Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ALA Youth Media Awards

There is nothing quite as exciting as attending the ALA’s Youth Media Awards. When I woke up this morning, I considered staying in bed an hour longer, and then heading down to the hotel lobby to watch it on the webcast. Thankfully, my roommate Karyn rallied me, and we made our way across Boston to the BCEC and got in line to enter into the ballroom.

There’s always a buzz in the room, and I found myself getting nervous about the lists. I decided not to watch my twitter feed the whole time, but enough folks around me had their phones out that I could look over a shoulder and read the comments from around the country as the awards were announced.

In case you haven’t heard, you can follow this link and find the official press release from ALA.

On the tween-y front, this year’s Newbery lists does not disappoint. Personally, I was quite happy to see The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate on the Honor List, and while seeing When You Reach Me wasn’t too much of a surprise when announced, it’s a very fine winner.

So congratulations to Rebecca Stead, Philip Hoose, Jacqueline Kelly, Grace Lin, and Rodman Philbrick!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Here is a title that has been sitting on my tbr pile for quite some time. After all of the Mock Newbery results started pouring in, it was obvious that it was time to move this to the top of the pile! On my way to Boston for ALA’s Midwinter Conference, I had just the time I needed to get reading.

Minli’s family is very poor. In fact, everyone in her village is very poor. They live in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain, where crops do not grow, and the land is barren and tough. It is all her family can do to work daily on their land and try to harvest enough rice to eat that day. Minli’s parents have very different outlooks on the their existence with Ma spending her time sighing bitterly over their fortune while her Ba fills their empty hours with colourful stories filled with mythical creatures, magic and far off lands. Ma scoffs at the stories, but Minli simply comes alive and seems to glow while she listens.

One day a goldfish seller comes into their little village declaring that a goldfish in the house will bring fortune into one’s home. Minli, with her faith in story, believes the goldfish seller and rushes into her home to get the 2 coins that are hers alone from when she was born. The fish costs her one of her coins and even though others in the village warn her not to believe the man, she happily brings her new fish home.

When her parents return from the fields, her mother is shocked and disappointed that Minli wasted her coin. Ba, however, reminds her that the money is Minli’s to do with what she pleases. Ma only sees the fish as another mouth to feed…something that Minli had not thought about when she first spotted the fish.

Minli decides in the dark of night to free the fish, so that her parents will not have to worry about feeding it. When she releases it in the river, something amazing happens. The fish speaks to her, and tells her how she can change the fortune of her family.

Soon Minli is off on her own, chasing her dream of helping her parents change their fortune. What follows is an adventure of discovery involving a flightless dragon, a boy with one friend, and the Old Man of the Moon.

Grace Lin has written an enchanting story that mixes a rich cultural landscape with a magical quest. Minli has such a pure spirit, that readers can’t help but root for her to overcome all of the odds and help her family. Between the “outside” stories, the pacing is perfect, and while I wondered at first if I would be able to keep momentum during the telling of the “outside” stories, it is managed with ease. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has all of the qualities of a book with staying power. It will be interesting to see if this appears on some of the lists this year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Off to Boston!

I am off to Boston to attend ALA's midwinter conference, where I am a member of 2 ALSC Grant Committees. I am looking forward to doing some good work, seeing some long lost colleagues, and checking out this fine city for the first time.

Hopefully there will be some intriguing ARCs to pick up along the way.

See you there?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Self: A Guide to Me

Advice guides for tweens are always tricky. They can't talk down to readers, and they can't sound too much like your mom. Every girl wants to see herself somewhere within the pages, and when she recognizes herself, she wants to feel good about the changes that she can make.

Marlene Wallach, the President of Wilhelmina Kids & Teens Modeling Agency, along with Grace Norwich, has put together a lifestyle guide that gets it right.

Using a magazine style format, girls can easily read through sections of advice about confidence, fitness and friendship. From the "Ten Commandments of a Better Body Image" (involving advice such as surrounding yourself with supportive friends, the importance of wearing clothes that are comfortable to you, and respecting your body) to fun activities for boosting self esteem (talking positively to yourself in the mirror, doing improv with your friends, and finding activities to do on your own), readers are bound to find something that speaks to them. Quizzes and lists round out the chapters, and I can picture friends breaking this book out during a sleepover and discussing their answers. There are also real girl stories, dealing with an assortment of topics such as being biracial, starting a business, and moving to a new country.

This spiral bound book mixes photographs of girls, with tween friendly cartoons and graphics. Inspiring quotes from famous people ranging from Oprah to Confucius pepper the text.

While the girls shown are of differing races and ethnic groups, it would be nice to see girls of varying body types and sizes in the pages. Since Wallach is the head of a modeling agency, I am assuming most girls featured are models. It is nice to see many smiling faces with braces, since so many tweens are going through the same thing, but a few more differences might be nice!

Overall, this is exactly the kind of book that I recommend to parents when they want to help their daughters out with self esteem and the tween/early teen years. There are 3 additional titles in the series: My Beauty: A Guide to Looking & Feeling Great, My Life: A Guide to Health and Fitness, and My Look: A Guide to Fashion & Style.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Comment Challenge

Lee and Pam have organized another comment challenge, and for the first time I am taking part.

The idea behind this is to get all of us out from lurkdom and let folks know that we appreciate all of their hard work blogging. It also allows us to explore new blogs and get out of the same old reading habits.

I did miss one entire day due to birthday party madness, but am back on the wagon today finding some new (to me) blogs to check out!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Rhymes with Fresca!

Today marks the end of Jon Scieska's two year term as the Ambassador of Children's Literature. I would like to offer up a big thanks to him, not only for his work as ambassador, but for providing so many fun books for us to read to kids!

Some folks might wonder why here at Tweendom, I would be taking time out since most of Mr. Scieszka's work (Knucklehead aside) is for the younger set. Well, because books like The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, are laugh-out-loud funny, and help get boys (and girls) to look at reading as fun, and not just something to sit still for!

His MC-ing skills are unparalleled, and he has made the National Book Award press conference for youth a fun and sly experience for the teens and the adults in the room.

So here's to you, Jon Scieszka!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Cybils Short List

So the Cybils Short Lists have been posted! In the Middle Grade arena, the survivors are:

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Captain Nobody, by Dean Pitchford

Anything but Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Heart of a Shepard, by Rosanne Parry

All the Broken Pieces, by Ann Burg

Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes

The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis, by Barbara O'Connor

I've read 4 of the 7, so I have to get on it! There are some titles that I thought were sure fired short list contenders that didn't make the cut. I am genuinely surprised. But this is the thing about the Cybils: you never know what is going to happen!

Do you have a favourite on this list?