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Friday Blog Round Up

RiverFlow 'Tis the season of book awards and prizes and I was interested to find that on American Indians in Children's Literature there is mention of the "First Nation Communities Read" program, complete with annual award. Previous winners include Ancient Thunder, As Long as the River Flows, and SkySisters.  

While I'm not a big snake fan, Sonja is a big Nic Bishop fan, so this link is for her. The Jean Little Library offers a review of The Snake Scientist and with lines like, "They portray the fascinating world of snakes without being too frightening or icky, if you're a non-snakes lover," I might be tempted to actually check out the book!

Last week I challenged you all to donate a book to your local library and it turns out that Support Our Shelves is a campaign to do just that. The Brooklyn Public Library is just one of the systems participating along with others in Arlington, Kensington, and Red Hook. What a super cause.

I thought I was doing well to plan ahead and have some new poetry books out to review for April, National Poetry Month. GottaBook's Gregory has gone above and beyond with a poet a day for the month of April. Jane Yolen, Nikki Giovanni, and Jack Prelutsky are just the tip of the iceberg.

Are you in the mood to create a character scrapbook? Well you will be after you check out the Character Scrapbook tool, complete with a pick-the-facial-features feature.  It reminds me of a high-tech and educational Mr. Potato Head.

All righty folks. My work here is done. Have a fantastic weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday.  

The 2008-9 Cybils Winners

The 2008-9 Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) were announced on Valentine's Day and two Scholastic books were on the list!

Non-Fiction Picture Book Winner

9780439877558_lg Nic Bishop Frogs
by Nic Bishop

Reading level: Grades 3-5
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Scholastic

Nic Bishop takes a close-up look at frogs around the world.

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Young Adult Winner

9780439023481_lg The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Reading level: Grades 9-12
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Scholastic

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen has her name drawn for the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death on live TV.

Continue reading "The 2008-9 Cybils Winners" »

Video Wednesday: Underground Railroad

In this video from Scholastic Book Fairs, author Christopher Paul Curtis guides us through the actual settlement of Buxton, Canada, so students can visualize the setting of Elijah of Buxton and imagine what it was like to live in this community of freed and escaped slaves.

This is just one of the videos in the Underground Railroad Book Videos collection.  For the mother of all Underground Railroad lesson plans, visit Scholastic's Underground Railroad Student Activity where you'll find reader's theater scripts, primary sources, writing prompts and web hunts for grades 4-12.

Video Wednesday: Neil Gaiman

2009 is turning out to be quite a year for Neil Gaiman! On Monday he won the Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book (which Jack reviews on InkSplot 26.) And next week the movie version of his book, Coraline, comes out on February 6.

So much excitement! Where to start? I definitely recommend taking a look at Neil Gaiman's Website for Young Readers. He's got video of himself reading aloud each chapter of The Graveyard Book, a Graveyard Sudoku game, a Graveyard Book trailer, audiobook excerpts, printable posters and downloadable wallpapers, and several amazing videos from the Coraline movie!

I was honestly surprised by the video previews of Coraline I've seen. It seems to have that freaky Nightmare Before Christmas look, mildly creepy but in a childlike magical kind of way, which is not how I read the book at all. I read the book much more in a full-on frightening terror-filled sort of way. Do other people think the movie looks less scary than the book, or should I just stop reading alone on dark stormy nights?

Hunger Games Sequel

Catching From Publishers Weekly comes the first news about the next Hunger Games book! I can't wait!!!

We still have no details about the book itself, other than the cover and the title, but that was plenty to get Jessica and me speculating about what will happen! Even though we work at Scholastic, we are not among the lucky people who get to read the manuscript, so we are left guessing like everyone else.

But the title gives some good clues to work with, doesn't it? We have lots of ideas:

1) "Fire" could represent Katniss, as in the "girl on fire," and she does something to anger the Capitol so they are trying to catch her. Maybe she refuses to be a coach in the next Hunger Games and runs away or something.

2) Or maybe it is Gale and Peeta who are trying to catch her and win her love. Maybe we will find out who Katniss is really in love with.

3) Or maybe there is a grassroots revolution against the Capitol and it is starting catch on in a big way -- spreading like wildfire, so to speak.

4) Or maybe the arena for the next Hunger Games has a volcano in it, or the tributes have to fight fire in some way to survive. Kind of a twisted homage to Katniss.

5) Or President Snow has a secret assassination plot against Katniss involving fire. He will make it look like an accident if her house catches fire or something.

6) Or maybe one of the tributes this time will have a superpower ability to start fires like Selma Blair's character in the Hellboy movies. She scores off the charts at training and all the other tributes try to catch her.

What do you think is going to happen in The Hunger Games sequel? Add a comment with your ideas that we missed.

Video Wednesday: Jackie's Nine

The adorable actor/ singer Mishon Ratcliff came to the Scholastic offices to do a booktalk of Jackie's Nine: Jackie Robinson's Values to Live By, a nonfiction book about the values that helped the legendary baseball player succeed, written by daughter Sharon Robinson.

Video Wednesday: Online Author Visits

Author visits are a great way to inspire kids to read. And now with internet video, teachers have a new way to bring authors into the classroom. There are several places on the Internet where teachers can find video interviews like this one with Ellen Levine, author of Henry's Freedom Box.

Take a look at Scholastic's other Author Videos.

You can see more author videos at Reading Rockets, AdLit, and BookWrap Central.

Apparently authors are excited about this possibility too. At I.N.K.:Interesting Nonfiction for Kids, author Melissa Stewart says,
"Seeing someone on screen isn’t quite as powerful as a live visit, but videos are a great option for schools that lack the time, resources, or funding to bring in authors and illustrators. They’re also a great way for any school to increase their students’ exposure to book creators. And because teachers can watch the video clips in advance, they can easily build lesson plans around the footage. "

Here is a video of Melissa Stewart describing how she got the idea for her nonfiction picture book When Rain Falls.

Cybils Shortlists!

If you are looking for the best children's books of 2008, definitely look at the lists of Cybils finalists.What I love about the Cybils Award is that it aims to choose books with literary merit and kid appeal. So what you have here is a list of amazing high-quality books that kids will absolutely devour! And really, what could be better than that?

Easy Readers
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction MG/YA
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction

Video Wednesday: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Brian Selznick describes how he researched and created the hidden spaces behind the walls of the train station in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

For an in-depth author study unit on Brian Selznick, including more video, lessons, and a chance to interract with Brian Selznick himself, visit Scholastic's Author of the Month.

Best Books of 2008

Here it is, just in time for any last minute holiday book shopping for the kids on your list. . . the Best Books of 2008 Blog Round-Up.  Thanks to all you wonderful bloggers for submitting reviews of your favorite children's books published in 2008.

Picture Books

Blue_stone_2 The Blue Stone by Jimmy Liao
In her review, 4th grade teacher Angela Bunyi includes an anchor chart, mini-lesson idea, and student writing inspired by Liao's work.

Visitor A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
Jen Robinson positively gushes about this sweet book, giving it what I would consider the highest possible praise by comparing Mouse and Bear with Anne and Marilla from Anne of Green Gables.

South South by Patrick McDonnell
Though it distressed him to have to choose just one favorite book this year, Jeremy played along and made his choice.

Middle Grade Books

Whitesandsredmenace White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages
Apparently this was not the year for middle grade books. But Sarah at Readers' Rants recommends this sequel to Green Glass Sea.

Young Adult Books

Loveme_3 Love Me Tender by Audrey Couloumbis
In her review, Sherry at Semicolon compares this book to the TV show Roseanne, which may or may not seem like high praise to you, but this book sure does sound funny.

Graceling_cover_jpeg Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I haven't read this book yet, but it moved to the top of my to-be-read pile after reading the first paragraph of Shelf Elf's gush-fest. I love it when a book makes me press it to my heart and think wistfully about its world for hours!

Hungergames The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Several people, myself included, mentioned this as their favorite book of 2008. Both Jen and Tyler from On Our Minds@Scholastic rave about it. Jen Robinson calls it one of the best books she's read, "not just for the year, but ever." Those are strong words for a book lover, but I couldn't agree more. Kelly Fineman expressed many of my own sentiments about this book in her review. I definitely felt like a different person after reading it; I felt as Kelly beautifully says, "as if there's been a palpable shift, and that the world has, in some real way, been altered."

Lamplighter Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish
Sarah at Readers' Rants recommends the sequel to Foundling for "those who like to savor a complex, layered, and fully realized setting."


64daringexperiments The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists
by Sean Connolly
Anastasia Suen says, "I wish I had this book when I was teaching 5th grade! What fun!"

Family The Family Book: Amazing Things to Do Together
And finally, here is Mir's family favorite from among her Kitchen Table Reviews.

Thank you all for your suggestions and reviews. Happy holidays to all, and I wish you all  the best in 2009, including a new crop of exciting books to inspire and delight you and the children in your lives!

Video Wednesday: Kazu Kibuishi

Last June at ALA, Jessica and I got to interview Kazu Kibuishi and talk about his new graphic novel series, Amulet. In this video, he demonstrates his technique for drawing the Amulet characters. 

Kazu talks more about the Amulet series, and what it's like to be a graphic novelist in the rest of the video interview. If your students are fans of graphic novels, you will definitely want to check this out.

Video Wednesday: The Tale Of Despereaux

I am so excited for The Tale of Despereaux movie coming out on December 19! I loved the Newbery-winning book, and the movie looks adorable - Matthew Broderick's voice and those enormous ears! I'm completely sold.

The movie website includes a video trailer plus lots of fun games, activities and a downloadable Teaching Guide PDF for the book.

For more teaching resources for author Kate DiCamillo, take a look at this Scholastic Author Study. And for a taste of the book being read aloud, here is an audiobook excerpt.

Video Wednesday: The Hunger Games

My holiday book recommendation for every young adult (and adult) reader is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I got the ARC last spring and it was the topic of conversation in the office for months as it made the rounds.  This poor little ARC is so beat up, it is is barely recognizable. Every reader I know over the age of 12 can expect a copy for Christmas - if I haven't already given it to you for your birthday!

In this video, Suzanne herself reads (in character!) the passage from the book where the games are just about to begin. It still gives me chills!

I had the chance to interview Suzanne Collins in August and begged her for details about the next book, but she wouldn't give away anything! It was great to meet her anyway, and she did talk about what inspired The Hunger Games and gave some background into its dystopian setting. The video interview is definitely worth a look. Even the video editor wants to read The Hunger Games now after having worked on this video!

For lots more holiday book buying ideas, check out Book Recs for Holiday Shopping from around the Litblogosphere at Chasing Ray. You will find book gift ideas for every reader on your list.

Video Wednesday: Jan Brett

Wild In honor of Jan Brett's birthday on December 1, Scholastic has compiled this Author Study with lesson plans for many of her beloved picture books.
Jan Brett's Home Page has 4,691 pages of free activities, coloring pages, projects, games, printable cards, and video. It is really pretty amazing.

Take a look at this video interview with Brett talking about The Wild Christmas Reindeer.

And in this video, Brett introduces viewers to her adorable baby pet hedghog and demonstrates how to draw a hedgehog. So cute!

There are lots more videos on her home page. It would probably take days to go through all the great stuff she has there, but that sounds like a great project for a holiday weekend! Enjoy!

Video Wednesday: The 39 Clues

Get ready for Book 2 of The 39 Clues coming out December 2! Gordon Korman has written the second book in the series, One False Note. It's so top secret, I was not able to beg, borrow or steal an advance copy. Not that I actually contemplated stealing it. . . But I was able to download a PDF of the first chapter so I know that this book has the Cahill kids traveling to Vienna to chase clues about another famous historical figure - who also happens to be related to them - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Korman himself will be talking about his new book in the live webcast happening on December 1.


Scholastic has gathered some teaching resources for the 39 Clues series including booktalks, video author interviews, and text excerpts.

Video Wednesday: The Spiderwick Chronicles

That beautiful and super-cool woman reading in the video is author Holly Black. She was kind enough to read aloud for us the first chapter of Book 1 in The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide.

Lest there is still any doubt how cool Holly Black is, you should also know that she has a secret library in her house! Just imagine the coolness of having a secret library in your house! I probably wouldn't come out for days on end. Holly talks about that as well as other aspects of her life as a writer in our video interview filmed last June.

Also visit The Steampunk Home to see pictures of her library, and try not to drool on the keyboard!

Finally the Spiderwick movie is one of several book-based movies out on DVD. Would make a great holiday feature!

Video Wednesday: Cirque du Freak

When I found out that Jake T. Austin, the 13-year-old star of Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place, would be visiting Scholastic, my first question was "What is his favorite book?" Turns out it's the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan, those creepy gross horror books full of the disgusting details that boys love to read about. Motivate the boys to read with Jake's video booktalk for Book 1 in the series, A Living Nightmare.

For more video booktalks, visit Scholastic Videos.

And to hear more kids' reviews of books or to submit your own, visit Kids' Picks at 5 Minutes for Books.

Video Wednesday: Cornelia Funke and Inkdeath

I am so excited to announce that Cornelia Funke will be our November Author of the Month! One of the great things about working for a children's book publisher is that you can get advance copies of books coming out sometimes even before the ARC is ready. I don't exercise this privilege often, but last spring I just couldn't wait another day to read Inkdeath, so I made a few  requests and managed to get the bound manuscript. I had to beg and grovel a little bit, but it was so worth it!

Inkdeath was officially released this October and if you haven't read it yet, you are in for a treat. I won't give anything away except to say that I was thrilled to interview Cornelia at ALA last June, and she answered some of my burning questions about the Inkheart series.  Here she is reading aloud a passage from the final book.

For the full interview as well as more video, lesson plans, bonus features from the Inkheart movie, and a chance to ask Cornelia your own questions, visit her Author of the Month page.

Video Wednesday: Spooky Book Trailers

Have you seen the wonderful book trailers created by Scholastic Book Fairs? Kids in grades 3-5 won't be too scared by this one for Cornelia Funke's Ghosthunters series.

Older kids looking for scarier fare this Halloween will love these ghost stories by mystery master Mary Downing Hahn. Check out the video book trailers for The Old Willis Place and Deep and Dark and Dangerous.

I love the idea of video book trailers, and when they are done well, they really seem to get kids excited about the book. But there don't seem to be many out there. Have you seen (or created) some really great ones that I could feature here on Video Wednesdays? Please send me links in the comments! I would love to compile a whole stash of amazing videos for kids!

Video Wednesday: Teen Read Week

American Idol contestant Blake Lewis stopped by at Scholastic to do his part to get kids excited about reading. He is so absolutely charming and adorable in person! Check out his PSA for Teen Read Week!

Blake also performed a video booktalk for All Shook Up: The Life and Death of Elvis Presley, which tells the tragic story story of an extremely talented young Elvis who was very badly misused by the music industry. I definitely recommend it for teen music fans.

Video Wednesday: The True Meaning of Smekday

Teachers and librarians know it is not always easy to find books that are high in both literary quality and kid appeal. Even recent Newbery Award winners are being called into question on that score. The CYBILS Book Awards attempt to address that very problem, and you can be a part of the nominating process.

The True Meaning of Smekday a 2007 CYBILS winner by Adam Rex is a perfect example of a book with literary merit and must-read kid appeal. Check out this video book trailer to get a sense of the "kid appeal" part.

With nine categories, there is a CYBILS Award for everyone, and kids need to be able to find these amazing books. I hope you'll think about some of your favorites from 2008 and nominate them.

For more information, take a look at these nominating tips from Librarian Mom.

Continue reading "Video Wednesday: The True Meaning of Smekday" »

Video Wednesday: Rick Riordan Author Study

I know we have been talking about Rick Riordan a lot, and the reason is he's REALLY COOL! His Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is a fun way to teach mythology, and his new series The 39 Clues incorporates history and geography into a fast-paced worldwide scavenger hunt adventure. He is that rare author whose books teachers can use in the classroom, and the kids (both boys and girls) will say, "This is the best book I've ever read!"

To help you teach his books, Scholastic.com has put together this Author Study unit. You'll find video, discussion guides, and a Message Board for students to talk about the books and ask questions for the author. Riordan himself will be joining the Message Board later this month to answer some of the posted questions.

In this video clip from my July 2008 interview with Rick, he talks about writing mistakes he's made that students can learn from. Share the video with students and then have them join the conversation with Rick Riordan on the Message Board!

Video Wednesday: Harry Potter Read-a-thon

For those of you who missed the Harry Potter Cover-to Cover Day yesterday, we have some video to share. It was a really fun day. I actually got to read too and it was a huge thrill. I hope we do it again next year for The Chamber of Secrets!

Friday Kid Lit Round-Up

Welcome to the Round-Up folks. Here goes…

The 2008 reading panels for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary awards AKA the CYBILS are formed and ready to roll. Our own Sonja Cole has been selected as a panelist for the Easy Readers category, and Nonfiction Monday's Anastasia Suen is a judge along with Els Kushner from Scholastic's Librarian Mom! A big congrats to them. We’ll have to check in with them in a few weeks to see how it’s going.

Debbie notes in her American Indians in Children’s Literature blog that some school districts are still using alphabet materials with, “I is for Indian.” If a similar program is being used in your school, check out her blog for tips on how to have it withdrawn.

Over on Mental Floss, you’ll find Five Stories About Dr. Seuss (Including His Role in Ending the Cold War. Among other interesting tidbits, check out how he wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet and why he was fired from his college’s humor magazine.  While you’re there, take the Dr. Seuss Quiz.

A few weeks ago I posted the link for Lookybook, a site that features picture books online. Another site you’ll enjoy is StorylineOnline. Created by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, Storyline Online is, “an online streaming video program featuring SAG members reading children’s books aloud! Each book includes accompanying activities and lesson ideas.”

Have you heard of the BONE series of graphic novels? Mir at Kitchen Table Reviews is in the process of learning about them. According to her son they feature, “little squishy white dudes with big noses.” To read more on Mir’s foray into graphic novels, click here.

And another week winds to a close. Feel free to send us news of happenings in the kid lit field, and until then, have a great weekend. We’ll see you on Nonfiction Monday.

Video Wednesday: Hispanic Heritage

Last June I was lucky enough to visit Ecuador and while I was there I shot a video booktalk for Bookwink, because, yeah, I never stop thinking about books and ways to get kids excited about reading. Aren't we all like that? Wouldn't we go to the ends of the earth to get kids hooked on reading?

So here it is, my booktalk of Lost Treasure of the Inca, the fascinating story about Pizarro and the Incans and a very large hidden treasure in the Andes Mountains.

Video Wednesday: Rick Riordan and The 39 Clues

Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, launched a brand new series this week called The 39 Clues, and it's going to be amazing! I am really excited about it. I got to meet Rick Riordan in July and I asked him to read-aloud from the first book,  The Maze of Bones.

Rick also had some interesting things to say about motivating boys to read.Take a look at our full video interview.

On his Web site, Rick was kind enough to put a link to the video of his Today Show appearance in case you missed it Monday. He is such a pro; he doesn't even look nervous on live TV.

While he was in New York for the Today Show, Rick stopped by the Scholastic headquarters and gave a presentation to a packed house of Scholastic employees. Karen from the Scholastic Kids blog Ink Splot 26 blogs about Rick's special appearance.

Video Wednesday: Movie Trailers

Inkheart (in theaters Jan. 23, 2009)

Readers know that the book is always better than the movie, but I have to say I have seen some movie trailers recently that really made me think, "That book sounds awesome!" Try adding some of these movie trailers into your next booktalk and see if it doesn't get kids excited about reading the book.

The Tale of Despereaux (in theaters Dec. 19, 2008)
Twilight (in theaters Nov. 21, 2008)
The City of Ember
(in theaters Oct. 10, 2008)
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (DVD available Dec. 2, 2008)
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (on DVD)
Horton Hears a Who (DVD available Dec. 9, 2008)
Nim's Island (on DVD)
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (on DVD)
(on DVD)
The Golden Compass (on DVD)

Video Wednesday: New Video Booktalks

We scoured the New York City Scholastic offices for the best booktalkers and we found a whole crop of hidden talent among our editors, marketing experts and summer interns! Here are the most recent Scholastic video booktalks featuring our new breakout stars, Carrie, Jonathan, and Jessica.

Here is Carrie booktalking Airhead the newest YA title by Meg Cabot.

This booktalk for Amulet: The Stonekeeper a new graphic novel series for grades 4-7, features Jessica.

And last but definitely not least, Jonathan booktalks Magic Pickle and the Planet of the Grapes, a silly story for grades 2-5.

To see the complete archive of all our video booktalks, visit Scholastic Videos.

Video Wednesday: Nic Bishop and Spiders

Even though Sonja's got a crush on Nic Bishop, I got to sit next to him at the Newbery/Caldecott Awards dinner in California this summer. Boy, was she pea-green with envy!

Now everyone can see just how cool he is in this video from our friends at Scholastic Book Fairs. Bishop goes spider hunting in his backyard (with a HUGE net) and shows us how he snapped those wonderful (sometime gross) photos for his 2008 Sibert Honor-winning book Nic Bishop Spiders.

Video Wednesday: Sara Pennypacker and Clementine

Jessica and I are huge Clementine fans! I think Clementine is just the coolest third-grader ever. She is sensitive, creative, generous, and attentive, but somehow she always manages to get herself into trouble. In this video book trailer, author Sara Pennypacker describes what makes Clementine so endearing.

And don't miss this Author Read-Aloud video of Sara reading from the first chapter of Clementine.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Kid Lit Kit are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.