My Personal Blogging Code

Today I was at a library technology conference, gave a presentation, and still managed to debate blogging ethics on Twitter.  A full day indeed!  As a result of those discussions,I have decided to sign on to the Blog with Integrity Pledge

This issue is very important to me because I am reviewing books as a public library director.  This limits some of the things I can do on my blog, as you will see below.  Plus, my ethics have to be unquestionable.  The integrity badge is a shorthand to openly declare what my blogging ethics are. 

On Twitter a few bloggers said they would not sign the pledge or anything like it because it would imply they had not been blogging ethically before signing it.  I don’t see it that way.  I see it as a tangible expression of my blogging beliefs.  It says what I already do and already believe in.  It is not going to change my blogging.

Here is what you can expect to see on my blog:

I will continue to accept review copies and ARCs from authors and publishers. (Keeps the library fines down!)

Information at the end of every review about where I got the book, whether it was library, review copy or ARC.  (I never buy books unless I already love them. That’s what libraries are for!  But if I do buy one personally, I will let you know that too.)

I will not do giveaways (it gets complicated when blogging as a government employee and doing contests)

I will not do blog tours (too structured for my blogging habits and my work day)

Of course others have their own ways of doing things, which is great.  That’s the beauty of blogging!  I’m not suggesting that anyone sign the pledge, but I did want to be really open about what I am doing here. 

Where the Wild Things Are Featurette

Just take a look and you too will be breathlessly awaiting the release of the Where the Wild Things Are movie.

Have Kleenex happy if you are as sappy as I am and love this book as much as I do.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aG16ceUP3v4&feature=player_embedded%5D

*sniffle*

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes, illustrated by E. B. Lewis.

Hughes was a mere 18 years old when he wrote this powerful poem which evokes the strength and power of black people throughout the world.  It also is a powerful tie of their story with that of water.  Lewis nicely captures these two aspects of the poem in his watercolor illustrations.  Taking the poem line-by-line, this book pairs each line with a watercolor painting filled with water and people.  Lewis excels at creating different feeling rivers, allowing the water to be blue, but also green, brown, and even yellowy-orange.

The poem and the illustrations combined make this powerful poetry accessible to children.  It is always a thrill to see such great illustrations paired with such language.  Beautiful and strong, honoring the subject matter entirely.

Highly recommended, this book belongs in libraries across the country no matter the color of the community members.  It will prove useful in poetry units and history, but it is most wonderful when just enjoyed for its own sake.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Poetry for Children and A Patchwork of Books.

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Twelve-year-old Miranda lives in New York City and is facing a strange situation.  First, her best friend of all time Sal has stopped wanting to spend any time at all with her after he gets punched in the stomach by another kid.  Second, she has found a note that says that she must write a letter about what is going to happen in order to save her best friend and the writer of the letter.  Third, the emergency key that is hidden outside their apartment door is stolen and more the notes continue to arrive.  Miranda is not just solving this mystery.  She has a new friend to spend time with and a lunch-time job where she and two of her friends are paid for their work in sandwiches and soda.  The book is wonderful juxtaposition of strange and normal, fiction and reality.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time for children in late elementary school.  Its tone is just right, with good humor, mysterious happenings and friendship tensions.  One of those would draw young readers in, all three makes it impossible to put down.  Add to that the satisfaction of unraveling the questions in the novel and this one is a winner.

Each and every character is well-crafted.  Miranda is a fascinating mix of sleuth and denial as she navigates the tensions of the novel.  Her friends and the adults in the book have depth, humanness, and the ability to surprise while staying true to how they are depicted.

The pacing of the novel is deftly done.  Never slow or dragging, it changes with the pace of the story almost effortlessly.  Stead excels at letting the story tell itself.  Her hand is never obvious in the writing or the plotting.  Rather it is a book, a story that is so complete and nicely done that one can’t even imagine another way for it to have been told.

My only quibble is the cover.  This book is just so much better than the cover, more accessible, more fun.  So this wonderful novel may take some hand-selling to get it off of your shelves and into the hands of parents, teachers and kids.  It will make a wonderful read-aloud for classrooms, keeping everyone quiet and involved.  But it is also a great flashlight read, under the covers extending bedtime into the depths of the night.

Reviewed from library copy.

Day-Glo Brothers

The Day-Glo Brothers: the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s bright ideas and brand-new colors by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani

I am always on the look-out for books that offer a great story combined with nonfiction.  This book definitely has that.  Even better, it offers a tangible example of invention that children can relate to and understand.  Joe and Bob were not similar brothers.  Bob enjoyed working and planning while Joe preferred magic tricks and problem-solving.  The two made the perfect inventing pair.  After Bob suffered an accident and was limited to living in the family’s basement, Joe joined him there to practice using fluorescence in his magic tricks.  The two worked together and created glow-in-the-dark paints.  After years of success, they found that with some tweaking they could create paints that glowed even in broad daylight – day-glo colors. 

The book is written in a style that is inviting and intelligent.  It offers lots of background information on the brothers, understanding that part of the fascination is with the inventors themselves along with their flashy colors.  The illustrations work to great effect with their vintage advertising style and effective use of bright colors. 

A great biographical nonfiction picture book about an accessible subject, this book will be snatched off of shelves for the cover alone.  Add it to bibliographies about inventors and children will be thrilled to have such a youthful title to use for reports.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Abby the Librarian with author features on Cynsations and 7 Imp.  You can also visit Chris Barton’s own blog.

Image Blog Insight

Lee Wind tweeted about this wonderful piece on the Image Blog. It’s about the culture of writers and being part of the clique, and being an outsider.

And it rang bells for me about our discussions about what it is to be a children’s lit blogger. Here is the paragraph that made my head ring:

“The trick, I suppose, is to stay clear on the distinction between solidarity and schmoozing, on the fact that pecking order does not necessarily reward merit, and on the old saw that some people will always have more than you and some less. The trick, even for a combative, competitive, insecure former seventh-grader, is to put the work first.”

Does it get your head ringing too?

Eternal Smile

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim

Three amazingly different and yet cohesive stories create this graphic novel.  In the first, Duncan is on the way to winning the hand of the Princess.  He has a magical sword that can slice the heads off of the frog-people and a desire to win.  But soon he discovers that his story has an entirely different piece to it.  In the second story, Gran’pa Greenbax is a frog who wants enough money to be able to dive into it and never hit bottom.  He’s not afraid to sell anything to reach his goal.  He is even willing to profit from the smile that has appeared in the sky, if he can.  But soon, he too discovers that all is not what it may seem.  The final story features Janet, who is stuck in a cubicle/watercooler culture where she doesn’t get any respect.  When she is contacted by a Nigerian prince who needs money, she gets caught up in a scam.  The question is who ends up profiting by it.

Strange, beautiful tales about being an outsider and being true to yourself, these stories will resonate with teens.  The artwork is very different in each story, setting them distinctly apart from one another.  From the epic fantasy art in the first to vintage comic book in the second, and ending with modern style in the final story.  At the same time, the stories all work together as a collection.  They have similar story arcs as well as that overarching theme of identity.

Highly recommended, this book belongs in all teen graphic novel collections because it shows teens how great graphic novels can be.  And if you are an adult like me who enjoys them, make sure you get your hands on this one.

Reviewed from library copy.

Alice in Wonderland Trailer

A trailer for Tim Burton’s upcoming Alice in Wonderland film.  Colorful, strange, and uniquely Burton.  I just hope it stays true to the books for a good part of the language.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjtJBucdBqg&feature=player_embedded%5D

Thanks to Educating Alice for the link!

Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels

Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

When Joe the Giraffe thinks he has won the grand prize in a contest he entered, he takes Sparky the turtle on a joyride in his brand new and very yellow car.  The fruit-covered hat in the front seat is seen as another prize, one definitely worth donning while driving.  The two have a series of great adventures from shopping at the mall to grabbing lunch at Tasty Burger.  Sparky would much rather just be home and safe in his pond while Joe is thrilled to be out and about on an adventure.  By the end of the story, the two are fast friends and both appreciate their differences.

Easy readers can be challenging.  Not the reading level, but the content.  It can so often fall flat.  This one, however, manages to set just the right tone of manic silliness and easy content.  The illustrations add to the zany fun, as the two animals careen around town merrily.  The bright colors will make the book very approachable for new readers.

Just the right mix of fun for young elementary readers, this is a good choice for easy reader shelves in both school and public libraries.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by PlanetEsme and Young Readers.