Friday, August 28, 2015

My beef with Jimmy Fallon, AKA Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada

Jimmy Fallon is just one of a host of celebrities who likely decide on whim that they are going to write a children's book.  And while the book itself is kind of cute, I have absolutely zero praise to give the entire execution of it. The only thing selling this book is the name on the cover. And the publisher knew it. There is actually no story here. So saying that Jimmy Fallon "wrote" this book is laughable. OK. Yeah. He had an idea for a children's picture book. Whatever. But then for the publisher to make the incredibly ungracious decision to not only leave the illustrator's name off the cover but also include no bio information of the artist on the back flap next to Jimmy's? Not cool.

Jimmy Fallon seems like a gregarious, unassuming sort of person. I have a sense that these types of decisions were purely from those in the marketing department. Regardless, the decisions that were made to go against the normal conventions of a children's picture book make Jimmy out to be an ungracious ego maniac. If you're a celebrity and you're going to tout yourself as an author, then fine, be an author. But don't pretend you "wrote" a book while everyone else does the work and you just slap your name on the cover. There is a great deal of respect and nuance that real children's book authors give to the craft writing that celebrities show absolutely zero respect for. It's nothing but a money grab. Pure and simple. And publishers know it. 


So while I get why publishers put out celebrity children's books (they do, after all, help sell more books and keep their imprints going), I would like there to be some sort of attempt on the celebrity's part to at least acknowledge there is a craft to writing children's books and there are certain conventions that one is expected to uphold. Just having an idea and then forcing your minions to carry that idea out for you does not make you an author. Your name does not deserve to be the only name in big giant letters on the cover of the book. So I'm sorry Jimmy, while I love your show and think you're hilarious, please do us all a favor and don't put out anymore children's books unless you're willing to actually immerse yourself in children's literature and learn the craft. Just being an adult who acts like a big kid does not automatically qualify you to be a children's book author. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading 8-24-15


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Oh boy am I tired. I forget just how tiring the first day/week of school is.

I wrote about that last week on my teaching blog:
On the First Day of School Eve...
First day of school stream of consciousness


Current giveaway:

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon


Last week I finished reading with my ears:

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway
Both really good, contemporary YA novels. Emmy & Oliver seemed to have minimal conflict, but the characters were lovable and worth spending time with.


Favorite picture books from last week: 
 
The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
I was expecting something akin to the nefarious intentions of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood but was pleasantly surprised when the story did not take the turn I was expecting it to. There are definitely Little Red Riding Hood elements and Alice in Wonderland for that matter, but the story has its own unique heartbeat as well.

 
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love 
This is a great book to make a case for why visual literacy is important. There are clues in the illustrations that help readers better process the surprise ending. 


Still reading:

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby 
 

While this book started out with a bang, it's slowed down quite a bit for me. It's funny and clever and has a bite to it, but after a while the cleverness starts to feel gimmicky, especially with regards to the footnotes. There were a couple chapters in the middle that made me consider abandoning the book because I was growing tired of the characters but I pulled through and am starting to enjoy it again. 


Currently reading with my ears:

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen 
Berlin is my favorite city in the entire world. Its fascinating and storied past means there is a palpable energy to the city that looks toward the future while still firmly holding hands with the past. I have yet to read any historical fiction books that took place behind the Iron Curtain that I felt really captured what it must have been like for the people of those Eastern Bloc countries... until A Night Divided. This is the Cold War/Berlin Wall novel I've been waiting for.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Book giveaway: Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you likely already know that I am obsessed with sloths. So when Sterling Children's Books approached me about the chance to read and giveaway a copy of the picture book Sloth Slept On, I wanted to say to them, "It's like you guys know me!" :)

Needless to say, Sloth Slept On is adorable. Frann Preston-Gannon has mastered the art of the languid, lazy, smiley sloth in her heartwarming illustrations. If you too are a fan of sloths, here's your chance to win your very own copy of:

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
Audience: Primary
Disclosure: Review copy & giveaway copy provided by publisher

Goodreads summary:
When a group of kids finds an animal happily napping in their backyard, they set out to discover what it is and where it belongs. As they search and search—never noticing all the posters and news articles about a sloth that's broken out of the zoo—they finally discover the identity of the snoozing creature. And when sloth wakes up, it's in for a BIG surprise! Frann Preston-Gannon has created an endearing, adorable, and huggable title character; a group of intrepid children; and a wildly humorous situation that will appeal to young readers.


Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address
One winner will be selected
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Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-17-15


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

School starts tomorrow. I am surprisingly chill about it given how completely unprepared I feel. Oh well. This isn't my first rodeo. Coming up on year nine. I got this.

Speaking of school, last week, I shared my #pb10for10 post: Ten picture books I read this summer that I can't wait to share with my 8th graders.

On my teaching blog, I also shared the story of my new tattoo.


Last week I finished reading:

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely 
Books save lives. And they change hearts and minds. This will be one of those books. We need to start talking about that which and WITH those who make us uncomfortable. This book is in your face enough to start conversations, but nuanced enough to make it more than a black vs. white, us vs. them issue.  


I finished reading with my ears:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli  

Not a whole lot to say about this one. I liked it. It's a great addition to the canon of LGBT YA lit. But other than that, I probably won't remember that much about it in a week or two.  That having been said, it's undoubtedly just the right book for a whole lot of young people out there. 


Favorite picture book from last week:

Hoptoad by Jane Yolen, illustrated by  Karen Lee Schmidt
Sometimes you just need a good, fun book that teaches no lesson and imparts no moral. Hoptoad is one of those books.  


Since I finished reading All American Boys, I went back to reading:

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby 



Currently reading with my ears:

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway 

Monday, August 10, 2015

#PB10for10: Ten Picture Books I Read This Summer That I Can't Wait to Share with My 8th Graders


 #PB10for10 is a great community of teachers, librarians, and children's literature enthusiasts. The idea is to share 10 of your favorite picture books on a theme of your choosing. This year I'm choosing to talk about the ten picture books I'm most excited to share with my new 8th graders as soon as the school year starts.

This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Oh my heart. This book is everything. This book is about as perfect as a book could possibly be. This book isn't just about Sadie. This book is about us all. We are all Sadie. Some of us just have to look harder to find her within ourselves than others. But she is there.

The Moon is Going to Addy's House by Ida Pearle
Poetry doesn't always have to come in words. Sometimes poetry speaks in pictures, movement, music, or all of these things at once. The Moon is Going to Addy's House is a beautiful example of how poetry can be created in the confluence of art forms. It is a book that feels both classic and modern, both back in time and of the time.  

Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison
A marvelous book to share with kids to show them how one person's kindness and change of attitude can have a ripple effect on everyone around you.  But it is also so much more than that. Hannah E. Harrison is a very special illustrator who deserves some Caldecott hardware in her future.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt
Cinderella, rock on with your bad self. I love the message of girl power in this futuristic version of a beloved fairy tale.

Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan  
This is a book I will be thinking about for a long time, not just because of how good and content it made me feel at the end, but because there's a lot of complexity in the story that I know I missed upon first reading. This is one of those picture books that I can see very clearly being discussed in a university children's lit class because not only does it appeal to kids on an aesthetic level, but it also appeals to adults on an analytic level.

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Drum Dream Girl is one of many Margarita Engle books that help to educate and remind us that Cuba is a country of people with hopes, dreams, and fears like we all are. This book, paired with Engle's brand new memoir, Enchanted Air, has given me the itch to someday travel to this once verboten country.

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Sophia is an adorable, eloquent little protagonist. I especially loved the glossary at the end that pointed out the irony of having so many words for "using too many words." :)

I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton
Who says factual books can't be funny and full of voice? Certainly not Bethany Barton! This book helps arachnophobes come to grips with their fear through humor and logic.

Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton 
The wish and search for something extraordinary to happen often means we are missing out on the extraordinary things that are happening all around us that are just disguised as ordinary things. The message of this book puts me in mind of The Man with the Violin and how so often beautiful things are passing us by because we are too oblivious to notice. 

"Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth by Eric Carle  
Because, sloths


This was crossposted to my teaching blog, Use Your Outside Voice

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-10-15


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Gah! School starts in 8 days! I haven't even started putting my classroom together. Luckily I share a classroom and have a partner in crime to help me put the room together, but still. Where did the summer go? Oh! I know! The first part of the summer went to me procrastinating over writing my MA project proposal. The second part of the summer went to me scrambling to write my MA project proposal. (I'm happy to report, I did indeed finish writing my MA project proposal.)


Current giveaway:

Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson


I finished reading:

War is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World's Worst War Zones by David Axe and Matt Bors
There is something disturbingly fascinating about feeling like a voyeur into someone else's life and that's what this graphic memoir felt like. We are able to look through the window of what it's like to be a war correspondent. And while David Axe certainly leads a fascinating life, I'm not sure he's someone I would want to be friends with. Then again, you don't have to be likeable to be interesting. And I think what makes Axe so unlikeable is that his war coverage feels cynical and completely self-serving. Axe appears to feel very little empathy for his fellow man, but this book is definitely discussion-worthy.


I finished reading with my ears:
 
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume 


Favorite picture books from last week:

Here She Is! by Catherine LeBlanc, illustrated by Eve Tharlet  
This is one of those books where you are clearly aware that your emotions are being manipulated, but you don't care because it just warms the cockles of your heart.  


Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan  
This is a book I will be thinking about for a long time, not just because of how good and content it made me feel at the end, but because there's a lot of complexity in the story that I know I missed upon first reading. This is one of those picture books that I can see very clearly being discussed in a university children's lit class because not only does it appeal to kids on an aesthetic level, but it also appeals to adults on an analytic level.

 
One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Sophia is an adorable, eloquent little protagonist. I especially loved the glossary at the end that pointed out the irony of having so many words for "using too many words." :) 


"Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth by Eric Carle  
Because, sloths
  

Currently reading:

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiley 
Given the current racial climate in the U.S. right now, this brand new contemporary YA novel by Reynolds and Kiley was fast-tracked for a 2015 publication by Simon & Schuster. As far as I know, no ARCs were printed. I was lucky enough to receive a bound manuscript thanks to a friend I know who works for S&S since he knows what a huge Jason Reynolds fan I am. While the story is incredibly important and compelling, this is not a book I have been able to plow through given how difficult and painful the subject-matter is. 


Currently reading with my ears:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Giveaway: Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson

I have mad respect and love for Jeff Anderson. His teaching books Mechanically Inclined, Everyday Editing, and 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know hold a place of honor on my bookshelf and in my heart because I use his practical teaching methods so frequently.

I was elated when Jeff told me at the NCTE Annual Convention last year that he was writing a middle grade novel. Given that Jeff was a middle school teacher for so many years, I love that he has transitioned from writing professional texts for teachers to middle grade fiction for kids. It just makes my heart happy.

And after you watch this book trailer/interview with Jeff, I think it will make your heart happy too.

And then you'll definitely want to win a copy of his new book, out in stores now:

Zack Delacruz: Me and my Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson
Published: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Pages: 176
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Finished copy provided by publisher

 Goodreads Summary:
Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade.  Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day? 


GIVEAWAY!