Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Themed Reviews: Gardens

Gardens are a vital part of children's literature. They are the setting for favorite stories such as The Secret Garden and Oscar's Wilde's The Selfish Giant, and more recently, young adult novels The Poison Diaries and Forget-her-nots. Gardens also tell us about significant times in American history, such as the role of vegetable gardens during WWII as seen in the picture book Lily's Victory Garden. Many nonfiction titles explore the diverse ways people have used gardens over the years—from Dr. Carver's lessons about sustainable agriculture to how to grow an elementary school garden.

Because gardening is one of those activities that can be done at nearly any age—and in nearly every location—it is a perfect way to expose children to the joy of growing their own flowers and food. There are so many different and creative ways to grow a little, or a lot, or simply learn how to identify basic items found in a garden. The highlighted selections below are recently published titles about gardening, and of course, many more titles can be found when you search the CLCD database.

Full feature:

For more information and ideas for gardening with kids visit:

The Imaginary Garden
Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Theo loves her Poppa's garden, and is concerned when he moves to an apartment and has to leave it. Since Poppa says it will be too windy on his balcony for real flowers, Theo suggests an imaginary garden. When spring arrives, Poppa puts a big blank canvas on the balcony. With paint they "build" a stone wall and create soil. Poppa paints crocuses and scilla coming up, and adds a visiting robin. When Poppa goes on holiday, he leaves Theo in charge. She adds blossoms in many colors and eagerly awaits his return. This delightful imaginative story combines sketchy black ink drawings with particularly colorful multimedia collages for illustrations. The decorative iron fence on the balcony makes a fine contrast for the great canvas that becomes the garden. There is a logic to the way it grows, with paints added in time for the crocuses and then tulip bulbs, while vines cover the stone, for a sense of magic to the colorful creation. The love between Theo and her grandfather is evident. If only a real garden were as easy to establish and flood with blooms as this one! 2009, Kids Can Press, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, 2010 Shortlist Canada
Governor General's Literary Awards, 2009 Finalist Children's Literature (Illustration) Canada
Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award, 2010 Shortlist Picture Book Canada
ISBN: 9781554532797

Contributor: Emily Griffin

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Children’s Literature Continues Under Leadership of Marilyn Courtot

Children’s Literature Continues Under Leadership of
Marilyn Courtot

Marilyn Courtot, the founder of two companies, Children’s Literature and the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD) announces that she will continue as Proprietor of Children’s Literature and has sold her other company, CLCD.

Children's Literature, currently an independent on-line review source, was founded by Marilyn Courtot in 1993 as a monthly print newsletter. It now consists of a review team of more than 125 individuals who read and critically review more than 5,000 books annually. Children's Literature reviewers include book authors, librarians, writers and editors, teachers, children's literature specialists and physicians. The company mission is to help teachers, librarians, childcare providers and parents make appropriate literary choices for children. To that end, Children’s Literature is not affiliated with any publisher and accepts no advertising. Additionally, Children’s Literature currently assists schools, museums, conferences and other organizations in identifying authors and illustrators for speaking engagements. Authors and illustrators provide valuable insight into their craft and connect their audience with the world of literature.

The Children's Literature reviews are licensed to Barnes & Noble and to Borders Books for use on their web sites and in store kiosks. The reviews will continue to be licensed to CLCD, LLC whose new President, Ajay Vijay Gupte, will take ownership on July 1, 2011. Marilyn Courtot will continue as a consultant for the CLCD for the next two years to ensure a smooth transition. Her responsibilities will include many of the tasks that she is currently engaged in.

As Marilyn has said in the past and continues to believe today “A love of books is one of the most treasured values you can give a child. As a trained librarian, I founded Children’s Literature because reading is the most important skill there is in determining a child’s future success. It takes root early on with infants and board books and it never stops growing.” Children’s Literature will continue reviewing and growing to fulfill this mission.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CLCD Welcomes Its New President and Owner

Marilyn Courtot, President of the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database Company, LLC, announced the sale of the CLCD to Dr. Ajay Vijay Gupte. Ownership will be transferred on July 1, 2011.

Dr. Gupte is currently a partner in the CLCD and has been a part of the CLCD team from its beginning. He developed the software to build the database that supports the product and has continued to do the CLCD monthly updates ever since joining the organization. Dr. Gupte has worked in the Library Automation industry since 1988 starting with The Library Corporation, TLC. He was intimately involved with the MARC data updates and with library data in the early years. Later, he was responsible for the second generation of the Public Access Catalog and was instrumental in development of the associated production system. Dr. Gupte has diverse computer software industry experience having worked as a senior manager in a number of global organizations.

“There will be little noticeable change initially,” states Ms. Courtot. “I will continue as a consultant for the CLCD for the next two years to ensure a smooth transition. My responsibilities will include many of the tasks I am currently engaged in. It is both satisfying and gratifying to know that someone so familiar with the CLCD will be moving the company forward. Ajay has supported the underlying database at Children's Literature since its inception in 1999. He also brings a new perspective and energy at a time when small businesses need to be revving up to encourage economic growth. ”

“Although I left the world of libraries and books for youth for a while, I gravitated back through my work with the CLCD,” comments Dr. Gupte. “Children and their books continue to intersect my personal life, as well. I have been married to a pediatrician for 17 years, and we have a 11-year-old son who just happens to be a voracious reader. The purchase of CLCD is an exciting opportunity for me, and I am already planning ways to further enhance the database and its usability for our customers.”

Dr. Gupte has a Doctorate in Computer Science from George Washington University and a Master’s Degree from George Mason University in the same field. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

Effective July 1, 2011, the new address for the company is CLCD, LLC; 322 Shore Road, Somers Point, NJ 08244. The web address will be The Toll Free Help Line is still 1 800 469 2070.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Graphic Novel Resources

Here at Children's Literature we see so many new graphic novels coming in for review—our shelves are overflowing with them! We want to know how you use graphic novels in your classroom, library, and at home. The resources below are helpful tools for getting the most out of graphic novels for children and teens. Don't forget that you can use the CLCD database to search for thousands of graphic novel reviews, curriculum tools, plus awards and best book lists. For a free trial go to

Recommended Resources:

Cooperative Children's Book Center

SUNY Buffalo

The Comic Book Project

Good Comics for Kids - School Library Journal

Teaching Comics

Graphic Novel Reporter

Get Graphic

No Flying No Tights


"Can the X-Men Make You Smarter?" by Drego Little, a graduate student in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program at the University of Washington in Seattle

"Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom" by The Council Chronicle, NCTE

"Graphic Novels for Kids Make Comic Books Accessible to All" by GeekDad blog at Wired Magazine

Best Book Lists:
Great Graphic Novels for Teens - American Library Association

Selected Book Reviews:

The Readers' Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels
Francisca Goldsmith
     The American Library Association (ALA) adds another excellent and, in this case, much-needed volume to its readers' advisory library with this succinct guide by transplanted (to Nova Scotia) California librarian and graphic novel expert Goldsmith. After dispelling the two main myths that ghettoize graphic novels--they are just for adolescents and they are far less complex than texts without pictures--Goldsmith emphasizes that Graphic Novels (GNs) are a format and not a genre. She suggests active and passive ways to offer readers’ advisory (RA) from face-to-face encounters with patrons to book displays and book groups and offers guidance on helping established GN readers to find new titles they might enjoy. Goldsmith includes lists of "crossover" titles by genre to urge readers' advisors to include the format of GNs when offering RA; and since graphic novels share characteristics with visual media, she includes instruction on advising movie lovers or gamers on graphic format literature they might find to their tastes. There are two separate annotated lists of "books to know." The first is broken down into the usual-suspect genres plus some less expected: science, religion, and health and wellness. The second list includes categories such as adaptations, instruction, and even wordless narratives. For the experienced RA professional, there are lists of print and online resources to offer further assistance. Although for the completely uninitiated professional seeking a foot in the door, the after matter includes a ten-step "short course" with specific title suggestions and pointed questions followed by an abbreviated glossary of manga terms. All in all it is a valuable and quite readable resource that belongs in every library's professional collection. 2009, ALA Editions, 126p.; Glossary. Index. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Appendix., $45.00 pb. Ages adult professional. Reviewer: Timothy Capehart (VOYA, February 2010 (Vol. 32, No. 6)).
ISBN: 9780838910085

Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries
Martha Cornog and Timothy Perper
     This collection of essays is geared toward the librarian who already knows that graphic novels are a critical part of a library collection. Practical concepts covered include issues with selection and acquisitions, cataloging and processing, and housing the materials, as well as information about censorship and dealing with related problems in a library, which supplements the historical and sociological context in the book. Title lists are featured throughout to aid in the development of collections and displays. Programming suggestions are offered as well. Contributors to this book include librarians, scholars, and publishers, giving the reader a well-rounded perspective from trustworthy sources. The tone is encouraging and empowering, and the information and advice is practical. This title would be an asset to any public library professional collection. Content is useful to library media specialists, academic librarians, and teachers and should be considered by those teaching in library science and media programs at the graduate level. It will serve as a reference resource to those developing a core collection, planning programs around graphic novels, academic libraries considering adding or expanding a graphic novel collection, and those writing policies or dealing with challenges of the format. 2009, Libraries Unlimited, 325p.; Index. Biblio. Appendix., $45.00 pb. Ages adult professional. Reviewer: Molly Krichten (VOYA, February 2010 (Vol. 32, No. 6)).
ISBN: 9781591584780

The Librarian's Guide to Graphic Novels for Children and Tweens
David S. Serchay
     Confused about all the graphic novels out there? Wondering which ones are appropriate for young audiences? Asking yourself why graphic novels should be included in your library at all? Youth services librarian and comic book fan David S. Serchay answers all these questions and more in 10 easy-to-follow, yet content-rich chapters. Tracing the history of comic books back to cave paintings and hieroglyphics, Serchay takes readers on a ride that explores how comic books are made, the diverse genres covered by graphic novels and the enormous appeal of Asian manga and other graphic novels from different countries. Newcomers to the world of comic books will be amazed to learn how effective graphic novels can be in teaching English, developing visual literacy and helping reluctant and enthusiastic readers improve their vocabulary. Those wondering which graphic novels to select for their libraries will be happy to know that the book provides three appendixes with lists of recommended graphic novels, further reading and online resources. Practical issues, including the best way to purchase, preserve, and promote graphic novels for libraries, are also covered. And while graphic novels currently enjoy greater respect from librarians, Serchay is aware that prejudices still exist, and devotes an entire chapter to strategies for dealing with potential problems. Given the many misconceptions surrounding graphic novels today, Serchay’s book is an essential primer for any parents, teachers or librarians who would like to expand their own horizons and those of their children, students and patrons. 2008, Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc, $55.00. Ages 17 up. Reviewer: Michael Jung (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781555706265

Emily Griffin

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ally Condie

When I heard Ally Condie speak at the 2010 ALAN Workshop following the NCTE conference she began by telling the audience that she had always pictured herself attending the conference as a teacher—not a writer. How things have changed for this former high school English teacher! Her novel, Matched, a dystopian tale for young adults, was published by Penguin in November 2010. Its highly anticipated sequel, Crossed, is due out this November with the third book planned for the following year. Despite her explosive career, Ally still keeps her teaching license current—just in case.

Ally has her degree from Brigham Young University. Following college, she spent several years teaching high school English in Salt Lake City and upstate New York. During her first year of teaching, Ally discovered that one of the girls in her class was the daughter of author Chris Crowe, best known for the award winning young adult novel Mississippi Trial, 1955—an intimidating way to kick off your teaching career. Other memorable moments from this period in her life included chaperoning school dances with her husband as a way to make a little extra money. Recalling that junior prom was her favorite to chaperone, Ally explained that all the students were on their best behavior—the boys made sure all the girls had dates. One year Ally witnessed a boy proposing during prom. This set off a dual reaction in her. From wanting to jump in and fix this bad idea and then also stopping and recognizing that it's the couples' own life to do with what they will.

That idea of being torn between wanting to fix young peoples' lives and stepping back to let them make their own way is a critical part of the narrative thread in Matched. In the world Ally created, the governing body, known as The Society, selects everything for you in return for a long life. Your job, who you marry, when you die: all determined by Society officials. The heroine in Ally's novel is Cassia, a teen who during her Matching ceremony experiences a rare occurrence: a mistake by The Society. After the screen shows the face of her mate, a second face briefly appears. This sets off a chain of events that lead to what Cassia never expected—a choice.

The desire for control is an important element in many dystopian novels. In Matched, messiness is unacceptable. The Society, through control, has been able to extended the life span and "improve" the quality of life for its people. The science behind the matching process in Ally's novel was influenced by her husband, an English major turned economist, who would often talk about algorithms for relationships. Since relationships can be a particularly messy element in anyone's life, it isn't a huge leap to see why controlling that would be appealing to a society striving for perfection. But as Ally pointed out, in life messy is real and unavoidable. In that regard, high schoolers are often in a strange place where feelings of both power and powerlessness exist. That painful juxtaposition is a natural fit with dystopian literature. While students in our world may not have Big Brother or a harsh government repressing them as in Matched, they can identify with the struggle against something or someone. In a recent piece written for MTV about dystopian novels Ally wrote, "when we read dystopia, we root for these people to break free because we are these people; hoping and fighting against things that are bigger than ourselves."

Matched is often recommended for fans of The Hunger Games and The Giver and, as do many young adult novels, it has a broad cross-over appeal. With a lot of buzz surrounding her book, Ally has been busy touring and promoting Matched. Her fans look forward to reading the next two installments in the trilogy--the start of a promising career.

Ally Condie lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three sons. For additional information about Ally, visit her web site To read the MTV article, visit
Photo source:

Emily Griffin