Monday, August 30, 2010

Themed Reviews: Back to School

Kindergarteners are not the only ones who get nervous about school. As many of the books highlighted below show, back to school jitters can affect anyone. Reading about this experience can calm nerves and help settle anxieties about starting school this fall. It is also a way to empathize with others who may be having different experiences with heading back to school.

Back to school often brings a lot of new: new teachers, new classmates, new buildings, new neighborhoods, even things like new supplies and clothes. Transitions are challenging for most of us and this can be a big one, especially that first week or two of school. Eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep are always important but as summer draws to a close getting into a school schedule is a main focus point for parents. Allowing time to read aloud about the new school year is one way to help ease this transition.

In addition to the new titles below, there are many favorites that work for reading to your family or students as they head back to school. Did they see the new Ramona and Beezus movie this summer? Ramona starts kindergarten in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest. Other popular characters who experience starting school include: Ella (Ella the Elegant Elephant); the Berenstain Bears; Arthur; Little Critter; Lola (Charlie and Lola); Wemberly (Wemberly Worried); and many more. Browse through this feature and those from previous years to discover more.

For back to school resources visit:

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

Pirate’s Guide to First Grade
James Preller
Illustrated by Greg Ruth
The language made me immediately think of Long John Silver and the font chose for certain words also has a look of the past. There are multiple stories—the text, the reality in the artwork and the fanciful imaginary world in the sepia illustrations that accompany the more realist ones. These shadowy illustrations feature the pirates. It is the first day of school and time to get ready—our young protagonist shines his snappers and after dressing mashes his chompers on grub. “Ahoy, me harties!” he cries as he boards the school bus. Wouldn’t you know his teacher’s name is Silver and is referred to as Captain Silver. The usual rituals are all couched in nautical terms including story time, after which our young lad exclaims “Blimy, it was a whale of a tale!” It ends with a trip to the library where his treasure is reading a copy of Treasure Island. The closing endpapers define the pirate terminology found in the text. If pirates are your thing great, if you are heading off for a first day at school this may be a good choice to alleviate those first day jitters. 2010, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 5 to 7, $16.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-312-36928-6

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

News Update from CLCD

CLCD Introduces CLiPR Service for Publishers

Children’s Literature Publishers Reviews (CLiPR) is a new service offered to publishers by The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD), the trusted resource for information about Children’s and Young Adult media. CLiPR is another way to help increase sales, whether you sell on line or through other channels. How can it do this? CLiPR allows publishers to link the titles on their website to the power of CLCD. By doing so it eliminates the need for the publisher staff to locate reviews, cut-and-paste the review text, and attach the reviews to their current and backlist titles. Customers will appreciate the easy access to the range of information available on a particular title that CLCD presents. They will have access not only to the reviews but also to the reading metrics, awards and prizes, and links to curriculum tools and other information.

“A subscription to CLiPR has the full richness of CLCD behind it but makes it specific for each publisher’s title. It is a huge timesaver for a publishing house.” - Marilyn Courtot, President of CLCD

“CLCD is a godsend for someone like me who has more work than time. It’s a one-stop research destination, and I use it constantly when looking for quotes for book-jacket copy or checking out an author’s backlist.” - Margery Cuyler, Publisher, Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books

CLiPR is a new service with benefits to both publishers and their customers. Informed customers make better decisions, therefore, your titles should sail out of the warehouse. Approximately 2500 new reviews are added to CLCD each month from 38 review sources. Other monthly updates include those for Best Books, Awards and Prizes, and links to author and illustrator Web Resources, Features and Interviews.

For subscription information or to learn more about the CLCD, visit

Friday, August 20, 2010

How to Write Poetry for Magazines by Suzanne E. Henshon

How to Write Poetry for Magazines
by Suzanne E. Henshon, Ph.D.

If you write poetry for children, a good place to break into print is in children's magazines. You'll develop a publishing resume before you approach book publishers with submissions for anthologies or your own book of verse. As with any kind of writing, start by reading high-quality published examples to develop a sense of the craft.

Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic are modern classics. Also check out the work of Jack Prelutsky, Mary Ann Hoberman, Karla Kuskin, Paul Fleischman and others who have received critical acclaim. Read their stand-alone poems (found in anthologies and collections) to get a sense of the structure of poetry that is not a full-length picture book.

Writing poetry requires several skills: observation, brevity, rhythm, and the ability to go beyond cliches. Poems capture a moment in time or an idea that children believe to be a universal truth. They also create a strong visual image in the reader's mind. Be sure to match the poem's content to the age of the child. Younger children are more literal, whereas middle grade and young adult readers can handle abstract ideas.

Once you've written several poems, start researching magazine markets. I studied Ladybug, a magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, and short stories. Because Ladybug is for children ages 3-6, poems are short and usually rhyme; the verses are experienced in a literal sense by a child. Poems are accompanied by vivid illustrations, and the poetry is meant to be read aloud. Most importantly, verses reflect children's experiences; the narrators sound young but are not so childish that adults lose interest.

As you craft poetry, study what is currently being published. If you want to be published in a specific magazine, get to know the editors' tastes by reading it. Look at the length and content of the published poems.

In Ladybug, a few poems are two pages long, but most poems take up just a page--about four to eight lines. Here are some other tips:
  1. Write with images. When you write children's poetry, it is important to think about concrete images and themes. Make your poetry accessible and visual at the same time.
  2. Write for children and adults. Be attentive to how your poem will sound to a dual audience of children and parents. While the most important audience is children, you should also think about entertaining the adults who are reading your poems aloud.
  3. Tell a story. These "stories," though, are not as complex as a picture book. They tend to revolve around a single incident. Think about the central event of the poem and create a narrator (preferably a young child). Consider how you can tell the story in an authentically young voice as you begin crafting your poem.
  4. Make a point. It's not enough to join several rhyming lines together; a background story must tie the verse together, leading to an insight that children will understand and a theme that parents will appreciate.
  5. Be daring. Use fresh language and steer away from cliches. Take a new look at old images, sharing vivid details and memorable phrases with young readers.
  6. Read the magazine. As you write, think about the layout of your piece within the magazine. Get an understanding of what kinds of poems have been published lately, and think about if your work will be a suitable match. Before you send your poem in, make sure you proofread and include a SASE.
Writing poetry for children is exciting and exhilarating. You'll discover that the gift of words is challenging to develop but wonderful to share. As a poet, you can give young readers lasting memories: poems that will stay in their hearts forever.

Suzanna Henshon is a reviewer for Children's Literature. This article was previously published in Children's Book Insider: The Newsletter for Children's Writers,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Themed Reviews: Ramadan

Ramadan, the Holy Month for Muslims, is celebrated around the world. This year Ramadan begins on August 11 and goes until September 9th. It is a period of prayers, fasting, and charity. There is also a strong emphasis on family.

A major part of Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sundown, can be difficult for children to do or understand. Generally, Muslim children begin to fast for short periods as early as four or five, then fast for the full time around the age of twelve.

More than ever children of all ages are being exposed to world cultures and religions. The selection of books featured below are a fun way to encourage learning, awareness and tolerance, whether they are board books or young adult novels.

Look at the following sites for more information and creative ideas about Ramadan.

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

Nabeel's New Pants: An Eid Tale
Retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
Illustrated by Proiti Roy

On the day before the celebration of the Muslim holiday of Eid when Ramadan has ended, Nebeel the shoemaker has been busy selling new shoes for the holiday. Now he finally has time to buy special clothes for his family. He needs new pants as well, but all he can find is a pair that is too long. The family is pleased with what he has bought, but no one has time to shorten his pants. So he does it himself, then goes out to visit the sick and poor. Meanwhile his wife, his mother, and his daughter all feel ashamed. He is so good that they should shorten his pants for him. Each in turn does, without telling the others. Of course when he puts them on next day, they only reach his knees. After laughing, they all work together to sew the pieces back so they can go to the mosque together. Black India ink drawings and intensely colored gouache paints provide crisp, stylized images of local places and clothing. The illustrations, chiefly single pages and vignettes, are a light-hearted but not comic accompaniment to the folk tale. A glossary is included. 2010, Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, Ages 4 to 8, $15.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-7614-5629-5
ISBN: 978-0-7614-5629-2

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Leap into Blogging by Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Wendie Old

Leap into Blogging and Social Media

Social Media: What are they?
  • E-mail is direct, one-to-one communication.
  • In contrast, Facebook is one to many. You post an update and your friends see it. But you've selected these friends and agreed to the relationship.
  • Twitter is also one to many, but people can follow you without your consent so it's less personal but more immediate. And you can follow others that you don't know personally. There are live time conversations happening in Twitter between industry professionals that you can participate in. Go to Greg Pincus, guru of social media, for basic Twitter terms.
  • MySpace has more in common with Facebook than Twitter but I don't use it and can't say more. (Note from W.O. & MBK: We don’t use it either.)
  • A blog is like an auditorium where you're giving a talk. People have to make a choice to come in and have a seat for the show.
To blog or not to blog?
Explore and check it out: Will a blog be (a) useful or (b) suck your time and energy. Don’t start a blog because you think (or someone said) you should. Start it because you believe it will be useful to build your platform, because a post seems like a good writing prompt to defeat writer’s block, or because you want a forum to express your passion.
  • A blogger is a public figure. Decide on a single persona you will be on your blog. People read blogs. And what you write is out there…forever.
  • Choose an avatar. Use the same distinctive avatar for any footprint you make on the web.
  • Decide on your goal and audience. Why are you blogging? Who do you want to read your posts? Do you want your blog to become a networking tool? What do you have to share? Goal and audience may evolve as you post over a span of time, but stick to your basic decisions. (You can always start a new blog with a different focus.)
  • Set a blogging schedule. Greg Pincus uses the rule of three: “If I try writing a post three times in a day and each time fails, I put it aside for another day.”
  • Read and comment on blogs of interest to you. Comment on others’ blogs but don’t be disappointed if few people comment on yours.
  • Read how others suggest developing a readable blog. Check out Kodak’s free Social Media Tips guide. The Happy Accident blog gives daily help with social media.
  • Keep readers returning! At Writer Unboxed, Jane Friedman lists and explains five things that make her stop reading a website or blog:
  1. Sites with black backgrounds.
  2. Sites that play music upon entering; sites that take forever to load because of multimedia or Flash; links that automatically take me to a download with no explanation.
  3. Links that go to a general homepage rather than specific site content.
  4. Content without subheads, paragraph breaks, or breathing room.
  5. Poorly designed sites (i.e., too busy, fonts difficult to read with multiple styles and colors, least important information at top, etc.).
  • Periodically evaluate. Is your blog helping you reach your long-term writing goals? Are you honoring your mission (i.e., goal)? If not, change what you are doing—sign off, start a new blog, set a new course. Just write! And write some more! And keep writing!
Mary Bowman-Kruhm

Wendie Old