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Five Ways to celebrate Kate DiCamillo’s appointment as the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:

The_Tale_of_Despereaux1. Drink soup when she’s inaugurated on Jan 10th.

2. Vacuum up an errant squirrel and enjoy some holy unanticipated occurrences!

3. Throw a party with egg-salad sandwiches, Dump Punch, pickles, dog pictures, Littmus Lozenges, paper bag lanterns, and crepe paper in the trees.

4. Visit a carnival with your best friend, and don’t skip the fortune teller!

5. Go to the toy store and give an old china rabbit a new life.

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“Before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That’s the hardest thing to find.” -E.L. Konigsburg

konigsburgE.L. Konigsburg passed away April 20, 2013. She was remarkable. The first person in her family to go to college, she studied chemistry and went on to pursue a masters degree, then  realized she had “the mind for chemistry but not the temperament.” So she went on to teach science at a girl’s school in Florida, take art classes while her children were in school, and write stories that reflect their experiences growing up.

I have never run away from home to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but as a young reader, I felt that Konigsburg was writing to me and for me. She understood the excitement and distinction of having a secret of your very own, and the charm of swimming after-hours in a fountain for coins. She captured that conflicting sense of wanting to belong and longing to be accepted as an individual. And she offered us reassurance that outsiders like Noah, Ethan, Fiona, and Julian can find friendship without relinquishing their sense of self. It’s been a privilege to have Konigsburg’s voice influence my childhood. Her sage words still resonate today.

“The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It’s the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don’t pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home.”

― E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

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Jean Craighead George, author of My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves, died earlier this month. You can read the NYT obituary here, and another from the Washington Post.

I grew up doing a lot of hiking, and naturally liked to read outdoors-y books, everything from Heidi (the Alps!) and Farmer Boy (I still dream of making my own maple syrup) to Island of the Blue Dolphins (brave, but too lonely). My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves were perfect–the stories were more adventurous than anything I’d do, but not as bleak as, say, Hatchet or The Cay. And for all their celebration of nature, the books never felt sappy or forced. George wrote from experience: My Side of the Mountain apparently took just two weeks to write.

I know I’ll be reading and re-reading her books for years to come, and I look forward to discovering the ones (like Julie’s Wolf Pack) I haven’t read before.

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One of the big pieces of news in the book world is the upcoming novel by J.K. Rowling. So far, all we know is that it’s written for adults and “very different” from Harry Potter—which means we’re free to speculate. Here’s our take on how this book might play out, multiple-choice style. My (entirely baseless) answers are in the comments. Feel free to join in—the more the merrier.

1. In contrast to Harry Potter, the protagonist will be

a) a girl
b) an octagenarian, or at least middle-aged
c) an extra-terrestrial, talking animal or robot
d) cowardly, sly and a fan of libraries
e) part of a big, loving family

2. Instead of a drafty Scottish castle, the setting of the new book will be

a) a tropical island
b) a treehouse
c) underwater
d) inside someone’s head. The entire novel will be stream-of-consciousness.

(more…)

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The British cover for Dead End in Norvelt (thanks to Fuse #8 for the tip): so much better than ours.

Um, wow. So Dead End in Norvelt got the Newbery! It was, as Jen predicted, a dark horse triumph. And while I’m still sad at the lack of recognition for Sir Gawain, Okay for Now and Amelia Lost, Gantos’ win makes me positively gleeful. We don’t often get laugh-out-loud funny Newbery winners: The Higher Power of Lucky often made me smile, as did The Tale of Despereaux. But I have to go back to Holes (1999) to find one that made me laugh. Norvelt packs enough humor to transform the most reluctant readers into bookworms (the title of this post references one of the more memorable scenes), and that may be the greatest prize of all.

As for the other award winners (full results from today’s ALA Youth Media Awards here), here are some scattered thoughts:

  • This seems to be the year where books won in unexpected categories. After all the Newbery/Caldecott agonizing over Wonderstruck, it was great (and so fitting!) to see it win a Schneider Family Book Award. Same with Drawing from Memorys Sibert Honor and I Want My Hat Back! in the Geisel category. It all seems so obvious in retrospect.
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose (Newbery Honor book) reminds me of Moon Over Manifest from last year–something totally unexpected, which I’m now quite looking forward to.
  • I’m ecstatic to see the Printz Committee honor The Returning. This is one of those books that reels you in slowly and doesn’t let go, but the slow pacing means it could use an awards-push to generate publicity.
  • Okay for Now got recognition for the audio book. I’ve always wondered about Doug’s voice–I imagine it’s either quite deadpan or darkly sarcastic. Now’s a good time to find out.
  • Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul won a well-deserved Coretta Scott King Award, though I’d hoped for Bird in a Box to get an award as well.
  • I haven’t read A Ball for Daisy or Blackout, but Me…Jane and Grandpa Green both deserve as much recognition as they can get.
  • Susan Cooper’s Margaret A. Edwards Award! I feel so lucky to have discovered her books this year (or rather re-discovered after a failed attempt to start the series years ago), and even had the chance to meet her during The Exquisite Conversation.

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I kid you not–Dec. 15 is officially Cat Herders Day. So whether you actually herd cats for a living, train them for tournaments or find yourself facing a seemingly insurmountable task, today’s a day for celebrating such challenges.

Go ahead. Herd me. See if I care.

Over at The Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, Anita Silvey has a great post on Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats–a classic statement on the futility of bossing cats around.

Ironically, I’ve just finished a book with the least cat-like cat I’ve ever read: Lula in Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan (Oct 2011). This cat is so chill it’s content being dressed in baby clothes and hauled around like a doll. Unrealistic? Perhaps, but Waiting for the Magic thrives on the impossible, and there’s plenty of magic (both fantastical and wordsmith-wise) as Lula, four dogs and two kids conspire to reunite a broken family. By turns poignant and hilarious, it’s a brilliant book to read any day of the year, but especially fitting for today.

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Trying to sum up the best of Kidlitcon is like being asked to describe the tastiest part of a cookie, because everything about the conference—the panels, the hotel/food, and especially the company—was excellent. Other (non-procrastinating) bloggers have posted detailed conference roundups, so here’s an abbreviated version of the highlights:

Most memorable quotes

 “Snark responsibly.”
Karen Kincy, on writing critical book reviews

A book review that is “four paragraphs description, followed by ‘I like it, it was fun, he was hot’ isn’t helpful.”
–Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray, on the importance of substative book reviews

“You can tell it’s manga because it’s windy.”
Scott Westerfeld, describing a piece of fan art he’s received

“Has anybody ever written a headless teen?”
Sara Ryan, on publishers who avoid cover controversy by designing covers that don’t feature any faces or people

(more…)

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