I’m the New Austin Children’s Book Examiner

I am now the Austin Children’s Book Examiner! I’ll be writing articles for Examiner about all things related to children’s books and any kid’s book related happenings around Austin, TX. Come check out my articles at my page at Examiner! So far I’ve only got two articles up there and both are news pieces, but hopefully I’ll start putting up reviews and recommendations soon as well. I’m excited about this new venture!

I’ll still be writing here at Pixiepalace, too, but my focus here is probably going to shift a bit. I guess we’ll see what happens as I settle into this and figure out how it’s all going to work for me. I’m excited, though, and I think this is going to be great!

Carter Stands Up for Equality

On July 15th, a position paper by former president Jimmy Carter was published that discussed his reasons for severing all ties to the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s an amazing piece and I highly recommend reading it. Mr. Carter explains that he can no longer be a part of a religion that views half of the population of the world as inferior to the other half. He explains that this institutionalized sexism is used far too often as an excuse for atrocities.

There is a whole section of the paper briefly touching on some of the ways that sexism around the world is affecting lives and he states that “It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society.” He goes on to say:

“It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.”

Carter acknowledges how difficult it is for current leaders to challenge such deeply ingrained social mores, but he calls on them to work to change these truths anyway. He calls the cherry-picking of bible verses to justify sexism selfish and “in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God.”

To be honest, I never thought much about President Carter before. I knew that he was involved in human rights issues and that he won a Nobel Prize, but he was out of office before I was born and so I never paid that much attention. This kind of a call for action is well worthy of attention, though. I hope that it helps to make the difference in the world that it asks for. It certainly made a difference to me.

Cybils Winners Announced!

Cybils LogoThe winners of the 2007 Cybils have been announced over at the Cybils Blog! The panels picked some pretty amazing books, so definitely go check out the winners. I’m especially pleased to see the Graphic Novel winners, since I worked so hard to help narrow down that category at the end of last year with the rest of the wonderful Graphic Novel nominating panel. I can’t wait to get reading on some of the other winners now! The Science Fiction and Fantasy winners are both books I’ve had on my “to read” list for a while and now I’m all the more eager to check them out! Thanks to all the judges for working so hard to decide between so many great books!

Cybils Shortlists Announced!

Cybils LogoAll of the Cybils shortlists for 2007 have been announced at this point, including the graphic novel list that I helped put together! All the lists are great and I can’t imagine how the judges are going to choose final winners, but I’m certain that they will do a great job. Go check out all the lists at the Cybils blog!

Graphic Novels
Young Adult
Nonfiction Picture Books
MG/YA Nonfiction
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Fiction Picture Books
Poetry
Middle Grade

The awards will be announced on February 14!

Cybils 2007 Nominations Open!

Cybils LogoOk, I realize I’m very late in posting this and everyone else already has it up, but here it finally is. The Cybils are children’s book awards given out by the kidlit community. Anyone who wants to (this means you) is free to nominate one book in each category that they think is worthy of being considered for the award. The only rules are that the book must have been published in 2007 and must not already have been nominated. For more information about the history of the Cybils and what the award is all about, go check out the official website. To nominate books in any and all categories, go to the official blog. You can learn more about the categories and panels on this page and see a list of what books won last year on this page!

This year I’m going to serve on the one of the graphic novel panels for the Cybils! Here’s a list of the awesome people I’m going to be working with:

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Category Organizer: Sarah Stevenson (Reading YA: Readers’ Rants)

Nominating Panel:

Mary Lee Hahn (A Year of Reading)
Alyssa Feller (The Shady Glade)
Katie Zenke (Pixie Palace)
Elizabeth Jones
Gina Ruiz (AmoXcalli)

Judging Panel:

David Elzey (The Excelsior File)
J.L. Bell (Oz and Ends)
Anna (TangognaT)
Snow Wildsmith (My Reading Project)
Angie Thompson (Angieville)

The winners that I’ve read from last year are awesome and all the people involved in this project are great, so I’m thrilled to be involved this year! I encourage everyone to nominate their favorite books from 2007! There were so many great books this year and it would be a shame if we missed your favorite!

On the Print/Blog Review Issue

So recently there has been a big to-do over newspaper book reviews. Evidently they aren’t profitable enough to keep printing, so there is serious talk of this being the end of them. Somehow, this is all getting blamed on litblogs. The connection there is more than a little fuzzy to me, since all the litbloggers I know read all those print reviews and most of the people that come into my store asking for things they read about in the paper and hadn’t even heard about before have no idea what a “blog” even is.

I really don’t see any sort of conflict here. I read both. My local paper doesn’t provide much in the way of book coverage, but I read it anyway because it does cover books of local interest that I’m not likely to encounter elsewhere and often sound vaguely interesting. Once I read about an interesting book in the paper, I go look for more information about it elsewhere. But I get that it’s interesting and worth my time to look for from the actual ink stained newspaper that comes to my front door! I do the same thing with books I read about on blogs, in print magazines and on non-blog websites! I even do it with books I hear about on the radio. The source doesn’t really matter, since I’m already choosing my sources pretty carefully and only actually buying the book if further research suggests it’s worth the money. One review doesn’t equal a purchase. The only time I buy a book based on a single source is for a book club, and that’s slightly different, since I originally chose to join the book club carefully.

So I guess I just don’t understand the whole “it’s because of blogs that print journalism about books is being destroyed” thing. It seems just as logical to blame Oprah. Maybe people aren’t reading the NYT Book section because they now only buy what Oprah tells them too (a freakish number of people do that, you know). I know that my local paper regularly hates her book choices, but they fly off the shelves even though we post that review in the store and not Oprah’s. People buy what they want for their own reasons, not because of what some critic in the Times says is good.

I also don’t understand all the sniping at bloggers. Granted, I’m a blogger and I’m a well-educated blogger who generally thinks about books in a fairly academic way, but still… Comments like this have become all to common lately:

I believe the dangers of this indiscriminate reporting on books is that people who have no knowledge of literature can air their views as though they were of value and may influence readers. Critics may not always be right, of course, but at least they have read and studied literature, the great books, and have some outside knowledge to refer to when critiquing our work.

Ok, there are two major problems here. Let’s just ignore the basic issue where this is the internet and you have no idea who a blogger is in real life, so you have no right to pass snap judgments on them assuming you know who they are because it’s been covered a million times before and covered better than I can do it here. Moving on… The first part says that people shouldn’t have the right to simply share their opinion about a book because it might influence someone else. People share opinions all the time about everything and other people are free to ignore them. Bloggers don’t claim to be the absolute authorities on their subjects, even when they are experts. Roger Sutton regularly shares opinions about books and he is certainly someone who could claim to be an expert, but it’s clear that they are his opinions. In fact, they don’t always even match the reviews that come out in the Horn Book! Bloggers have as much right as anyone else to share opinions, even if they really are just some guy. If a computer programmer who has never studied books, has no kids and doesn’t even like kids, but enjoys children’s books decided to start a kidlit blog to share her thoughts on children’s books, she’d be perfectly free do that! We’d all keep that in mind when reading her reviews, but we keep in mind that Fuse #8 is written by a librarian and that Chicken Spaghetti is written by a mom too!

The second part of that quote basically states that no one who writes a blog is qualified to critique and share opinions about books. As evidenced by the fact that Roger Sutton writes and excellent blog and is the editor of the Horn Book at the same time, this is most definitely untrue. Besides that, there are any number of lit bloggers who are graduate students, writers, academics of various standings and generally extremely well-educated people doing all manner of things (from raising kids to running businesses). The fact that one chooses to keep a blog has nothing to do with one’s knowledge of literature or literary criticism. I have absolutely no doubt that there are any number of people out there that have multiple PhDs and are writing blogs just because they want to! Education and knowledge don’t mean you can’t write a blog!

We have no more assurance that the people writing reviews in the newspaper are educated in the ways of literary criticism than we do that the people writing the blogs we read are (less perhaps, since blogs often come with brief blurbs about the writer). I know nothing about the credentials of the reviewers in my local paper and I wouldn’t call anything I’ve read in there or in the NYT book review section a critique as opposed to a review (which is a distinction often given to print reviews over blog reviews). In fact, blog reviews are often longer and more in depth purely because they lack the space constraints of the printed newspapers. This is as often a downside as a benefit, but brevity is certainly not something I look for in a critique. It is something I look for in a review.

My point is, neither format is any better than the other and the attacks are stupid. Bloggers are some of the people most supportive of print book reviews so attacking them when you’re trying to save your medium seems really counter-productive. I’d love to help save print reviews, but I’m not sure how to do it since no concrete solutions have been proposed. All I hear is yelling!

For a much better post on this with actual quotes and such (the quote above, which originally came from Critical Mass was found here) check out Colleen’s wonderful post about this at Chasing Ray!

Goodbye Lloyd Alexander!

Lloyd AlexanderThis morning, May 17, 2007, Lloyd Alexander died at the age of eighty-three. He was an amazing author and will be sorely missed. Personally, he’s my favorite author. His Prydain series are my favorite books of all time. My grandmother gave me the series when I was seven and I’ve read them every six months or so ever since (my books have literally been loved to pieces, I really need new copies but can’t bear to replace the ones I have!). His stories for Cricket magazine were always among my favorites and I often have turned to his fantasy novels when I wanted something interesting to read that I knew would be good. Recently I’ve been reading the Prydain books to my husband and he has been enjoying them as well. Watching him realize the magic of Lloyd Alexander’s writing has been wonderful for me. I have friends who share my passion for this author and I know they will be as sad as I am to hear of his death. He will be sorely missed, but most definitely not forgotten! His books are at to top of the list of books I plan to share with my children and have often featured in my academic papers. Alexander’s work is very much a part of my life and he will always be remembered, at least in my little corner of the world!

- The Horn Book’s Obituary for Lloyd Alexander
- Roger Sutton’s Post on Lloyd Alexander’s Death
- Betsy shares the child_lit listserv’s announcement
- Miss Erin says goodbye with some great quotes
- Charlotte shares her memories of the Prydain series
- Sam Riddleburger wishes and remembers
- Book memories from A Year of Reading
- Lois Lowry looks at Lloyd Alexander in some art by Trina Shart Hyman
- NPR remembers Lloyd Alexander
- Libby from Lessons from the Tortoise says goodbye and thank you

Coming Soon…

Hi everybody! I’m back from vacation and have spent the last few days moving. This has been one hell of a week. Oh, and my headache protests airports, airplanes, cold, pressure changes, moving, dust, and just about everything else this week, so it’s been really hard on that front too. It doesn’t help that somehow my regular nighttime medicine ended up being left at the old apartment for our first night in the new one. Anyway, hopefully that will all be under control soon and the moving will be done sometime tomorrow, so life should start getting back to it’s normal rhythm. I hope. I adore the new apartment, though! It’s incredibly awesome! And this vacation was one of the best I’ve had in recent years. I had a blast! I’ll try and post about it soon.

Anyway, I do have a few things planned that should be coming up soon here. I have a new paper doll outfit that will be scanned and posted as soon as it is found (in a box somewhere) and the scanner gets hooked up again. I also have a review of Bone to write and post for the Blogger’s Book Club and that should be coming soon (hopefully this weekend). I had a really great doll that I was working on too, but my computer saved it wrong when it crashed just before we left and it pretty much got destroyed, so I have to start over and it’s going to take some time. Hopefully I can recreate it! I’m also planning to post about the new home, vacation and possibly how much I hate hold music.

So, I should be around and back to posting soon! I have a ton of books to review!

Two Championships!

This year is a milestone for the University of Wisconsin Hockey department – both the womens and mens teams won NCAA championships! Congratulations Badger Hockey!

Birthdays: March 20

Today is the birthday of two pretty cool people.

The first is Lois Lowry. She has written quite a few books for children, two of which have been awarded the Newbery Medal. My favourite of her books is The Giver which tells the story of a boy living in a “utopian” society who realizes that his community isn’t as wonderful as he (and everyone else) had been lead to believe. It’s a powerful book. I definitely recommend it. Check out Lois Lowry’s website for more information on her, her books and what’s coming soon!

The second person who was born on this date that I want to recognize is Fred Rogers. Mr. Rogers became extremely famous for his PBS children’s show “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood“. I always liked the little models that sat in his kitchen of the puppet people’s houses. He didn’t get them out very often, but you could see them sitting on a shelf in every episode! Mr. Rogers was more than just a television personality, though. He understood children in a way that few people do. His books for kids about dealing with life issues, everything from parents getting divorced and the birth of new siblings to serious illnesses and disabilities, are some of the best on the market. The books explain tough concepts to children in terms they can understand without ever talking down to them. Fred Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003. He was a wonderful man.

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