Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fire Prevention Week

This year’s official Fire Prevention Week (October 3rd - 9th) theme is Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With. Designed to educate people about the importance of smoke alarms and encourage everyone to take the necessary steps to update and maintain their home smoke alarms.

President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1920 declaring the first National Fire Prevention Day and Fire Prevention Week has been observed annually since 1922. This awareness week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed over 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire started on October 8th and did not stop until the following day.

Sparky the Fire Dog has been the official mascot of Fire Prevention Week since 1951. His job is to teach children about fire safety. He even has his own website: and

Visit for further information regarding fire safety.

Browse through these titles and those from previous years for some selections to share with your family or students.

Mark Teague
Edward and Judy visit a firehouse because Edwards wants to become a firefighter. It is not all fun and games--the first thing the Fire Chief wants them to do is help wash the fire truck. They go up to the crew’s quarters and the game of cards that he and Judy were playing is interrupted by a fire alarm bell. Everyone gets into their gear and slides down to the truck. Edward is literally hanging on to the back of the truck by his fingers. There is a bit of a mishap at the fire hydrant when the stream of water knocks Edward over. It takes teamwork to handle the hoses and climb up the ladder. This was a drill, but no sooner do they return to the firehouse when the alarm goes off again and this time it is a real emergency. (Although I am not sure that firefighters still will come and rescue cats caught up in trees). Teague’s collection of canines are amusing and expressive and kids will have fun looking for the little mice dressed as firefighters in nearly every scene, including the closing one where a tucked out Edward is fast asleep with the kitten he rescued sitting on his bed. 2010, Orchard Books/Scholastic, $16.99. Ages 3 to 5. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780439915007

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Children’s Literature Author & Illustrator Booking Service

Are you thinking of having an author/illustrator event at your school this year?

Enhance Your Next Author/Illustrator Event:
You can select from our list of over 100 authors and illustrators, many of whom have received accolades such as Caldecott Honor Awards, Coretta Scott King Awards, and Pura Belpré Honor Awards.

Our hassle free booking service takes care of everything so you don’t have to. Not only is this service free of charge, but when you order books directly from Children’s Literature you earn 20% off list price with the option to double that amount in brand new books. We are committed to working with you to make your author/illustrator events run smoothly.

“Children’s Literature takes the stress out of ordering books to coincide with author visits. Staff help select appropriate titles, create the order form including book reviews and deliver books promptly. Children’s Literature saves me so much time, and I really appreciate the extensive expertise lent to the whole process.” Joy A. McIntyre - Belmont Elementary, Montgomery County, MD.

The Booking Service’s customized approach does the heavy lifting for you by:
• Arranging a mutually agreeable time and date for the event
• Providing a letter of agreement between the school/organization and the author/illustrator that spells out the requirements associated with the visit as well as the fee
• Providing order forms and book selection guidance to the event coordinator to facilitate the purchase and delivery of books should there be an autographing associated with the appearance
• Processing all book sale payments, including credit cards, checks, and cash. Tax and discounts as appropriate.
• Providing the sponsoring organization with assistance in taking care of all details such as directions, parking, meals, set-up needs, etc.

A few author/illustrators from our extensive list include: Vicki Cobb, Henry Cole, Sneed Collard, Lulu Delacre, Pamela Duncan Edwards, Lindsay Barrett George, Alison Hart, Jacqueline Jules, David McLimans, Laura Melmed, Patrick O’Brien, Kevin O’Malley, Valerie Patterson, Audrey Penn, Myles Pinkney, Mary Quattlebaum, Catherine Reef, Susan Roth, Janet Morgan Stoeke, Carole Boston Weatherford, and many more.

Our list is constantly growing and we provide up-to-date information (news, events, book releases) about our participating author/illustrator’s through Twitter, Facebook, and this blog. Visit to plan your next event, or contact Emily Griffin, Publicity and Marketing Director, at 301-469-2070 or

7513 Shadywood Road • Bethesda MD 20817 • 301 469 2070 • 301 469 2071 (Fax)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Themed Reviews: Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. The website contains a wealth of information on a variety of topics surrounding the culture of Hispanic peoples. September 15 is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.

The term Hispanic, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2000 Census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino." More than 35 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2000 Census.

There are many other features of interest to help parents, teachers, and others interested in teaching/learning about Hispanic Heritage. The link to Spanish Loan Words was particularly interesting. We use so many of these words without being conscious of their origins. As summer comes to a close, we can welcome September with the last of the homegrown tomatoes (derived from the Spanish tomate, a corruption of the Nahuatl word tomatl) and look forward to the last of the mosquitoes (the same in English and Spanish -- annoying in either language!); during September we can focus on all things Hispanic and revel in the richness of the heritage shared (or adopted) by so many people.

The following book reviews offer a variety of interesting aspects of Hispanic Heritage to share with young listeners; the listing also includes books to interest older readers as well.

Once Upon a Time: Traditional Latin American Tales
Rueben Martínez
Translated by David Unger
Illustrated by Raúl Colón

A collection of stories popular among Latin American children is sure to bring back memories as parents read them to their own children. We start with the story of the "Wedding Rooster." The rooster is on his way to his uncle's wedding when he spots a kernel of corn he cannot pass up. The corn soils his beak setting a chain of events into motion that will have children giggling at the interconnectedness of life. The next story is the "Tlacuache and the Coyote," in some parts of the world the tlacuache is known as an opossum or weasel. Weasel fits him well as he tricks the coyote more times than the coyote can count, even when the coyote has decided he will not fall for one more of the tlacuache's tricks, he does, actually, he jumps. We are also treated to "The Mother of the Jungle," a lesson about being good to mother earth; Martina the Cockroach and Pérez the Mouse, a love story; "The Flower of Lirolay," the story of a blind king and his three sons who each want to inherit the throne; "The King and the Riddle," a story of a clever girl that wins the king's heart; and finally, "Pedro Urdemales and the Giant," the story of a mischief maker who outwits a giant in feats of strength. All classic stories, it is appropriate that they are bound together in one book. 2010, HarperCollins, $19.99. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: Mandy Cruz (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780061468957

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Q&A with author Patricia Newman

Children's Literature reviewer and Booking Service author, Jeanne K. Pettenati (Galileo's Journal, 1609-1610), interviewed Patricia Newman, fellow Booking Service participant and author of two books for children: Nugget on the Flight Deck and Jingle the Brass.

Jeanne Pettenati: What were some of your favorite books as a child? Who were some of your favorite authors?
Patricia Newman: I liked books with strong female characters when I was a kid. Of course I couldn't articulate that at the time, but looking back on my "favorites" list, I can see it was true. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink; Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh; the Nancy Drew series; the Trixie Belden series; and the Bobbsey Twins series. I also loved Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (and all the follow-ups) and the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren.

JP: What is a typical day like for you? Do you write every day?
PN: I do not write every day, but when I write, I write in the morning. Writing words on a blank computer screen is the hardest part of writing for me, so I create early in the morning when I'm at my best. My goals for the day depend on the project. Sometimes my goal is to write a certain number of pages. Sometimes I work on getting the character's voice just right. Right now, I'm working on writing a proposal for a new book idea I have, so I need to complete a fair amount of research to understand how to shape this book into something children want to read. (The research phase is dangerous for me—it's easy to put off facing that blank computer screen by reading one more chapter in one more book!) Then I have to write a couple of sample chapters and a marketing proposal for my agent to send to potential editors.

As the day wears on, writing becomes more difficult for me. I leave email and promotion to the afternoon. Some days I post an entry to my blog and work on my next book-related trip (in July I will be in San Diego, CA at the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and in October, I will be in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museums). I am also the co-Regional Advisor for the California North/Central chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI—see, so event-planning and member-issues are usually handled in the afternoon.

JP: What are your hobbies?
PN: I play tennis and I love to read! I am also an active SCBWI volunteer (see above) and an active volunteer in a local high school band program. I am on a committee (called ecARTS) to build a performing arts center and art gallery on the campus of my children's former high school. (See

I also love to garden. Pulling weeds is therapeutic and a great way to solve story problems. Once I let my mind relax a bit and give the story I'm working on a rest, problems that seem insurmountable fall into place. (The shower is a great place for problem-solving, too!)

JP: When did you start writing books/stories for children?
PN: I began writing when my children were very small (they're in college now—my daughter is a senior and my son is a freshman). We visited the library every few days and checked out a pile of books. As I read to them, I recalled how important books were to me as a child and I knew writing books for children was something I wanted attempt.

JP: I love the way you handled the vocabulary in Nugget. There was a lot to learn, but it was done in a very kid friendly way. Did you plan this format at the outset? Or did the approach evolve as you were writing the book?
PN: Thank you for the nice compliment. One thing I've learned about writing for children is that even though the finished product looks easy, it's not! The approach definitely evolved. The format for Nugget on the Flight Deck is similar to that of Jingle the Brass, so for Nugget I (mostly) knew what I was doing. But for Jingle the Brass, I muddled along first with an idea for an ABC book. After several failed attempts, a kind editor wrote an extremely helpful rejection letter suggesting a "voice" for my story. I knew exactly what she meant because I'd interviewed a retired Southern Pacific railroad engineer as part of my research process and I wanted my engineer character to sound like him! The voice made all the difference and the story flowed out of me in one sitting and eventually sold.

I began work on Nugget on the Flight Deck when Jingle the Brass was in production, but had to put it away for awhile. The first editor who read Nugget rejected it because President Bush had just declared war on Iraq, and he thought the book's military theme would not go over well. I put it in my drawer for a year or so. My new agent at the time read it and decided to submit it. It sold relatively quickly.

JP: In writing Nugget, you opened a new world for children—I think readers really get a sense of life on an aircraft carrier and the myriad jobs/workers necessary to support the pilot and his/her mission. What kind of feedback from children have you gotten about the book?
PN: Children love the sound of the lingo and I often see them testing the phrases under their breath. They always laugh at the landing light called the meatball. And they marvel over how fast an aircraft catapults off the carrier. (They LOVE the Navy video I show them during school visits of a real jet catapulting off the carrier.) Part of my intent during school visits is to help children find something they love to learn about so they'll love reading. During school visits I ask students to come "onstage" with me. They learn how to shoot an aircraft down the cat stroke. They play the part of various flight deck personnel. They demonstrate how a pilot uses the number on a clock to refer to position, i.e. "Check your six" means to watch behind you. The aviator's alphabet is also a real favorite—I usually ask kids to spell their names with it.

I also talk to students about how I conducted the research for my books and are surprised when they learn that research doesn't necessarily mean sitting in a library reading a dusty book. They're thrilled when I tell them how I met the pilots I interviewed!

When I talk about Jingle the Brass in an assembly, I have different activities and volunteer opportunities dealing with trains that students get very excited about.

JP: Did you have any input on the illustrations for your books?
PN: The editors for Jingle the Brass and Nugget on the Flight Deck asked me who I would like to illustrate the books—more for style than any real suggestion, I think. I was also lucky enough to see very early sketches and both editors asked for comments. Rather than comment on the artists' styles (which I love for both books), I only commented on factual inaccuracies.

JP: How long did it take Nugget to become a book, from manuscript to publication? How about Jingle the Brass?
PN: They each took about 5 years from manuscript to finished book.

JP: What was the inspiration for Jingle the Brass? Did you have this title at the outset or did it evolve as you were writing the book?
PN: I live in Sacramento, home to the California Railroad Museum. When out-of-town guests visit, we usually make a trip to the museum. During one such trip an exhibit gave me an idea for a novel. Early in my research process I requested an interview with one of the museum docents, who happened to be a retired Southern Pacific engineer. While we walked around the now-defunct railroad yard, my guide used colorful terms like "mudhop" and "ashcat" and "bending the iron." I knew then that I was researching the wrong book, and began Jingle the Brass.

JP: What was your inspiration for the story about two brothers, one who dies from a brain tumor? My family knows several children who have suffered from brain tumors. Sadly, this cancer afflicts too many children. Was this a difficult story to write? How did you research the story?
PN: "My Brother, Josh" (published in Spider) was a difficult story to write because the inspiration came from a young friend of ours afflicted with a tumor wrapped around his brain stem. My children often played with this boy, and when we found out he was ill, I needed to figure out a way to explain his illness to my children; at the time, his prognosis was dim. I started writing. Much of the research came from my friend's experience, but I also spoke with bereavement counselors who worked with children. I am happy to report, though, that my young friend survived and is now in college.

JP: One of the things I really like to do is visit schools with an interactive presentation about Galileo based on my book. Connecting with children and seeing them get excited about Galileo's discoveries is very rewarding for me. What can students/teachers expect with your school visits? Have you had any memorable moments with your students/readers that you would like to share?
PN: My school visits are lively, interactive and use a variety of media—visual references, movies, sound recordings, hand-held visuals, etc. In each meeting with children I try to inspire them to read and write with a variety of anecdotes, examples and writing activities. For instance, I taped all of my rejection letters (there are 16 of them!) for Jingle the Brass end to end and unfurl them in a dramatic flourish during my assembly. I get a lot of "wows" and "awesomes" when I do this! I tell the students I never stopped believing in myself or my story. At one school a teacher tracked me down at lunch to tell me that after my assembly a boy in her class struggled with a writing assignment. The girl sitting next to him patted him on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry. You have 16 tries!" The best school visits allow me to connect with every student in the school on some level—whether it's asking them to volunteer for me, or shaking their hand after the show, or working with them in a writers' workshop.

JP: What projects are you working on now?
PN: I usually feel assaulted by ideas and sometimes have difficulty picking one or two to work on. Currently, I'm working on a nonfiction proposal for a book about zoo animals. I'm also working on a picture book about a unique bond with a dog. In my critique group this week, I discovered a new idea for a novel. The zoo animals book comes first, then we'll see about the rest...

JP: What are some topics you would like to write about in the future?
PN: Terrorism. Friendship. An alternate society. Who knows what form they'll each take or in which order I'll write about them!

JP: How can readers contact you? Find out more about school visits, etc.?
PN: Readers may email me at They can also keep up with my appearances on my blog at My website contains information school visit programs and testimonials from students and teachers. Please visit

For information visit