Thursday, April 18, 2013

Valerie O. Patterson's New Book

Operation Oleander
Valerie O. Patterson

Jess, Merriwether, and Sam are regular teens who happen to live at the Fort Spencer Army Base in Florida. Jess's father and Merriwether's mother are serving in Afghanistan. Sam's father is the base commander. The three are very close friends; however, Jess's mom worries that children of enlisted soldiers should not socialize with officers' children. Jess has spearheaded a drive to send school supplies to children in an Afghan orphanage. Her father has sent her photos and she is particularly attached to Warda, a young girl pictured standing near an oleander plant. Since that flower also blooms in Florida, Jess has named the project Operation Oleander. However, not everyone, including Sam's father, is thrilled with the project. Some think that the military personnel should not be putting themselves in danger by delivering the supplies. One morning while setting up the donations table in the PX, Jess's world is turned upside down when news comes of an explosion near an Afghan orphanage. Reports come of injury and even death to some soldiers from Fort Spencer. The entire base pulls together at this tragic time, but some will blame Operation Oleander for the incident. Jess learns very painful lessons in this poignant novel. 2012, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 12 to 18, $16.99. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson (Children's Literature).

To have Valerie visit your school or organization email

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jackie Urbanovic

New to our booking service is popular picture book author & illustrator, Jackie Urbanovic. An award-winning author and illustrator, Jackie grew up in the Midwest and then attended the Maryland Institute of Art, where she received her BFA. She now lives in Maryland, working as a professional illustrator for over thirty years. Her popular Max the duck series began in 2007 with Duck at the Door. In addition to this best-selling series, Jackie is the illustrator of No Sleep for the Sheep by Karen Beaumont, If You're Hoppy, Grandma Lena's Big Ol'Turnip, and I've Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky. Jackie's presentations and workshops range from pre-school aged children to workshops for high school and adults audiences.

To have Jackie Urbanovic visit your school or organization contact

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Catherine Reef

The Children’s Book Guild of DC has a piece about Catherine Reef’s new biography about the Brontë  Sisters. The book, out this month from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, has already received three starred reviews. Learn more about Catherine and information about her school visits.

Monday, August 6, 2012


NASA posted a photo from Curiosity, the rover that landed on Mars this weekend. Search CLCD for books about Mars and the solar system, or check out our past year-long feature on Space Exploration.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity
Elizabeth Rusch
            The question of life on Mars has fueled space research and imagination for years. Steven Squyres watched the Apollo moon mission on television as a teenager and grew up to be lead scientist on the mission sending his self-designed rovers to Mars. Readers watch as his team brings the rovers to life and follows their journeys into space. The two robots seem to take on personalities of their own as they survive years past their initial three month assignment and defy countless odds and near calamities to gather information to send back to earth. The next step is using all of that information to help put people on Mars; a thrilling prospect! Full of rich photos of Steve and the other scientists and astronauts, the rovers and the red planet itself, this book is sure to re-ignite interest in an ever-changing space exploration program. Part of the “Scientists in the Field” series, this volume would be a valuable addition to any school or classroom library. 2012, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 9 to 12, $18.99.
ISBN: 9780547478814

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Arlene Hirschfelder

A Chicago native, Arlene Hirschfelder is a longtime nonfiction writer who focuses on presenting accurate portrayals of Native Americans in the United States. The author of over 25 books, Arlene is also the editor of "It Happened to Me," a series of nonfiction books for teen readers published by Scarecrow Press. Arlene's book, Rising Voices: The Writings of Young Native Americans, was an IRA Children's Choice and Teachers' Choice and was chosen for the White Raven Book Award by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. She visits middle school, high school, and college classrooms and also provides workshops for teachers and librarians.

To have Arlene Hirschfelder visit your school or organization contact

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Creativity Conundrum In Educational Leadership

            Many of the men and women who shaped the world over the course of history, from Mozart to Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, have done so by thinking well outside the sphere of traditional education. Famously, each of these men had some issues with authority, and it’s hard to imagine any of them sitting placidly in a classroom and copying facts and figures from a chalkboard. In the end, their genius was not simply in their ability to understand complex systems, although that was certainly an important part of it. What set them apart was their creativity—that is, their ability to use previously held knowledge to produce something that no one had ever thought to make before; whether a symphony, a scientific theory or a personal computer.
            The passing of Steve Jobs in 2011 rekindled an age-old discussion about the relationship of creativity and innovation to traditional notions of intelligence. (Jobs often credited the creative classes he audited after dropping out of college with influencing some of his later decisions at Apple.)  Not everything about this relationship is completely understood, but most people involved in education and public policy agree: creativity will be a crucial characteristic possessed by anyone hoping to succeed in the twenty-first-century economy. And yet, the education system in its current state is not set up to foster this sort of out-of-the-box thinking. One solution currently gaining momentum is the use of community-driven non-profit organizations known as local education funds (LEFs) and public education funds (PEFs), which are committed to improving access to quality education for all members of society. While not the complete answer, these reform-minded organizations might be the key to injecting creativity back into public schools.

Fostering Creative Intelligence in the American Classroom
            It is ten years after the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which was enacted in order to help American schools compete with their foreign counterparts, and their foreign counterparts are still outscoring them in just about every subject. This might be partially due to NCLB’s use of standardized testing to measure school performance. As many teachers will attest to, this emphasis on test scores leave schools little room to focus on anything besides “teaching to the test.” The United States has gone backwards, then, to a so-called “drill-and-kill” system of rote learning and memorization, while many of the rest of the world’s schools, especially those in Europe and Asia, have evolved to place emphasis on big picture concepts, problem solving, and encouraging innovation.
            According to a 2010 study by The College of William & Mary education professor Kyung-Hee Kim, creativity has been on the decline among American students since 1990. Using the results of the Torrance Test measuring creative thinking, she analyzed decades’ worth of data and found that, while traditional IQ scores have actually gone up steadily each decade, creativity is on the decline. She also used the results to identify three types of students: those with high intelligence and high creativity, those with high intelligence and low creativity, and those with low intelligence and high creativity. What does this tell us? One theory is that creativity and intelligence, while related, are not exactly the same thing, and placing too much stress on more traditional standards of intelligence might result in stifling creativity in those who possess that quality. As Kim notes, “If we neglect creative students in school because of the structure and the testing movement—creative students cannot breathe, they are suffocated in school—then they become underachievers.” While there are several factors that might be resulting in this “creativity crisis,” Kim puts at least some of the blame for lower Torrance test scores on the culture of standardized testing encouraged by NCLB.
            This decline in creativity does not bode well for the future of the country. According to John M. Eger, professor of communications and public policy and director of the Creative Economy Initiative at San Diego State University, creativity is essential to building an economy to compete with the rest of the world in coming decades. In a Huffington Post article from 2011, Eger points out that, while the word “creative” is often associated with the arts, the concept of creativity is just as important for the STEM subjects that have received so much attention from education leaders and government officials in recent years. In fact, a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs around the world identified creativity as the top quality needed for future success in the global economy.

Is Public Investment the Solution?
            As our schools struggle to keep up with the standards set forth by NCLB, they also grapple with staggering budget cuts, with fine art and music programsespecially vulnerable to the axe. Recently, however, a number of organizations collectively known as public education support organizations, or ESOs, have been created within communities to supply capital for public schools through fundraising. Funds are then appropriated through grants to finance things like teacher training, afterschool programs, community-based projects, and school supplies. There are many types of ESOs, and they vary greatly in both scope and size. LEFs are specifically associated with the Public Education Network, while PEFs are a much broader group of education-related foundations. The Urban Institute reports that between 1997 and 2007, the number of ESOs doubled to more than 19,000, collectively spending $4.3 billion dollars on improving education.
            The Decatur Public Schools Foundation (DPSF) out of Decatur, Illinois, is an organization that’s representative of the possibilities for PEFs to create opportunities rewarding creative thinking and innovation. Decatur Science Investigations, funded by the foundation, is a partnership with Millikin Universitythat brings undergraduate science students into Decatur elementary schools to set up science stations and perform science demonstrations at school assemblies. The goal of the program is to encourage young students to use their imaginations and gain enthusiasm for science, and 100% of teachers polled in the district felt that the program increased critical thinking and problem solving skills. Another DPSF program is the musical instrument library, which provides band and orchestra instruments to low-income students who might not have otherwise been able to afford them. After the program started in 2009, participation in music programs increased by 15%.
            Compared to some of the larger LEFs operating with multi-million dollar budgets, DPSF is a relatively small organization, but it’s easy to see how these small-scale efforts can really make a difference to students who benefit from them, and how they might be used to fill in the creativity gap that currently exists in public education. As to whether these organizations will continue to expand and become an important part of education funding in the future, there is no clear answer. What does seem clear is that creative thinking will be the only solution to the myriad complex problems facing coming generations. And, appropriately enough, one of those problems might just be how we’re going to fix education.

Contributor: Roslyn Tam

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lee Harper

Lee Harper always loved to draw. His love for doodling grew into a serious ambition to be an artist and after high school he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He says that "After college I embarked on the most challenging and rewarding adventure of my life... being a husband and father of four wonderful children. My career path took a few detours that led me down many roads which didn't always involve making art, but somehow life's path led me back."
In 2008 he illustrated his first published book, Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski. In addition to illustrating books by authors like Wendi Silvano and Walter Dean Myers, Lee also wrote and illustrated two works of his own: Snow! Snow! Snow! and The Emperor's Cool Clothes. His fifth book, Turkey Claus, another collaboration with Wendi Silvano, is due out in late 2012.

To have Lee visit your school or organization email

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Makes a Good Book (Part 1) by Marilyn Courtot

The following is the first in a six part series written by Children's Literature President Marilyn Courtot that we posted back in 2009. Aimed at reviewers and writers, we will be running a new part every month. 

Basic Construction and Illustrations

When evaluating a book for a child, there are a lot of characteristics to keep in mind. But lest you feel overwhelmed, remember that if you have been reading books, especially children’s books, you have probably developed an innate ability to select the good ones. You just may not realize what influences you and why. This, first in a series of columns, will address the features of a good book.

Let’s look at the basic construction of a book. Consider the quality of the fabrication—will it hold up to repeated handling and reading? Look in particular at the binding and cover construction. If the slip jacket is removed, will the cover still have appeal? Is the paper of good quality, or does it tear easily? Look at the book’s size and shape. If the book is for toddlers then keep it small for little hands. Oversized books are usually not appropriate for those under nine—they are just too big and too heavy.

Next, look at the illustrations. Are they clearly reproduced? Are the color registration and clarity acceptable? Although black-and-white helps babies clearly distinguish objects, color is very important for older kids. Colors do not need to be vibrant or garish to appeal to children; studies have shown that pastels are soothing and can encourage learning.

Also, are the illustrations appropriate to the story or text? Do they enhance and exemplify the text, or do they head off in an entirely new direction. Author/illustrator Chris Manson commented that “the children’s book market is really the best place in the publishing industry for full color art. Sometimes it blows away the story.” He believes that illustrations need to be in balance with the story. Illustrations should make the story bigger, but not different. 

Marilyn Courtot 
Publisher and Editor

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Audiobooks

The New York Times Book Review section from May 20th featured an article by Judith Shulevitz, “Let’s Go Reading in the Car” that included the following list of recommended audiobooks to check out this summer. Read reviews for these titles with CLCD.

For Ages 4 and Up:

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
Read by Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Kathleen Turner, and Matthew Broderick

The “Gooney Bird” series by Lois Lowry
Read by Lee Adams

The “Great Brain” series by John D. Fitzgerald
Read by Ron McLarty

The “Judy Moody” and “Stink” series by Megan McDonald
Read by Barbara Rosenblat

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
Read by Melanie Martinez

For Ages 8 and Up:

The “Fudge” series by Judy Blume
Read by the author

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Read by Edward Herrmann

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Read by Peter MacNicol

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Read by the author

For Ages 10 and Up:

Bloomability by Sharon Creech
Read by Mandy Siegfried

Flush by Carl Hiaasen
Read by Michael Welch

The “Joey Pigza” series by Jack Gantos
Read by the author

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Read by S. Epatha Merkerson

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Read by Jenna Lamia, Cassandra Campbell, and Kirby Heyborne