Sunday, November 25, 2012

Librarians Who Blog by Caroline Starr Rose

There are a vast number of resources available for educators, and never before has so much information been so easily accessible as in the Internet age. Last month I shared a number of links for teachers who blog. This month you’ll find a list of librarians who blog about books, literacy, and their experiences in their libraries. There is a wealth of knowledge at these sites, and I hope you find them to benefit you and the work you do with children.

School Librarians:

Great Kids Books

Mary is an elementary school librarian in Berkley, CA and had three young readers at home. She recommends titles for kids 4-14. This year Mary is the Chair of the Book Apps Cybils Committee.

Mrs. Yingling Reads: Books for Middle School Students, Especially Boys

The title says it all! Mrs. Yingling is a middle school librarian and avid reader. She reviews and posts regularly on a variety of titles -- “boy books” especially. She’s serving on the Cybils this year.

The Book Butcher

Kelly is a school librarian who hosts Book Talk Tuesdays, where she encourages bloggers to link book reviews to her post on a weekly basis. It’s a great way for librarians and teachers to discover new books.

Watch. Connect. Read.

Mr. Schu is an elementary librarian who posts interviews and reviews as well as showcases book trailers that can be used in the classroom. Along with Colby Sharp, he is reading through all the Newberys this year.

Librarian's Quest

Margie has been a school librarian for 39 years. From the website: A place where students, educators and parents can exchange and express views about the best of books, new technologies and libraries.

Children’s Librarians (Public Libraries):

Biblio File

Jennie is a children’s librarian in the DC metro area who has served on two Cybils panels (2007-2011), the Maryland Blue Crab Award committee (2009), and YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Non-Fiction (2013). She reviews a variety of middle-grade and young adult titles.

The Chained Library

Rebecca is a children’s librarian in Rio Rancho, NM who is also pursuing publication. She reviews books, interviews authors, and writes in-depth, meaty posts about all things bookish.

Green Bean Teen Queen

Sarah is a youth services librarian in Springfield, MO, who works with children 0-18. She posts reviews and interviews and this year is serving on the Printz committee.

The Fourth Muskateer: Reviews and More about Historical Fiction and History-Related Non-Fiction for Children’s and Teens

Margo is children’s librarian in California. This blog is an excellent resource for history lovers!

And if you’re curious about what kids think of new titles --

Kid Reviews:

Fresh Ink: New Books, Young Reviewers, Fresh Perspectives

Students 7-17 review new middle-grade and young adult titles.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is it about Picture Books? Interview with Lori Mortenson and Book Giveaway

Ever since I was a little kid and excitedly checked out Where the Wild Things Are from the Gregory Gardens Elementary School library for a special birthday night reading, I’ve had a special place in my heart for picture books. Within a mere thirty-two pages, they manage to be funny, touching, clever, rambunctious, surprising, suspenseful, and memorable. When I was small, writing them was the farthest thing from my mind. I was short and shy, but whenever I opened them up, I was instantly drawn away into worlds far away from my ordinary home on Jennie Drive.

Later as a dance major in college, I spent most of my time sweating and spinning across the dance floor. But when there was a lull in the action, I’d find myself wandering around the children’s section of the campus book store. As I paged through the picture books, I idly wondered how someone became a part of such a magical endeavor, but it wasn’t really a question. Wherever authors lived, they lived far away from me and somehow it seemed as if only people who were born to the profession had the right to claim it.

Come See the Earth Turn
by Lori Mortenson

So when did I begin writing? I was a stay-at-home mother of three when I was reintroduced to children’s literature and secretly wondered—could I write a picture book? The idea was stunning, as if I’d challenged the laws of the universe. What did I have to say? What did I want to say for my children, and the child in me?

Many years later, that’s still the exciting reason I sit down at my keyboard and bring a story to life. When I sit down at the keyboard, the screen becomes a vacant world, that I fill as I please with characters, plots, and themes that take shape from my own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Sometimes it’s hard to get started, but once I do and I know where I’m going, there’s nothing more exciting than wrestling with words on the page until they fall into their proper place.

Cindy Moo by Lori Mortenson
What is it about picture books? They’re a lot harder to write than they look. Picture books are so short, I’m sure many people pick them up and think they could knock one out in five minutes if they just had the time. The text is so short, how could it take any longer? Short as they are, however, the beauty of pictures books is how they pack so much into so little—character, drama, rhythm, rhyme, and meaningful undercurrents of theme. When they unfold across two eager laps in a chair, it’s an invitation to share a new world together through extraordinary pictures and words. Some of my favorites? King Bidgood’s Bath by Audrey and Don Wood; The Night Moon Fell Down, by Linda Smith; and The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neil.



Ringity Zingity.

What is it about picture books? I love them and I love writing them. There’s nothing I’d rather do (although dancing comes close.) And if children ever think that any of my picture books such as Cindy Moo, In the Trees, Honey Bees!, Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Leon Foucault, and my upcoming book, Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg are clever, awesome, or ringity, zingity, then I’d be delighted. Maybe one day, it’ll be my book that’s tucked under the arm of an excited child on their way home for a special birthday night reading.

Lori Mortenson is an award-winning author of over three dozen books and more than 100 stories and articles that have appeared in Highlights, Ladybug, Jack and Jill, The Friend,

and many other publications. Like a detective on the trail for a clue, Lori follows her writing interests wherever they lead her-sometimes to a fascinating French scientist who proved the earth turned (Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Léon Foucault, Random House 2010) and other times to the remarkable insider activities of a honey bee hive (In the Trees, Honey Bees! Dawn Publications, 2009, winner of multiple awards including the NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Book for Students K to 12.) Her titles with Picture Window Books, Capstone Press, Stone Arch Books, KidHaven Press, and Marshall Cavendish Benchmark Books include early readers, biographies, American history, mid-grade nonfiction, and first graphic novels.

In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen
Check out the Rafflecopter Below
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Last month in my SECRET LANGUAGE OF STORIES column I discussed the importance of minor characters and gave suggestions for several short forms that could be used to explore them such as the epigram and the epitaph. A fun activity making headstones was described.

Another short form I enjoy is the cinquian. Cinquains are also a great way to explore characters. They are short, just five lines long as the name illustrates, so it's important to capture the essence of a character with as few words as possible. It's also a good activity for students who struggle with written language.

Writing character cinquains can be part of a book report or a stand alone activity. They can be used to create a "cast of characters" and because so much white space is left on the page, other artwork may accompany the project.

Because it's a poem, ideas are more important than grammar and punctuation. Ironically though, students are still exploring grammar because the cinquain focuses on using parts of speech to create each line.

The basic format of the cinquain is as follows:

Line 1: One word (subject or noun)
Line 2: Two words (adjectives describing the subject)
Line 3: Three words (-ing verbs relating to the subject)
Line 4: Four words (feeling words, sentence, or phrase relating
           to the subject.
Line 5: One word (synonym or word that sums up the subject)

In my recent paranormal verse novel, Forget Me Not, I wrote sections of the story in screenplay format. As an introduction to one of the sections, I wrote a series of cinquains describing the characters who appeared in that scene. I decided to call this my cinquain chain because of the way the verses appear to be interlocking down the page. See the example below:

Cast of Characters:

afraid, alone
hurting, hiding, biding
never can go back

timid, guarded
sitting, knitting, praying
quiet girl in black

hungry, unsatisfied
holding, kissing, groping
always gets his way

Julie Ann
trapped, bored
forgetting, conceding, letting
she never gets away

dark, dangerous
playing, plotting, punishing
ruler of the hall

And a cameo appearance by:

brave, bold
knowing, helping, showing
he risks it all

So give it a try! Have fun creating cinquains of your own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fantasy Sub-genres by Carolee Dean

This month's post is a continuation of my discussion with bookseller Elizabeth Anker about fantasy sub-genres. To read her thoughts on Science Fiction vs. Fantasy go to the October Feature Article.

I asked Elizabeth about dystopian fantasy and said she believes dystopian looks at the future as an examination of political structures. In utopia everything is perfect. Dystopia turns everything on its head. Usually a totalitarian and authoritarian government is involved and the story is set in a future that is often post apocalyptic. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the most popular example of dystopian fiction.

Elizabeth said she was personally tired of the genre because as it continues and people write more of it there is far less explanation of why the future described in the book is happening and how the events affects our world at large. These weaker stories tend to focus on a few teens struggling to survive and rely on super powers to explain things.

In discussing other sub genres of fantasy, Elizabeth pointed out that just about any magical creature you can think of has its own series: vampires, werewolves, and even angels.

Scott Westerfeld, author of the Leviathan series, explores zombies, vampires, and classic fantasy creatures by explaining their biology and origin in scientific terms. He tends to fall in her science fiction shelves. For an interesting discussion of the difference between fantasy and science fiction, see our October Feature Article.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, combines zombies and vampires with historical elements and extensive research.

In regard to urban fantasy, Elizabeth says it's just what it sounds like. These stories take classic elements of myth and place them in urban centers like New York and London. The author then weaves in the history of those places with the current story. There is a lot of romance and often humor and whimsy. Examples are Cassandra Clare and her Mortal Instruments Series, Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift Series and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize Series. A lot of these writers are aiming for a clever feel working in modern trends and using word play.

In Epic Fantasy like Tolkien authors create a world and send a hero a quest. Good and evil are usually clearly defined. George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, is an example. These stories are not derived from classic myth but are largely based on Tolkien's work which is in turn based on Scandinavian and British isles myths. Tolkien blended those influences with his Catholic beliefs of good and evil and the idea that there is an ultimate morality we should all be supporting.

I asked Elizabeth why she thought so many of the great fantasy writers are British. She thinks it's because Britains have deeper history than we do and deeper roots to mythology. Americans are good at taking ideas and developing them. Perhaps that is why we have so many good science fiction writers.

For a super handout exploring fantasy sub-genres visit Kimberley Griffiths Little's website with a free PDF called "The View from Under the Fantasy Umbrella".