National Book Award Finalists 2012

If you are like me and forgot to watch the announcement on the "Morning Joe" show, Publishers Weekly has the scoop. 

The nominees for the Young People's Literature prize are as follows:

William Alexander, Goblin Secrets

Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach

Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down

Eliot Schrefer, Endangered 

Steve Sheinkin, Bomb: The Race to Build―and Steal―the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon 

Junot Diaz, Short Stories, and Such

Junot Diaz's latest book is This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of short stories, released in September by Riverhead. Yesterday the MacArthur Foundation announced its annual awards, the so-called "genius" grants, one of which went to Diaz. $500,000, no strings attached.

9780802133991On the day before the grants were announced, the New York Times Magazine ran a short interview with the author, focusing on short fiction. I was intrigued by the collections Diaz cited as influential; I have not read any of them. He mentioned

Aha! Books to look for on the next trip to the library. Walking the dog in the rain this afternoon, I coped with the downpour by coming up with a roster of short story collections I admire. Everyone's lists are so different! Here's mine. What's yours?

Image borrowed from Powell's Books. Links go to Powell's, also. I do not get any money from the store for linking. I have had good experiences ordering books there.

Fishin' and Swimmin'

Yesterday my son and I spent the afternoon by the river. The spot we like is not a whole lot wider than a creek; at that point, the water is shallow, and clear and full of stones to skip. Junior fished, and I read. He caught a trout. I showed him how to hold the fish firmly while you unhook it. He did that, and then threw it back. Too small to keep. He continued fishing, and I finished Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies, an illustrated meditation on pools and competitive swimming. Lately, the almost-adolescent and I are butting heads lot, usually over screen time, but our hours by the water yesterday were unhurried and sweet.

2012 Australian Children's Book Awards

The blog of Boomerang Books, an Australian bookstore, brings news of the Aussie children's books of the year, announced today.

Bob Graham's A Bus Called Heaven is the picture book of the year; it's available here in the US, too. I could live in a Bob Graham book and be perfectly happy—humor and generosity abound.

The website of the Children's Book Council of Australia, sponsor of the prizes, seems to be down at the moment. When it's fixed, I will link it here.

Added later: Children's Book Council of Australia: Book of the Year 2012 Winners

2012 "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards


The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society announced the winners of the "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards on July 20th. This year's blue-ribbon crop is as follows:

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, by Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low)

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story, by Thomas F. Yerzerski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Planting the Wild Garden, written by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Peachtree)

For more information about the prizes, which honor "engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden, and ecology-themed children's literature," go to the Junior Master Gardener website. Don't miss the list of classics, which includes Miss Rumphius, The Lorax, Too Many Pumpkins, among many others.

Recent Additions to the Best Book List

I've been catching up with the last few months' announcements of awards for children's books, and added some to the page "2011 Best Children's Books: A List of Lists and Awards." (The honored books were first published in 2011.)

Carnegie Medal: Shortlist and winner (UK). Similar to our Newbery award.

Children's Book Council of Australia: Short Lists and Notables.

E.B. White Read-Aloud Award

Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards for Children's Books

Greenaway Medal: Shortlist and winner (UK). Similar to our Caldecott award.

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award

Minnesota Book Awards. These honor mostly titles for adults, but do feature one category for kids' books.

Scottish Children's Book Trust Awards: Shortlist

Storytelling World Resource Awards

Updated to add: Posted today, the Horn Book's "Mind the Gap Awards," for books that should have gotten more honors. Plus, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists were announced by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). 

Lots of good reading ahead!

Shakespeare Season

Some years back I spent a grand Fourth of July sitting  in a long line for free Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. To get into the play, you had to line up early and wait until 6 or so when the Delacorte Theater handed out evening's allotment of tickets. I forgot what we saw, though I remember loving the play; maybe it was "Much Ado About Nothing" or "Twelfth Night." Several people in our group had brought along bags of fresh cherries, which arrive in plenitude in the city's Korean delis around the first of July. We snacked, shot the breeze, and let time drift by until the ticket guy appeared. I'll always associate the happy feeling of friends, Shakespeare, and cherries with the Fourth. 

On the Fourth this year I finished reading the history play "Henry IV, Part 1," and also stumbled across Oxford's Emma Smith's free online lecture about Falstaff, the play's most interesting character. Smith even compares the "fat-kidneyed rascal" to Homer Simpson! Both are funny because they're countercultural, she says. The talk is part of the "Approaching Shakespeare" series of podcasts, which can be found here

Emma Smith figures in Me and Shakespeare: Adventures with the Bard, by Herman Gollob, a Texas-born book editor (Doubleday, 2002). Seeing Ralph Fiennes in a Broadway production of "Hamlet" changed Gollob's life, and he began to study Shakepeare on his own. Part memoir and part guide, Gollob's book is full of good recommendations (particularly for books and films) for people who want to deepen their appreciation of the Bard. Gollob's adventures include a three-week summer course at Oxford taught by...Emma Smith.

A local company is performing an outdoor "Romeo and Juliet" soon, and that will probably be my next brush with Shakespeare. The Washington State cherries have hit the stores, too.


Shakespeare in the Park (now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary)

"Shakespeare After All: The Later Plays," with Marjorie Garber. A free video series from the Harvard Extension School. I haven't seen this yet, but it sounds great.

Shakepeare on the Sound. The Bard in the 'burbs.

Second-Grade Read-Aloud Resource: 50 Multicultural Books...

This summer I'm spending some time thinking about the picture books I will read to next year's second-grade class. My volunteer gig at an ethnically and economically diverse city public school is an all-time favorite activity of mine, but I'm always looking for ways to improve the experience for the children. When fall rolls around, I'd like to be better prepared with a strong list of books and additional background reading of my own.

Keeping in mind prior classes will help, too. For example, when we talk about "fiction" and "nonfiction," I'm going to put the words out on index cards so the children can see them written out. In lovely and heartfelt thank-you notes from the last group, a couple of the spellers-by-ear thought I was saying "fishin" and "nonfishin," which is adorable, but note cards will go a ways to clearing that up.

In terms of selecting books, this terrific list, among others, will come in handy: "50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know,"  from the Cooperative Children's Book Center, at the University of Wisconsin. It offers a good selection of titles, broken down into age groups ( "Preschool," "Ages 5-7," etc.). I wish I'd remembered to read Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding to the 2011-2012 students. Reading through these books this summer should be fun!

Monday To-Do List

I'm borrowing this format from the What Do We Do All Day? blog, who employs it on Fridays.

Listen: Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Cool book, set in Revolutionary War-era New York and told by an enslaved girl. I am loving the history. 12-year-old Jr. and I listen to this one in the car.

Read: Henry IV, Part 1, by William Shakespeare. I am actually listening to this on audiobook, too, as I read the text. My first time with Prince Hal, Falstaff, and Hotspur. I am using a BBC Radio recording (rawther expensive at $14.95 on iTunes), and right like it.

Puzzle Over: A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster. Brits in India. Forster's syntax confuses me more often than I'd like to admit, but I think I'm going to stick with it. Something terrible is going to happen, yes?

Think About: Books for second graders. (I'm a volunteer classroom reader.) This year's Top Three were Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer; Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems; and SpongeBob and the Princess, by David Lewman (Clint Bond, illustrator). Several children knew the first two from kindergarten, and everyone knew SpongeBob. I'd like to find slightly longer books that the group will like as much as these for next year. Also popular was playing Mad Libs with the students.

Add: To the library list: Quinn Cummings' The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling. Due in August. Quinn Cummings! If you were a kid in the seventies, you remember this very funny writer as a child actor ("Family," "The Goodbye Girl"). She blogs at The QC Report. Hat tip: Melissa Wiley.

Recommend: 1. Pulphead, by John Jeremiah Sullivan. Essays, profiles from magazines like GQ and the Paris Review. The collection includes a somewhat disrespectful but fascinating piece on the Southern Agrarian Andrew Lytle. Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times, "Most of the essays in 'Pulphead' are haunted, in a far more persuasive way, by what Mr. Sullivan refers to with only slight self-mockery as 'the tragic spell of the South.'" 2. " 'Not Everyone Can Read Proof': The Legacy of Lu Burke," by Mary Norris, at The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog. A copy editor leaves a million dollars to a library. A town vs. library dispute ensues. Mary Norris is a friend of mine, and I am a huge fan of her always excellent writing and storytelling.

Eudora Welty Considers "Charlotte's Web"

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, was published nearly sixty years ago, on October 15, 1952. Eudora Welty reviewed the now-classic children's novel shortly thereafter, in the New York Times Book Review. She wrote, 

"What the book is about is friendship on earth, affection and protection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, pleasure and pain, and the passing of time. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done."

From Eudora Welty: A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews, edited by Pearl Amelia McHaney, University of Mississippi Press, 1994.

I highly recommend the audiobook, read by White himself. The kiddo and I listened to it with pleasure this spring. Some pig!