With the start of a new year how about a Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac? This new-kid-on-the-blog-block from children’s literature expert Anita Silvey is an elegant and informative site for anyone looking for smart children’s book recommendations with a little something extra. As befits an almanac Anita begins each post with an intriguing fact about the day, goes on to provide a concise and clear description of the featured book (and when applicable something about the authors or publishing history) along with a quote or image, and ends with recommendations of related books. For example, she introduced Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats last month by noting that it was Cat Herding Day. I mean, who knew? As for the books themselves, they run a range from those recently published to old favorites. Picture books, nonfiction, books for a wide range of ages — Anita offers breadth and depth. A cleanly designed and easy-to-navigate environment, there is a sidebar with a few more tidbits about the day as well as various ways to search for books of particular interest.
Curious to know more about the project I asked Anita a few questions:
What gave you the idea for doing an almanac? It is a terrific structure, but challenging in that you have to post every day.
The Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac was entirely the brainchild of Simon Boughton of Roaring Brook Press. He was considering a very ambitious book proposal of mine and also looking at almanacs for children. It occurred to him that the two ideas could be combined. Simon suggested that I post my essays on line as I developed them. As any journalist or blogger knows, daily publication forces you to read, research, write, and edit every day – no time for indecision or dallying. To some degree all my reference books – Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, 100 Best Books for Children, and 500 Great Books for Teens – have demanded a rigorous schedule. But in the case of the Almanac, I must produce a coherent essay each day.
The daily facts are fascinating — where do you find them? Do you start with a particular book and then look for a daily fact to go with it or vice versa?
All kinds of data bases exist for holidays; as any good reference librarian can probably guess, I keep a copy of Chase’s Calendar of Events by my desk. Sometimes the events of a day or month suggest a book to me; I also have scores of titles that I want to work into the Almanac during the year.
I’m loving the range of books, especially those good and decent ones from not-that-long-ago that may be a bit overlooked today. Books like Andrew Clement’s Frindle. What is your thinking behind these book choices?
I always stress the classics because I don’t want children to miss them. But I am keeping my eye out for great titles of the last twenty years. I have already taught, lectured about, or written about many of my selections; however, sometimes my thoughts about a book appear for the first time on the website. My passion for these books remains the consistent factor; I love every one of them.
I’m interested in your definition of “children.” So far the books featured seem directed toward ages ten and younger. Any thought about also doing books for kids at a slightly older age, say that tricky “through fourteen” criteria that the Newbery award uses?
I am selecting books for infants through age 14. Each month I make sure that each age group – babies, preschool, elementary, and middle school — has suggestions for reading.
Is there anything you want to point out about the site for new visitors?
My mantra throughout my forty professional years has been Walter de la Mare’s quote, “only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.” I just hope that readers of the website enjoy learning about these books and the amazing people who created them.