we see the world from Auggie's viewpoint.

When it comes time to making my 2013 Newbery predictions, you can bet that Wonder will be on the top of my list. Whether it'll win or receive an honor is really dependent on this year's committee and the other books published this year. I'll be on the edge of my seat at the press conference on January 28, 2013 at the American Library Association Midwinter meeting in Seattle and I'll bet many of my colleagues will too.

The other award that many people have predicted Wonder will win is the Schneider Family Award which is given to an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. But as Palacio reassures us multiple times, Auggie's facial differences do not make him disabled. So the question is, will the book be considered as an embodiment of disability? Auggie does, however, have trouble hearing- and the issue of his partial deafness is dealt with in a funny and endearing way, so if the book does get recognized by the Schneider committee, it may be due to that.

I'd also love to see it win or get nominated for the National Book Award, particularly since most of the winners in the Young People's Literature category lately seem to be written for young adults. It would great to see a younger book win some accolades.

As most of you probably know by now, R.J. Palacio is a pseudonym. To learn more about the author (whose actual name is Raquel Jaramillo) click here for an article from Publisher's Weekly about her and how she wrote the book.

Random House has launched an anti-bullying campaign based on Wonder called "Choose Kind." There's more about it here

Of all the books I've read so far this year, nothing has stayed with me like Wonder. Nothing else has made me both laugh and cry at the same time. It's a book I hope everyone has a chance to read.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Last minute predictions

It's about eight hours until the announcement of the American Library Association's youth media awards. Excitement is in the air here at ALA's Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, Texas.

Who will the Caldecott? Who will win the Newbery? (Who will win the other 16 awards being handed out?)

Excellent questions.

I've been making predictions for the past several years, and I've got to say this is a particularly tricky year. Obviously, every year is completely up in the air, but some years are a bit more predictable than others.

This isn't one of those years.

I'll throw out some names for the Caldecott:
-Me, Jane
-Balloons Over Broadway
-Grandpa Green

and some for the Newbery:
-A Monster Calls
-Inside Out and Back Again
-Amelia Lost
-Our Only May Amelia
-Shades of Gray

but honestly, I think it's anyone's ball game. I think it's going to be one of those years where the winners are announced, and everyone at the press conference whispers to their neighbor: "What? What was that book?"

You may notice that I left the presumptive Newbery favorite Okay for Now off my list. I think it's a wonderful but flawed book.... and while I'd be delighted to see it win, I just don't think it's going to make it. Also, I put Wonderstruck only on the Caldecott list, because I think the illustrations are far and away the strongest part of the book.

We shall see. It could very well be none of the ones I listed above. Whatever it is, I can't wait to find out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

America is Under Attack

Kids surprise me. Especially my kids.

Several months ago, I read an advance copy of a great non-fiction picture book about September 11th called America is Under Attack by Don Brown. Thoughtful, well illustrated, and full of both intriguing and heartbreaking facts, it drew me in and stayed in my thoughts long after I finished it.

Recently, I was giving a presentation to a group of adults about upcoming children's book highlights for fall 2011. I mentioned the book, along with many other upcoming favorites. The adults looked at me in a shocked way. They asked why would anyone want to talk to kids about something like that.

I had shied away from talking with my son directly about the attacks. We had read one of my favorite books, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, and had talked about it abstractly but without much detail. Then, the 10th anniversary of September 11th happened, and the subject was almost impossible to avoid. We live minutes away from the Pentagon, and the topic was on the radio, in the newspaper and on television every day,

I explained the basic facts as best I could, and then pulled out America is Under Attack. We read it slowly, pausing whenever needed. He asked thoughtful questions and digested what I was telling him. I was grateful to have a book that presented the facts in a clear and direct way.

One of the better books on the subject, America is Under Attack highlights a number of different stories that took place in the towers that day. The pictures are clear and bold without being shocking or overly graphic. The variety of stories humanizes the event and fills it with various characters. The footnotes in the back are both helpful and informative. 

And it was just the right book for my son, who was relived to finally have the facts.  He had been so confused about it, he said. He only knew parts of it, and was glad to have the whole story and know what had actually happened. A few weeks later, he surprised me by going independently to his school librarian, asking for more books on the subject. In the end, I was impressed. Who knew a 7 year old could be so mature?

I was grateful to have just the right book for both the adults in my presentation and the child in my life.

See here for an interview School Library Journal did with author Don Brown, and here for a discussion guide from Roaring Brook Press, the publisher of America is Under Attack.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Golden Birthday

Ever since I read Roald Dahl's classic book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my son, he's been unwrapping every chocolate bar he can get his hands on. He opens them slowly, carefully, willing each one to have a golden ticket. When they prove to be just bars of chocolate, he sighs sadly (but recovers enough to eat the chocolate).

With his birthday approaching, my husband and I had decided to get him a new bike, since he's worn his old one into the ground. Instead of just telling him about the bike, or taking him to the bike store, I came up with an idea I'm rather proud of.

I made a golden ticket.

Here's the front:

The back was made from shiny, gold origami paper.

Then I carefully unwrapped a chocolate bar, slipped the ticket in, and wrapped it back up.

I just wish you could have seen his face when he peeled back the wrapping, and like Charlie, finally found a glimmer of gold underneath.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

No More Borders

Over twenty years ago, I walked into the most amazing bookstore. It was enormous, easily three times the size of any bookstore I'd been in before. Books were everywhere, piled high from floor to ceiling. I didn't know there could be so many books in the same place. This was before big box stores. Before the store turned into a big corporation. It was just a neighborhood bookstore back then, but the biggest and most exciting I'd ever seen.

Over the years, I visited that store many times. I watched it move to a larger space, and become even bigger, and if possible, more exciting. I listened to authors, browsed foreign newspapers, read comic strip collections over by the coffee bar and so much more. I found all kinds of books I didn't know existed, including a series about a wizard named Harry. And a few years after that, I waited in line at midnight to buy the 4th book in the series.

Say what you will about Borders. Yes, it was a big corporation. Yes, it took business away from the small, local bookstores I support so avidly. Yes, it grew too quickly and probably sacrificed some quality along the way. But, despite that, it got people excited about books. And it never ceased to amaze me that the public could support the existence of such a large place... just dedicated to books.

Well, that time has come and gone. Borders is being forced to liquidate, after all hopes of salvation from bankruptcy have fallen apart. 11,000 employees are losing their jobs and nearly 400 bookstores are closing. And that's bad news for all of us in the book business.

I'll miss that exciting store that always made me smile. How about you? What are your thoughts about the end of this major chapter in the book industry?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Announcing Pottermore

J.K. Rowling has made her big announcement! Pottermore, coming in October, will be all manner of things Harry Potter. According to Rowling, the website will be a place where "the digital generation will be able to enjoy a safe unique online reading experience built around the Harry Potter books. " Also included will be numerous new details about the Harry Potter world. Plus, the website will also sell both Harry Potter e-books (which have never before been available) and digital audio books.

See the video below for Rowling's announcement. The animation in the pages of the book is nothing short of amazing.

What all this means, I'm not exactly sure. It combines many of the elements speculated about when Pottermore was launched, including a online interactive experience, the Potter encyclopedia and e-books. We'll have to wait and see what happens in October.

In the meantime, one thing is clear. Rowling is the master of suspense.

Update: There's a lot more information about the website in this article from Publisher's Weekly about J.K. Rowling's press conference this morning.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Potter!

Just when you thought it was all over, J.K. Rowling has one more surprise. She has just launched a new website called Pottermore, with no real hints as to what it might be. There's even a countdown clock where you can watch the minutes tick by until she makes an announcement about her next project. You can also follow Pottermore on Twitter and Facebook. Here's an unofficial preview shot... you can find more here.

What could it be? J.K. Rowling's spokespeople have announced that it isn't related to more books... but I'm holding out hope that it could be the long-waited Harry Potter encyclopedia, or an online version thereof. Other rumors are going around that it's a social networking online game site. We'll see. In a few days, we'll find out from the master of suspense herself.

What are your guesses?

: The announcement has been made! See this post for more details.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sometimes a bunny is just a bunny

Recently, there's been a discussion of Margaret Wise Brown's book Goodnight Moon on one of the children's literature listservs I read. Nothing unusual... after all, it's a classic book and is bound to be talked about from time to time.

But, this discussion has started to get into issues involving incest, gender, sexuality and the domination of the older female bunny... and at this point, I've got to wonder: is it okay for Goodnight Moon to just be about a bunny that says good night to the objects in their room? Does it have to be about anything more than that? Is it about anything more than that?

My guess is no, it probably isn't. I appreciate book analysis as much as the next person, but sometimes I think we tend to over-analyze, especially in the field of children's books. And I think when that happens, some of the sweet innocence of a book can get lost.

For example, after I read the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, I was struck by the fact that he referred to one of the ghouls as the 33rd President of the United States. It was very specific, and I wondered what he meant by it. So, I went online and found many brilliant theories that it was a reference to Truman's (the 33rd President) ghoulish decision to drop the atomic bomb.

Made sense. But then, I asked Neil Gaiman about it and he said that wasn't the case at all. The real reason was that he wanted to use a president from that era and he decided that FDR was just too cool to turn into a ghoul. He thought about Eisenhower, but in the end, thought the number 33 sounded better than the number 34, and number 33 turned out to be Truman. There's nothing more to it than that.

Moral: sometimes things are really that simple. And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Is it okay to let a bunny just be a bunny?

What book do you think has been over-analyzed?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Albus Dumbledore.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, J.K. Rowling said the longtime Hogwarts headmaster is the character from her books that she'd most like to have dinner with. I can certainly understand that. Who wouldn't enjoy a nice feast with Dumbledore accompanied by a glass of oak-matured mead?

Wizards Wireless asked the opposite question in 2007: which character would you be least interested in dining with? My readers were interested in avoiding a companion that might turn them into entrees: Aragog finished in the clear lead.

How about you? Which Harry Potter character would you like to dine with? (Personally, I'd skip all the fictional characters in favor of a meal with the author herself).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On the Eve of the Caldecott Awards

Twas the night before the awards and all through the conference
Librarians were stirring, all full of inference.
The books were placed in the exhibits with care
In hopes that a shiny sticker soon would be there.

The authors were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of phone calls danced in their heads.
And try as they might to take a long nap,
They wondered if awards would fall in their lap.

When up on the Internet there arose such a clatter
They sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.
Away to the blogs they went with a flash,
To read all about the mad, final dash.

To what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But lots of guesses where nothing seemed clear

Now City Dog! Now Country Frog!
Now Amos McGee leaves readers agog!
And Ballet for Martha and Art and Max too!
Will Flora's Windy Day breeze right through?

We'll find out tomorrow in the earliest morn
Which ones met with praise and which ones with scorn
Who won the Caldecott and who won the Printz,
Who won the Newbery and who got jinxed.

The announcements will be made, the winners applauded
The committees all thanked and then lauded
But we all should be happy for 2010
And all the wonderful books. Please authors, do it again!

Monday, August 30, 2010

2011 Caldecott Predictions

Caldecott predictions already? But, Susan, it's only August.

Yes, I know. But 2010 has been such a fantastic year for picture books that I want to get my predictions in early, before everyone else starts making them. I've seen one beautiful, poignant, funny, wonderful book after another.

Where to start? Here are some of the ones that have stood out from the crowd for me.

There's the beautiful and touching City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Williams, with amazing watercolor illustrations by John Muth.

There's the funny and spunky Dotty by Erica Perl, illustrated by Julia Denos.

There's Feeding the Sheep by Leda Schubert with wonderful text and exuberant pictures by Andrea U'ren. (Don't write this one off as just another "how something is made" book.)

There's the endearing and deceptively simple How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills. (See my review here.)

But, I'm afraid that these books (along with a few others) are going to have to slug it out to see which ones get Caldecott honors.

Because this one blows them all away.

I can hear a question forming on your lips. It sounds something like this:

"David Wiesner?! AGAIN?!! Doesn't that man have enough awards??"

And I have a question for you in return.

"Have you read Art & Max?"

When you do, you'll see that this incomparable illustrator has topped both the competition and himself. Again. Talk about a genius. When a copy of this book finds it's way into your hands, savor it. Read each panel slowly. Spend some time with it. Take a look at this video.

And then, sit back, and wait for January 9, 2011 when we'll find out if Wiesner becomes the most decorated Caldecott Medalist in history.

Book overload

I've got books all over the house. In bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, on the floor, in bookcases... you name it. Books are everywhere.

Several months ago, I finally got things organized. All the books were on the shelves, neatly divided into categories. And everything was lovely and easy to find. It looked like this.

But then, I went to the ALA (American Library Association) Annual conference. And this year's convention happened to be local, so I got more books than usual. Well, that's kind of an understatement.

Here's a picture of the bellhop's cart when I checked out of the hotel. (Yes, I needed a hotel room... where else would I have stored all the books during the conference?) Keep in mind that every bag on the cart is full of books.

Between that minor influx of books, and the fact that I let my children read the books and take them off the shelves, my library went from that beautiful picture at the top of the post, to this.

After two months of work and several failed organizational methods, I've finally done it. Here's what it looks like now (in alphabetical order, no less.)

That's just the picture books, though (and this picture doesn't even show all of them). Let's not even talk about all the other books waiting to be shelved... or the other eight bookcases in the house.

Let's see how long I can keep it up this time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome back

If you're a regular reader of Wizards Wireless, you may have noticed the glaring lack of posts here for a long, long time. That's because I've been blogging over at Booklights for PBS Parents.

Sadly, Booklights is coming to a close. But while I'll miss writing over there, I'm also really excited about writing here again.

And for you comic strip fans, I've also started a new blog called Comic Strip Art.

Welcome back and stay tuned! I've got a stack of wonderful books I can't wait to write about.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Write a Book by Dan Brown

Play Dan Brown Libs! Just fill in the blanks to write your own bestselling novel.

A handsome, brilliant, superhuman man named ______ happens to be doing something in the famous city of ________ when the local Secret Service-level police force named _______ drops by to accuse him of the awful murder in the book's introduction of a brilliant person named _______.

The protagonist eventually joins forces with a beautiful, sexy woman named ___________. Somehow, they end up being wanted by every police force in the entire country of _______.
During the inevitable vehicle chase, there's lots of time to come to the brilliant realization that a secret society called _______ is involved. The society members include every famous person that ever existed.

Many, many pages pass. The protagonist performs countless feats that are physically impossible, no matter how many laps a day they swim in the Harvard pool. Endless information about symbolism, secret societies and the city of ______ is recited... all of which ends up having very little to do with the plot. The bad guys go to a ridiculous amount of expense and effort to keep the _______ safe, which ends up being a relatively unimportant object.

The villain is not the person the reader thought it was going to be, but is instead ________. Someone named ________ who was supposed to be dead suddenly resurfaces at exactly the right moment. The handsome protagonist and sexy woman end up exonerated, in a hotel room, having lots of.... room service.

The end.

The book sells millions of copies.

Tom Hanks and a much younger woman star in the movie.

If you want to write a book by your favorite children's author, try this post.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ALA conference tips

Need some advice for the American Library Association conferences? Try these tips and tricks:
  • If you ask anyone what their advice is for the annual conference, they will answer "wear comfortable shoes."
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • If there's an event/luncheon/ceremony that you really want to go to and it costs money..... go. Often, people who buy tickets for events are unable to attend because their plans change. It's easy to find free tickets to events during the conference… keep an eye open for listserv postings and ask people with similar interests if they have a ticket they're not using.
  • You have to pay for the books at the author signings. Hardcovers are $10, paperbacks are $5. If there's an author you love, it's worth it to lug their book with you from home so you don't have to buy it at the conference. If your favorite author is sitting right in front of you signing books (even if you own the book and forgot to bring it)- buy the book and get it signed. It's worth the $10.
  • Try to say something to authors that they don't hear all the time. The more specific you can be the better. Instead of saying to a picture book author "I love your illustrations," say "I love the detailed tiger picture in this book. How long did it take you to draw that?" "Why did you dedicate the book to your brother-in-law?" If you know any of their previous lesser known books- definitely mention them.
  • Make a list of author signings, and a list of publisher booths that you really want to see. To get an extremely hot or popular book, arrive at the booth 15-30 minutes before the signing.
  • Put everything that sounds interesting to you on your schedule. You never know where you'll end up and it's good to know the locations and room numbers of all possible events.
  • Take pictures of the authors you see- no matter how stupid you feel about doing it- you'll be grateful ten years later when they win the Caldecott or the Pultizer.
  • Even if you're not looking for a job right now, get your resume reviewed at the Placement Center. It's always good to have a current copy of your resume handy, and it's great to get such wonderful, professional advice from library managers. If you plan to get your resume reviewed, go immediately to sign up for a slot..... even before you pick up your registration badge. All the weekend's sessions can fill up by the end of Friday.Plan lunch and dinner breaks, otherwise it's really easy to skip meals and wind up hungry and exhausted. Go to lunch and dinner with an old (or new) friend.
  • Soak it all in and don't be shy. Talk to everyone.... lines are great places to meet people. Go to the informal happy hours, get-togethers for your college, interest group, etc. Collect all the ribbons for your badge you can- for all the divisions you belong to. Makes a great talking point.
  • Use the bag check at the convention center religiously so you're not lugging so many books around. Keep coming back to it to dump your books. At the end of the day, sort through all the books and freebies you've picked up and take the ones you really want. Ship everything home (even if you're local).
  • You don't have to do every last thing on your schedule. Make sure to linger to talk to your favorite authors. Place hooky from a session or two. Go sightseeing. Take a nap if you need one.
  • Go to the booths of the large publishers. You'll find multiple copies of books laid out on the floor or on tables in big stacks. These are free and you can take them. Be sure to check back at the booths several times during the conference because, they'll put out different books on different days. Smaller publishers are unlikely to have free books available.
  • Ask for books you're interested in. Publishers bring tons of books with them, but don't have the quantities to put every book out in a stack for everyone to take. If there's a book you're dying to read, find out who the publisher is, go to their booth and tell them what book you're looking for. If they don't have a copy with them, they may be able to send you one after the conference is over. Or not. But, it's always worth it to ask. And, even if you don't get to walk away with one, they'll probably have a copy on display that you can take a look at (which is particularly useful for picture books).
  • Don't take everything you see. There are tons of free handouts available at ALA. Take only what you're interested in (or what a friend or colleague who didn't get to go would be interested in). If there's a free book or an ARC (advance review copy) that you already have access to, or have absolutely no interest in or use for... leave it for someone else. The same rule applies for fliers, tote bags, pens, and all the other freebies you'll see. Don't worry; you'll still acquire tons of free stuff.
  • Talk to the vendors. Don't just look at them as a source of free books. ALA gives you a chance to share your opinions with the publishers and ask them about your favorite and forthcoming books. The exhibit booths are staffed by editors, publishers, owners and salespeople. They may know an interesting detail about an author or the creation of a book that will help you "sell" a book when you get back home. And they'll be interested to hear your feedback about their books and products. And ask them any questions you have. They know a lot more about their books than what's in the catalogs.
  • ALA has a free shuttle bus service runs from the convention center to every conference hotel. It's invaluable. Use public transit too, of course… but give yourself permission to take cabs too. Sometimes, the time savings really makes it worth it.
  • You can never have too many business cards. Even if you have a professional card (and especially if you don't) make cheap personal ones to pass out. You can buy ready to print blank cards from Staples or Office Depot.
  • Don't enter a drawing, raffle, fill out a coupon or hand over your Expo Card to be scanned, unless you want to be on that company's mailing list. If you do, it's a great way to get their catalogs, and get a free gift.
  • Enjoy every minute and go again next year.
  • Ask everyone you see for more advice. You never know what hidden gems you'll uncover.

Got some advice of your own? Please share it in the comments!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes, 15 years later

Are you a fan of Calvin and Hobbes? (Who isn't?) Then check out this interview with cartoonist Bill Watterson, his first in over 20 years. I have a lot of respect for him for never allowing his characters to be commercially licensed. Also, I think he makes a valid point in the article about knowing when to walk away.

For the first time ever, Calvin and his stuffed tiger will legally appear on something other than a book. The United States Postal Service is releasing a collection of "Sunday Funnies" stamps in July, 2010. Ironically, the Calvin stamp is included with several long running comics that haven't known when to leave the party.

Archie first appeared in 1946, Beetle Bailey in 1950, Dennis the Menace in 1951 and Garfield in 1978. All are still being published, even if the original creator has passed away or is only marginally involved. In stark contrast, Bill Watterson drew every panel of Calvin and Hobbes and it only ran from 1985 to 1995.

As a children's librarian, I can tell you that Calvin isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, it's probably the most popular series at our library. Here's a post I wrote for PBS Booklights about the magic of Calvin and Hobbes.

In 2006, Andrews McMeel released a beautiful three volume set called The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I've never read it. Do you know why? Because it contains every single strip. If I don't read it, there's always a possibility that I'll find one more book or one more strip I haven't read.

Have you read every Calvin and Hobbes strip and wish there were more? Check out Frazz, currently in the newspaper and on the web. It's got a similar philosophy and sense of humor that Calvin does, with its own quirks thrown in. It's one of my favorite comic strips.

Do you wish Calvin and Hobbes was still running or do you think Bill Watterson walked away at the right time? See the poll on the sidebar.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Susan's last minute Caldecott, Newbery and Geisel predictions for 2010

Look, it's a new post!

I've been predicting the Caldecott and Newbery Medal books for a while (okay, 2 years) and think I should give this year a shot before we all find out the answers in a few hours. I'm going to try to get these in just under the wire. The press conference is very, very early tomorrow and I have to wake up in a few hours. Did I mention it was early?

There's only one winner I'm going to guess outright... that the Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney will win the Caldecott Medal.

If it doesn't win... there will be gasps if it shows up as an honor and dead silence if a different book wins the medal. Pinkney has won five Caldecott honors and zero Caldecott Medals. But I don't think he should win just because of that (and actually the committee is specifically not allowed to take that into account.) I really think he illustrated the best book of the year, and that's why I hopes he wins.

Caldecott honors: Hard to predict. No clear favorites this year but a lot of possibilities. Here's a couple that may or may not show up on the list:
  • Otis by Loren Long
  • Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner (check this one out, it's very cool)
  • All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
  • Moonshot by Brian Floca (I'm not sure where this one will end up. Caldecott? Newbery? Siebert?)
  • Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jon Muth (this one will never end up on any of the lists, but it's my long shot favorite and well worth checking out)
Newbery Medal: I think this one is a lot harder. There are several very strong books, any of which could win. I'm not sure which one will get the medal and which ones will get the honors. But I wouldn't be surprised to see any of these books turn up on the Newbery list:
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (I would love to see this book win).
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (could end up anywhere- either the medal or an honor)
  • Crossing Stones by Helen Frost (also a possibility for the Printz).
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose (this one may end up winning the whole shooting match: the Newbery, the Siebert, the new YA non fiction award, etc. Or it will end up on a multitude of honor lists.)
I think the Geisel might surprise us.
  • Mo Willems could win for the third year in a row, but I don't think so. (Although you never know). I predict an honor for him.
  • Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (a book that's gotten a lot of Caldecott buzz, but I think is more likely to win the Geisel or an honor.
  • Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas (might be a surprise winner).
The Siebert is impossible to guess this year. It was a very good year for non-fiction. Here's some titles that may show up:
  • Moonshot by Brian Floca
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose
  • Written in Bone by Sally Walker
  • Mission Control- This is Apollo by Andrew Chaikin (it would be very interesting if this book appeared on the Caldecott list).
  • The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner
  • Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge (could up end on the Newbery list too).
For a complete list of all the awards (and their criteria) and how to follow the press conference live, see this post.

To see my previous prediction posts, try my last minute picks and my earlier choices for 2009. I also predicted Trouble by Gary Schmidt early on, but alas. Here are my predictions from 2008 and my scorecard.

Congratulations to all the lucky people who recieve those 6 am life changing phone calls. Hopefully, the winners don't live in California... like Brian Selznick and Neil Gaiman, they'll get their phone calls at 3 am.

I can't wait to see what happens in a few hours.

Hey, look! What's that over there on the sidebar? A bird? A plane? Nope. A new poll! Actually two new polls... which ALA award winners are you the happiest about and which ones shocked your shorts off.

Update: How did I do? The ALSC award announcements are here, and the YALSA announcements are here.

Got an opinion? I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Where have you gone, Wizards Wireless?

Not too far. Just down the road to PBS Parents. I'm posting weekly at Booklights, a blog about inspiring a love of reading in your child.

That's where you'll find my annual post about the Caldecott/Newbery banquet, complete with an impromptu interview with Neil Gaiman. Here's my banquet post from last year, and here's one of my very first blog posts: the 2007 banquet.

The other two Booklights bloggers are Jen from Jen Robinson's Book Page and Pam from MotherReader. I feel honored to be included with such high caliber writers.

I've been trying to keep up Wizards Wireless, but the demands of work and family (plus the PBS blog) have been taking up most of my time. Don't worry, it isn't going away, though. Look here for my Harry Potter posts (coming soon: my thoughts about the movie of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.)

I had so much fun running the Harry Potter Giveaway contest. I've notified the 5 lucky winners, but all of your answers were fantastic.

Now I've got a question for you. I can repost Booklights posts on Wizards Wireless a month after the orginal post runs. Should I do that? Or are you more likely to read them on Booklights? See the poll on the sidebar and give me some guidance.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Harry Potter Giveaway: Question 2

There's still time to enter my Harry Potter giveaway contest and win a prize pack of Books 5, 6, 7 in paperback! Full details are in this post.

Question 2: If you could bring one person in the Harry Potter series back to life, who would it be?

Here's the catch: You can only bring them back to life after the events of Book 7 are over.

Spoiler alert: don't keep reading if you haven't finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Several people responded to Question 1 that they didn't like the fact that Sirius died. So, of course, you could bring back Sirius, who was a great father figure to Harry. Or, you could bring back James, Harry's actual father. Or, if you were feeling mischievous, you could bring back Voldemort. Or Fred. Or Dobby. Or Dumbledore. Or the tons of other people that perished during the series. Your choice, but it can only be one person.

To enter the contest, simply reply to this post. Please leave a valid e-mail address or your entry is disqualified. You may leave a comment on any of my giveaway posts until the contest ends on July 7, 2009. If you already commented to Question 1, you get an extra entry by commenting on Question 2. U.S. residents only, please.

Also, be sure to vote in the new poll on the sidebar.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Harry Potter Giveaway: Question 1

It's only been two short years since we were waiting breathlessly for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be released.

On July 7, 2009, Book #7 will come out in paperback, and the entire series will finally be available in both hardcover and paperback.

To celebrate, I'm announcing my first ever book giveaway! What am I giving away? Harry Potter books, naturally.

5 winners will receive a prize pack of 3 Harry Potter books in paperback.

The three books are:
#5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
#6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
#7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I will be posting a few Harry Potter questions over the next few weeks. To enter the contest, answer the question in the comments. You may enter one time each per question asked. See the bottom of this post for today's question.

Official lingo: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a breathtaking finish to a remarkable series. The final chapter to Harry Potter’s adventures will be releases in paperback July 7th! It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve. For more information and fun and games, check out Scholastic's Harry Potter website.

If you could change any single event in Harry Potter books 2-7, what would it be?

(Sorry, you can't change an event from Book 1, because if you did, the series wouldn't exist.)

Contest rules :
Please leave an answer (and a valid e-mail address or link) in the comments to enter the contest.
You can leave a comment on any of my giveaway posts until the contest ends on July 7, 2009.
Winners will be chosen at random. If you don't leave me a way to contact you, your entry is invalid. U.S. Residents only, please.

Spoiler warning: If you haven't finished the series, don't read anything after this point. And definitely don't read the comments.

What would I change? It's mentioned several times that the prophecy could have applied to either Neville or Harry. There's a moment towards the end of the seventh book where Harry is preparing to meet his death and he tells Neville to kill the snake. When I read the book the first time, I believed that Harry was going to die. And I thought, what if this is what she intended all along? What if it's really going to be Neville who kills Voldemort in the end?

So, my change would be to have Neville finish off Voldemort. Harry would still live, but Neville would get all the glory.

What change would you make? I'd love to know.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Coming to a shelf near you: Blueberries for Sal!

I mentioned in this post how sad I was that Blueberries for Sal seemed to be going quietly out of print.

Today, I was thrilled to see this article in this week's Publisher Weekly's Children's Bookshelf. Blueberries for Sal will be back in print again (in a slightly modified edition) with 50,000 copies available in late May or early June.

The article also goes into detail about why Penguin wasn't able to sell the book for about a year.

Welcome back, Sal! We're so happy to see you again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Blueberries for Sal out of print?

Have you tried recently to buy a new copy of Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey? Have you succeeded? I'm pretty sure the answer is no.

What's going on with Blueberries for Sal? It's not possible that it would go out of print, right? It's a beloved classic and a Caldecott Honor book.

Here's the answer: Blueberries for Sal is sort of, kind of out of print.

I had re-ordered it for my bookstore a few times when I was working as a book buyer. The orders kept being canceled and the reason on the invoice was "out of stock." Since this happened more than once, I asked our store's publishing rep from Penguin what was going on. Here's what I recall of the conversation.

(Note: Since I don't like posting anything unconfirmed and without details, I've been trying for a while to find confirmation for this. But I've scoured the internet and used all my librarian tricks- and can't find any official information at all. If you have a link to a news story, or better yet, if you have direct information, please post it here. I'm sure there's more to the story than what I've heard.)

Our rep said there was a lawsuit involving the book. An injunction has been issued to Penguin forbidding them to sell the book. That means they can't sell it in any form: paperback, hardcover, in a collection, with a CD, etc. So, not only is it not possible to buy the book itself, you also can't buy collections of Robert McCloskey books that contain Blueberries for Sal. If you go to Penguin's website, Blueberries for Sal is listed... but if you try to put it in your cart, you'll get a note that the publisher is out of stock.

Penguin isn't actually out of stock... they have a warehouse full of the books, but they can't sell them. There wasn't any warning, so they couldn't offload them before the injunction hit. My (unconfirmed) understanding is that relatives of the McCloskey family sued Penguin.

Also, it seems to be a permanent thing. The injunction has no end date.

It's breaking my heart to remove copies that are falling apart from our library's collection, because at the moment, it seems doubtful they'll ever be replaced.

If you're desperate to find a copy, you'll have to look for one used. The prices of the used copies on Amazon have skyrocketed recently, so at least the used book dealers know that the supply is scarce. I'd recommend library book sales and used book stores as good places to look.

The strange thing is, nobody seems to know what's going on. I haven't seen any publicity at all. The extremely well informed and savvy buyer at my library didn't know why her orders weren't be filled until I told her. If this is a permanent thing, I'd love to see a little more ruckus raised and more people made aware of the situation.

UPDATE: Blueberries for Sal is coming back! See this post for more information.

Friday, January 30, 2009

How do Caldecott and Newbery winning books get their shiny stickers?

I just got an interesting comment on this post:

Kim asks: "I was wondering if you could share how long it takes for copies of the winners get the medals on the covers? My daughter and I have been reading and picking our own Caldecott and Geisel favorites for the past couple of months. She understands what the medals on the covers mean now and I'd like to get some of this years winners but want to get them with the stickers on them. I can't seem to find an answer on how long this takes to happen. I assume book stores are sent stickers to put on their current stock?"

Brian responded with this comment: "It generally takes about a month."

I've always been curious about the stickers myself. I'm not sure that I have the definitive answer, but I've worked as a bookseller, a librarian, been a member of the organization that gives out the awards and had a talk with the publisher of an award winning book. I think I have a pretty good idea of what happens. To the best of my knowledge, here's the story behind the stickers.

Kim, before we get to your question, let's back up a little and talk about print runs and the incredible selling power of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. When a book is published, a publisher decides how many copies to print. These initial copies are all first editions. If a book sells out its print run, the publisher will do additional printings and editions, but not every books gets a second printing.

There's no way a publisher can expect or predict a Newbery or Caldecott. Regardless of the pre-awards buzz, you never know what the committees will actually decide. No matter what the winning books initial print run was (with Hugo Cabret for example, it was quite large) there will never be enough copies to meet the demand. Available copies are purchased immediately by bookstores, libraries, schools, and a huge influx of customers. Typically, within a few hours of the announcements, all available copies of the book are sold out.

By that point, it's impossible to get the book, no matter what. The publisher has no more copies and thousands (I'm not exaggerating) of orders are pouring in. The publisher immediately starts a new and much larger print run to meet the sudden demand. Those copies typically come out within 1-3 months of the award announcement, depending how long the printing takes.

For booksellers, especially ones at independent stores like the ones I worked at, it is crucial to have as many of the winning and honor books in stock at the time of the announcement. If you don't, you won't get that initial rush of sales and you won't be able to get the book back on the shelf for at least a month. See this post for more about that.

Now, let's get back to the stickers. I wish I could tell you that on the day of the award announcement, everyone stops what they're doing and puts the stickers on the books. But really, it's much more mundane and gradual than that.

Nobody gets sent a batch of stickers. (That would be lovely, though). You have to pay for the stickers and they're purchased through the American Library Association Store. Anyone can buy them, incidentally, not just bookstores and libraries.

Even the publisher has to pay for the stickers, plus the cost of paying someone to physically put the sticker on the book. No publisher minds this, though, because of the enormous increase in sales the stickers represent. The publisher puts the stickers on the second printing and every printing thereafter.

Sometimes, with paperback books or books that are perennially popular, the publisher will put a photograph of the sticker on the book. That way, for example, they don't have to keep buying Newbery honor stickers for every copy of Charlotte's Web that is ever published. Sometimes, in later printings, they don't even put the stickers on... it will just say "Newbery Medal Winner" above the title. I don't really understand that, though. My feeling is if you've got it, flaunt it.

Libraries typically have many of the medalists and honor books already on their shelves. Whatever they don't have, they'll order immediately (budget permitting), and they'll receive the second printing a month or two later. My library has rolls of all the various stickers in the area they process books. Eventually, they'll go through the books currently in the collection and add the stickers and will put them on the new books as they come in. School librarians do the same thing.

Bookstores are a different story. All of the copies purchased on the day of the announcements don't have stickers... if for no other reason than that there is simply no time. When I was a bookseller, I watched the winning books go out the door before I could blink. Booksellers typically wait for the second printing of the book which already has the stickers on it.

So the short answer is : it generally takes about a month. Usually a bit longer.

But your question raises an interesting point, which is that not everybody wants the edition with the sticker on it. Sometimes, I'm proud of the unstickered books, because I bought them before everyone else. And at other times, the book look naked to me without the sticker.

So, now you know. Travis at 100 Scope Notes wrote a great post last year predicting where the stickers would end up on the predicted winners. But, since the stickers go on gradually and (except for the ones put on by the publisher) haphazardly, the stickers can end up any place on the book.

Thanks for asking. It's a good question.

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz winners and honor books

Here are the American Library Association's 2009 youth media awards winners. The official press release is available on ALA's website.

I'm having trouble getting onto the website at the moment because of the heavy traffic, but I was at the press conference in Denver this morning and was handed a press release after the announcement. I have to catch a plane, so forgive me for not including authors and publishers. All of that information is on ALA's website.

Caldecott Medal: House in the Night
Caldecott Honors: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, How I Learned Geography, and River of Words: the Story of William Carlos Williams.

Newbery Medal: The Graveyard Book
Newbery Honors: The Underneath, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba, Savvy, and After Tupac & D Foster

Printz Award: Jellicoe Road
Printz Honors: Octavian Nothing Volume 2, Nation, Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and Tender Morsels.

Geisel Award: Are You Ready to Play Outside?
Geisel Honors: Chicken said Cluck, One Boy, Stinky, Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.

Coretta Scott King Author Award: We are the Ship
Coretta Scott King Author Honors: The Blacker the Berry, Keeping the Night Watch, and Becoming Billie Holiday

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award: The Blacker the Berry
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors: We Are the Ship, Before John was a Jazz Giant and the Moon over Star

Coretta Scott King /John Steptoe New Talent Award: Bird by Zetta Elliott

Schneider Family Book Award for young children: Piano Starts Here: the Young Art Tatum
Schneider Family Book Award for middle grades: Waiting for Normal
Schneider Family Book Award for teens: Jerk, California

Sibert Medal: We Are the Ship
Sibert Honors: Bodies from Ice and What to Do About Alice?

Carnegie Medal: March On! The Day by Brother Martin Changed the World

Batchelder Award: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Batchelder Honors: Garmann's Summer and Tiger Moon

Margeret A. Edwards Recipient (lifetime achievement for Young Adults): Laurie Halse Anderson

Pura Belpre Illustrator Award: Just in Case by Yuyi Morales
Pura Belpre Illustrator honors: Papa and Me, The Storyteller' s Candle and What Can You Do With a Rebozo?
Pura Belpre Author Award: The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
Pura Belpre Author Honors: Just in Case, Reaching Out, and the Storyteller' s Candle

Odyssey Award: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Odyssey Honors: Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Elijah of Buxton, I'm Dirty!, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach and Nation.

Arbuthnot Honor Lecture: Kathleen T. Horning

Wilder Award: Ashley Bryan

William C. Morris debut award: A Curse Dark as Gold

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Leave a comment below or vote in the poll on the sidebar.