Children’s Books

How Children Make Sense of Impossible Events in Fiction

1 October 2015

From OnFiction:

Oftentimes, fairytales consist of unrealistic or fantastical events. Although children understand that fantastical fiction differs from reality, it is unclear how they interpret these unrealistic events. A study by Julia Van de Vondervoort and Ori Friedman (University of Waterloo) indicates that children, like adults, use the impossible events to infer general rules about the fantasy world that allow them to predict what will happen in the story.

In their first experiment, 78 children between the ages of 2 and 4 were randomly assigned to either watch the experimenter enact scenarios that demonstrate a rule or a control condition where no rule demonstration was given. In the demonstration condition, a cat behaved unrealistically by making the sound of the animal it was addressing instead of the expected “meow” sound. For example, the cat would address a sheep with “baa baa”. The scenarios provided a fantasy rule that cats make the sound of the animal they are addressing. After children either received a rule demonstration or did not, they were asked to predict what sound the cat would make when it addressed a dog, a pig, a cow, and a snake. Children in the rule-demonstration condition were more likely to predict that the cat would make the sound of the animal being addressed than those in the no rule-demonstration condition. From this we can conclude that children are able to infer a fantasy rule and use it to predict future events.

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If parents are ever worried that reading fairy tales may confuse children by exposing them to events or entities that do not exist in reality, this study indicates that children can easily infer general rules about fantasy worlds that help them make sense of fiction.

Link to the rest at OnFiction and thanks to Livia for the tip.

New York Times Changes Children’s Bestseller Lists

20 August 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Starting August 21, the New York Times will tweak its children’s bestseller lists, separating hardcover middle grade and young adult titles from paperback and e-book bestsellers. The hardcover lists will appear in print, and the paperback and e-book lists will be available online. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, told PW that the changes were meant to be more useful for readers, authors, and publishers in helping discoverability of titles.

Paul said that when she started as children’s books editor of the Book Review in 2011, middle grade and YA were reported together under the category “chapter books,” with paperbacks a separate category. “It was such a wildly mixed group,” she said, “that I thought it was very confusing to readers. If you’re a parent, and you’re looking at that list for your child, The Hunger Games is very different from Rebecca Stead. I thought it made sense to break the two categories apart,” and separate middle grade and YA lists were created.

Adding paperbacks to the newly created middle grade and YA sections allowed more titles to be included on the list. What happened, however, “was that given the relative unit sales of paperbacks, they would overtake the lists,” she said. “New authors would find it hard to break into the list, and it was difficult for readers to discover new writers from those lists. So it made sense to return to the model we use in adult.” Paul sees a slight trade-off in moving paperback and e-book figures online, as opposed to their appearing in print, but said, “Given how large our Internet readership is, I didn’t feel we were losing anything. Our Internet audience is growing enormously, and paperback and e-book sales are not trending the way we expected four years ago, and as a result the lists are not reflecting the breadth of what’s being published.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Heather for the tip.

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep becomes chart-topping bedtime read

18 August 2015

From The Guardian:

A self-published picture book by a Swedish author that promises to help children fall asleep at bedtime has shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic, outselling Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set a Watchman and Paula Hawkins’s bestselling thriller The Girl on the Train.

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep – the front cover emblazoned with the claim “I can make anyone fall asleep” – follows Roger the Rabbit as he and his mother set out to visit Uncle Yawn to help him doze off, meeting the Sleepy Snail and the Heavy-Eyed Owl on the way. Self-published in Swedish by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin in 2011, a clunky English translation was published in April 2014 and has surged to the summit of’s charts over the last five days, moving into the top spot over the weekend in both the US and the UK.

. . . .

Customers on give the book an average of 3.5 stars. Some are more than satisfied. “I’m actually speechless!” wrote one user. “I’m sat here waiting for someone to pinch me. Bedtime just went from taking two to three hours to taking 12 minutes. We made it to the middle of page two.” Others are not convinced. “Didn’t work for us!” wrote another. “Our two-year-old still wide awake. Disappointed, though I was probably gullible in the first place thinking it would.”

Ehrlin said he did not have exact sales figures for the book, but that it had sold “many thousands of books in the UK and internationally”.

. . . .

“The whole story came to me in a split second. I woke my mother up, she was with me in the car. I told her to quickly write down what I said and all we found was a napkin and an old pencil that barely worked. I got all the characters, the techniques that I should use and the basis of the story. Then when I came home I had to write everything down and starting to make sense of the story.”

Ehrlin said it took him more than three years to find the “right words to use, to get the effect it was supposed to have” in Swedish.

. . . .

Ehrlin decided to self-publish, saying that “in Sweden I see a trend that the books that sell best are often self-published. There’s a new era growing in the book business where people who are active in social media becomes the new bestsellers.”

With the book now translated into French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, as well as English, and four more languages on the way, Ehrlin has been contacted by publishers interested in taking it on. But he has so far turned them down, because he believes he has “found a good strategy to succeed without other publishers”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Russell for the tip.

The most banned and challenged books of 2014

23 July 2015

From The Los Angeles Times:

A memoir by a sexual assault survivor, a science fiction comic book and a children’s book about gay penguins were among the 10 most frequently banned or challenged books in the United States last year, according to the American Library Assn. (ALA).

The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom today released its annual “Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books,” based on over 300 reports of community members attempting to have literature removed from libraries and school curricula. The organization notes that “attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned.”

Four of the books on the list are by writers of color: “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

Seven of the 10 books were challenged because they were “sexually explicit.” Among those books are two that deal with child sexual assault: Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eye” and “A Stolen Life,” a memoir by Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped, raped and held prisoner for 18 years by a Mendocino couple.

. . . .

The top 10 most banned and challenged books of 2014:

1. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

. . . .

4. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Tim for the tip.

Why Horror is Good For You (and Even Better for Your Kids)

22 July 2015


One of the core reasons I make books now is because Ray Bradbury scared me so happy, that what I am perpetually compelled to do is, at best, ignite the same flame in a young reader today. Most of my comics, certainly the ones I write myself, are scary ones or revolve around scary themes. In the last ten years I began to notice that they also featured, as protagonists, children. Even when the overall story wasn’t necessarily about them, there they were: peeking from behind some safe remove, watching.

I came to understand the pattern was leading me to a more clearly defined ethos when I both had kids of my own and I came to find that the comics industry had for the most part decided not to make books for kids anymore.

. . . .


Maurice Sendak, whom I love as a contributor to the lore of children’s literature as well as a dangerous and wily critic of the medium (especially his grouchy latter years), once countered a happy interviewer by demanding she understand that childhood was not a skip-hop through a candy-cane field of butterflies and sharing and sunshine, that is was in fact a terrifying ordeal he felt compelled to help kids survive. Kids live in a world of insane giants already. Nothing is the right size. The doorknobs are too high, the chairs too big… They have little agency of their own, and are barely given the power to even choose their own clothes. (Though no real “power ” can ever be given, anyway… maybe “privilege” is the right term.) Aside from the legitimate fears of every generation, kids today are enjoying seeing these madhouse giants lose their jobs, blow themselves up using the same planes they ride to visit grandma, and catastrophically ruin their own ecosystem, ushering in a new era of unknown tectonic change and loss their grandkids will get to enjoy in full. The insane giants did to the world what they did to comics: they didn’t grow a future, but instead ate it for dinner.

. . . .


In the old days, fairy tales and stories for kids were designed to teach them to avoid places of danger, strangers, and weird old ladies living in candy-covered houses. They were cautionary tales for generations of kids who faced death, real and tangible, almost each and every day. There was a real and preventive purpose to these stories: stay alive and watch out for the myriad of real world threats that haunt your every step. These stories, of course, were terrifying, but these were also children that grew up in a time where, of every six kids born, two or three would survive to adulthood. Go and read some of the original Oz books by Baum and tell me they are not freakishly weird and threatening. The Brothers Grimm sought to warn kids in the most horrifying way they could. So much so that these types of tales have all but vanished from children’s lit, because these days they are deemed too frightening and dark for them. But they also are now more anecdotal than they were then; they mean less because the world around them grew and changed and they remained as they had always been. They became less relevant, however fantastic and crazy-pants they are.

Horror also touches something deep within us, right down into our fight-or-flight responses. We have developed, as a species, from an evolutionary necessity to be afraid of threats so we might flee them and survive to make more babies that can grow up to be suitably afraid of threats, that can also grow up and repeat the cycle. We exist today because of these smart apes and they deserve our thanks for learning that lesson. As a result, like almost all pop culture, horror lit can reflect in a unique way the extremely scary difficulties of being a child in a certain time. It touches on something we all feel and are familiar with, and as such can reveal a deeper understanding of ourselves as we go through the arc of being scared, then relieved, and then scared again. The thrill is an ancient one, and when we feel it, we’re connecting with something old and powerful within us. Whether it’s a roller-coaster, a steep water slide, or watching Harry Potter choke down a golden snitch as he falls thirty stories from his witch’s broom. There is a universality in vicarious thrill-seeking and danger-hunting. It is us touching they who began the cycle forty thousand years past.

Link to the rest at and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.

West Milford mothers team up to write and illustrate new children’s book

14 July 2015


Two West Milford mothers have teamed up to publish a new picture book that pays homage to the mother figures in children’s lives.

Author Mary L. Moore and award-winning illustrator Cheryl Crouthamel have recently released their self-published “Mommy Fix It Up.”

. . . .

“Mommy Fix It Up” is geared for children ages 1 to 7, as well as mothers and mother figures of every age. The story pays homage to the ultimate handy person, solver of problems, and overall superhero to all kids – Mommy Fix It Up – according to the book’s press release.

Through familiar scenarios, the story shows how Mommy Fix It Up seems to have the perfect solution for every childhood tribulation.

“What makes this book different from other children’s books is that the parent is the ultimate hero of the story,” said Moore. “But Mommy Fix It Up doesn’t just fix the problem for the child. (She) helps the child to be part of the solution too.”

. . . .

Moore said that “Mommy Fix It Up” is her first children’s book, and it is a homage “to the various mother figures in every child’s life. Mommy Fix It Up is not just moms, but aunts, grandmas, friends, or anyone that provides maternal support.”

Link to the rest at

Here’s a link to “Mommy Fix It Up”


9 July 2015

Disney Folds Publishing into New Interactive Media Division

30 June 2015

From Digital Book World:

The Walt Disney Company combines the division that houses its children’s publishing business with its interactive media division, in a move the company frames as a reaction to “changing consumer preferences” in a tech-driven market.

. . . .

The new structure is designed to share technological expertise and maximize opportunities and efficiencies across two divisions that have increasingly become focused on similar objectives of delivering cutting-edge, interactive consumer experiences and products. In addition, the change will more effectively leverage Disney’s extensive licensing structure and retail relationships across both segments.

“The timing of this announcement could not be better, with both divisions seeing great success in the marketplace with technology-driven initiatives alongside our more traditional lines of business,” said Leslie Ferraro, Co-Chair, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and President, Disney Consumer Products.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

70 amazing facts about Robert Munsch

9 June 2015

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

1. His full name is Robert Norman Peter Maria Munsch.

. . . .

 4. Munsch and his wife came to Canada from the United States to find work after getting laid off.

5. He “writes” his stories by performing them for children.

. . . .

 9. He and his wife have three adopted children: Andrew, Julie and Tyya. His own family appears in five books: David’s Father, Something Good, Andrew’s Loose Tooth, Finding Christmas and Pyjama Day.

. . . .

10. All his stories are based on real kids.

11. He started writing stories at age 35.

12.Munsch’s books have been translated into 32 languages, including 8 aboriginal languages.

. . . .

16. Munsch believes moving to Canada is why he became a storyteller: “I don’t think I would have told stories at all if I had stayed in the U.S.”

17. When he travels, he prefers staying with local families to staying in hotels.

18. Hiking helps him relax.

19. Munsch made up Moira’s Birthday, Smelly Socks and Makeup Mess on the same day in 1983, which he calls his “best day ever for stories.”

. . . .

22. The Paper Bag Princess came from complaints from the mothers at the daycare where Munsch worked. He had been telling the kids a typical prince-and-princess story and he remembers the mothers saying, “Have you noticed there are not many princes in this stupid mining town? You should change that story.”

. . . .

34. Angela’s Airplane was originally supposed to be Candy’s Airplane, based on the name of the kid who inspired it, but the name was changed. Munsch felt so bad about this that he’s made sure all his books use the kids’ real names ever since.

. . . .

44. Purple, Green and Yellow is about Munsch’s battles with depression.

. . . .

46. Munsch sees himself primarily as a storyteller, not a writer.

47. His first date with his wife Ann was a walk around Walden Pond in Boston.

. . . .

69. Theatre productions of his books have included Little Munsch on the Prairie, Magical Mystery Munsch, Munsch Ado About Nothing and Munschia Mia.

70. Munsch has 71 million copies of his books in print in North America. That’s two Robert Munsch books for every Canadian citizen.

Link to the rest at CBC and thanks to Cora for the tip.

Here’s a link to Robert Munsch’s books

Get Dads Reading

8 June 2015

From Book Trust:

Only one in eight dads takes the lead with reading to their children. 25% of fathers blame working late for not reading to their children.

HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall and bestselling author, James Patterson, mark launch of campaign with visit to dads’ reading group in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

. . . .

UK dads trail far behind their partners when it comes to reading to their children. A new poll, carried out for Book Trust by Opinium, reveals that just 13% are the main reader with their child, with a quarter of fathers saying that the demand for them to work late means that they do not have time to read together more often.

These findings are a major concern as a father’s involvement in their child’s early reading is proven to boost academic success, leading to improved social and emotional wellbeing. To fight this crisis Book Trust is launching a major campaign to raise awareness of the importance of dads as reading role models for their children.

. . . .

A series of in-depth interviews reveals that many fathers see reading as a female domain, and are working in isolation, rather than sharing practices and drawing on the networks available to mothers. When they do read to their children, fathers favour their daughters over their sons, reading to them for longer, and more often.

. . . .

The most crucial thing for dads to understand is that if kids see their dads reading they’re more likely to enjoy it themselves. There is evidence that boys are slipping further behind girls in reading – and this emphasises how important it is that dads are positive role models to their sons as well as their daughters when it comes to reading.

Link to the rest at Book Trust

PG highly recommends reading to sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces and nephews, etc., as a wonderful experience for both the reader and the listener. He is very grateful that his parents and grandmother read to him during his childhood.

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