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.

Susan's last minute Caldecott, Newbery and Geisel predictions

In October, I posted my early ALA awards predictions. Today is the actual day of the annoucements. In fact, I'm in Denver at the American Library Associations' Midwinter Meeting and am getting ready to head to the press conference in a few minutes. We'll all know the winners within a few hours, but I wanted to post my last minute thoughts. These are the books I want to win, whether that happens, we shall see.

Caldecott: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
Honor: Bear's Picture by Daniel Pinkwater and Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. (I wouldn't be surprised to see House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson on this list somewhere).

Newbery: I really wish it was going to be Trouble by Gary Schmidt, but I'm thinking that's not going to happen. I think it's going to be The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Honor: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, and a few surprises.

Geisel: Red Sled by Patricia Thomas.
Honor: Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems and Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race by Cynthia Rylant. Plus, a surprise picture book or two.

Siebert: I'll Pass For Your Comrade by Anita Silvey (or at least an honor).

I hope you tune in to the live award announcement webcast (be sure to log-on to the webcast early so you don't get shut out). Click here to find out other ways you can find out about the announcements, both during and after the press conference.

Congratulations to every author who just had their life changed with a phone call.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The real me

Wondering who I am? After a year and a half of blogging, I'm finally posting my name and photo on Wizards Wireless.

My name is Susan Kusel, I'm a children's librarian in Arlington, Virginia, and I look like this:

The real debate is: where do I put my polls now? Above the picture and info on the sidebar or below it? I can't find a Blogger template that uses three columns.

Revealing my name is pretty much a moot point, because if you Google me, you'll find this blog. But, I just read the third recent link that referred to me as "the children's librarian who blogs at Wizard Wireless" and I couldn't take it anymore. So, the time has come to fully step out of anonymity. I think it's the right decision for me.

Also, on the sidebar, you'll find out a few things about me. As long as I was going for the big reveal, I thought it was a good idea to post a bit of information about me and Wizards Wireless.

I said I don't do reviews on this blog, but actually I have done a couple. To clarify, if I do a review, it'll be about a book I've picked on my own and never an unsolicited one. (Excepting the Harry Potter Lexicon, which I'll be writing about shortly.) That being said, if you want to send me picture books, comic strip collections or books about Harry Potter, I won't complain. And if you've got any original comic strip art kicking around, I'd be happy to take that off your hands anytime.

Have you wrestled with the issue of using your real name on your blog? What conclusions have you come to?

Also, tell me who you are. I honestly have no idea who reads this blog and am always surprised when someone mentions something I blogged about in real life. Leave a comment in this post, join the Wizards Wireless Facebook page, or add Wizards Wireless to "Blogs I Follow" under your Blogger Profile. It would be great to find out who my audience is!

As always, I'm so glad you stopped by.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Cybils Finalists!

Head on over to the Cybils (The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards) to see the list of 2008 finalists.

I know the judges worked very hard to come up with such an excellent list. I can't wait for the announcement of the winners on February 14.

And, hey, this year a book I nominated actually became a finalist. Three cheers for Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, by Deborah Kogan Ray, a finalist in the non fiction picture book category.