Monthly Archives: March 2008

2008 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts

I am delighted to announce the 2008 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts. This list of thirty books, selected by a committee of the Children’s Literature Assembly of NCTE, will be presented at the 2008 NCTE and the 2009 IRA conventions as well as featured in the Fall 2008 Journal of Children’s Literature and the March 2009 Language Arts.


The charge of the seven-member national committee is to select thirty titles each year that best exemplify the criteria established for the Notables Award. Books considered for this annual list are works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written for children, grades K-8. The books must meet one or more of the following criteria:

1. deal explicitly with language, such as plays on words, word origins, or the history of language;
2. demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style;
3. invite child response or participation.

In addition, books are to:

4. have an appealing format;
5. be of enduring quality;
6. meet generally accepted criteria of quality for the genre in which they are written.


Without further ado, here they are! (The committee members’ names are listed at the end.)

2008 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts

Poetry and Drama

Dillons, Leo and Diane. (2007). Jazz on a Saturday Night. New York: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic.

Forman, Ruth. (2007). Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon. Illustrations by Cbabi Bayoc. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.

Neri, G. (2007). Chess Rumble. Illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson. New York: Lee & Low.

Park, Linda Sue. (2007). Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems. Illustrations by Istvan Banyai. New York: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin.

Schlitz, Laura Amy. (2007). Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.

Historical and Realistic Fiction

Compestine, Ying Chang. (2007). Revolution is Not a Dinner Party. New York: Henry Holt.

Ellsworth, Loretta. (2007). In Search of Mockingbird. New York: Henry Holt.

Gifford, Peggy. (2007). Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little. Photographs by Valorie Fisher. New York: Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

Murphy, Pat. (2007). The Wild Girls. New York: Viking/Penguin.

Schmidt, Gary D. (2007). The Wednesday Wars. New York: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin.

Selznick, Brian. (2007). The Invention of Hugo Cabret. New York: Scholastic.

Sheth, Kashmira. (2007). Keeping Corner. New York: Hyperion.

Woodson, Jacqueline. (2007). Feathers. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin.


Fleischman, Paul. (2007). Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella. Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. New York: Henry Holt.

Higgins, F.E. (2007). The Black Book of Secrets. New York: Feiwel and Friends/Holtzbrinck.

Varon, Sara. (2007). Robot Dreams. New York: First Second/Holtzbrinck.


Bausum, Ann. (2007). Muckrakers. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Fletcher, Ralph. (2007). How to Write Your Life Story. New York: Collins/Harper Collins.

Marcus, Leonard S. (2007). Pass it Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark. New York: Walker/Holtzbrinck.

Sis, Peter. (2007). The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Sullivan, George. (2007). Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures. New York: Scholastic.

Picture Books

Baretta, Gene. (2007). Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones. New York: Henry Holt.

Gravett, Emily. (2007). Orange Pear Apple Bear. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Harrington, Janice N. (2007). The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County. Illustrations by Shelley Jackson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Judge, Lita. (2007). One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II. New York: Hyperion.

Lee, S. (2007). The Zoo. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller.

Messinger, Carla and Katz, Susan. (2007). When the Shadbush Blooms. Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle.

Tan, Shaun. (2007). The Arrival. New York: Scholastic.

Watt, Mélanie. (2007). Chester. Toronto, ON: Kids Can.

Wild, Margaret. (2007). Woolvs in the Sitee. Illustrated by Anne Spudvilas. Honesdale, PA: Front Street/Boyds Mills Press.

2008 Committee: Deanna Day, Chair, Monica Edinger Past Chair
Pat Austin, Sharon Levin, Janelle Mathis, Jonda McNair, Kathy Short, Edward Sullivan



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Freakonomics Meets Lyra

Freakonomics author Steven D. Levitt on reading The Golden Compass:

Earlier this month I asked readers what I should do to fill my post-Harry Potter void. I didn’t anticipate just how full of reading suggestions blog readers would be — 270 comments.Of the hundreds of books mentioned, I had to start somewhere, so I read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

I can’t really say that I liked it. I had a hard time identifying with the hero, Lyra. I couldn’t really picture her in my mind, for starters. (Which got me thinking that maybe it helped me to like the Potter books because I had seen some of the movies first, and thus knew what the characters were supposed to look like.)

I found the whole discussion of “Dust” to be boring. Things happened too fast and too unrealistically in the book: somehow she can all of the sudden read some impossibly difficult instrument; she’s in trouble and then some lady appears out of nowhere who had been her wet nurse 13 years earlier and saves her not realizing who it is.

The only part I really liked was what she did to the undeserving bear king.

I bought the trilogy, but given my lack of imagination, maybe I better see the movie first before trying the second installment.

Steven D. Levitt on The Not-So-Golden Compass – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

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The Opening Page:A CLNE Colloquy

There is still time to register for this wonderful event to be held May 8-11, 2008 at the lovely Inn at Essex, Vermont. The speakers are M. T. Anderson, Susan Cooper, Sarah Ellis, Janice Harrington, Arthur A. Levine, Katherine Paterson, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Brian O. Seznick. For more information and/or to register go to

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Teen Readers in the UK

Also revealed is a gender divide. Among boys, 41% listed online computer game cheats as their favourite read, while online song lyrics came second. Nearly a third of boys said they loved reading because it helped them get better at hobbies. Girls took a different approach, with 39% saying they loved reading because it provided an escape, or quiet time to enjoy on their own.

The survey was compiled by using focus groups from which the 20 most loved and 20 most loathed reads were assembled. From this a “national conversation about reading” was launched, with teenagers logging on to the teen website Pizco to have their say. A total of 1,340 teenagers were also surveyed.

The above is from “Celebrity scandal and Anne Frank: the reading diary of British teenagers” a Guardian article about yet another survey about reading. Here are some of the results:

Most loved reads

1 Heat magazine

2 Bliss magazine; online song lyrics

3 Online computer game cheats

4 My own blog or fan fiction

5 The Harry Potter series

6 Anne Frank’s diary

7 Film scripts

8 Books by Anthony Horowitz

9 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis

10 BBC Online; the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison

Most loathed reads

1 Homework

2 Shakespeare

3 Books of over 100 pages

4 Magazine articles about skinny celebrities

5 Books assigned by school/teachers

6 Encyclopedias and dictionaries

7 The Beano

8 Music (scores); the Harry Potter series; maps/directions

9 Facebook

10 Financial Times; Anything in another language

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Slavery Today

A slave is a human being who is forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence. Agreed? Good. You may have thought you missed your chance to own a slave. Maybe you imagined that slavery died along with the 360,000 Union soldiers whose blood fertilized the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. Perhaps you assumed that there was meaning behind the dozen international conventions banning the slave trade, or that the deaths of 30 million people in world wars had spread freedom across the globe.

But you’re in luck. By our mere definition, you are living at a time when there are more slaves than at any point in history.

That is from Benjamin Skinner’s A Crime So Montrous, on modern-day slavery. You can read more of the excerpt as well as listen to an interview with Skinner here. There is also another excellent extensive interview with him by Hannah Wallace here.

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A Few Cool Canadians

I see that Canadian writers are being featured on many blogs today. Since I have a number I admire greatly, I’m in!

Sarah Ellis is someone I’ve long admired because of her superb writing, speaking, and smarts. Last year I wrote the following after she won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for her warm and delightful novel, Odd Man Out.

I got to know Sarah at the now-no-more Children’s Literature New England summer institutes. I learned to wait with bated breath for her talks as they were always witty, thought-provoking, and engrossing. Her books are like that too. If you haven’t encountered them, go thee now to find a few! Odd Man Out is wonderful as are her earlier books for children, not to mention those on literature, and her articles. (Roger notes that she has been writing quite a few for his little journal.) I’m partial to From Reader to Writer: Writing Through Classic Children’s Books as she includes many of my favorites.

Tim Wynne-Jones is another CLNE pal. His speeches there are legendary. I will never forget when he and Gregory Maguire spoke about His Dark Materials in Toronto in 2001. They ended the talk with music and a darkened room. It was stunning. Extroardinary. But reading him is wonderful too. A Thief in the House of Memory is an amazing mood piece, thriller, and brilliant coming-of-age story. More recently he has penned the justifiably lauded Rex Zero and the End of the World; the sequel, Rex Zero, King of Nothing is out any day.

Then there is Mélanie Watt. I first discovered her with the charming Augustine, but most know her as the creator of the wonderful Scaredy Squirrel (of which there are several sequels), and the egotistical Chester. I was privileged to have lunch with her last January and she was a total delight. Can’t wait to see what she does next!

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This is such a generous author that one is tempted to borrow as much as $8,000 from him and then never give it back.

Gary Shteyngart judges the first match in the 2008 Tournament of Books semi-finals.

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Historic Accuracy

I only watched a small part of HBO’s John Adams mini-series, but I have been following J.Bell’s posts about it at Boston 1775.  (Bell is probably better known here for his blog Oz and Ends.)  I’m fascinated because again we are dealing with the complex issue of how best to tell history.  When is the telling true and when is it fiction?   How much of each do we need so that audiences today can relate?  Fascinating stuff.  And here is more (with a quote from Bell): Historically accurate TV? A revolutionary idea. – The Boston Globe

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Remembering Harry: Muggle Quidditch

Just came back from watching a game of Quidditch between Middlebury and Columbia Colleges here in NYC. Lots of college kids running around with brooms between their legs while one in bright yellow (the Snitch evidently) ran all about chased by, what else?, two Seekers. According to this news release:

In 2005, students at Middlebury created earth-bound rules for the famous sport depicted in the Harry Potter novels. Since then it has grown into a major phenomenon at the college, with more than 400 students playing in the Middlebury league. The club created a Facebook page called the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association to spread the word and standardize the rules. It now has nearly 65 member colleges from across the country.

Looked like a mixture of tag, rugby, dodge ball, and a few other of the rougher sports. I got a kick out of those very athletic kids always keeping the brooms between their legs (one of the rules) and that lanky bright yellow Snitch dashing about. Here’s a USA Today article about the burgeoning sport and a Middlebury student documentary about it:


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The Hugo Awards

I have always known about the Hugo Awards, but not how they were selected.  Interesting!

Denvention 3, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced the ballot for the 2008 Hugo Awards. Nominations were made by the members of last year’s World Science Fiction Convention, held in Yokohama, and this year’s, to be held in Denver. Members of the 2008 convention will have until July 1, 2008, to vote on this ballot. Winners will be announced and trophies awarded at Denvention’s Hugo Awards Ceremony on Saturday, August 9.

The voting will be conducted by mail and online. The online ballot will be available at the Denvention 3 web site in the near future. You do not have to attend the convention to vote. A Supporting Membership ($50) is sufficient to secure you voting rights. Memberships can be purchased here.

(The members also created the shortlist by way of nominations.)

And then there are the categories, like none I’ve seen before. Children’s material shows up on several short lists:

Best Related Book

  • The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Glyer; appendix by David Bratman (Kent State University Press)
  • Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millennium by Barry Malzberg (Baen)
  • Emshwiller: Infinity x Two by Luis Ortiz, intro. by Carol Emshwiller, fwd. by Alex Eisenstien (Nonstop)
  • Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Enchanted Written by Bill Kelly Directed by Kevin Lima (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • The Golden Compass Written by Chris Weitz Based on the novel by Philip Pullman Directed by Chris Weitz (New Line Cinema)
  • Heroes, Season 1 Created by Tim Kring (NBC Universal Television and Tailwind Productions Written by Tim Kring, Jeff Loeb, Bryan Fuller, Michael Green, Natalie Chaidez, Jesse Alexander, Adam Armus, Aron Eli Coleite, Joe Pokaski, Christopher Zatta, Chuck Kim. Directed by David Semel, Allan Arkush, Greg Beeman, Ernest R. Dickerson, Paul Shapiro, Donna Deitch, Paul A. Edwards, John Badham, Terrence O’Hara, Jeannot Szwarc, Roxann Dawson, Kevin Bray, Adam Kane
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Written by Michael Goldenberg Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling Directed by David Yates (Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Stardust Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)

Best Professional Artist

  • Bob Eggleton
  • Phil Foglio
  • John Harris
  • Stephan Martiniere
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan

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Filed under Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman