Friday, February 29, 2008


The February Carnival of Children's Literature is up today at Anastasia Suen's blog, Picture Book of the Day. Head on over and check it out.

I have new appreciation for carnival hosts after I hosted the January Carnival of Children's Literature. It takes some work, but it's a fantastic way to discover wonderful blogs and to meet new people. If you're ever interested in hosting, just get in touch with Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen. Melissa recently created a webpage that explains all about the Children's Literature Carnival and contains an archive of every carnival so far.

There's a new carnival in the works for booksellers at the American Booksellers Association Omnibus blog. The first Carnival of Independent Bookselling is about why you decided to become a bookseller (if, of course, you are a bookseller at an independent store). Submit your post through Blog Carnival's submission link, or send an e-mail to sarah-AT-bookweb-DOT-org. Submissions are due by March 21, and the carnival will be posted on March 25.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Books and literature in the Harry Potter series

Since this blog is about books and Harry Potter, it seems only natural for me to talk about the books that are mentioned within the Harry Potter series.

J.K. Rowling liberally sprinkles book titles throughout the series, and I've posted a new poll listing some of my favorites. There are 60 books listed, so it doesn't contain every title mentioned in the series (if you're looking for that, see this list at the Harry Potter Lexicon.) But, if the book is featured in my poll, it means that it figures significantly into the plot. Or it's on Harry's initial shopping list in Sorcerer's Stone. Or I think the title is cool. Clearly, I used rigorous standards.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Poll results

Here are the results of a few recent Wizards Wireless polls:

Question: Are you a member of GoodReads?


1st place (14 votes)

  • Yes

2nd place (2 votes)

  • I've thought about it, but haven't joined yet.

3rd place (1 vote each)

  • I used to be, but I'm not anymore.
  • What's Goodreads?

4th place (0 votes)

  • No
Based on the results of this poll, and the huge reaction I got when I asked this question on the Kidlitosphere discussion group... I'd say that an awful lot of people use the GoodReads website. For the person who voted for "what's GoodReads?" see this post. I've been having a lot of fun seeing what friends and fellow bloggers are reading... although I can already see that the hardest part for me will be to keep my GoodReads reading list up to date.

Question: My favorite books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery are:


1st place (13 votes)

  • Anne of Green Gables

2nd place (7 votes)

  • The Blue Castle

3rd place (5 votes each)

  • Anne's House of Dreams
  • Rilla of Ingleside

4th place (4 votes each)

  • Anne of the Island
  • Anne of Windy Poplars
  • Emily of New Moon
  • I haven't read any of her books

5th place (3 votes each)

  • Anne of Ingleside
  • Anne of Avonlea

6th place (2 votes each)

  • Rainbow Valley
  • Emily Climbs
  • Emily's Quest
  • The Story Girl

7th place (1 vote each)

  • Chronicles of Avonlea
  • Mistress Pat
  • Kilmeny of the Orchard
  • Jane of Lantern Hill
  • A Tangled Web

8th place (0 votes each)

  • The Golden Road
  • Further Chronicles of Avonlea
  • Pat of Silver Bush
  • Magic for Marigold
As I expected, Anne of Green Gables got the most votes in this poll. But I was delighted to see so much love for The Blue Castle, which is a far more obscure book. For my favorite L.M. Montgomery books, see this post.

Question: Does anyone read these poll result posts?
It's the best way I can think of the archive the results, but they always seem so lengthy to me. Should I keep writing them?

See the new poll in the sidebar about what sources you consult for book recommendations.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blogs That Make My Day

Oh, my goodness. I just won an award. I'm all flustered.

No, it wasn't an Oscar or a Caldecott (hey, I can dream, can't I?) But it was just as big a compliment. Jill from The Well-Read Child just gave Wizards Wireless the "Blogs that Make My Day Award."

This is a great opportunity for me to say how much I love Jill's blog. The Well-Read Child is full of tips, reviews and great advice for parents. Be sure to check it out. I read it every day.

As a way of returning the compliment, here are ten blogs that make my day. It was almost impossible to pick just ten... so this isn't a definitive list, but rather just the tip of the iceberg. I listed them in reverse alphabetical order, since my blog name starts with a W, and is usually (and understandably) at the bottom of blogrolls. I thought I'd give those end of the alphabet people a chance to be on the top of the list. If I were doing it again, I think I'd name my blog 100 Aardvarks.
  • What Adrienne Thinks About That. I met Adrienne at the Kidlitosphere conference and immediately felt like I was talking to an old friend. Reading her blog feels the same way. She's one of those people I would call a kindred spirit, and I really relate to her posts. And I just love her Real Suggestions From the Children's Room.
  • MotherReader. Pam is funny, insightful and always on the money. Speaking of people that make me laugh, Pam always does, both in person and on her blog. She was one of the very first kidlit bloggers I met, and she's just, well... cool.
  • Kids Lit. An amazing blog that is filled with reviews and updates from the children's book world. Tasha reports on everything and her reviews are always top notch. I also love her blog's new design. She blogged live about the ALA awards press conference and her comment about Hugo Cabret winning the Caldecott was priceless.
  • Jen Robinson's Book Page. Here's another amazing blog. Jen does wonderfully detailed literacy updates, book reviews, and she writes about so many things related to children's books. I always look forward to her Sunday afternoon visits of blogs around the kidlitosphere, because she manages to find terrific posts that I've missed. She was one of the very first supporters of Wizards Wireless and she's linked to my blog more times than I can possibly count.
  • Books Together. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Anamaria, and she's just as wonderful and personable as her blog. She always manages to blog about just the kinds of books my son would love, and I've gotten great book suggestions from Books Together.
  • BookMoot. Camille's excitement and love for her job and for children's books comes through in every post she writes. About a month ago, she did a fabulous post about school visits that was both wise and wonderful... and full of essential tips for every author. BookMoot is wonderful and well worth checking out.
  • Biblio File. Jennie is a fellow MLS graduate student who attends the same university I do, although oddly enough we've never seen each other on campus (but keep running into each other at library events). I can always relate to Jennie's posts (particularly the ones about homework and papers) and she's really opened my eyes to the field of YA literature. And I just love this Poetry Friday post that she wrote.
  • Art, Words, Life. This blog is written by children's book author and illustrator Jennifer Thermes. It's filled with Jennifer's original drawings, which are so beautiful and scrumptious they often make me catch my breath. I also love Jennifer's profile picture, because it's a self portrait. And I keep meaning to tell her how much I liked her book picture book Sam Bennett's New Shoes.
What blogs make your day?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sing a book

One of my favorite songs from Sesame Street is "Sing," written by Joe Raposo.

Sing a song.
Sing out loud.
Sing out strong."

You have that song in your head now, don't you?

I sing songs with my son all the time, and I also sing books. Just about any picture book can easily be turned into a song. I find it to be a great read aloud technique, and we both enjoy the experience. The tune is completely irrelevant, I make up something new every time I sing.

Books that have worked well as songs (for us, at least) include:
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  • Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Big Dog Little Dog by P.D. Eastman
...and too many others to count.

Singing was particularly effective when my son was a baby, and I used to sing all of his longer board books to him. It also worked well when he was an antsy toddler. He still likes it now, even though he's older, and every night he'll tell me which books he wants me to sing.

I think I have a terrible voice, and I'm quite shy about using it normally, but my son doesn't mind no matter how off key I am. I tried singing my made-up musical version of Freight Train in a storytime last week, and to my surprise, it actually worked quite well. I'll have to try it again.

If there's a small child in your life, try singing them a book. Just remember, as the wise people at Sesame Street would tell you:

"Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear.
Sing a song."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Poetry Friday: Weather

I live in a place that's always surprised by inclement weather. A few snowflakes or a hint of ice is enough to send the area into panic and cause school closings, massive traffic backups and lines at the supermarkets.

It sounds like I live in Texas or California or another place that doesn't see a lot of snow. Nope. I live in the Washington D.C. area.... where it snows several times EVERY winter.

Schools are closed in my county today. There was a small ice storm last night.

Although, if you're going to school or work in one, the closures are quite lovely and you get used to them. Many years ago, I was student teaching at a high school in Boston. When I woke up to go to work, there was almost a foot of snow on the ground. I called the school and reached the secretary. "Wasn't the school closed?" I asked. "Or at least delayed?"
"Why would it be closed?" she answered. "It's just snow."

So, here's a poem for the Washington region, which has had a very odd week weather-wise. A few days ago the temperature was in the 70's, and today ice is covering everything.

Whether the Weather
Author unknown

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!

The Poetry Friday round-up today is at Big A little a.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Poll results

Here are are some poll results that surprised me. I thought everyone (given the chance) would love to play Quidditch, but it turns out what most people really want is a good seat in the stands (preferably in the Top Box, of course).

Question: If you could be involved in a Quidditch match, what would you chose to be?


1st place (9 votes)

  • Spectator

2nd place (8 votes)

  • Chaser

3rd place (4 votes)

  • Seeker

4th place (2 votes each)

  • Beater
  • Commentator

5th place (1 vote each)

  • Keeper
  • Mascot
  • Referee

I thought everyone would want to be a Seeker because it's the most glamorous and high profile position. Personally, I wouldn't want to be one, though... there's just too much pressure.

I'd want to be a Beater. You just fly around whacking Bludgers at people. Sure, you have to use a little strategy, but not much. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Speaking of polls, I recently posted one about the website GoodReads. Even though (I swear) I double-checked the poll before I posted it... there's a typo in one of the choices. Unfortunately, you can't change the options on the poll after people have voted... so now that typo is just sitting there, taunting me. Be sure to vote so I can take that poll down!

Book Reviews

Looking for reviews of children's books? Look no further than the Children's Book Review wiki. It was created by the indefatigable Kelly Herold of Big A little a, who may be one of the most busy and productive people I've ever met. The wiki contains a wonderful and rich variety of blog reviews from all over the kidlitosphere.

I just put up all the reviews I've ever posted on Wizards Wireless on the wiki. There aren't that many... because I tend to make lists and general comments about books instead of writing formal reviews. But, I was surprised to see that I've written 15 reviews so far... I thought it was far fewer than that.

One of the most rewarding parts of reviewing for me has been connecting with authors. If the book has been published relatively recently and I can find an e-mail address, I will frequently send authors links to my blog reviews. And, every one of them has written back, which I find amazing. I have to admit, I felt like a rock star when I got return e-mails from Susan Patron and Mordecai Gerstein only a few weeks after I started blogging.

I'm in awe of bloggers who write reviews regularly (and sometimes even every day!), such as Betsy at A Fuse #8 Production, Jen at Jen Robinson's Book Page, Tasha at Kids Lit, Jules and Eisha at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Abby at Abby (the) Librarian, Laura at Library & Literary Miscellany... and, ummm... everybody but me.

I've rounded up all the reviews I've written thus far (see the list below). Looking at the list, I notice that I seem to favor titles that contain exclamation points!

Books for Babies and Toddlers

Picture Books

Juvenile Fiction

Want to contribute your reviews to the Children's Book Review wiki? Take a look at this post on Big A Little a to see how to do it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I've just started using a website called Goodreads. It's a website where you list the books you're reading (or have read), and see what your friends are reading. It's a great place to get reviews and recommendations.

I've added two links to Goodreads on the sidebar. The first "bookshelf" is for the books that I'm currently reading... which is an interesting mix of books for graduate school, books for work (I'm a children's bookseller) and picture books I read with my son. Here's what it looks like so far:


I'm noticing that the picture books look a little strange. For example, Bark George, is a long wide book... but for some reason it comes out on the bookshelf as tall and narrow.

My second bookshelf is for books that the DC Kidlit book club is reading. The first book we're reading is The Secret Garden, and I'll update this bookshelf as more books are selected. If you're an adult who lives in the Washington D.C. area and enjoys discussing children's literature and would like to join, please let me know.

Are you on GoodReads? What has your experience with it been? Do you find it useful?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Baby Blues: the clock has stopped

There's been a lot of talk among comic strip readers about the fact that the characters in For Better or For Worse have stopped aging.

Quietly, and with a lot less fanfare, another popular comic strip seems to have also stopped time. I'm talking about one of my all time favorite strips, Baby Blues.

One of the best things about Baby Blues is that we've gotten to watch the characters grow and develop. Zoe and Hammie went through all the various stages that kids experience, and that's what made the strip so funny and realistic for me. They got a year older about every two years. I have just about every Baby Blues book, and I reread them as my son is going through each phase. It always shows me the humor in the situation.

But then, baby Wren was born into the MacPherson house. And time stopped.

The first collection that contains Wren is called Never a Dry Moment and was published in 2003. That means the strips themselves probably appeared in the paper about a year or so earlier. Today, (roughly) six years after Wren was born, she is still a baby. She crawled briefly... about three years ago, but that was about as far as her development went.

Let me give you a little perspective. Since the time Wren was born... I got married, became pregnant, and had a baby who will soon be four years old.

If it was just Wren, I'd be okay with that.... but Zoe and Hammie have stopped changing and developing too. The characters are stuck at ages eight, five and baby. And a lot of the outside characters like the four grandparents, and neighbors Yolanda and Bunny have all but disappeared. The strip has slowly become static. And I have to admit, I've stopped buying the new books, because I feel like they're not as compelling as they used to be.

My friend Cate and I have been watching this trend for a while, and we're curious if anyone else has noticed. Have you or is it just us?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poetry Friday: Sandra Boynton

Today, I'd like to share a poem written by Sandra Boynton. Okay, technically it's a song, but I've seen lots of other bloggers use song lyrics for Poetry Friday, so I thought I'd give that a try.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I'm a graduate student studying library science. And I work in an independent store as a children's bookseller (and a book buyer). And I'm the mom of a small child. And my husband is also in graduate school (and he works full time). And I just started an internship at a local library.

So, here's my family's theme song/poem for the semester:

by Sandra Boynton

very very busy
and we've got a lot to do
and we haven't got a minute
to explain it all to you"

See Sandra Boynton's wonderful album/book Philadelphia Chickens for the rest of the song. Or listen to a sample of this song here... sung by the ever fabulous Kevin Kline. For you musical theater fans out there, BusyBusyBusy is a parody/homage of Gilbert and Sullivan's patter songs.

For a good laugh, see Sandra Boynton's website.

The Poetry Friday roundup today is at HipWriterMama.

Update: I just found an ANIMATED version of the BusyBusyBusy song on Sandra Boynton's website. It's fabulous. Think Kevin Kline as a chicken dressed in a suit and tie.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The best tote bag ever

I have a tote bag that stops people in their tracks.

Whenever I carry this bag, I get comments. They come from kids, adults, teachers, parents, children's librarians, fellow grad students, professors and random people on the street.

Just what exactly is on this magical bag that is such a conversation starter? Something extremely classy and sophisticated, right?

Um, nope.

It's a Captain Underpants tote bag.

It has a big picture of this guy:

and proclaims in large letters that it's "time for new underpants!"

I got it almost two years ago at BookExpo America (a HUGE trade show for the book selling and publishing industries). As I walked into the exhibit hall, the first publisher I ran into (literally) was Scholastic, and they were handing out Captain Underpants bags to everyone who walked by. I took one, and it later proved instrumental in helping me lug tons of books around the convention center.

Even though I picked up lots of bags that day and at other conferences, the Captain Underpants bag is the one I use the most frequently. It is waterproof (a big plus) and it's just the right size to carry between 15 to 30 books (not that I've tested this limit, or anything =). And, as mentioned above, the comments I get about it are really extraordinary. I had no idea how many people KNEW Captain Underpants.

For example, here's what happened yesterday at the library within the space of about a minute. A man (probably in his late teens or early twenties) was standing next to me in the checkout line. He looked at my bag and said "I loved those books when I was a kid!" He then told me all about them and which ones he liked the best. As was checking my books out, a boy (who I'd estimate to be about 6) starting yelling "Captain Underpants! Captain Underpants! Captain Underpants!" over and over and over. As I walked out of the library, I could still hear him.

So, although I get occasional weird looks from adults (and my husband)... I love to hear the comments from fans and readers. And, as the bag says (in addition to the comment about needing new underpants): "Hooray for Captain Underpants!"

If you're looking for something funny, be sure to check out Dav Pilkey's website (he's the author of the Captain Underpants series and many others.) I like the warning on the front page of the site, and this page makes me laugh (particularly if you click on the box on the right.)

This year, at the American Library Association Annual Conference, I got another highly coveted bag. Also from Scholastic, it was a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows bag. How cool is that? See Alison Morris' blog ShelfTalker for great pictures of the bag (she even made a skirt out of it!)

This bag was harder to get. I saw people everywhere around the convention center carrying it, but every time I passed the Scholastic booth, they were all out. I finally arrived one day as soon as the exhibit hall opened, and got one of the coveted bags. This bag is lovely, but it's tall and narrow and doesn't work so well for books. Although, my theory is that if you place the bag Voldemort side up, people are unlikely to steal the contents of your bag. The picture on the bag (which is of the front cover of the American edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) scares you away. Or at least it should. Voldemort as theft prevention.

Do you have a tote bag or book bag that you're particularly fond of?

The Cybils

The winners of the 2007 Cybils have just been announced! The Cybils are the Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards. Congratulations to the winners and to all the hard working judges.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Poll results

There was an election held today where I live... so that put me in the mood for counting votes. Here are the results of three recent Wizards Wireless polls.

Question: Which businesses mentioned in the Harry Potter books would you like to visit?


1st place (33 votes)

  • Flourish and Blotts bookstore

2nd place (30 votes)

  • Honeydukes sweetshop

3rd place (29 votes)

  • Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes

4th place (22 votes)

  • Florean Fortescue's ice cream parlor

5th place (21 votes)

  • Ollivander’s wand store

6th place (16 votes)

  • The Three Broomsticks

7th place (15 votes)

  • The Leaky Cauldron

8th place (14 votes each)

  • Magical Menagerie pet store
  • Dervish and Banges magical equipment

9th place (11 votes)

  • Zonko's Joke Shop

10th place (9 votes each)

  • Eeylops Owl Emporium
  • Gringotts Wizarding Bank
  • Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop
  • Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions

11th place (7 votes each)

  • Gladrags wizardwear
  • Madam Puddifoot's tea shop

12th place (6 votes each)

  • Quality Quidditch Supplies
  • Hogsmeade post office

13th place (5 votes each)

  • The Hog's Head
  • Borgin and Burkes dark arts shop

14th place (4 votes)

  • Apothecary
I love that Flourish and Blotts bookstore won this poll. Come to think of it, that's the business I'd want to visit the most, too.

As for the next poll, all I can say is that if Madam Pince retires, there will be fierce competition to fill the job of Hogwarts librarian.

Question: If you were looking for a job in the Harry Potter world, which ones would you choose?


1st place (17 votes)

  • Hogwarts librarian

2nd place (10 votes)

  • Hogwarts professor

3rd place (6 votes)

  • reporter for the Daily Prophet

4th place (5 votes each)

  • assistant at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
  • manager of Flourish and Blotts bookstore

5th place (4 votes each)

  • auror
  • clerk at Honeydukes sweetshop
  • Quidditch player

6th place (3 votes)

  • wand maker

7th place (2 votes each)

  • Minister of Magic
  • reporter for the Quibbler

8th place (1 vote each)

  • broom maker
  • curse-breaker for Gringotts
  • dragon keeper in Romania
  • employee of the Ministry of Magic
  • Hogwarts headmaster

9th place (0 votes each)

  • conductor of the Knight Bus
  • dish washer at the Leaky Cauldron
  • dragon feeder at Gringotts
  • healer at Saint Mungo’s
  • Hogwarts caretaker
  • Quidditch referee
  • saleswizard at Quality Quidditch Supplies
  • security troll trainer
I find it interesting that the Minister of Magic ranks as low as reporter for the Quibbler. I can't really blame you. I wouldn't want to be Minister of Magic either.

The last poll has nothing to do with Harry Potter. (Yes, I do run non-Harry Potter polls from time to time. =) This one is about a comic strip. (See this post for more details about what's going on with For Better or For Worse these days).

Question: If I could decide the fate of For Better or For Worse, I would:


1st place (13 votes)

  • End it completely in September

2nd place (6 votes each)

  • Continue running it past September with a mixture of reruns and new material
  • I don't read the comic strip

3rd place (2 votes)

  • I wouldn't be able to decide
Want to vote for something? See the current poll on the sidebar to vote for your favorite books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. (For more about my favorite books by this wonderful author, see this post.) And, there's a brand new poll about Quidditch.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Grammy Award for Harry Potter

Jim Dale won a Grammy award last night for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for the recording of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Although, he's received six Grammy nominations for Harry Potter, this is only the second time he's won. I'm thrilled, because I think that the audio version of Deathly Hallows is the best of all seven.

Why do I like Jim Dale's narration so much? See this post.

Kindred Spirits

Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my favorite authors. If the name sounds familiar, it's probably because you know her most famous book: Anne of Green Gables.

Oddly enough, that isn't the book I like best. Oh sure, it's the first one I discovered and I think it's great, but she wrote other books that I fell in love with even more.

Although most people only know the first book in the series, L.M. Montgomery actually wrote eight novels about Anne. Here are my favorite Anne books:
  • Anne of the Island. Anne goes to college and rejects suitors right and left. I think this book may be the one I like the best in the whole series. It has a lovely timeless quality to it.
  • Anne's House of Dreams. This book chronicles the first few years of Anne's marriage. There's heartbreak and love in it and it's wonderful to see Anne grow up and her relationships develop. I have to say, though, that I recently re-read this book, and found it contained far more sexist attitudes towards women than I remembered.
  • Rilla of Ingleside. This book contains the story of Anne's daughter growing up during World War One. I learned a lot from this book when I first read it, and the images of war it presents have always stayed with me.
I also love the series of books about Emily of New Moon. My favorite book in that series is:
  • Emily's Quest. This is the third book in the Emily series and is quite haunting in parts. It moves me every time I read it. Also, this is the series that I've always considered to be the most autobiographical of L.M. Montgomery, so I think the occasional sadness and despair in it affect me more.
And, I can't forget the two books about Pat of Silver Bush.
  • Mistress Pat, the second book in the series, is the one I like the best. There's something intriguing about Pat's devotion to her house. Also, aspects of Pat's story are similar to Emily's, which I've always found interesting. I think it contains my least favorite male name, though. The hero's name is Jingle. That's never really worked for me.
Another book I like (but it isn't part of a series) is:
  • A Tangled Web. This book brings all of L.M. Montgomery's major stories together in one book. It's like reading short versions of all her other books.
I've read every book that L.M. Montgomery wrote. What's my favorite book of all? Hands down, it's:
  • The Blue Castle. It's not very well known at all, and it's the only book she wrote that is not set on Prince Edward Island. It's about a woman, Valancy Stirling, who is told she only has a year to live. She completely reinvents herself in a wonderful way. I think this is the most romantic of all of L.M. Montgomery's books.
Why am I mentioning this author now? 2008 is the one hundredth anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, which was originally published in 1908. There are lots of celebrations going on in honor of this famous red-haired orphan.

Interested in more about L.M. Montgomery? The best and most comprehensive book I've ever found on the subject (and I found it when I was visiting the site of the author's childhood home on Prince Edward Island) is called The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album. This five hundred page book is an absolute masterpiece, complete with rich essays and photographs from both family members and scholars that chronicle and honor the life of this wonderful author. It's being re-released in March 2008.

There's also a new Anne of Green Gables book about to be published called Before Green Gables. It's a prequel to the first book, and is written by Budge Wilson. See this post by Cheryl Rainfeld for more details.

Do you have a favorite book by L.M. Montgomery? Let me know in the comments, or vote in the new poll on the sidebar.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

New J.K. Rowling Interview

There's a wonderful new and lengthy interview with J.K. Rowling in the Spanish language newspaper El Pais.

Here's the original interview in Spanish, and here's the English translation, available at the Leaky Cauldron.


Here are a few quotes from the interview that really stood out to me:

Rowling (discussing chapter 34 in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): "For me, that chapter is the key of all the books. Everything, everything I have written, was thought of for that precise moment when Harry goes into the forest. That is the chapter that I had planned for 17 years. That moment is the heart of all of the books. And for me it is the last truth of the story. Even though Harry survives, of that there was no doubt, he reaches that unique and very rare state which is to accept his own death. How many people have the possibility of accepting their death before they die?"

The chapter she is talking about (The Forest Again) where Harry walks into the Forbidden Forest to consciously face his own death, is probably the most powerful (for me) in the whole series. I was crying as I read it, because I believed Harry was walking to his death. It makes sense to me that she planned it for 17 years, because it's an absolutely crucial moment.

Rowling (talking about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix): "The fifth book is the darkest of all because there is an absence of anticipation and an oppressive atmosphere. I think because of that, people didn’t like it as much. Even though there are readers who prefer this book to the others, they are a strange minority."

I give Rowling a lot of credit for saying this. Very few people like the fifth book. Lots of people have been unable to get past it (which is unfortunate, because I think the sixth and seventh books are better). I'm impressed that she's able to recognize that the fifth book isn't as likable. I think that's hard for an author to admit. It also intrigues me that she says that the book wasn't supposed to be enjoyable.

If you have a moment, I highly recommend taking a look at the full interview. There are a lot of interesting comments in there.

This made me laugh....

... and I thought you might get a chuckle out of it. It's from The Onion, a satiric newspaper.

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

The Onion

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

GREENWOOD,IN—"Instead of spending hours on YouTube every night, Mr. Meyer, unlike most healthy males, looks to books for gratification," said one psychologist.

Also, I thought I'd share something else that made me laugh this week. Here are three Google searches that people recently used to find Wizards Wireless. These are all real, I didn't make them up.
  • "don't let the duck drive the bus"
  • "Newbery award books for toddlers"
  • "Hatti Potter and the Deathly Hallows
What Google searches have people used to find your website or blog that have made you laugh?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Library Profile: Noyes Library for Young Children

Wizards Wireless is proud to feature a guest post about the Noyes Library for Young Children. Thanks to Candice Ransom of Ellsworth's Journal for her lovely post about one of my very favorite libraries. One word of caution if you're planning on visiting: the library is only open three days a week, so be sure to check the hours before stopping by.

Without further ado, here's Candice's post:

In the mid-1970s, I was living in Maryland, working as a secretary, and trying to become a famous children’s book writer. As a native Virginian, Maryland felt alien to me (they had sidewalks!) I was an efficient but surly secretary—efficient because it’s my nature, surly because the famous children’s writer goal eluded me. Libraries were my salvation.

On my lunch hour, I bolted a sandwich in the parking lot of the Greenbelt library in Prince George’s County. Inside, I sat at a table in the children’s room, scribbling articles for children’s magazines. My first ever sale was written in the library, a one-page piece called “The Memory Box” that Highlights for Children bought for a whopping $50. To my knowledge, the article has never been published.

Closer to home, I browsed the children’s room of the Kensington Park branch of the Montgomery County public library system. One day I was driving around, lost in my own neighborhood (probably dazzled by all those sidewalks) when I stumbled on a tiny scrap of a library. Shaded by a welcoming sycamore tree, the little beige building stood alone on a triangular wedge of land, surrounded by turreted Victorian houses. The old-fashioned sign above the door sported a carved owl and the words “Noyes Library.”

I opened the door...

and, Alice in Wonderland style, tumbled into a single room lined with short bookcases jammed with picture books.

A rocking chair with a comfy cushion beckoned me to quit trying so hard to be a famous children’s writer, sit down and read. On my knees I examined the well-used books and discovered forgotten favorites: Ping, Make Way for Ducklings, The Little House.

The Noyes Library for Young Children, I learned, was built in 1893, the first library in the county. Later, the one-room library was dedicated to the needs of preschoolers through third graders. The Noyes Library is designated a historic landmark, though it was slated to be closed in the early 1990s. The powers-that-be somehow came to their senses and kept the library open.

One of my wilder dreams is to build a gingerbread dolls’ house of a library just for young children. I even have plans that I peruse every so often. I will fill my library with picture books and stuffed animals and reading nooks in the window seats, throw in a couple of library cats for added coziness. Then I’ll sit on the rug with lots of little children and we’ll happily leaf through picture books.

Until then, I’m glad to know the child-sized Noyes Library gives young readers a room of their own, a place where they can enjoy books quietly and peacefully.

Thank you, Candice!

This post is part of the Wizards Wireless series of library and bookstore profiles. If you'd be willing to write a post about a library with a great children's department or a terrific independent bookstore that specializes in children's books, I'd love to feature it on my blog. See this post for more details about my search for guest bloggers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Big box of books

I read 50 books tonight.

Really. It's not an exaggeration... I counted them when I was finished.

They were all picture books, but still. That's a LOT of books.

Why, you ask? Good question. I read a box of samples in preparation for a meeting with a publisher rep. Book buyers get advance unbound copies of picture books to help them decide what to buy. The books are called F&G's (fold and gather) because all the pages are loose and unbound.

It's extremely exciting to read books that haven't been published yet. It can also be a little overwhelming. There are so many books, and they're such a mix of picture books, early readers, non fiction, biographies, Halloween books and every other genre you can think of. Yes, I am looking at Halloween books already. (See this post to see what I'm talking about.) It can be hard to switch gears from a book about a loose tooth with cartoon illustrations to a non-fiction book explaining the finer points of World War II.

Plus, you have to trust your gut. Almost nobody else has read these books yet. There are no reviews or award lists to consult. You can't check blogs for buzz, because there isn't any yet. You simply decide if you like the book, if you think you can sell it and if there's an audience for it in your community. And sometimes, you haven't even seen the book.... just the cover. Or you see it for a few moments during the meeting with the rep from the publisher.

I do read every picture book I get an advance copy of. So, whether it's by a Caldecott medalist or a first time author... I give each book a chance. Tonight, I loved a few books, liked a lot, some didn't work for me, and I earmarked a bunch to talk to my colleague about (she reads all the samples too). That's about average.

The best part will come slowly over the next six months as the books themselves arrive in the store. I'll get to put them on shelves, talk to people about them and watch them go home with customers to read and enjoyed by kids. What a great job.

Incidentally, if you're a children's book buyer for an independent store (hi, Alison Morris!) I would love to talk to you about how you approach this process. And maybe we can compare notes about specific books. Leave a note in the comments or e-mail me at wizardwireless [at] gmail [dot] com. Do anyone know if there's a listserv or an electronic discussion group where booksellers can discuss advance copies?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Library Profile: NYPL Central Children's Room

A few years ago, I went on a fabulous book-related trip to New York City. I trekked all over town and went to every imaginable bookstore. But the best place I visited was the Central Children's Room at the Donnell Library Center, a branch of the New York Public Library.

First, it took me a little while to get there. I had heard for years that there was a wonderful flagship children's library in Manhattan. For some reason, although I researched every other part of my trip exhaustively, I never looked up where exactly this magical library was located. I just assumed that it was inside the 42nd street library, the famous one with the stone lions.

I don't remember exactly where my hotel was, but I think it was on 63nd Street or so. I trudged approximately 20 blocks to the 42nd street library and hauled myself up the steps and to the information desk. This was an adult research library, I was told. For the children's library, I had to go back to 53rd street (which I had just walked past). I retraced my steps ten blocks back, and finally found the Donnell Library Center.

By the time I arrived in the children's room, I was pretty tired... not just from my 30 block adventure, but from walking around New York City during the rest of my trip. I saw some stuffed animals in a glass case, and didn't think much of them. As I was walking past them, I saw an open guest book with notes and signatures. Clearly, a school visit had recently taken place, and the book was filled with notes from students. One said how much the visitor had liked the library's Winnie-the-Pooh toys.

Winnie-the-Pooh? Wait a minute. I knew that the original bear that Christopher Robin Milne had owned was currently residing in a library. But they were right here? In front of me? And I had WALKED past them? I spun around to look at the glass case again and my mouth fell open. There they were. A worn Pooh, a patched Eeyore, a cute Tigger, a tiny Roo, a white Rabbit and a stately Kanga.

Now fully awake with all earlier fatigue forgotten, I started to explore the amazing place I was in. I found a large rare book room, brimming with old and historic children's books... the kind of thing one would expect to find in a research library, not a public library. I finally dragged myself away (I had an appointment to get to) and hurriedly went through the other side of the children's room. I saw books that had just been published. I saw wonderful old classics. I saw an incredibly long row of Harry Potter books 1-5 (books 6 and 7 hadn't been published at the time)... stretching across a shelf. And, most importantly, I saw a room filled with parents, books, and kids. I had to leave all too soon. I said goodbye to Pooh and his friends and left... hoping I'd see them again.

It's been a few years and I haven't gotten back there yet. But this past November I read an article in the New York Times that the Donnell Library was sold to developers and a new hotel will be built on the site. The new building will feature a much smaller library... but the fate of the central children's room is currently up in the air.

If you live in New York or nearby, or are planning a trip in that direction, make sure you stop by this special place before it closes in May 2008.

This post is part of the Wizards Wireless series of library and bookstore profiles. If you'd be willing to write a post about a library with a great children's department or a terrific independent bookstore that specializes in children's books, I'd love to feature it on my blog. See this post for more details about my search for guest bloggers.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Poll results

As another semester of graduate school starts in my life, my thoughts turn to my favorite fictional school, Hogwarts. I recently did a poll of favorite subjects taught at Hogwarts. Here's the results:

Question: Which Hogwarts subjects would you like to study?


1st place (21 votes)

  • Transfiguration

2nd place (20 votes)

  • Defense aganist the Dark Arts

3rd place (17 votes)

  • Flying

4th place (16 votes)

  • Charms

5th place (15 votes)

  • Potions

6th place (12 votes)

  • Care of Magical Creatures

7th place (9 votes each)

  • Ancient Runes
  • Herbology

8th place (7 votes)

  • Occlumency

9th place (5 votes each)

  • History of Magic
  • Muggle Studies

10th place (4 votes)

  • Astronomy

11th place (3 votes)

  • Arithmancy

12th place (2 votes)

  • Divination
See the new poll in the sidebar which asks about occupations in the Harry Potter world. I have to say, I think I'd enjoy being the manager of Flourish and Blotts or the Hogwarts librarian. How about you?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A stretch

A new semester is upon us (or upon me, at least). It's time to get back to writing assignments and papers. It's time to start reading long non-fiction articles and book excerpts again. It's time for all the books I read or meant to read during winter break to go back on the shelf. It's time to focus more on school work than on blogging (you can from the fact that I posted daily this past week how well I'm sticking to that).

Sometimes, the required reading I do for graduate school surprises me.

Right now I'm reading a book for a class assignment that I never would have picked up otherwise. It's called Personal History and it's the autobiography of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. It's almost 700 hundred pages long. The type face is tiny. It's a complete departure from all the genres I usually read.

And I can't put it down.

It's mesmerizing, absorbing and fascinating. Why? Maybe because the writing is excellent (it won the 1998 Pulitzer prize for biography). Maybe because I've subscribed to the Washington Post for as long as I can remember and I love hearing about the newspaper's history. Maybe because Graham is an intriguing person. Maybe because I can't wait to find out what happens next (even though I knew the basic story of her life before I picked up the book).

Or maybe because it's such a stretch for me. It's almost liberating in some ways to read something so different. I'd like to read outside my comfort zone more... because when I do, I invariably discover fascinating books. But of course, that and all my other resolutions will have to wait until the end of the semester.

If you'll excuse me, I have to go find out what happens to Katherine Graham next.

Friday, February 1, 2008

For Better or For Worse update

Whenever I do a post on For Better or For Worse, I tend to get a lot of reactions. I think there's a lot more people out there who follow this comic strip than I realize.

For all of you who do, see this article from Editor and Publisher about where the strip is headed.

Here's a quote:
"The current plan: Continue tying up loose ends with various "FBorFW" characters (a process that's taking longer than Johnston expected). Then, no later than this September, freeze all these cast members in time. After that, the 1979-launched comic will focus on the younger versions of the characters. But that doesn't mean the post-September strips will consist entirely of rerun material. Johnston plans to change various elements of the comics, create new story lines, etc. -- but do all that in the drawing style she used to have. "

What do I think? I love the strip. I really do. But I don't think it's the kind of comic strip that
successfully works in reruns (even if there's new material, there will still be an awful lot of reruns). It isn't a timeless comic strip. The characters in FBOFW age and grow and develop. To see them at the beginning of this process doesn't work so well. I own almost all of the later books and collections but not the ones from the earlier years. Those stories just aren't as interesting to me.

Also, Lynn Johnston has really grown as an artist and as a storyteller. Her art has become increasingly complex. I like her current drawing style much, much better than her old one. I find when the strips from 20 years ago are inserted (as they currently are every few weeks), they really fall flat. (See today's strip for an example of the old drawing style). They just can't compare to the newer strips, and they're pretty painful to read.

You would think that I'd be a perfect audience for the old strips. They're about raising young children (and I'm the parent of a young child). But the FBOFW jokes are dated and more one dimensional than in later strips. For parenting humor, I'd rather turn to current strips like The Pajama Diaries which represent issues and situations much closer to the ones I'm dealing with.

So, as much as I love FBOFW, it's okay with me if Lynn Johnston retires. I'd rather have her end the strip gracefully than to re-work all the old material that's best left alone in collections. I read FBOFW because of the character development, and without that, it just doesn't work for me.

What do you think? Vote in the poll on the sidebar or leave a comment.