Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kidlit Happenings

I'm way behind on my blog reading after a few very busy days, but I'm catching up today and wanted to share some quick links for you to check out.

First, the January Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Lisa Chellman's blog, Under the Covers. There are links to lots of great book reviews, author interviews, book lists, and more.

Over at Jen Robinson's Book Page, in a post titled, "How Can We Encourage Reading Aloud," Jen talks about the importance of reading with kids and proposes the idea of starting an international campaign to encourage adults to read aloud with kids.

Jen says,
"I truly believe that if more adults spent time reading aloud to kids, both individuals and society as a whole would reap tremendous long-term benefits. More kids would grow up to love books. Those kids would do better in school than they would have otherwise, and have enhanced opportunities. Some of those kids would make major contributions to society - solving medical mysteries, inventing alternative energy sources, whatever - contributions that they would not have been able to make if they didn't have those educational opportunities."
I wholeheartedly agree with Jen and all of her points. Read the entire post here and the excellent conversation going on in the comments section.

Finally, MotherReader and a slew of fabulous kidlit bloggers have launched KidLitosphere Central. From the homepage of the site, " KidLitosphere Central strives to provide an avenue to good books and useful literary resources; to support authors and publishers by connecting them with readers and book reviewers; and to continue the growth of the society of bloggers in children's and young adult literature." Thanks MotherReader and everyone who worked to set up this fantastic resource!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Big Reveal

I still have a few more little things to do on my blog, but you totally have to check out the new, simplified and streamlined look.

Don't you just love the new header? Guess who did it? Sarah Stevenson, aka a.fortis, co-founder of Finding Wonderland and Readers' Rants, deputy editor of the Cybils blog, and all around rock star. I gave her a vague vision of what I wanted, and she completely read my mind. If you have any design projects you need completed, hire her because she is so easy and fun to work with. And she has super scary mind reading powers. :)

For a long time, I'd been hating the look of the blog and thought there was too much information in the side bars. You can still access reviews, contributor bios, author interviews, and more by clicking on the links on the right-hand side.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Under Construction

I'm holding off on posts for the next few days and embarking on a major blog redesign and restructure. If you visit the blog, you can still view old posts, but my apologies if things look a bit messy for a while. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

ALA Awards Announced

I'm probably the last person to announce this, but it's been a super long day. Anyway, the ALA announced its 2009 awards this morning.

Newbery Medal

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins Children's Books

Newbery Honor Books
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle, Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Savvy by Ingrid Law, Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group in partnership with Walden Media, LLC

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson, G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Books for Young Readers

Caldecott Medal

The House in the Night illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson, Houghton Mifflin Co.

Caldecott Honor Books

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee, Harcourt, Inc.

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz, Farrar Straus Giroux

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Congratulations to all of the winners.

Read the rest here...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toddler Picks

I haven't done an installment of what my daughter is reading for quite a while, so I thought I'd give you a peek into what my soon to be two-year old is currently enjoying. Because she doesn't quite understand stories just yet, she's really into interactive, lift-the-flap books. If you're looking for a gift for a toddler, these three make good choices.

First up is ZOO! A Big Fold Out Counting Book: A Fold-Out Book About Counting by Readers Digest Children's Books.

Five different animals are featured in this book with huge fold outs of each one. Children learn a little about each animal and are asked to count the animals and other objects on the page. This a great book to practice counting and naming colors, animals, and other objects like flowers and trees. The fold-outs really keep my daughter engaged.

The Silly Book of Shapes by Todd Parr

This is an older lift-the-flap book, part of the ToddWorld series, that my daughter chose at the library. It's a large board book that has about fifty flaps with different colors and shapes underneath. It's a great way to introduce colors, shapes, and other vocabulary words. My daughter literally spends 20-30 minutes at a time lifting flaps, and I think I'm going to have to add this and a couple others from the series to her permanent library.

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

I bought this book when it won Caldecott and Geisel honor medals last year. Unfortunately, my not-so-gentle daughter ripped a couple of pages, so I stored it away and recently brought it back out now that she is more careful with books. To give you an idea of how much she loves this book, we read it five times just this evening before bedtime. The book presents the first/then pattern through a number of different scenarios, chicken/egg, tadpole/frog, seed/flower, etc. What makes it unique though are the die-cuts on every other page. For example, in the initial spread, the word "First" sits alone on a golden background. On the opposite page, you see the words, "the Egg" on a red background with an egg shaped die-cut in the middle showing a splash of white. When you turn the page, the die-cut now shows the yellow from the first page and becomes the body of a young chick hatching out of the egg. The white from the egg on the first page is a full-grown mother hen. I highly recommend it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Squad Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Squad Series:
Perfect Cover and Killer Spirit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Review by: Erica Moore

Two, four, six, eight who do we appreciate? Have you ever suspected your high school cheerleaders might be more that just cheerleaders? Well of course not, and that’s why they are the perfect cover.

Toby Klein a sophomore is invited to join the varsity cheer squad at Bayport High. At first she thinks the written invitations are a joke, but with a closer look, she notices they are encoded with hidden messages. Toby is not cheerleader material at first glance. She is a black belt in karate, wears combat boots and has computer hacking as her hobby. She does not sparkle with glitter (yet). But she has exactly what they want.

Bayport’s varsity cheer squad is a cover for a group of teen government operatives. They are hot and deadly and they take their cheer responsibilities as seriously as their spy missions--5:30 am cheer practice.

There is adventure and mystery intermixed with high school politics, fashion and a little romance. The books don’t take themselves too seriously, although I wish they were more on the campy side since the cheerleaders are spies and the cover art has a Charlie’s Angels theme to it. The girls rule the school of course as the “God Squad” and it’s impossible for them to get into trouble at school. There is a lot of humor in transforming Toby into a cheerleader and uber popular girl with perfect, clothes, hair, makeup and glitter. Who could want for a more perfect life?

Teens who want more will like Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

The YA YA YA's: "...these books were just plain fun. They’re entertaining, kept me reading, and I had a good time reading them. " (read more...)

Abby (the) Librarian: "It's hilarious and smart and fun. Jennifer Lynn Barnes takes an outlandish scenario and makes it seem plausible. It's Alias meets Bring It On. It had me laughing out loud and I didn't want to put it down. " (read more...)

Jen Robinson's Book Page: "What makes both of these books work is the inherent conflict between Toby's rebellious, loner nature and her immersion into a group of hyper-popular, perfectly groomed cheerleaders. She fights back, but also finds herself seduced by the power, and the satisfaction of being part of a team." (read more...)

More info:
Perfect Cover:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734547
  • Source: Review copy from publisher
Killer Spirit:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734554
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Double-Click for Trouble by Chris Woodworth

Double-Click for Trouble by Chris Woodworth

Review by Barbara Shoup

Thirteen-year-old Eddie McCall lives in a cramped Chicago apartment with his mom, who works at a hotel coffee bar and spends her evenings taking college courses online—but, nonetheless, manages to keep a tight rein on him. Eddie doesn’t know his dad is, and his mom won’t talk to him about it. He envies his best friend, Whip, who lives with his dad. But his mom disapproves of the relationship because, in her view, Whip’s dad is too permissive and doesn’t monitor his activities enough. So when she discovers that Whip and Eddie have logged on to her computer and looked at a porn site, Eddie suddenly finds himself on his way to summer break with his eccentric, bachelor Great-Uncle Peavy in Sheldon, Indiana.

Peavy’s made occasional visits to Chicago over the years, and he’s always been generous to Eddie and his mom; but Eddie doesn’t really know him. He’s shocked to find that Peavy lives in the decrepit little house he grew up in, a house so poorly furnished that Eddie observes, “Aunt Bea has newer stuff on the reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.” He chews tobacco, which grosses Eddie out; he doesn’t wash the dishes, just rinses them and puts them back on the shelf; he lays newspapers down on the kitchen floor so he doesn’t have to clean it. Peavy sleeps in the bunk bed he slept in as a child, and when he assigns his dead parent’s bedroom to Eddie, it never occurs to him that Eddie might just be a little freaked out about sleeping there. Not to mention mortified when he assumes Eddie will be helping out with the tractor repair business he runs out of the barn and his helper, Ronnie—a girl—makes fun of Eddie because he doesn’t even know what a lug nut is.

Thank heavens for Ordella Mae, a woman about Peavy’s age, who appears regularly with leftovers from the meals she cooks at the nursing home where she works—and eventually gets him at least a little up to speed in terms of how to take care of a growing boy. Also, Eddie’s instant crush on Erin, the beautiful sixteen-year old clerk at the nearby convenience store (and Ronnie’s sister), helps make his time in Sheldon more bearable.

Chris Woodworth remembers what it’s like to be thirteen, curious but still clueless about sexuality. She knows that everyone’s life is complex and mysterious, regardless of his or her age. She knows about longing. And, dang! She’s a mean plotter! Double-Click for Trouble is beautifully constructed. New threads of plot are deftly introduced, developed and resolved. The twist at the end creates the wonderful blend of surprise and inevitability that readers experience in every really good novel.

Woodworth loves her characters and the small town they live in—but it’s a complicated love, one that reflects her deep understanding about the human condition and an appreciation of its many paradoxes. Over the course of Double-Click for Trouble, Eddie McCall takes his first real steps toward manhood by way of his relationship with his great-uncle, his friendship with Ronnie, and a series of events that makes him understand his mother’s occasionally overzealous efforts to protect him. Woodworth tells Eddie’s story honestly, with respect for the intelligence of her young readers. My guess is that “tweens” will love this book—and I’d highly recommend it to their parents, as well. Reading it, they’ll be thirteen again themselves for a while—which is guaranteed to bring insight to the needs of their own budding teens.

More info:
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374309876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374309879

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas is the story of Conn, a young thief living in the Twilight, a rundown and dangerous section of the magical city of Wellmet. When he steals the powerful magician Nevery's locus magicalicus, the stone that all magicians use to perform magic, and doesn't die, Nevery is both surprised and interested. He takes the boy on as his servant and soon agrees to make him his apprentice. The only catch is that Conn must find his own locus magicalicus within 30 days. But that's not the only problem Conn has. The city of Wellmet is dependent upon magic to survive, and the level of magic in the city is disappearing at an alarming rate. As Conn tries to figure out who or what is draining the city's power, his time to find the stone is quickly diminishing.

The characters are very well-developed and believable. Conn's feelings seem real as he struggles for acceptance. This is a fast-paced and engrossing classical story of good vs. evil, the story of an impoverished child whose newly discovered magical skills give him a better chance in life. What is new at least to me is that this story presents an interesting concept I've never seen before: Conn believes that magic is a living being, and Sarah Prineas leaves it wide open to be explored further in the sequel, The Magic Thief: Lost.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006137587X
  • ISBN-13: 978-006137587
  • Source of book: Public library
The Magic Thief is a finalist in the Cybils' Fantasy & Science Fiction category.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Review by Laura Koenig

Being able to hear everyone else's thoughts sounds like it could be a pretty good deal. You'd hear the answer to every question your teacher asked, and you'd know exactly what to buy your mother for her birthday. The downside is that everybody else can hear your thoughts, but even that has it's positives. You would never have to get up the guts to tell your boss that you deserved a raise, and your mom would already know how much you wanted a pony for Christmas.

A virus has been released in Prentisstown that makes men's thoughts audible. And since every resident of Prentisstown is a man, everyone knows what every other resident thinks. It is called the Noise, and it is definitely not a good thing.

"There ain’t nothing but Noise in this world, nothing but the constant thoughts of men and things coming at you and at you and at you, ever since the Spacks released the Noise germ during the war, the germ that killed half the men and every single woman, my ma not excepted, the germ that drove the rest of the men mad, the germ that spelled the end for all Spackle once men’s madness picked up a gun." (page 13)

Todd Hewitt goes through his life hearing the nastiest, most salacious thoughts of his neighbors. Todd is the last boy in the town, and as he approaches his manhood it becomes clear that the men have been keeping a secret from him. While Todd hunts for apples in the swamp outside of town, he discovers something that shouldn't exist: a patch of silence in the Noise. The silence leads him to a girl - something else that doesn't exist in Prentisstown. And the girl leads him to constant revelations. The things he had believed to be true in his life are unraveled one by one. After his discovery of Viola in the swamp, Todd's world “keeps getting bigger” (page 100) as he runs from the lies of Prentisstown and from the violent and controlling men whoperpetuate those lies.

This book was excellent enough for me to overlook the fact that it features no less than three of my personal literature pet-peeves: phonetic spelling, a cliffhanger ending that doesn't complete the story arc, and the death of a beloved pet. That's right, this is a book where the dog dies. Despite that, the story's constant action make it difficult to put this book down. The reader makes every new discovery about Prentisstown's past along with Todd, and each new piece of information adds to the urgency of Todd's escape.

The language of Noise in The Knife of Never Letting Go are worth an in-depth look - both Todd's voice and the constant overwhelming voices of the Noise surrounding him. The way Ness illustrates the Noise, with fonts and text sizes changing and overlapping, paints a vivid picture of the chaos of words that has surrounded Todd his whole life. It is easy to accept other people's noise as the truth, but as Todd learns over the course of the book, the truth can be covered up and twisted even in men's Noise. Todd notes that Noise is not truth, but “what men want to be true, and there’s a difference twixt those things so big that it could ruddy well kill you if you don’t watch out” (page 23).

Voices of animals are used creatively and often humorously, and even some plants get in on the action. The most effective use of the animals voices is Todd's dog, Manchee. At first Manchee's voice is comic relief - as Todd notes in the book's wonderful opening sentence, "the first thing you find out when your dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say" (page 1). But both Todd and the reader change their opinion of the dog, and he becomes a moral center for the book. While Todd's connection to Manchee grows stronger because of his Noise, the connection between Todd and Viola is made difficult because of her lack of noise - Todd feels cut off from her because she is not constantly telegraphing her thoughts and emotions. At first he doubts that she can be thinking or feeling at all. The effect of the Noise, even on those who do not have it, is profound.

Though stylistically they are very different, this might be a good recommendation for readers who loved The Hunger Games. Both feature young characters growing close while trying to escape a violent dystopian society, and both have constant action that keeps readers engaged.

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:
Jen Robinson's Book Page: "Throughout the book, I experienced Todd's inner monologue close up. When bad things happened, I felt like I was the one who got stabbed or punched. There was one scene in particular that I found almost unbearable. (If you've read the book, it's the scene getting onto the boat.) A book that could make me feel that way is clearly brilliant. But that doesn't mean that I enjoyed it, exactly." (read more...)

Wands and Worlds: "I kept wanting to slow down so that I could better appreciate the excellent writing, but the story was so exciting that it drove me along at a fast pace. I told myself that I'd go back and reread it when I finished, to savor the writing. But - when I finished the book I was so angry that I didn't feel like going back to reread it anymore." (read more...)

Presenting Lenore:
"The narrative is dark, but the ending is even darker and though it works on an intellectual level, it’s an emotional sucker punch – a cliffhanger that makes you think the book must be missing some pages." (read more...)

More info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763639311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763639310
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sydney Taylor Awards Blog Tour: Interview with Rich Michelson

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Today, I am honored to be part of the Sydney Taylor Awards Blog Tour and share my interview with Richard Michelson. Rich's book, As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom, won the Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Young Readers Category, and his book, A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet was an Honor book in the same category.

Jill Tullo (JT): Why did you decide to write a children's book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Joshua Heschel?

Rich Michelson (RM): A number of my previous books have dealt with racial issues, most recently Across the Alley, (a 2006 National Jewish Book Award finalist and PJ Library selection), which is about two boys, one Jewish and one black, who are not allowed to play together, but whose bedroom windows face each other's. At night, when nobody is watching, they become secret best friends. It was while writing this story, that I remembered the friendship of King and Heschel, and I decided to examine another facet of a situation where social convention tries to keep people apart, but individuals attempt to overcome their differences.

On a personal level, when I was born, East New York, Brooklyn, was 90-percent Jewish. A short 12 years later, less than 10 percent of those living in the area were Jews. In my adult poetry book, Battles and Lullabies, I have written at length about my childhood, the neighborhood, and my father's death during a robbery attempt ( a recent essay on the subject for JBooks called "Jews and Blacks: Obama, King and Heschel" can be read on the homepage of my site; and much of my work is an attempt to both heal society’s racial wounds, and those within myself.

(JT): Did you know from the very beginning that you wanted to show the parallels between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Joshua Heschel's lives, or did the concept come to you during your research?

(RM): When I began writing, I didn’t know enough about either man to know how I would structure the book. I’d read of their historic friendship during the Selma to Montgomery march, and that is where I began. I worked my way backwards, knowing we needed to see both men as children in order to understand what made them who they became. And just as importantly, I wanted to portray them as children because kids like to read about kids. I am always aware that, regardless of how serious the subject, if the book isn’t fun to read, no child will turn past the first page. As I researched, I was struck by the parallels between Heschel’s and King’s childhoods, and I decided to structure the book to emphasize these similarities.

(JT): As Good As Anybody is a powerfully inspirational book. What message do you hope your readers take away after reading it?

(RM): That each and every one of us has the power to change the world for the better, and that it is our duty to try to do so. No excuses accepted. That means you! As King says, “The way things are is not the way they always have to be.” And as Heschel says (all writers, me included, take heed) “Words must be followed by deeds.”

Since the book came out I have been doing many workshops with school groups. We read together, and role-play, and talk about prejudice and standing up to bullies, and how to effect change. I am always amazed at how much kids “get it.” They instinctively know what is right and what is wrong, but they feel, and often are, powerless. Hopefully As Good As Anybody will help jump-start family and classroom discussions.

(JT): A is for Abraham is designed for the entire family to enjoy. Can you talk about why you decided to write that book?

(RM): Although I am culturally Jewish, I did not grow up with a religious education of any kind. But I married a Methodist who felt strongly that children should be raised with a religious foundation. Jennifer converted to Judaism (going into labor while in the mikvah, but that is a different story), and it was her questioning me about Jewish traditions that made me realize how little I knew about my own history. I wanted to write a book that would have been both helpful to me at that time, and later to my children. I think it is important and empowering to teach kids (and adults) the long history and the reasons behind much of what they are learning about their heritage.

I also tried to make the book welcoming to interfaith families, Jews of different denominations, and non-Jews. The Sleeping Bear format, with its color coded sidebars, is wonderful. It allowed me to write two different books in one: a simple fun poetry book for young children and a more sophisticated prose book for older kids and adults.

(JT): What can we expect to see from you next?

(RM): I am as busy as ever. My follow up Knopf book will be out in 2010. It is called Busing Brewster and it is about a black child bused to an all white school in the 1970’s. Brewster wants to grow up to be the first black president of the United States – and this manuscript was written in 2003, very pre-Obama.

My next book for Sleeping Bear Press, is also scheduled for 2010 and tentatively titled Lipman Pike: First Professional Baseball Player and Jewish Home Run King. And that tells you exactly who and what it is about.

Anything else?

(RM): Lastly, before this “blog tour” ends, let me mention how much Raul Colon and Ron Mazellan added to As Good As Anybody and A is for Abraham, respectively. I have been blessed with top notch illustrators who helped bring my words to life. And finally (for real this time), let me say that if I showed you the first draft of either of these books (I won’t), it would be obvious how much Michelle Frey at Knopf, and Aimee Jackson at Sleeping Bear, helped shape my manuscripts. Which is why I won’t ever show you my drafts; I prefer to perpetuate the myth that I have earned these AJL medals on my own.

(JT): Thanks so much, Rich, for taking the time to talk about your books and share your inspiration behind them.

Be sure to visit Tales from the Rushmore Kid for an interview with Ron Mazellan, illustrator of A is for Abraham.

Click here for the rest of the tour schedule!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Librarian's Roundtable: What is your favorite story time book?

Okay, librarians! This week I want to hear from you. With all of the wonderful books at your fingertips, what is your most favorite story time book of all time? Help parents, teachers, and other librarians find the perfect book to read at story time!!!!

Leave your comments below, and I'll post the roundup next week!

Teachers' Roundtable Roundup: "What is your favorite book to use in the classroom?"

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in to talk about their favorite books they use in their classroom. I hope teachers out there can use this list for ideas to bring reading to the classroom! To find out more about each book, click on the title to go to

Me: For my Intermediate English ESL students, my favorite books were Margy Burns Knights' Talking Walls series. I developed a 9-week unit of instruction based on these books that included a variety of cross-curricular activities, including map-reading, vocabulary, creative writing, and internet research.

I love these books on many different levels, but the biggest benefit I saw was that they helped me teach about different cultures and helped students develop an appreciation for diversity. My classes were very diverse, and there was sometimes a bit of conflict between the students from different races and cultures in the class. Talking Walls helped me teach out different cultures from an outside perspective.

The Book Chook: Great question - very difficult choice. I've taught children from K-6. I read to my classes every single day because I am passionate about children's literature, and favorites are whatever the kids love.

However, there was a resource book I used across the grades, and still refer to when giving literacy activities at my blog. It is called Adventures in Thinking: Creative Thinking and Co-Operative Talk in Small Groups by Joan Dalton.

It has many models for teaching kids to think, regardless of subject. But what I loved were all the questions and activities suggested for various topics. Too often we spoon-feed kids, shoving information into them because of the constraints of time. Dalton's book was a way of adding value to every single lesson, by challenging kids to think about what they did.

Carol (Carol's Corner): This fall, I used How to Steal a Dog (Barbara O'Connor) as a read aloud with a group of struggling fourth and fifth grade readers. Georgina, the main character in the book, is living in her car with her mother and younger brother in their car, because her father has abandoned the family. She decides to steal a dog and use the reward money to help her family get an apartment.

My kids LOVED this book. My school is in a pretty touch neighborhood- we have lots of single parents and grandparents raising grandbabies, parents without jobs, family members in jail, foster care, being evicted from apartments, etc. My kids, I think, came away with the life lesson that sometimes good people make bad choices. The also, I think, felt comforted that there were other people surviving the same hard lives that they have. Four months later, they are still talking about this book.

Lea: I use the Dr. Seuss big books to teach theme/Big Idea to my 6th graders. They're usually familiar with the story, so after a trip down memory lane we can get right to the analyzing. I read Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet to them every year because I love that book. I also read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi and Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (Cindy Neuschwander) to all 3 of my math classes on Pi Day every year. They're great!

Kristi(e) (Purple Polka): I'm not a teacher, but I am a library student on the school media track who recently put together a guided inquiry unit featuring Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm series that might be of interest to folks here. The unit was designed for 5th graders, but could very easily be used with 4th and 6th graders if need be. I wrote up a detailed description of it over on my blog. Here's the link if you're interested.

Katie (Katie's Literature Lounge): I'm a substitute teacher, but on numerous occasions have been able to teach my own lessons. One of my favorite books to teach with is I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis. I think it teaches students (3rd grade and up) a very important lesson about being true and respectful towards their own selves. I have used it at the beginning of the school year as well as mid year when students seem to need a refresher in self-esteem.

Michele (Green for Jealousy): I've been using Not a Box by Anotoinette Portis with the at-risk kindergartners and first graders I work with. I've noticed some of them have a very hard time with 'using their imaginations'. We have to do a lot of coaxing to get them to be creative. They are loving this book. I had a small group draw a square on a piece of paper and draw other things they imagined a box could do.

Daisy (Laurel Wreath): Hubby likes, The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron the best for his first graders. They are short stories which make it easy to squeeze in as a read-aloud. They are humorous which means even the squirrely kids maintain attention. And best of all they are wonderful moral tales that teach the values of friendship, obedience, loyalty, etc.

My favorite resource for homeschooling is probably, American History in Verse. Originally published by Houghton Mifflin in the 1930's & reprinted by BJU press. We LOVE this book.

Readingjunky (Readingjunky's Reading Roost): I like to start off the year with a read-aloud to prove that books can be fun. I teach 8th grade and I've found Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name is good for quite a few laughs and gets reluctant readers interested.

B.C. (Mr. Curran's Blog): Tough decision, for sure. I love reading Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham to my fifth grade classes.

On the opposite end of the silly spectrum, I've also had great success reading Limony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. After reading Book the First, the kids were begging for more.

KIPPster: I've taught both fifth and sixth grades - The Watsons Go to Birmingham was always a favorite. The other book that I always teach usually ends up being performed by my students is The Phantom Tollbooth.

Sara: I absolutely love Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. My students love Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen.

Kate Messner: I've read two new books with my 7th graders so far this year, both destined to be favorites. Rules by Cynthia Lord is such a great book for sharing because of its warmth and humor, and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is my new favorite historical novel.

Again, thanks to everyone who contributed, and if YOU have a book you'd like to add to the list, leave your comment below!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shadows in the Twilight by Henning Mankell

Shadows in the Twilight by Henning Mankell
Review by Barbara Shoup

“I have another story to tell.

The story of what happened next, when the summer was over. When the mosquitoes had stopped singing and the nights turned cold. Autumn set in, and Joel Gustafson had other things to think about. He hardly ever went to his rock by the river, to gaze up at the sky. It was as if the dog that headed for its star no longer existed. Or perhaps it had never existed? Had it all been a dream? Joel didn’t know. But in the end he decided it was all to do with the fact that he’d soon be twelve. After his twelfth birthday he’d be too big to sit on a rock and dream about a strange dog that might never have existed in the real world.”

So begins Henning Mankell’s, Shadows in the Twilight .

My curiosity was piqued. What was the first story, I wondered? What dog? What rock? Were they a dream or were they real?

I never found out—which did not make me a happy reader.

The book is “a companion” to Mankell’s earlier Bridge to the Stars, which I presume tells the story of the dog and the rock. The problem is, sequel or not, a book must be able to stand on its own. Shadows in the Twilight might have. It has an interesting premise.

Almost-twelve-year-old Joel steps out into the street without looking one day and narrowly escapes death when he ends up sliding underneath an oncoming truck as it skids to avoid hitting him, instead of being crushed beneath its wheels. “It’s a miracle,” everyone says. And Joel gets it in his mind that he must “pay” for the miracle by doing a good deed.

He settles upon finding a man for his friend, Gertrud, a whimsical, lonely “child-woman” who has no nose because of a botched operation. The decision—and the identification of two prospects—results in a series of adventures that introduce the reader to many of the people who live in Joel’s small Swedish village. Like Mad Simon, who lives in a run-down house in the forest; the Barefooted Man, chief engineer of the world beneath the village, and Kringstrom, the leader of the town orchestra. Doing a good deed turns out to be a good deal more complicated than Joel imagined, with mostly unhappy results.

Between these escalating adventures, Joel lives with his father Samuel, a quiet man trying to put their lives back together after the disappearance of Jenny—his wife and Joel’s mother. He goes to school where he’s bullied by his nemesis Otto and lives in fear of his teacher his dour teacher, Miss Nederstrom, who’s quick to twist his ear for the smallest infraction.

Told simply, one event merging nicely into the next, the story has the quality of a fable. Mankell’s writing is clear, and his deft descriptions bring both the characters and the town vividly to the page. But, for me, the threads of plot he set in motion were not adequately resolved. And I have to say I really have no idea why Shadows in the Twilight is being marketed as a young adult novel. Though Joel ponders growing up throughout the book, he’s still much more a child than an adolescent.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734967
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interview with Sarah Mlynowski

I'm excited to bring to you an interview with Sarah Mlynowski, author of The Magic in Manhattan series and a slew of other great books.

Sarah's blog:
Sarah's website:

Jill Tullo (JT): Where did you get the idea for your Magic in Manhattan series, and why did you choose Manhattan?

Sarah Mylnowski (SM): I got the idea from my little sister, Aviva. Unfortunately, not the witchcraft part. What inspired the book is the always complicated love, jealousy, and pride involved in a sister relationship. I chose Manhattan because it’s where I live. It’s a pretty magical place.

(JT): I think girls like Rachel because even though she's surrounded by magic, her thoughts, feelings, and experiences are very realistic, and girls can relate to her. When writing the books, have you drawn on any of your own experiences in school or the experiences of others?

(SM): Definitely! All my books are a little bit autobiographical. Like Rachel, my parents divorced when I was young and my dad remarried. Like Rachel, I had a best friend who “dumped” me. But even when the experiences are made up, they’re based on real emotions. Before I started writing I re-read all my old diaries to make sure I got it right.

(JT): The Magic in Manhattan books are very fun reads, and I think they're the kind of books that reach out kids who might otherwise be reluctant to read. Do you have any advice for parents who might be struggling with reluctant readers?

(SM): Thank you! My advice would be to not force kids to keep reading a book they’re not into. If they read the first ten pages and are not hooked then let them put the book down. Give them several options and hopefully one will stick. Start them off with books that coincide with what they’re interested in now—like fashion or horses, or um, witches and hopefully they’ll enjoy themselves and these books will springboard into other books.

(JT): You've also written books for adults. Why did you decide to write books for a younger audience?

(SM): I’ve always wanted to write YA. It’s when I first fell in love with reading.

(JT): What do you like best about writing for kids?

(SM): The readers! They are so sweet and they get so excited about new books. And they write me a lot of letters, which I love.

(JT): What do you like least about writing for kids?

(SM): I feel a lot more pressure about my responsibility as a novelist. Kids are a lot more impressionable than adults, and I never want to encourage bad behavior. For example, Rachel has a very healthy body image—she never worries about her weight, even though as a teen I was obsessed with the scale. I would never want to fuel a teen’s weight fixations.

(JT): What were some of your favorite books when you were a teenager?

(SM): I loved everything by Judy Blume. Her books made me realize how meaningful--and how much fun--writing about being a girl could be. I loved Christopher Pike’s thrillers--they kept me up all night. I also loved Gordon Korman—his books are hilarious and his is plotting is genius. And he’s a Canadian, just like me.

(JT): What kinds of books do you read now?

(SM): These days I’m obsessed with books by Jodi Picoult and Philippa Gregory. I’m on a women’s fiction kick.

(JT): Can we expect to see Rachel again?

(SM): At the moment Parties & Potions is the last one in the series. But maybe one day…

(JT): Are you working on any other book projects?

(SM): Yup--I’m working on a new book called Gimme a Call. It’s about a high school freshman who finds a magical cell phone and can call herself in the future as a senior.

Thanks so much Sarah!

Be sure to check out the other stops on Sarah's blog tour:

Wednesday 1/14 : Teen Book Review
Thursday 1/15: Here!
Friday 1/16: Shopping Diary
Tuesday 1/20: Page Flipper
Wednesday 1/21: E. Lockhart
Thursday 1/22: Bildungsroman
Friday 1/23: YA Books Central
Monday 1/26: Ally's Blog
Tuesday 1/27: Cynsations
1/28 - 2/6: Random Buzzers

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Parties & Potions by Sarah Mlynowski

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't read the Magic in Manhattan series and don't want to read spoilers, don't read this review. I can't seem to figure out how NOT to give you a synopsis of the book without giving out the biggest revelation at the end of Book 2.

Parties & Potions is the fourth and final book in Sarah Mlynowski's Magic in Manhattan series. In this book, Rachel and her sister Miri are continuing to hone their magical powers. Rachel's relationship with Raf is going strong, and it seems as if she's finally comfortable with who she is. The girls are introduced to other witches and warlocks their age thanks to Miri's participation on the social network, Mywitchbook, and they soon learn about the Samsorta--a magical debutante ball for witches. Reluctant to train for the Samsorta, Rachel finally gives in to appease Miri. Surprisingly, charm school is a lot more fun than Rachel anticipated, and there's a young warlock named Adam who catches Rachel's eye. While she loves Raf, she can share her secret magical life with Adam. But why CAN'T she also share it with Raf? As the Samsorta approaches, Rachel is torn between telling Raf her secret or potentially losing him forever.

In this satisfying conclusion to the series, we see a mature Rachel who is struggling with balancing her non-magical life with her separate magical life. Teens trying to balance schoolwork, friends, family, and extracurricular activities will definitely identify. Also, Rachel, who has never quite been happy with who she is, finally seems to be so if only she can reveal her secret to those closest to her. But don't worry fans of Rachel...she's still herself with her hilarious inner dialogs and mishaps that only she can manage to get herself into.

Even though marketed as young adult, I think all of the books in the series are appropriate for and will appeal to tweens, too. I read all four books over the holidays, and they were the perfect type of light-hearted, fast-paced reads I was looking for.

Come back tomorrow for an interview with Sarah Mlynowski!

More Info:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385736452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385736459

Other three books in series:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

When Santa Fell To Earth by Cornelia Funke
Review by Cheri Williams

A 2006 U.S. release, When Santa Fell To Earth is a less than traditional tale told in Funkesque style. The Great Christmas Council, consisting of hundreds of Santas, goes bad under the leadership of Gerold Geronimus Goblynch. After turning all but one of the reindeer into salami, the money-hungry, tradition-crushing Goblynch unjustly bars Niklas Goodfellow from working as a Santa.

Niklas (who is the last true Santa), two pint-sized angels, and a drawerful of hilariously grumpy elves, find themselves stranded on Earth when their invisible, marzipan-loving reindeer panics in a storm.

“Terrified, Twinklestar reared up, broke his reins, and bolted down toward Earth. Niklas Goodfellow’s reindeerless caravan swayed from side to side like a boat on a churning sea. Then it toppled forward into the swirling clouds, Niklas tumbled out of bed, hitting his head on the leg of a chair, and rolled helter-skelter under a table” (Page 2).

With Goblynch’s band of giant, evil Nutcrackers in hot pursuit and the threat of being turned into a chocolate Santa looming large, the clan joins forces with two neighborhood kids to set Christmas right.

The poetic style, dazzling imagery and timeless themes Funke is famous for are certainly present in this book, and exquisite pencil drawings by Paul Howard brilliantly complement the richness of her writing. The main question that weighs in my mind is whether a middle grader will buy into the concept of Santa. If so, this book is sure to please.

It’s also important to keep in mind that When Santa Fell To Earth is not part of the Inkheart trilogy. With far less sub-plotting, emotion and conflict, this book is shorter and simpler in every way. That’s not to say it’s less in anyway. It’s simply for the youngest end of the 9 to12-year old range.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The Chicken House; 1 edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043978204X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439782043

Monday, January 12, 2009

Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses by Donna M. Jackson

Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses by Donna M. Jackson
Review by: Marlies

Before your next social gathering, do yourself a favor and read Donna M. Jackson’s Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses. When there’s a lull in the conversation, skip celebrity gossip and start a debate about whether animals can predict earthquakes. If you’re really brave, discuss fortune tellers and UFOs. By reading Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses, you’ll have something intelligent to say on a broad range of topics related to the senses.

Children and teenagers who read this book will realize that science is more about questions than it is about answers. And these questions stem from a need to help real people.

For instance, Cheryl Schiltz had a bad reaction to antibiotics and lost her sense of balance. She participated in a research study and was able to test a stamp-sized Tongue Display Unit that contained 144 electrodes. The impulses carried sensory information to her brain and buzzed Cheryl’s tongue when she drifted to the left or right, backwards or forwards. Adapting to the buzzes, she learned how to regain balance.

The book debunks myths, but it also raises possibilities. After reading it, your children might reconsider science as a career path. They’ll see that although scientists have learned a lot, there is much left for them to discover.
More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316166499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316166492
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

Head over to Picture Book of the Day for more Nonfiction Monday selections.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sydney Taylor Awards Blog Tour

The 2009 The Sydney Taylor Book Awards were just announced, and the winning authors and illustrators are going on a blog tour, starting January 18th. I am extremely honored to be interviewing Richard Michelson, author of As Good As Anybody and A is for Abraham on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Here's the tour schedule.

Sunday, January 18, 2009
Karen Hesse, author of Brooklyn Bridge
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Jewish Books for Children

Monday, January 19, 2009
Richard Michelson, author of As Good As Anybody
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
and author of A is for Abraham
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Well-Read Child

Monday, January 19, 2009
Ron Mazellan, illustrator of A is for Abraham
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Tales from the Rushmore Kid

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Jane Yolen, author of Naming Liberty
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Boston Bibliophile

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Valerie Zenatti, author of A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at Lori Calabrese Writes

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Anna Levine, author of Freefall
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category
and author of Jodie's Hanukkah Dig
Notable Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Abby (the) Librarian

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Jim Burke, illustrator of Naming Liberty
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Page Flipper

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Jacqueline Jules, author of Sarah Laughs
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Chicken Spaghetti

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Natascia Ugliano, illustrator of Sarah Laughs
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Write for a Reader

Friday, January 23, 2009
Deborah Bodin Cohen, author of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 23, 2009
Shahar Kober, illustrator of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Into the Wardrobe

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Teachers' Round Table: What is your favorite book to use in the classroom?

I'm hoping to host a different round table each week, and this week I want to hear from all of you teachers out there. Teachers at any grade level, including homeschoolers are invited to participate.

What is your favorite book to use in the classroom? The book could be fiction or nonfiction, a chapter book or a novel, a book of poetry or anthology of short stories, a picture book or board book, etc.

Please tell me why this is your favorite book and also tell me the age or grade level for which you use it.

Leave your contribution in the comment section below, and I'll post the round-up next weekend along with a new round table question for librarians.

I'm looking forward to seeing your responses!

Parents Roundtable Roundup: What is your reading routine?

Thank you so very very much to everyone who shared your family's reading routine. Here's a roundup of all of the excellent contributions. I definitely learned a lot and am ready to try out many of the shared tips.

Jill (Me): "In our family, I do most of the reading with our daughter. Our favorite reading time is at night after bath time. In the past, she sat on my lap while I read books to her, but now most of the time, we sit in the floor and look through all of her different books. Since her vocabulary is picking up, she prefers to point at and name the things she sees in the illustrations instead of listening to a story read from start to finish. But sometimes when she's playing, I'll sit in the floor and read a book out loud to her."

Teacherninja: "We read mostly at bedtime, 3-5 picture books w/our 5-yr-old daughter. Other times as well, but that's definitely a routine. Just starting some short chapter bks, which she seems to like. We're both teachers so have a ton, but I still take her to the library a couple times a month to check out new stuff and let her pick a few that I wouldn't actually buy. Love the library because you can test the book out and only the buy the ones the kid likes AND you don't mind reading a million times."

Michael (Bent Bindings): "My wife and I trade off putting our five year old daughter to bed, but we both read to her before she goes to sleep. We also give her 5 minutes of reading to herself, too. We've recently started getting into chapter books, with some of the fairy books, The Wizard of Oz, and now The Tales of Despereaux. She's really starting to get into those, and it helps me as a reader, too, because they are books I'm not familiar with, so I'm excited to find out what happens.

We also make frequent trips to the library where she gets to pick out her own books. A tip for you on this one, too. We started the tradition of letting her pick exactly five books. She knows that now, but more importantly, when we're going to find the books the return, we know exactly we have to find. It's been a big help."

Steven (Book Dads): "We read a couple of books every night before bed to our 5 year old son. We have done that without fail since he was adopted at 8 months old, even on vacation and trips we bring bedtime books. Mostly they have been picture books but we are reading some chapter books to him now.

He is in Kindergarten and not yet reading on his own but he is very interested and because his reading skills are slightly behind (in spite of our reading)he is receiving extra help from a reading teacher twice a week. He lover super heroes and recently became interested in comics so we are hoping that will motivate him.

We read at other times too. He will actually turn the tv off unprompted and bring a book or comic to us to read and we try our best to accommodate that. Occasionally we have to ask him to wait because of work that needs doing and hopefully that will also serve as motivation to read on his own."

Daisy (The Laurel Wreath): "Wow, tough question. We are homeschoolers so reading is our life rather than routine. We don't watch tv so we have plenty of time. The nitty gritty looks a bit like this. The children usually read in their beds about an hour each morning before getting up. At each meal, either I or Hubby reads to the children while they finish up. Hubby reads our read-aloud (longer chapter book like Narnia) and Bible readings. I tend to pick poetry, character stories, etc. During the day we read from science, history, literature books. We use whole books to teach these subjects rather than textbooks. We keep books in the car for driving around town. I even have the Burgess Bird book in the glove box for longer waits. The children are allowed to read again for an hour before lights out. We head to the library on Fridays. Hubby and I are voracious readers so the kids just think that's normal. LOL."

Nadine C. Warner (Kiddos and Books): "We read every night, about 3 books, to our 2 year-old and have done so since we adopted him. We rotate the books about every 2 weeks, and usually have at least 1 favorite that we read every night (which helps with memorization and his "reading" to us). We also keep books for him on the 2 lowest shelves of every bookcase so he can grab a book whenever he feels like it. The other routine that we have is to read everything we see outside - store signs, billboards, etc. Oh yeah, and we quote a lot of poetry throughout the day based on whatever we happen to be talking about. Who knew *that* could be so much fun!?"

Boni Ashburn (Life on the Bookshelf): "I have a twelve-year-old and seven-year-old twins. During the summer, we set aside an hour every day when we all read our own books on throw pillows and a picnic blanket in the yard and drink lemonade. But during the school year, we shoot for a half hour weekdays, an hour on weekends. We fit it in most days.

When the kids were younger, they could look at picture books or try out easy readers or look at books of any kind- comics, those DK cross-section books, Richard Scary dictionaries, anything. Now though they have to read "real" books for Reading Time.

At bedtime, I read picture books to them, usually two new ones and maybe an old favorite for a third. We talk about what we liked and didn't like about each one and the discussion has started getting more extensive as they start understanding story structure and characterization and the connection between the text and illustrations. It's definitely our favorite time of the day and I'll keep doing it as long as they'll let me :)"

Dawn (To the Outskirts): "We have a five-year-old and a two-year-old. Our routine includes a morning reading after our walk. This is about 45 minutes long. After lunch we read for about 20-30 min before nap/quite time. During quite time our five year old "reads" on her own. We also read about 4 books before bed. For the most part these are picture books but we have read a few chapter books and once every few weeks we read a Magic Tree House book.

The kids have access to books in just about every room in the house... even the bathroom. We are not bathroom readers but hey, you never know!

We allow our 5 year old to look at any of our books. She loves atlases. We spend a lot of time looking things up in reference books, guide books, etc... We also listen to books on CD or iTunes downloads.

In order to save money I always check the thirft store book racks. Most stores sell kids books for under a dollar."

Lori Calabrese: "I love reading everyone's reading rituals. That time is so important. We have a 3-year old and a 1-year old. My husband and I take turns putting them to bed and reading them about 3 picture books. One of my 3-year olds favorites is All Aboard the DinoTrain by Deb Lund. He knows it by heart and can finish the sentences! I leave books out in their playroom and my 1-year old literally 'eats them up' all day!"

Christine (The Book Bench): "My 5, 8, and 9 year old kids and I take turns choosing chapter books for our family read aloud in my bed at night. Curently, we are in the middle of Pippi Longstocking. I read to them for about 20 minutes before the older kids go to their rooms to read independently until lights out while I read a few picture books to the 5 year old. I also keep a bunch of good books and flashlights in the car to inspire reading on the drives to and from hockey practice, dance class, basketball games, etc.."

Melissa (Book Nut): "For our younger two, we read before bed. Generally, either my husband and I read to both of them (ages 2 1/2 and 5), letting them alternate choosing books, so we end up reading between 4 and 6.

For my second-oldest daughter, I try read to her every night, from about 8 or 8:30 to 9. This sometimes doesn't happen, but she does miss it when it doesn't. We read chapter books that I think would be good read-alouds, that we're both interested in, that I think will need some discussion, or that are above her reading level. Then she's allowed to read for a half hour or so on her own before bed.

My oldest, age 12, sometimes listens in when I read aloud, but we haven't actively read to her since she was halfway through 3rd grade and she decided she couldn't wait until the next day to know how the story went. So, she picked up the book and finished it on her own."

Clemencia (Storytime and More): "About the reading routine, most of the time I read to my 3 year old at bedtime, my daughter chooses about 3 to 5 books and I read them out loud for her. If I have read the same book for a few days in a row (her choice), I start pointing at the words as I read them. Since she is starting to make the sounds for each letter, she wants me to show her (sometimes) where does it say "lion," for example. Besides that, I do try to read to her at least one book at daytime, and when we have to wait at drs. appts and such, just to send her the message that is o.k. to read anytime and anywhere. :)"

Amy Graves ( "My daughters are 3 and 5. I'm not very good at routines, but my spouse and I both work full-time, so we had to establish something to maximize what time we have to spend with them in the evening. One way we condense our routine is to read books during bathtime. They think it's fun. We usually read 3-5 picture books from the library, chosen from a pool selected partly by them and partly by me. I try to read each book at least three times before we return them (as long as it's a good book!)

My older daughter can read now, so whenever we catch a spare moment I ask her to read to me, or to her sister. Watching them read together is awesome."

Emily S.: "I read to our 2-year old daughter while she eats her lunch. It's the only time she sits still through a book that I choose. At bedtime we read 2 or 3 pictures books of her choosing to her. We read picture books before bed to our 5 and 6 year old boys and every few weeks we switch from picture books to a chapter book. Right now we're reading to them "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Our 6 year old also reads to himself before bedtime after we read to him, for a half hour or so."

Tina W. : "My DD is 8 and loves to read. We always have books in the car. On long rides I read books to DH and DD or we listen to books on CD.

I often read to DD during her bath time. We usually have a book waiting for us in the towel cabinet.

We also read aloud on Saturdays or at odd times when we are together and not busy. Sometimes we trade off--she reads a chapter, then I read one. Some Saturday mornings she gets into bed with me and we read our own separate books."

Christine in NJ: "My 12 year old son does his "non-school" reading at night in bed. I often have to stop him or else he'll stay up too late. My 11 year old has a reading spot in her room. She has piles of books and plows through them at amazing speed! She reads ALL THE TIME. She would read at the dinner table, if I let her! Other mothers, who see my daughter reading so much, are now calling me to get reading recommendations for their own kids!

Now my 7 year old is struggling a bit becoming an independent reader. She is starting vision therapy so I do have a very structured reading program with her, which takes place immediately after school (before she gets tired) and then we leave the "fun/independent" reading for nighttime. We are trying to create a reading spot for her (new saucer chair/lap desk/x-tra lights/cool book marks) but she is struggling to make it comfortable or her own. She actually prefers to sit in her sisters reading spot! And then we have a 5 year old. He is in 1/2 day kindergarten, so we always read together after lunch while the house is quiet and the other kids are still at school. And then my husband does all the night time reading with the 2 little ones, while I "chat" with the two older kids.

My two older kids also read to the two little ones on a regular basis. Right now the boys are reading The Ultimate Pokeman Handbook together and the girls are reading one of the Disney Fairy books. That's the routine until June - and then we'll establish something new for the summer!..."

Jenny (Read. Imagine. Talk.): "My son Ethan just turned 2, and we read a bunch of times during the day. Before his nap and before bed we always read a bunch of books -- anywhere from between two and seven (depending on how tired he is!). We read whenever we're waiting anywhere (doctor's office, etc.), and then on and off throughout the day he'll bring me books to read to him.

Lately, Ethan has wanted to read on his own, telling stories out loud based on pictures, or reciting books he knows by heart. This is such a thrill to see!

Because I'm such a big reader and he's home with me all day, reading constantly seems completely normal to him, the same way he eats, takes baths, plays outside and sleeps..."

Katie (Katie's Literature Lounge): "I'm not a parent yet, but I remember the reading routine my mom and dad had with me and my brothers! Every night, after teeth were brushed, we'd gather in the bottom bunk in my brothers' room. If it was a holiday time, we'd read holiday stories. If not, we'd each take turns picking out a book from the bookshelf. Bedtime stories used to be one of my favorite parts of the day!"

Sheila (Greenridge Chronicles)
"I have 3 kids: aged 12, 7.5 & 7.5. We homeschool, and I mention that because we read first thing in the morning, when we'd otherwise be rushing off to public school.

It was harder finding group reads when the kids were smaller, because the 12 yr old was into Harry Potter while the twins were still enjoying anything written by Rosemary Wells, but now, for the most part, they like the same stuff. We read the entire Little House series (I've got a separate category on my blog for these because they were so seminal), we've almost finished the Harry Potter series, we've read pretty much every single Diana Wynne Jones book EVER WRITTEN and then a few odds and ends: Mr Popper's Penguins, Penderwicks, Dr Doolittle, The Water Horse...can't remember other titles offhand.

I tend to look for Newbery winners unless someone recommends something, or unless someone gives us something we love and it turns out to be one of a series - which is how we found the Max series by Rosemary Wells: my eldest is named Max and he was quite a bit like the Max in the books so we ended up collecting (and quoting) all the Max books. Then we found her MacDuff books and read (and quoted) all those too.

Our routine is this: every morning we eat breakfast, I might read something witty or weird from the newspaper to them, I finish my coffee, then I start reading, while they linger over their tea and breakfast. I usually read 3 chapters, unless the chapters are super short (or super long), in which case I read for about 45 minutes, although we read The Water Horse in 3 days because we couldn't put it down... I do the read aloud. I use voices if I can (Harry Potter is fun if you're good with accents because then you can imitate Hagrid and McGonagall and people like that). Sometimes I drag the story into the rest of the day, like when I wore a red satin cape and pretended I was McGonagall (and acted very strict), or when we all pretended we were in different Houses (like in HP) and I awarded points for various silly infractions. It can get quite hilarious at times. The kids love it.

We also memorize poetry, which I get them to recite to me (while I'm holding a recording device). I store these on my computer, and once in a while I haul them out and we watch them. I've gotten the twins to do the same poems their elder brother recited, so it's quite fascinating watching him do Christina Rossetti's Song at age 7 and then, skip forward 4 years, watch his brother and sister do the exact same poem. Quite charming. They love it, and I love, but for quite different reasons, I'm sure!"

Anonymous: "Our 7 year old is a very independent reader now, but we still enjoy reading together as much as possible. In the past year, we have experienced the same dilemma as Melissa where she couldn't wait until the next day to find out what happens and so would pick up the chapter book herself and finish reading to the end. We read the first Harry Potter together (her Papa and me taking turns) and then she read it on her own 2 more times and has since read the second and third.

Reading began for her in the womb. I am a preschool teacher and have a very large collection of picture books. Part of my daily routine while pregnant was to sit in a rocker with my tea in the evening and read and sing to her. Her baby and toddlerhood was filled with reading and singing as well. I ran a home daycare for a couple of years when she was 1-3 years old and we had a library right across the street! I would take all the children to the library once a week and we would choose 10 new books every 3 weeks. We read at circle time, before lunch, before nap, after nap... you get the idea. When she was 2 my daughter insisted that we hold "circle time" on the weekends with all of her little "stuffies" in place of absent daycare mates!!

Thanks Jill, for holding this forum. Every contributor here should be very proud of their efforts to pass on their love of reading to the next generation."