Monthly Archives: June 2008

Fake can Be Good

I’m in Anheim for ALA and was able to convince Nina Lindsay and Roxanne Feldman to got to Disneyland. I wanted to go because the place is so iconic in American culture and I wanted to experience it for myself first hand.

Now I expected it to be a bet tattered at the edge (being the original and oldest of the parks) and that I’d basically experience the whole thing ironically. But neither turned out to be the case. The place was lovely (in a completely fake way, of course) and I had a wholeheartedly and non–ironic blast! Nina had been once as a child and Roxanne had been to EuroDisney so both knew the ropes a bit.

We did Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted House, a steamboat ride, and a Star Wars ride. I was SO impressed with them. They weren’t frayed or tacky or anything. They were really, really, really well done! Things like the changing sky in the former and the ghosts in the latter. (I mean, I remember “Its a Small World” from the 1964 World’s Fair so wasn’t expecting much more than that.) We wandered about; would have done the literary rides like those for Alice, Toad, and Peter, but the waits were too long. On the way out we stopped at a really neat exhibit of the history of the park with models, posters, drawings, and photos documenting it from start. That was fascinating.

Don’t know if I’d go back, but I do understand now better why people love going so much.



Filed under Newbery

Scholastic’s The 39 Clues

Steven Spielberg has just procured the movie rights for this Scholastic series, planned out by Rick Riordan, due to launch in September.  Via PowellsBooks.

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Sometimes Children’s Lit Blogger Gets Big Book Deal

Time to turn green with envy, fellow children’s lit bloggers.  HarperCollins has bought a book by Lizzie Skurnick based on her weekly Jezebel column, Fine Lines.  This is their Friday feature,  “… in which we give a sentimental, sometimes-critical, far more wizened look at the children’s and YA books we loved in our youth.”  Skurnick’s columns have been smart and I look forward to seeing what this book turns out to be.  Here’s a bit more information from their announcement:

Publishing behemoth HarperCollins, which, thanks to editor Carrie Feron and agent Kate Lee, will be publishing the book — featuring work that has appeared on Jezebel as well as new content — sometime next summer. And Jezebel readers can help, namely, telling Lizzie what sort of accompanying online content and reader participation opportunities you’d love to see — “book clubs, podcasts, interviews, e-book downloads and cover galleries are things we’re kicking around,” she says — and, of course, title suggestions.


Filed under Children's Literature


Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of adbooks, a wonderful YA discussion group created and moderated by middle school English teacher Krista Fiabane. In 1998, having just completed her first year teaching, Krista started adbooks as a way to learn more about the literature for the children she was teaching. Today over 1400 people subscribe and adbooks plays a significant role for many YA enthusiasts.

I came to adbooks at the suggestion of a couple of child_lit friends. I was dubious; after all, I teach 4th grade — what did YA literature have to do with me? Well, I soon learned that adbooks was a vibrant community. We argue, we consider and we learn, we joke and we get a lot out of it.

But it was the JHunt awards that made me a complete adbooks addict. This award/game was started by a couple of adbook members who were frustrated by the limitations of other awards. Using reviews and polls a shortlist is created of around eleven books or so. Then week by week the books are discussed and voted OFF Survivor-style until five remain. There is one final vote FOR the winning book. Let me tell you, it is a lot of fun!

But it isn’t all JHunt.  There are always monthly books under discussion, a July author study, and a lot more. Do check this wonderful list out here!

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Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go

After reading that review of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go I requested an ARC from the publisher. I casually started reading it and then was unable to stop till I was done. Boy oh boy; it is one hell of a read.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a dystopic novel involving settlers who created a New World because they wanted a simpler life (a la those Mayflower passengers of our yore).  According to Todd, the last boy of the settlement of Prentisstown, years earlier an illness resulted in all males being able to hear each others’ thoughts.  This Noise, a brilliant concept, is superbly evoked by Ness in all its hellishness.  Without really understanding quite why Todd is forced to flee Prentisstown, the only place he has ever known, with his dog Manchee.  (And, by the way, Ness’s presentation of the Noise of animals is absolutely amazing.)  Todd’s resulting journey is harrowing, moving, disturbing, and enthralling. One of Ness’s many literary feats is the way physical hardships mirror the emotional ones.  Another is the idea of knowing an individual’s thoughts without the Noise.  Another is the idea of manhood.  Another is…well, I’ll stop now. This is one heck of a coming-of-age novel, I can tell you.

A few warnings: it is violent and raw,  there are deaths (some are very upsetting), and it ends on a huge HUGE cliffhanger (as this is evidently the first book in the Chaos Walking series).


Filed under YA

Ypulse Books Publishing Mashup preconference

Having noticed the occasional link to my blog from I checked them out and found them to be a very savvy and well-informed bunch. So I’m happy to pass on the following invitation although I won’t be there as I’ll be on the wrong coast by then. Here’s the scoop:

The annual Ypulse National Mashup conference ( is the event for those who are immersed in the youth space and interested in successfully using technology to connect with today’s youth. It’s an event where attendees learn how to harness social media and technology in ways that are ethical, authentic and add value for tweens, teens and early twentysomethings.

More than one in four readers of and the Ypulse Daily Update newsletter are teachers, librarians, counselors and ministers who recommend books to their students, clients and the public. These professionals are the largest single group that read Ypulse and attend Ypulse Mashup conference events. That’s the reason we’ve created a special preconference session to focus on books this year:

The Ypulse Books Publishing Mashup.
• Presentations and panel discussions include “Meeting Young Readers Where They Live – Online,” “Writing for a Youth Audience” and “Visual Storytelling,” covering everything from how successful YA authors connect with reluctant readers, to trends in YA publishing and why teens are mad for manga.
• Speakers and panelists are from companies including Scholastic, Readergirlz, Star Farm Productions, Hachette Book Group USA, Zest Books/Orange Avenue Publishing, Penguin Group (USA), JacketFlap, Kamikaze POP and VIZ Media.
• Participating YA authors include Lisa McMann, Melissa Walker, Jeff Savage and Debbie Huey.

We’d love to invite your readers to join us for this event. And, even if they can’t attend the entire Mashup conference (starting that afternoon), they will also be invited to join our attendees at 8:00pm for a special screening of the documentary film “American Teen,” followed by a Q&A with the teens from the film.

For a special discounted flat rate of $100 for the Ypulse Books Publishing Mashup preconference only, enter the code SFBOOKS when registering at For all with an interest in attending the entire National Mashup, we extend an offer of a 10% discount on the registration fee; simply email us at for a special code to use.

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Nancy Drew on NPR

“I don’t think there is a casual reader of Nancy Drew,” says writer Fran Lebowitz. “There may be casual readers of Proust, but not of Nancy Drew.”

For NPR’s In Character series, Renee Montagne’s enjoyable profile of that blue roadster driver, Miss Drew. Nancy Drew: Curious, Independent and Usually Right

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Cosmic Dadliness

A few years ago I fell hard for Millions, Frank Cotrell Boyce’s first book for children. The outlandish situation (two boys feverishly spending large amounts of money), the characterizations (particularly of the two boys and their father), the subtle handling of the big emotional and theological themes (of grief and faith), the laugh-out-loud humorous moments (my favorite being the playground economy), and the remarkable voice of narrator Damian (the younger of the two boys) made it a memorable novel for me as well as for my students when I read it aloud to them. Boyce’s next novel, Framed, did not win me over the same way. Fortunately, he has gone one better with his newest book, Cosmic.*

“I’m not exactly in the Lake District.”

Indeed he is not. He’s not even on Earth. With that small, understated sentence Boyce hooks us up with his eleven-year old narrator, Liam, a “great lad.” Great as in being really tall; tall enough to ride any amusement park ride he wishes, tall enough to drive, tall enough to be repeatedly mistaken as an adult. Say on his first day at a new secondary school as a “gifted and talented” student when he is initially identified as a teacher. Great as in being really, really good at the multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. Great as being really smart and really brave. Great as in having a sweet and thoughtful and sensitive way that stands him in good stead when he ends up in a rocket coming back from the moon.

With a bunch of kids.

Who think he is a dad.

Boyce gets Liam’s voice just right. A screenwriter, he knows how to set-up scenes, create engaging dialog, and make a completely improbable situation believable. As he did with Millions, Boyce brings in deep philosophical ideas in a kid-friendly, convincing, and moving way. With this one it is about dads, about what it is to be one, what it is to be an adult. To the book’s readers, Liam is convincingly a kid throughout his story, even as he convinces the adults he encounters that he is an adult. And not just any adult — an adult just like his dad.

A completely lovely book; highly recommended.

* The book will be published in the US in July, but is already available at audible; thanks to Kelly Herold who alerted me to this fact (and did her review today too!)


Filed under Children's Literature

Inanimate Alice

I’ve just experienced the just-released “Episode 4: Hometown” of the haunting multimedia-interactive story, Inanimate Alice and can say that it is just as enjoyable and unique as the previous three.  After a peripatetic, adventurous, and dramatic life abroad, Alice is living in the UK, going to school for the first time (having been previously home-schooled), and has some real (rather than virtual) friends.  Here’s how the story is described by its creators:

‘Inanimate Alice’ tells the story of Alice, growing up in the early years of the 21st century. Written and directed by writer Kate Pullinger and digital artist Chris Joseph, this series of multimedia, interactive episodes uses a combination of text, sound, images, and games as Alice takes us on a journey through her life from the age of eight through to her twenties. Alice becomes a games animator; not just any animator, but a creator of characters for the most successful games company in the world.

You can read a 2006 Guardian interview with Kate Pullinger here.

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Belated Father’s Day Post

My great, great thanks to the many who wrote and email me about my father. As you can imagine, last Sunday wasn’t easy (even though my family did not celebrate such holidays — my dad would sneer that they were “Hallmark” holidays and have nothing to do with them).

For those of you interested in knowing more about my father, here’s an obituary written by one of his colleagues at Columbia.

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