My New T-shirt!

Here I am in the t-shirt the nice folks at School Library Journal sent me for blogging about their wonderful Battle of the Books!

I stole an idea from one of the other commenters and made a display to follow the progress of the tournament at the library. My co-worker took this picture this morning before I had checked today’s round. I did predict Megan Whalen Turner’s decision correctly.

I hope this new stretch of correct predictions extends to Fire coming back from the dead and winning it all! The Battle will unfold through the start of next week. Stay tuned…

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?

Striking Out with the Battle of the (Kids’) Books

Last week, I posted my predictions for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books. Well, the first half of the first round is over, and if you want to know who won — it was every book I did NOT predict!

My strategy was to guess that the celebrity author judges would pick the book most like the ones that they themselves write. However, I’m beginning to suspect that it’s easier for them to see flaws in books similar to their own.

Do check the Battle website. The rationales the judges gave for their choices are interesting and entertaining and will make you want to read both books. All the judges — with the notable exception of the one who shot down my favorite — spoke in high praise of the book they did not pick, as well as the book they did pick.

Now that we know which books have advanced to the first half of the second round, I’ll make predictions about those matches. Honestly, I’m tempted to predict the ones I do NOT want to win — that way they won’t win! Actually, I don’t really care about these two matches, now that my favorites are knocked out. Now I hope that Marcelo wins it all — unless Fire comes back from the dead to challenge him.

So, second round first half predictions:

Round Two, Match One:
Charles and Emma
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Judge: M. T. Anderson

M. T. Anderson doesn’t seem like someone who would fall so much for a girls’ book. (But I’ve definitely been wrong before!) I’m going to predict that Charles and Emma will win.

Round Two, Match Two:
The Last Olympian
The Lost Conspiracy
Judge: Angela Johnson

I’m going to predict The Lost Conspiracy, since I’ve read it and it is an exceptional work of imagination. With this one, I’m not emotionally invested in my choice, though — since I thought The Lost Conspiracy was an awfully dark book, and it won my imagination, but not my heart.

Perhaps I should be hoping that the weakest books win, to give the winner of the second half (I like almost all those books better than these!) a better chance!

But we shall see….

I am enjoying, despite my disappointment in the choices so far, that there is no criteria given to the judges. It points out that different people like different types of books, and how rather random this whole thing is anyway. It’s a fun way to highlight sixteen exceptional books, with everyone realizing that this is by no means an objective contest.

Battle of the Books Is About to Begin!

It’s that time of year! School Library Journal is hosting the second annual Battle of the Kids’ Books!

Here’s how it works. The moderators have chosen sixteen highly acclaimed children’s books published in 2009. They match them up in tournament-style brackets (in alphabetical order). At each “match,” a distinguished children’s author will judge between the two books.

Last year, I followed this, but hadn’t read many of the books. It was the Battle of the Kids’ Books that got me to finally read The Hunger Games. But enjoying the Battle of the Books got me interested in other School Library Journal blogs, so I followed the Heavy Medal blog, a Mock Newbery blog, and have read a good proportion of these top 2009 titles.

I’ll list the first round and give my favorites. Here’s where I’d like comments. Which books would you choose in these match-ups?

Oh, I forgot a fun twist they’re adding to this year’s tournament: The Undead Poll. Before the battle begins, they are taking a poll of your favorite contender. In the final round, the book with the most votes that has been previously knocked out of the running will be brought back from the dead. So the final round, judged by our new Ambassador for Children’s Literature, Katharine Paterson, will be between three books instead of just two. The vote closes on Sunday, March 14, so choose your favorite and vote now!

Okay, here are the first round matches, with my own comments:

Match One:
Charles and Emma, by Deborah Heiligman
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Philip Hoose
Judge: Jim Murphy, a distinguished author of nonfiction

This one, I am neutral about the winner. I have read Claudette Colvin and not Charles and Emma, but I did check out Charles and Emma and look it over, but simply didn’t get around to reading it. I liked the look of it, though — biography told as the story of a relationship. As for Claudette Colvin, you can read my review of that book, and it ended up, like many of these on my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I will be interested to see which book Jim Murphy chooses. For the sake of making a prediction, I’ll guess Claudette Colvin.

Match Two:
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
Fire, by Kristin Cashore
Judge: Nancy Farmer

There’s no question in my mind which book I want to win this round. I read about half of Calpurnia Tate before I got tired of it and decided to read some of the other books clamoring for my attention. There are those who adore that book, but it’s not really my style. On the other hand, I was crazy about Fire, and named it my Teen Fantasy #2 on the 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, which actually puts it higher in my favor than the #1 pick in most other categories.

Since Nancy Farmer writes fantasy, I’m hoping she will also favor Fire. But just in case she or a future judge doesn’t, that book was my pick for the Undead Poll, my favorite of all the contenders.

Match Three:
The Frog Scientist, by Pamela S. Turner
The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan
Judge: Candace Fleming

This one’s a tough call, because the books are so different. I just tonight read and reviewed The Frog Scientist, because I’d had it sitting in my house ready to read for some time. The Battle of the Books motivated me to finally do it! I haven’t read The Last Olympian, but I read and enjoyed the first Percy Jackson book, so I think I have the idea.

The Frog Scientist is nicely presented nonfiction, with beautiful photographs and clear explanations of the science involved. The Last Olympian is wildly popular fiction. If I were judging between The Frog Scientist and the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, I would probably pick The Frog Scientist, though that might be because it’s fresh in my mind. The Frog Scientist is an outstanding example of what it’s trying to do — present information. The Lightning Thief, while very good, didn’t stand out in my mind among other fantasy fiction titles.

But who knows what Candace Fleming will pick? For my prediction, I’m going to say The Frog Scientist, swayed by the fact that Candace Fleming writes excellent nonfiction herself, and this is similar with excellent accompanying photographs and excellent details.

Match Four:
Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor
The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge
Judge: Helen Frost

I’ve read both of these two, and though both were good, I definitely liked Lips Touch much better, so I’m rooting for it in this round.

Match Five (Second Half of the Brackets):
Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Storck
Marching for Freedom, by Elizabeth Partridge
Judge: Gary Schmidt

It’s probably not fair for me to have an opinion on this one, since I haven’t read Marching for Freedom (though I did look through it), but I loved Marcelo too much to want any book to beat it — except for Fire in the very final round! And even then, I won’t feel too bad if it is Marcelo that beats Fire.

Have I mentioned that half the fun of the Battle of the Books is hearing what the judges have to say about the contenders? Gary Schmidt has written the wonderful Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars, and I’m very interested in what he has to say about Marcelo in the Real World.

Match Six:
Peace, Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson
A Season of Gifts, by Richard Peck
Judge: Cynthia Kadohata

I haven’t read either of these books, though I have heard about them. I have read some other Jacqueline Woodson books and enjoyed them, so I’m going to go with a prediction of Peace, Locomotion, winning this round.

Match Seven:
The Storm in the Barn, by Matt Phelan
Sweethearts of Rhythm, by Marilyn Nelson
Judge: Anita Silvey

I’m afraid this is another case where I liked The Storm in the Barn too much to want a book I haven’t read to beat it. The Storm in the Barn presents history, but with a touch of fantasy and a lot of emotion — all in graphic novel format. No matter how good nonfiction Sweethearts of Rhythm may be, Storm in the Barn will be hard to beat.

Match Eight:
Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
Judge: Julius Lester

This one’s a tough choice. I’ve read both books and thought both were outstanding. Both deserve to go to the final round, and both have a bit of the bizarre in the plot. In the end, though, I would have to pick When You Reach Me, because it did win my heart more than Tales from Outer Suburbia, which definitely won my mind.

The commentary from the judge on this match will be extremely interesting. I’ll go ahead and predict that Julius Lester will pick When You Reach Me, but I may not be as surprised as some if he picks Tales from Outer Suburbia instead.

So — there you have it! On March 15, the Battle of the Kids’ Books will begin. Now I’d like to hear from you. Which of these books is your favorite? (Hurry and vote for it in the Undead Poll before the 14th!)

Do you disagree with me on some of these match-ups? Have you read some of the books I haven’t read and have more insight? Have I slighted one of your favorites?

If you haven’t read any or many (like me last year), I can assure you you’ll add some books to your to-be-read list if you follow the battle.

Let me know what you think! And enjoy the arena seats!

Newbery Class: What I Learned

This weekend, the six-week online class I took from ALSC, the Association for Library Service to Children, finished up. The class was called The Newbery Medal: Past, Present, and Future. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and highly recommend it to anyone like me, fascinated with the Newbery Medal.

The Newbery Medal has been given since 1922 to the “most distinguished” contribution to American children’s literature. In the class, we each read a book from each decade the award has been given, as well as some Honor Books. Our instructor has been a past Newbery Medal Committee Chairperson, and we had guest speakers of other Newbery committee members and a Newbery winning author and publisher and other such guests.

One thing I learned is that Newbery books make good reading. No, I wasn’t as enthralled with some of the older books, but they all had something good about them. A past committee member said that she was comforted when her year’s chairperson told them that they were going to choose one of the best books of the year. Yes, they try for the most distinguished, but of course that is an elusive goal. The nature of the word assures that no committee will ever be able to please everyone. However, in their attempt, they will surely come up with one of the best books of the year.

I was reassured by stories of how hard the committee works and how seriously they take their charge. I was pleased to learn that no one can be on a committee more than once in five years, so if one year there is a prejudice against certain types of books, the next year different people will be selecting.

I learned that the committee is not supposed to take an author’s previous work into account. They are simply supposed to compare with the other books published that year.

I learned that the award is for books that appeal to “children,” which can include up to age 14. The choices tend to skew toward the older end of the spectrum, despite what elementary school teachers may wish. Newbery Medal winners are most often works of middle-grade fiction, but there are notable exceptions, and that is not a requirement.

All of us in class have certain Medal winners that we read as children that still resonate with us today. A side effect of choosing the most distinguished children’s book of the year is that over the years the committees have chosen a list of books that, for the most part, stand the test of time.

I will be looking forward to next January’s announcement more avidly than ever.

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.

Back to School

I did something a little crazy. I signed up for a six-week online class. The class is The Newbery Medal: Past, Present, and Future. I wasn’t going to sign up, because I can’t afford a class and don’t have time for a class.

However, two things persuaded me. At the National Book Festival, a co-worker I ran into reminded me that the Library’s Employee Association offers grants for things like that, to help with the cost. Then, I was following School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog, and actually found myself looking through all 79 pages of the Newbery Committee Guidelines that were posted. Yes, I am fascinated with the Newbery Medal. One of the reasons I am thrilled to be a librarian is that now I’m one of the people who sponsors the Newbery Medal! What’s more, the instructor was the chair of the Newbery Committee the year that I got to go to the Award Banquet, and she also wrote the textbook we used in my Library Services to Children class.

So — My reading habits are going to have to change. Mind you, I still have a persistent backlog of about 20 books I’ve read and plan to review, so the change in my habits may take awhile to hit the blog. Though I may get far further behind because of not having time to write reviews.

I’m going to be reading at least one Newbery winner from each decade the award’s been giving. One nice part of that assignment is that I’ve already discovered that almost every decade has a book that I’d long been meaning to read (and own) but haven’t got around to reading yet. Now I will!

Mind you, Kidlitcon 09 is only two weeks away! I’ve already begun reading a book by one of the authors I’m going to meet there, and I’m planning to read another. But once that is done, maybe I can settle in to some classics.

Of course, the clincher in deciding to take the course is that it is not graded. — If I don’t get the books read, it’s not like I’ll fail the course. But even as I say that I know that I will want to read even more than what’s required, not less. However, I just thought of an even better point in the classes favor: No papers! Yes, we have to post on the forums three times a week, but that part is fun. A class where I get to read lots of children’s books, but don’t have to write any research papers. What’s not to like? I’m excited!

But you may not hear as much from me for about six weeks….

KidLitCon and National Book Festival

I’m going to KidLitCon 2009!

Ever since I participated in Mother Reader’s 48-Hour Reading Challenge, I’ve been meaning to do more blogging on this blog, and not only post reviews. However, I’ve got this consistent stack of 20-21 books that I’ve read that are just waiting to be reviewed. I’m shooting for a review a day, and my theory is that if I hit that goal eventually I will catch up. But then I get slowed down by one thing or another. Getting sick with a cold or headache is worst, since I tend to step up my reading at the same time that I am writing less reviews.

Anyway, today I got an e-mail from Mother Reader, who is organizing the Kidlitosphere Conference (for Kidlit bloggers), and she says I can post the KidLitCon badge you can see at the top of this post. So of course if I post the badge, it’s best to explain it, right?

Okay, I guess I’m prattling on. I tend to do most of my blogging about life on my other blog, including things about my spiritual journey. But when it comes to blogging about life as a reader and a librarian and a writer and a blogger, this seems like a good place.

I’m excited about going to KidLitCon 09. It’s October 17, and it’s in Washington DC, so I can do it cheaply and won’t even need a hotel or plane fare. I’m only just becoming aware of the community of Kidlit bloggers. I feel like a little kid on the playground and I want to play, too!

I began Sonderbooks back in 2000, before I had even heard of blogs. I started it as an e-mail newsletter about all the good books I’d read lately, and eventually decided to turn it into a website. For a long time, I kept it as “issues,” where I posted reviews of about ten books at a time, and e-mailed my subscriber list with all the reviews. It took me some time to figure out this really fit the blog format, so after I got my library degree and moved back to America, I switched it to a blog, though I still like the way the website organizes the reviews, so I’m keeping that as well.

Anyway, I never really read other book blogs, because I have plenty of books to keep up with just with what passes by at the library. However, I’m finding it’s fun to read what other people think, too… So now I’ll get to meet some of those people, and I think it’s going to be fun! Do you think they’ll let me into the club?

What’s more, this week is the National Book Festival in Washington DC. I went last year and it was something of a fiasco for me. We got rained on. I spent lots of money and waited in long lines buying people’s books, but then my son wasn’t happy to wait in more long lines to get them signed. And they were out of the books I most wanted.

This year, I’m going to try for one author signing: Shannon Hale. I will bring my own copy of Forest Born, though I’ll also try to snag a couple copies for gifts. Other than that, I will focus on hearing the authors speak, particularly Jon Scieszka (who was a riot last year) and Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo and Sharon Creech and Judy Blume and David Shannon and… Get the idea? Okay, I probably won’t be able to resist buying a few more books while I’m there and trying for a few more signings. But we’ll see. I am going to try to make hearing authors speak my priority.

I also plan to arrive early and drive myself and hope that gets me a parking spot. And keeps me from starting the day carsick from the Metro.

And I’m excited about it all! Books and Blogging and Writing and Good Stuff! Since my husband left me, in so many ways I’m forced to redefine myself and figure out who I am and what I’m all about. I became a librarian and I’m a writer and a book lover and a book reviewer and blogger. And all those things tie together, and they are represented by these conferences. Woo-hoo! I’m excited!

Mind you, the Math part of me is alive and well. I’m sure of that because I find myself just delighted when my son asks me questions about his Trig homework. I find myself wishing it were ethical to do it for him, just because it would be so much fun. Needless to say, he finds that highly annoying.

Maybe I’ll find someone who’s written a book about Math.