Battle of the Books Second Round Round-Up

Today the second round of School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books finished up! Even better, today I got my t-shirt!

Well, okay, maybe that was only better for me. I won a t-shirt for blogging about the Battle. Pictures to follow. I simply have to wear it to work tomorrow, since my son’s at his Dad’s and can’t take the picture tonight. Now, it turns out that when I sent them my address, I should have requested them to send the smallest size they have. But it’s okay — I can always wear it as a tunic.

I’m happier about the second round of the battle, because it turned out that, after predicting seven out of eight of the first round matches incorrectly, I guessed ALL four of the second round matches correctly.

Do I have a better feel for how the judges are picking? Am I tracking better with these judges because I love their work? Or am I just getting lucky? Well, I’m on a roll, so I’m going to guess who will win the third round, the Final Four. Though I have to admit that I am fervently hoping that either Fire or Marcelo in the Real World will come back from the dead and win it all in the final round.

Interestingly, both matches in the third round feature a nonfiction title versus a fiction title. That will be tough to judge. I think I’ll split my guesses between Team Fiction and Team Nonfiction.

Third Round Predictions:

Match One:
Charles and Emma
The Lost Conspiracy
Judge: Megan Whalen Turner

Hmm. If judges go with the book that is least like what they write, then Megan Whalen Turner would pick Charles and Emma. The Lost Conspiracy is very similar to the fabulous books Megan Whalen Turner writes — Her latest is even called A Conspiracy of Kings! Though Judge Turner’s books are less dark, both are fantasy books with intricate plots and a well-realized fantasy world.

So, Judge Turner may notice flaws in The Lost Conspiracy that weren’t obvious to any but a skilled practitioner like she is. Or maybe, like me, she’ll be turned off by the genocide and focus on revenge in the book.

However, The Lost Conspiracy is such a well-crafted book, and I still haven’t gotten around to reading Charles and Emma, so for the sake of prediction, I’m going to root for The Lost Conspiracy.

Match Two:
Marching for Freedom
Tales from Outer Suburbia
Judge: Walter Dean Myers

Phooey. I’m a huge fan of Tales from Outer Suburbia. But I somehow can’t quite foresee Walter Dean Myers not taking this opportunity to extol Marching for Freedom.

So there you have it. As I did in the first round so abysmally, I’m predicting that the judges will pick the book most like their own. I may be totally wrong.

But the fun part is finding out!

Again, I have to urge everyone to check out the Battle of the Books. The best part is hearing what these brilliant authors have to say about the books they read. Last year, I had hardly read any of the books, but the judges convinced me to do so without delay!


Battle of the Books First Round Report

School Library Journal’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books finished its first round today. Back before the battle started, I predicted who would win. Of the eight first round matches, I only got one right! Though there is some consolation. Eric Carpenter of the blog What We Read and What We Think conducted a poll as to the winners of each match. And according to the stats he has reported, in every case I chose the same book as the majority who entered the poll. So I’m in line with the other people following the battle, just not with the celebrity authors who are making the choices.

And there’s some great writing going on by the judges. Getting talented wordsmith’s to say what they like about two books and why they chose won book over another was an inspired idea. Reading their comments will make you want to read the books you missed, even the ones that don’t win. That’s what happened to me last year with The Hunger Games. After hearing four rounds of judges extol it, I had to see for myself.

Now here’s a recap of the second half of Round One and my predictions for Round Two:

My biggest disappointment of the second half was that the wonderful Marcelo in the Real World was beaten by Marching for Freedom. There was some consolation in how eloquently Gary Schmidt talked about the brilliance of Marcelo.

The sixth match, Peace, Locomotion vs. A Season of Gifts was the only match in the whole Battle where I hadn’t read either book. So I wasn’t emotionally invested in that prediction.

In the second round:
Marching for Freedom
A Season of Gifts
Judge: Christopher Paul Curtis

I’d like to see Marching for Freedom win.

The seventh match was the only one I predicted correctly, with The Storm in the Barn beating Sweethearts of Rhythm. I read Sweethearts of Rhythm the night before the contest, and I thought Judge Anita Silvey summed up its strengths and weaknesses just about perfectly.

For the last match, I had come close to predicting the winner, because I do admire both books tremendously, and I wasn’t sure which way the judge would go. Julius Lester went with the incredible and bizarre Tales from Outer Suburbia over the Newbery winner, When You Reach Me.

In Round Two, that will give Shannon Hale this choice:
The Storm in the Barn
Tales from Outer Suburbia

This one is tough. Both are wonderful books in the graphic format. Will Shannon Hale go with the fairy-tale type element in The Storm in the Barn? Or will she be captivated by the quirks of Tales from Outer Suburbia? I think both books are brilliant, so I won’t be disappointed either way, but for the sake of prediction I will choose Tales from Outer Suburbia.

Tomorrow morning, M. T. Anderson will start the first half of the second round, which I predicted last week. Will I do any better in Round Two?

Bloggiesta Finish

I don’t feel like I did much with Bloggiesta, but I only found out about it last night. And I already had a busy weekend planned. Tonight, silly me, got sidetracked looking at job posting sites. This would be more productive if I was actually ready to apply, which I probably should do, but am procrastinating just a little longer at this point. It’s amazing how long you can spend messing around on those sites.

My job is almost certain to be cut if budget cuts go through that the County Executive has asked for. I have both a Master’s in Math and a Master’s in Library Science, so I’m looking at jobs in both categories, browsing around, figuring out what’s out there.

Anyway, my grand total of time spent on Bloggiesta was 3 hours. I did Mother Reader’s Mini-Challenge and posted comments on 10 blogs new to me, which was a whole lot of fun.

I got my comments to work better and got 2 comments already! Yay!

I wrote 2 reviews. I think I have 30 to go to finish the books I read in 2009. I may have to decide to just skip some of them…!

Now, one fun thing I’m doing since NaNoWriMo is tracking my writing progress in a big spreadsheet. I haven’t been counting comment words, but maybe I should. Last year, my goal was to write 15 minutes per day, on my books, and I only missed about 10 days. This year, I’ve increased the goal to 30 minutes per day, and have hit the first 10 days! My spreadsheet says that in January, for books and blogging, I’ve written 7,035 words. I’ve done 15 blog posts, including 11 reviews. Now I’ve got a column for Comments, too.

Like I said, I started this spreadsheet after NaNoWriMo, because it was fun keeping track of words written. It feels good to keep track of what I’ve accomplished, and what can I say? I like numbers!

Bloggiesta Progress

Today’s the last day of Bloggiesta, and I haven’t done much. I put in 1.5 hours yesterday, and I wrote a review and did Mother Reader’s Comment Challenge. I commented on 5 kidlit blogs new to me. Quite fun!

One thing I found about doing the comments: It’s a PERFECT way to get my mind off divorce negotiations with my husband. He’s been e-mailing a lot this week, and I should probably say no more. I think with any future e-mails, I will make a rule to post 5 kidlit blog comments before I even think about trying to answer him! That should calm me down. I think it’s also good to be thinking about what I love to do.

Today I had church and the inevitable Sunday afternoon nap. Then my internet didn’t work, so I did my weekly ironing. Then, hooray, turning the router on and off brought it back, so now I can spend the evening blogging.

I have already attempted to make it easier to comment. I changed the settings so you don’t have to be registered. I hope that helps! I had trouble commenting on blogs that required a Google ID, but finally remembered what password I had used. So I understood when my friend said she’d tried to comment, but hadn’t been able to. I hope I fixed it!

Now I need to get busy and write some more reviews. I believe I have 32 more to go before I finish the books I read in 2009. I should just give up and not review them, but I want to catch up. My plan is to crank out the reviews and not post them to the main site until I have finished. I will then announce my Stand-outs for the year. Or, actually, I plan to announce my Stand-outs next weekend before the Newbery winners are announced. I don’t want my choices to be influenced!

Comment Challenge 2010

Mother Reader has posted a Comment Challenge. From January 8 to January 28, the challenge is to comment on 5 kidlitosphere blogs per day, for a total of 100. Since I already missed the first day, I’ll take the day of grace to be January 8.

Of course, I was meaning to madly write reviews of all the books I read in 2009 and post my list of stand-outs. I want to list my stand-outs before the Newbery winners are announced next week, because I don’t want to be influenced!

But I’ve also been meaning to do more reading kidlit blogs and commenting, ever since I went to the Kidlitosphere Conference last October. Five doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Then, while I’m at it, there’s a Bloggiesta going on at Maw Books Blog, a weekend to work on your blog.

Well, I’m starting super late — just found out about it. But I was planning to get as many reviews as possible written this weekend, so why not?

So, I’m signing up for Bloggiesta at 10:15 pm on Saturday night. I’ll do half a weekend, anyway!

The first mini-challenge is to comment on 10 blogs new to you. So I’ll start with Maw Books!

KidlitCon09 Round-up

KidLitCon-badgeAwesome! That’s what everyone agrees about the third annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Washington, DC, on Saturday. (Well, really at the Crystal City Sheraton in Arlington.)

It was Saturday morning. I decided it wasn’t crucial to be punctual for the 7 am breakfast. I looked up the directions and it sounded easy as can be. Then, as I approached the other end of Highway 66, I learned that a crucial exit was closed all morning for an “event.” So I got off the exit before and had no idea where I was. Good thing I brought a map! Too bad I couldn’t read it and drive at the same time! Too bad I couldn’t find a place to pull over! Too bad I drove around and around Arlington for awhile!

However, I was delighted to discover that even though I arrived about ten minutes after 8:00, the first group session hadn’t begun. Whew! Time to relax and stop kicking myself for not leaving earlier.

And the first session was a perfect way to calm my nerves, which were jangling from the consciousness of being late. Mother Reader, who was responsible for putting together the wonderful conference, started us off with a session called “The Blog Within: An Interview With Your Inner Blogger.” She asked us to write our personal answers to questions like: Why are you blogging? What do you have to share that is unique to you? Who are you blogging for? Where do you see your blog among the other blogs?

Looking back at my answers, even though written when I was still trying to un-frazzle my nerves, I’m pleased by my main answer to “Why are you blogging?” I said: To connect with people through books.

The reason I like this answer is that two key words of the conference were Connection and Community. I have connected with people through my website, and made new face-to-face connections with people at the conference. Most of all, I felt part of a Community, a community that cares about good books and kids and literacy and ideas and giving back and all sorts of other good things.

The second session was called “Building a Better Blog.” Mother Reader spoke about Purpose, Passion, and Professionalism. Under “Passion,” I’d like to do the assignment she suggested: Go back over the past six months. Pick out your 5 favorite posts, then pick out the 5 posts that best represent you. Do you hear your voice in those posts?

The next speaker in that session was Michelle Franz of, talking about technical aspects. She had great tips about involving and engaging your audience, building community with reciprocal links, and participating in memes like Poetry Friday and Nonfiction Monday (I will have to get going on that, or maybe try starting one of my own), or Salon Sunday. She talked about Search Engine Optimization and a plugin I can download on my WordPress blog. She convinced me to get on Twitter and to post links to my reviews on GoodReads. She told me what a gravitar is and how to get one.

So many great ideas! So little time! But little by little…

The third session was just us bloggers, with the authors in a separate session. I finally loosened up and pulled out my camera.


This panel featured Melissa Fox of Book Nut, Jennie Rothschild of Biblio File, Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect, and Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading.

Some of their great tips included: Join the book blogging community. Participate in Reading Challenges. Do weekly features. (Poetry Friday and Nonfiction Monday again.) Get on the Kidlit Listserv. Participate in the Carnival of Children’s Literature. Post your reviews on the Children’s Book Review wiki. Focus on your opinion, because that’s what you personally add to the discussion. People can get summaries on the book jacket.

Once again, so many great ideas, it’s a little overwhelming!

Next, Mary Engle from the FTC came and talked to us and calmed fears about new “guidelines” they posted. I resolved that I should put a note on each page that I am an Amazon Affiliate and get a tiny percentage when people order books via the links on my site.

Then came lunch. This was the exciting part where I somehow ended up walking to a food place with a bunch of authors! Cool! I got tips and encouragement from them, too, like: Get an agent!

One of the authors I ate with was Diana Peterfreund, whose book Rampant I read (devoured) and reviewed just the day before. I loved that book, even if it did make my own first novel, Unicorn Wings, look awfully tame. (But I’ve pretty much given up on publishing that one anyway, and am chalking it up to experience.) Diana already had read my review, thanks to the magic of Google alerts. She has assured me there will be a sequel, and in fact she was supposed to be working on the revisions that very day. I’m so glad — what an awesome book! Killer unicorns — who would have thought? She also alerted me to an anthology I will have to watch for, Zombies vs. Unicorns, (or was it Vampires vs. Unicorns?), which includes a story she wrote.

So here’s a picture of me schmoozing with Diana:


Also in the lunch group were authors Varian Johnson and Paula Chase. I was especially excited later to get an Advance Reader’s Copy of Varian’s book My Life As a Rhombus, because it features a heroine who loves math. What could be cooler than that?

Here are Varian and Diana and Paula:


After lunch came a Meet the Author session, which was when I got the above pictures. I met some other authors whose books I reviewed and loved:

Laurel Snyder, who wrote Any Which Wall was delightful to talk to. I liked it that she understood that when I said her book was like an Edward Eager book, that was high praise indeed.


I also met Elizabeth Scott and was given a signed copy of Something, Maybe! Woo-hoo! The books I’ve reviewed of Elizabeth’s are Stealing Heaven and Perfect You. Here I am with Elizabeth:


And then I met Sara Lewis Holmes, who wrote Letters from Rapunzel, and whose new book, Operation Yes, I definitely want to read. (She’s lived in Germany, too!) I feel silly posting all these pictures with authors, but it was a thrill to actually meet real, live, published authors, and my plan is to one day be one of them. Meanwhile, I want some of that published aura to rub off! Here I am with Sara:


And finally, here’s a picture of two authors I met whose books I haven’t read yet, but hope to soon, Jennifer Hubbard, whose book The Secret Year will be out in January 2010, and Pam Bachorz, who kindly gave me an ARC of her new book Candor.


All of these authors were so wonderfully nice! In fact, one feature of the Kidlitosphere Community is that it seemed like an incredibly nice bunch. So fun to meet these people!

Of course getting more books to read and review was one of the highlights of the conference. Never mind that I’m in the middle of a Newbery class and reading old Newbery winners…. Somehow, some way, some day, I’ll get them read!

After the time with the authors, Greg Pincus did a wonderfully inspiring and entertaining talk about social media. More great ideas. More talk about Community and Connection. I especially liked when he said that when you reach out to expand your community, you are Sharing the Joy!

Again, I made lots of resolutions. Get on Twitter. Post comments on other blogs. Get involved in the Cybils. Engage. Another good phrase: Play in traffic!

(Greg had mentioned Knitters and Fibs (poetry based on the Fibonacci Numbers — what could be cooler?), so I was inspired to explain my prime factorization sweater to him, which you can see in all the above pictures. He was most appreciative. I promise I will write a post explaining it after this one.)

The next panel was “Authors, Bloggers, Publishers (and ARCs).” More inspiring talk about Community. Publishers are still figuring out blogging and if that publicity is helpful, so we were encouraged to communicate with them what sort of book we like. (My favorite is YA and Middle Grade Fantasy, by the way.)

The final panel of the day featured Terry Doherty of Share a Story — Shape a Future, Ernestine Benedict from Reading Is Fundamental, Gina Montefusco from PBS’s Booklights, and Jen Robinson from Jen Robinson’s Book Page:


They too, talked about building community, giving back, connecting kids with books, and promoting literacy. They mentioned the gallery A Lifetime of Reading at NCTE’s National Gallery of Writing, with writing on that topic from members of the Kidlitosphere. (Yet another thing to do: Submit something!)

All in all, it was a day packed full of inspiration, ideas, connection, and community. But it wasn’t finished yet! As it happened, I ended up at a table at dinner with other people from the DC area, and got invited to participate in Capitol Choices and a Kidlit book club and met some wonderful local people who seem to be kindred spirits, and whom I may well see again if I get involved in these local events, too. One of them has also applied to the Bill Morris Seminar in January and, like me, is waiting anxiously to find out in November if she was selected. I hope I see her there!

Here are my tablemates except Jacqueline Jules, who had just stepped away. Let’s see if I can remember their names: author Moira Rose Donohue, Susan Kusel the librarian (can someone send me her blog address?), Wendy Burton (I think! Am I right?), author Sue Corbett, author Wendy Shang (whose first book, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, will be published by Scholastic in Spring 2011), and author Jennifer Hubbard:


What do you know? I was eating with Authors again. I still hope something rubs off! 🙂

I drove home exhausted but inspired. So many things I’d like to add to my blog, so many books I’d like to read, so many more blogs to follow, so many connections to explore! But meeting these wonderful people face-to-face was definitely a delightful way to start!

A huge thank you again to Pam Coughlan, Mother Reader for putting together an incredible day!

P.S. Yes, there was some discussion of how long a blog post should be and the consensus was that it should NOT be this long! Once I got started, I was on a roll, however, and couldn’t bring myself to stop until I finished. And I did follow the suggestion of providing links, so you can discover some fantastic blogs just by exploring the links in this post. Some day I will even update my blogroll to include them, but that’s another thing on my list of things to do that suddenly grew to outrageous proportions at this conference.