Monthly Archives: March 2009

Who’s The Baddest?

Come find out!  Our first post is up at BOB!

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The Bob Blog…

is alive!*  No posts yet, but plenty of interesting information nonetheless.

*At least one person I know of found us so I figured you all might as well know.


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A Master Revises

I learned to delete every word or phrase or sentence that told readers something they had already been enabled to know or were bright enough to deduce. I also tried to stop using phrases like of course and adverbs like surprisingly, predictably, understandably, and ironically, which place a value on a sentence before the reader has a chance to read it. Readers, I learned, are not as dumb as the writer thinks; they must be given room to play their role in the act of writing—to discover for themselves what’s surprising or predictable or understandable or ironic. They don’t want that pleasure usurped. That struck me as an important lesson, and I put it into a new section called “Trust Your Material.”

Visions and Revisions: an article by William Zinsser about writing and keeping up to date his book, On Writing Well | The American Scholar


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The ToB, Fans, and Nonfiction

There’s a really interesting discussion happening over at The Tournament of Books about fans and the Zombie Round voting.  (Zombies being eliminated books voted back in for one more round.)

Again, the insight is obvious, but these readers didn’t just enjoy the book, they’re invested in it. At some level (maybe a low one, but a level nonetheless), liking 2666 or Bolaño’s books is part of those readers’ identities or self-image. It’s meaningful that someone feels compelled to write a comment (in some cases very long comments) about a book that someone else (particularly a couple of low-level jokers like us) disliked.

The phenomenon is even more pronounced with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, where we had fans of Ms. Lockhart (and young-adult literature as a whole), rallying to the cause in the voting. Sure, it was plenty easy to cast a vote in the Zombie competition, but there’s only one book where the readers got together and disseminated the word and turned out in force.

The comments go in many directions including a recommendation for a separate non-fiction tourney.  This interested me because  in the one I’m commanding we’ve got nonfiction and fiction going head to head as happens in many of our awards, say the Newbery or the Printz.

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Pen World Voices Festival

This festival is always fantastic, but I think this year the organizers have outdone themselves.  I want to go to everything!  Of course I can’t so here are a few that may be of particular interest to you (and are, of course, to me).  Click on the links for more information or, better yet, go to the festival’s main website to see the whole line-up and specifics as to  time, place, and cost (most are free, but some aren’t and some require reservations).

April 27 | Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Joshua Wolf Shenk

April 28, 2009 | Resonances: Writers on the Great Works

April 28, 2009 | The Rattapallax/PEN World Voices Literary Film Feast

April 29, 2009 | The Inspired Scientist: A Program for High School Students

April 29, 2009 | The Voyage of the Reader: Using Children’s Books to Create a Love of Reading

April 30, 2009 | Personal Evolution, Social Revolution: A Program for High School Students

April 30, 2009 | Leaps and Bounds, Fits and Starts: The Evolution of a Children’s Book Writer

May 1, 2009 | The Translation Slam

May 2, 2009 | Coraline, Sandman: Books and Imagination: A Conversation with Neil Gaiman

May 2, 2009 | 1,000 Words: The Power of Visual Storytelling

May 2, 2009 | Krik? Krak!

May 3, 2009 | Is Nonfiction Literature?

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Follow, follow, follow, follow BOB

Try to remember the kind of September
When chat was across picket fences and tweeting came from birds flying south for the winter
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow

SLJ’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books!


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Discworld on the Tube

Well, my dinosaur television is still the tube sort.  But I digress. This post is about the movie version of Terry Pratchett‘s The Colour of Magic. This was my very first reading encounter with Pratchett and far from my last. I remember asking on child_lit which to start with and finally decided to go with this one, the very first Discworld novel.  I continue to have tremendous fondness for the bumbling wizard Rincewind who looked a bit longer in the tooth than I expected on the telly last night.  However, an hour in (I DVR’d it), I have to say — so far so good.  I’m especially liking Luggage.  Checked the reviews and see two, count ’em, two on Rotten Tomatoes — one fresh and one rotten. The latter NOT by a Discworld fan.


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My (and Many Other People’s) Park

Although people think I did, I did not grow up in New York City.  My father began his academic career in the 50s taking whatever job he could get. So I was born in the South and spend my childhood in the Midwest and Europe. However, my grandparents did live in New York near Riverside Park and I remember, when visiting going to the park with my grandfather to feed squirrels and birds. A resident of the city myself for many years now, I have always lived just off this lovely stretch of green along the Hudson and so I really appreciated this New York Times piece about it. (Thanks to  Jenny Davidson for the link.)


Lucy and I now spend hours in the park.  We’ll be going there in a few minutes, in fact. Here she is in her favorite part, near the 120th Street tennis courts where a group of dogs congregate in the hours before 9 AM when they are allowed off leash. (Pre-Lucy this group unnerved me when I ran — I’d once been bitten by a dog when I ran so I never trusted these. And now I’m one of them.!)

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The Memorial Service for Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz

But now there’s not Kathy and Kate any more. Which is why it is so urgent that we leave this place with Kathy and Kate on our shoulders. One on each. We’ll take Kathy’s red coat and Kate’s fabulous kimonos and wrap them around ourselves as armor. We’ll recall Kate’s chunky jewelry and Kathy’s beautiful family rings when we see a literary gem in the rough. We’ll peer over Kate’s half glasses and look at the world half full; more than half full. We’ll steal their enthusiasm, their drive, their optimism and use it to fuel ourselves. It’s uncertain times these days. Radical change is in the air. But the stories and the songs and the pictures will go on because they must go on. Our job as publishers, writers, artists, readers is to imbue our own endeavor with the fierce love of Kate and Kathy felt for children’s literature and children themselves.

From Brenda Bowen’s comments at Kate and Kathy’s memorial service.  I was unable to attend and am glad that Brenda posted this.  Here’s another report on the service. And here is Jennifer Brown’s moving  and poetic report.

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Picturing the Past


Can we teach history in a way that really engages students’ imaginations? How to make best use of outstanding historical books for young readers as well as primary sources? Join award-winning authors and fellow educators as we explore ways to help young people form their own memorable pictures of the past!

The above quote is from the brochure describing “Picturing the Past,” a superb conference at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston I had the great fortune to be part of this Tuesday.  Sam Rubin, Esther Kohn, and other staff members did a truly outstanding job designing, planning, and running this event.   I was honored to be in the company of children’s book creators Walter Dean Myers, Ellen Levine, Wendell Minor, and Martin W. Sandler and follow educators Myra Zarnowski, Rhonda Clevenson, Mary Kelleher, Jessie Gerson-Nieder and Trevor Wrankmore.

The day before the conference some of us were taken on a tour of the JFK Presidential Birthplace. I had been joking beforehand that every time I saw the words “presidential birthplace” I would think of a log cabin (a bit too much Lincoln centennial perhaps?), but now that I’ve been I will no more. This house was indeed where Kennedy was born, but the family moved when he was three. In 1967 the Kennedy family bought back the house and Rose Kennedy worked to restore it as she remembered it in 1917.  So it is a fascinating melange of her memories (as opposed to any sort of historical verisimilitude) her memorializing of her slain son, and something of what life was like in 1917 Boston.  Absolutely fascinating. That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Lineage Restaurant in Brookline (and I should say the butterscotch pudding is as good as all the reviews say it is).

The conference itself was, as I wrote above, superbly planned and managed.  I enjoyed the sessions I was able to attend, the museum itself which is completely engrossing, and our private tours of the Hemingway Collection and another room for the Kennedys.  The space, designed by I. M. Pei, is extraordinary, facing out into the harbor.  I thought it was pretty cool that I got to do my workshop in the Mural Room.  It has the mural that was originally surrounding the White House pool. Later it was turned into a press room.  But the mural is still there and I enjoyed having it around me as I spoke about the way I teach history.


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Filed under Children's Literature, History, Teaching