Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Glamorous Life as a Book Reviewer

Part I
by Keri Collins Lewis

If you’re like me before I began regularly reviewing children’s books, your vision of what a book reviewer does is very simple: a person receives FREE BOOKS and then shares one’s opinion. In my dream world, I’d get paid to share my opinion, one formed over years of reading High Quality Children’s Literature. A job reading children’s books, that was my dream.

Then along came the world of blogging. A friend of mine suggested, “Instead of waiting for a job that pays you to review books, why don’t you start a blog and see if you actually enjoy it?” Oblivious to the numerous blogs already doing a fine job of covering the kidlitosphere, some of which had authors with Sterling Credentials and vast numbers of devotees (such as A Fuse #8 Production), I launched “Keri Recommends.” Far be it from me to simply review books and let people make their own judgments! I would write up only those books I would recommend to my friends, for their own pleasure or for their children.

Translation: only my friends were likely to read the blog and value my opinion.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this trial run on my blog set me up for a delightful serendipity. One day while researching Ph.D. programs in Children’s Literature, I ran across, with a tiny boxed notice advertising for book reviewers. I promptly sent my resume and some sample book reviews, and within a short time, my “real” life as a book reviewer began.

Want to be a reviewer? If you're interested in reviewing children's and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reviewer Writes About Jane Goodall in Appleseed Magazine

Children's Literature reviewer Carollyne Hutter has two articles in the April 2010 issue of Appleseed, a children's magazine. The issue is devoted to the work of Jane Goodall and her articles are “From Binoculars to Satellites” and “Kudia’s New Home.”

"Since Dr. Jane began her research, the technology used to study chimpanzees has changed dramatically. Researchers still watch the chimps in the forests and record their movements…yet they also use the latest technology—such as remote sensing—to observe chimp habitats from above and understand what is happening to their forests." - “From Binoculars to Satellites”

To learn more about Appleseed visit:

For more information about Carollyne Hutter visit:

Friday, April 16, 2010

What Makes a Good Book (Part 4) by Marilyn Courtot

The following is the fourth part in a six part series written by CLCD President Marilyn Courtot. Aimed at reviewers and writers, we will be running a new part every month.

Types of Books

Nonfiction/History & Geography

History and geography books provide concrete facts, but also offer the opportunity to answer related social issues. The American Association of Geographers in conjunction with the National Council for Geographic Education has identified six essential elements to promote the learning of geographic principles.

First, books and activities must help children learn THE WORLD IN SPATIAL TERMS such as how to use maps and other geographic representations, how to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface. Second, kids need to know about PLACES AND REGIONS, more specifically that people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity and that the physical and human characteristics of places are vitally important. Third, young readers need to understand PHYSICAL SYSTEMS such as the physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface. Fourth, children should be aware of HUMAN SYSTEMS such as the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface and how human actions modify the physical environment. Fifth, children should recognize that the ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY includes the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources and sixth THE USES OF GEOGRAPHY, most importantly how to apply geography to interpret he past, present and plan for the future.

A good book for history and geography has a perspective, and this perspective can be more important than the factual information. The CLCD database provides many good choices to help children enjoy geography and history. These books incorporate one or more of the themes noted above.

Additional information relating to the educational standards can be found at

Marilyn Courtot
Publisher and Editor

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Valerie O. Patterson and the Other Side of Blue

Valerie O. Patterson grew up in the Florida Panhandle, and her love of blue is evident in her young adult novel, The Other Side of Blue. Fifteen-year-old Cyan is still grieving, when she and her mother return to the island of Curaçao, in the Caribbean, where a year previously her father drowned. Family relationships, romance, and mystery are elegantly interwoven in this poignant coming-of-age story.

A conversation with Valerie O. Patterson

Emily Griffin: The Other Side of Blue is your first published novel. How did Cyan and her story develop?

Valerie Patterson: I began The Other Side of Blue and another project during a writing class with Han Nolan at Hollins University. The other project also involved the color blue and a mysterious death! Hmmm...I'm not sure what that means. With regard to this novel, I have long been intrigued by art, mother-daughter relationships, and the ocean. The character of Cyan came to me first. Then came the mystery of the absent father. I did not have a fully developed plot before I began writing. For me it was the sound of Cyan's voice, which was so not my own, that drove me to explore the story further, to find out what happened.

EG: How did the dynamics of the story change and grow as you wrote? Did you have a strong path you wanted to follow?

VP: I'm one of those writers who tend to write to find out what the story is all about. Though I'm trying to be more disciplined about outlining and understanding the overall arc in my novels before starting, Blue almost certainly was of the first variety. I had to go back and think about subplots and how to weave in other threads. Then, the last third of the book came very quickly.

EG: A year after her father's death, Cyan and her mother struggle to understand each other. Can you talk about their relationship?

VP: Yes, I think the mother-daughter relationship can be very complicated, involving tension as daughters move to find their own means of expression rather than follow what worked for their mothers. I also think some artists—regardless of medium—fall prey to insecurity. Cyan's mother strikes me that way—seemingly sure of her talent and yet controlling over her daughter's desire to express herself differently. Her insecurity leads her, I believe, to be controlling.

EG: What surprised you most about the whole process of writing and publishing a young adult novel?

VP: I have been surprised by how emotional getting a first novel published was for me. It has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There is nothing more thrilling than having a book accepted and published and to hold it in your hand for the first time. At the same time, being published creates a new level of anxiety. Will the book touch readers? Will I be able to write another one?

EG: Before you got an MFA in Children's Literature from Hollins University you were a lawyer, correct? What inspired the switch? And how does your law background affect your writing process?

VP: Switch? Oh, I wish! I still have a demanding day job. Don't get me wrong—I enjoy the analytical rigor of the legal field, but my first love has always been the written word. As an undergraduate, I was an English and Spanish double major. I wrote a great deal of not-very-good poetry and some short stories. Law school meant I did not write again creatively for several years. Even afterward, I found it very hard to write. But, gradually, the creative drive returned. I'm very grateful to have that part of my life back.

EG: What's next? Are you working on anything new?

VP: Yes, I just completed a very rough draft of a novel for a slightly younger audience. The story is about a girl whose father deploys to Afghanistan. Coping with his absence, she tries to find her own place in the world, while reaching out to others. Along the way she develops her own artistic outlet—photography—and finds room in her heart for new friendship.

EG: What fictional character did you identify with as a teenager?

VP: I may be dating myself but I loved Jo from Little Women. It didn't hurt that Jo had red hair—I did too—and also wanted to be a writer. I also identified with Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

EG: Lastly, what books have impacted you as a writer?

VP: I think every book that a writer reads affects her or him. If I had to list them today, I'd list them as follows:

To Kill a Mockingbird (May I list it more than once?)
The Grass Harp by Truman Capote
The Sound and the Fury by Willliam Faulkner
The Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Untermeyer (on my shelf since age 7)

For more information on Valerie O. Patterson please visit and

Emily Griffin