Children’s Books

What You Miss After Your Child Learns to Read

31 March 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Annalee Svoboda, 7, cracked the code around Thanksgiving.

Before then, she would sit on the couch next to her mom, struggling to sound out every T, H and E of the word “the.” Her mother, Andrea, described the process as “painful.”

Then one day, it clicked. Annalee read on her own. She started bringing home from school small chapter books, with characters and stories. At bedtime, she said good night and settled under the covers on her own with her favorite “Elephant and Piggie” series book.

. . . .

“Part of me likes their independence. We can say ‘OK, it’s time for bed. If you can’t sleep, read for a half-hour,’ ” says Ms. Svoboda, of both Annalee and her older brother Adam, 9. “Part of me misses the snuggling up and being able to cuddle and read.”

The day a child learns to read independently is among the most anticipated and important childhood milestones. Parents who have been reading aloud to a child since birth, and sometimes before, have been eagerly waiting to see him or her develop the confidence and understanding to read on their own. When that moment finally arrives, however, many parents are caught off guard, and feel a little melancholic. Rituals change as their children’s horizons broaden.

. . . .

The survey, of 2,558 parents and children, found many children wished the parents hadn’t stopped. Eight in 10 children ages 6 to 17 said they loved or liked being read aloud to because it is a special time together with their parents. Among children ages 6 to 11, 40% wished their parents would continue.

“There is nothing a child of any age wants more than a parent’s total attention,” says Mary Brigid Barrett, founder and president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance in Wayland, Mass. She read to her three grown children until they were teens, sharing the adventures of Harry Potter.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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Beverly Cleary turns 100

27 March 2016

Children’s author Beverly Cleary on turning 100: ‘I didn’t do it on purpose’

More than six decades since her first book came out, celebrated children’s author Beverly Cleary is marking a milestone, turning 100 in April.

You’ll find a lovely video at the link. PG decided not to embed it because of concern that the video would autoplay whenever a visitor opened TPV.

Link to the rest at Today

Librarians Say Kids Prefer Physical Books

8 March 2016

From Digital Book World:

During the “I’m a Librarian – Ask Me Anything” panel at today’s Launch Kids conference at Digital Book World 2016, librarians and literacy advocates discussed kids’ preference for physical books, and the role of ebooks as supplementary reading material.

. . . .

All panelists agreed that kids show a preference for physical books, with Rasmussen adding that kids love having the ability to touch them. “We are tactile creatures. We will judge books by their covers and that’s okay,” she said. “We do many creative things with books we can’t with digital, like building a poetry out of book spines.”

That being said, Jacobs noted that ebooks are a great supplement. “Though kids prefer physical books, book apps engage kids at a younger age. They’re an extension of characters and story,” she explained. “And now that devices are allowed in New York City schools, book content is becoming more accessible to students.”

. . . .

To conclude the discussion, the panel concurred that, regardless of future technological advancements in content, good books will always stand the test of time.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

How A 1990 Hardy Boys Book Presaged The Future Of The Internet

29 February 2016

From Fast Company:

Late last year, while working on a story about the early days of, I heard a lot of reminiscing about the days just before the web took off.

Match’s early users and employees shared memories of when they first used their computers to dial up to the outside world—to CompuServe, to the Bay Area’s Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link , or to one of the other local bulletin board systems that dotted the country in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

I was a little too young to have really experienced the BBS era, and I was a little too embarrassed to admit where I first learned that people could use computers to talk to each other: from an oddly futuristic Hardy Boys book I read somewhere around the fourth grade.

But a quick, nostalgic Amazon search turned up the book in question, available for just a penny (plus shipping). Terminal Shock, I rediscovered a few days later, introduced the crime-solving teen brothers and their impressionable fans to designer drugs, top-secret superconducting microchips, and evidence buried in encrypted emails, somehow all within a few square miles of the boys’ suburban hometown.

. . . .

“Glad to hear you’ve got that AT clone up and running, with that 4800 baud modem,” the boys read in an email from a friend. “Bet that 386 processor really screams!”

All that modem talk is just so much gobbledygook to Joe, the younger Hardy. Pages later, the brothers receive an urgent instant message from the operator of their hometown bulletin board. They’ll soon find him in a coma, the victim of a genetically engineered “designer poison” doctors say will kill him within a week. The main apparent clue is the email archive for the system, contained on an encrypted floppy disk. When the boy detectives uncover the password to unlock the disk, they continue their investigation in a way that seems oddly topical—and more than a little disturbing—today: reading through each user’s private email inbox on the system until they find a clue.

. . . .

[Author Christopher] Lampton says he was one of a number of freelancers recruited by Mega-Books editor William McCay to modernize the series for a new generation of readers. “He didn’t want to do your father’s Hardy Boys,” says Lampton, who’d go on to write 11 books for the series.

Lampton had previously written science and technology books for children and adults, as well as some science fiction. He’d even ghostwritten for a Stratemeyer-style series called The Thorne Twins, whose protagonists solved mysteries in accordance with Christian principles. Working with McKay, Lampton says he drew on his own background in science, as well as some experience working in radio and television, for Hardy Boys ideas.

. . . .

Lampton, who says he’s recently focused more on technical and nonfiction writing, started using CompuServe in 1983 and thought that his young readers would enjoy a book set in the digital world.

“Even then, the joke was that kids knew more about computers than adults,” he says. “I tried to write about the technology that would be available at the time, because I knew a lot of kids would know about that.”

And the plot fit the guidelines of Mega-Books’s “series Bible,” which Lampton says depicted the elder Frank as “more willing to use his brains” and tools like computers. “We were very careful never to portray them exactly as geeks,” he recalls.

Throughout the book, as the boys solve the mystery, Frank pauses frequently to explain tech terminology to technophobic Joe and, of course, to less-than-savvy young ’90s readers like myself. “It’s kind of like recording tape, except that it’s round and flat instead of long and skinny,” he says of a floppy disk.

“I assumed some of the audience would relate to that, since some of the people who were running these local bulletin boards in my area were kids,” says Lampton.

Link to the rest at Fast Company and thanks to Gary for the tip.

Slavery book author says she had concerns

17 February 2016

From the Associated Press:

The author of a children’s book pulled last month because of its smiling depiction of slaves says she herself objected to the illustrations and had expressed early concerns with the publisher, Scholastic.

In her first interview since Scholastic withdrew “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” less than two weeks after it was published, Ramin Ganeshram also told The Associated Press that she and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had little communication and essentially worked separately.

“The public does not know that the authors (of picture stories) are not in full control of their books,” she said. “The public feels if you write the book, the book is yours and you make the decisions. But in children’s publishing at least, that is entirely untrue. Authors and illustrators often do not speak, or interact. I never had a conversation with Vanessa, just a few tweets.”

The Washington book was published Jan. 5 and set off a wave of criticism from reviewers, and on social media and, where 270 out of 371 reader reviews were one star as of Thursday morning. Scholastic initially defended “A Birthday Cake,” which centers on Washington’s head chef, the slave Hercules. But on Jan. 17, it halted publication, explaining in a statement that the book “may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves.”
Ganeshram says she was informed of the decision by her editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney.

“And I said to her, ‘As you know, I have always had issues with these illustrations,'” Ganeshram said.

. . . .

Ganeshram said that she emailed Pinkney last spring, objecting to the “over-joviality” of some the illustrations and adding that a recent picture book, Emily Jenkins’ “A Fine Dessert,” had been rightly criticized for similar reasons.

“And I said, ‘When can I start speaking to Vanessa? I would like to send some research material.’ And the editor told me, ‘Authors and illustrators don’t interact,'” Ganeshram said.

An award-winning journalist and author born to a Trinidadian father and Iranian mother, the 47-year-old Ganeshram noted that the book was considered offensive despite the diversity of those who worked on it.

Link to the rest at the Associated Press and thanks to Bill for the tip.

PG says the managers, editors and publicists at Scholastic must be living on an island below the Antarctic Circle to have failed to forsee this type of problem.

These self-proclaimed curators of culture have effectively destroyed the brand equity which Ms. Ganeshram had built up in her name.

Should Ms. Ganeshram approach a publisher with another book, does anyone doubt that her Scholastic disaster will be remembered and factor into any sane publisher’s decision about the book? Who wants to risk more bad publicity by associating themselves with an author who has an awkward past, regardless of whether the problems were her fault or not?

PG says the lesson for authors of any sort of picture or illustrated book is to include in their publishing agreements both the right to review illustrations prior to publishing and the right to disapprove any illustrations the author doesn’t like.

PG will not speculate about whether Ms. Ganeshram has a basis for suing Scholastic for damages to her reputation and adverse impacts on her future earnings, but he hopes she has.

What about publishing malpractice? After all, almost any person or organization that holds themselves out as a professional – lawyers, law firms, doctors, hospitals, chiropractors, podiatrists, tanning salons, etc. – can be sued for professional malpractice. One question which comes to mind is whether Scholastic is a professional publisher with expertise in its field of endeavor or an amateur.

Amidst Concerns Scholastic Inc. Removes “A Birthday Cake For George Washington” From Shelves

18 January 2016

From Forbes:

In a statement made on January 17th, Scholastic Inc. announced that it would discontinue distribution of the new picture book A Birthday Cake for George Washington, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, after concerns were raised by educators, book reviewers, and librarians about the depiction of “smiling slaves” and a perceived sugarcoating of a tragic but important aspect of the United States history. Similar concerns were brought up last year in regards to the picture book A Fine Dessert written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. (The book was published by Schwartz & Wade books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.) Once A Fine Dessert was noted on The Horn Book as being a contender for the Caldecott award various educators brought up their dismay that slavery wasn’t referenced at all in this book depicting the making of the blackberry fool dessert over four centuries and different families through time. The author of A Fine Dessert apologized for this discrepancy on the website Reading While White and went on to donate her advance to the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books. Schwartz & Wade made no public comment in relation to the book.

Prior to A Birthday Cake For George Washington’s release there was a post on Kirkus by the teen/children’s book editor Vicky Smith noting [the] similar depiction of “smiling slaves” in this text being a similar cause for discussion as it was to A Fine Dessert. In her post Smith pondered whether there’d be similar dismay brought up on this book because the editor, author, and illustrator are all people of color when one of the largest arguments for Dessert was why no one in the marginalized community may have seen this book prior to its publication to hopefully vet and raise concerns on the depiction of slavery and also the lack of naming this institution outside of the author and illustrator notes in the back. While A Fine Dessert wasn’t a best-seller nor did it end up on any of the ALA Youth Media Award lists there was also defense of the book on Sophie Blackall’s blog. Both A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington illustrate the history of the making of a dessert in history. In the case of George Washington it reflects the perspective of Delia watching her father Hercules, head kitchen slave, as he figures out how to prepare the president’s favorite dessert without sugar.

Link to the rest at Forbes and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Harry Potter Books Head To Kindle And Nook After Pottermore Suffers Cruciatus Curse

9 January 2016

From The Digital Reader:

When Pottermore was launched in early 2012, it was hailed as the first of many publisher-owned ebookstores that would lead to the vanquishment of Amazon.

Pottermore was the sole source of Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks, and many saw that as a club that could be used against Amazon. As I predicted, that proved to be far more hype than substance, but now it turns out that Pottermore was not nearly as strong as everyone assumed.

I’ve just discovered that Amazon is selling Harry Potter ebooks in the Kindle Store. The ebooks were quietly listed in early December 2015, and have been collecting reviews since at least the 15th.

You can also find the ebooks in the Nook Store, as well as Kobo, where they are selling for $9 each.

. . . .

The Bookseller published an article yesterday which looks at Pottermore’s company filings and offers a revealing explanation for Pottermore’s recent decisions to distribute enhanced ebooks to iBooks and to let Audible,B&N, and other retailers sell its audiobooks.

The answer, my dears, is money.

When Pottermore launched, one of its earliest partners was Sony. The electronics giant was in it for the branding, and they released Harry Potter games, a Harry Potter themed section of Playstation Home, and included a free Harry Potter ebook with the Sony Reader.

Sony was paying nicely for the privilege, but eventually that deal ran out:

The site, which gives Harry Potter fans an enhanced experience of J K Rowling’s wizarding world, along with new short stories, insights and games, relaunched in September with a new mobile-first search-friendly format. Before this, in the year ending 31st March 2015, sales dropped by £24.8m – or 352% – to £7m (from £31.8m a year earlier), while profit at Pottermore also decreased significantly, from £14.9m in 2014 to a loss of £6m in 2015.

So apparently over 70% of Pottermore’s revenue came from this one deal with Sony, and not from sales or other channels.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

A children’s tale that will have adults moved to tears too

13 December 2015

From The Daily Mail:

Somehow it seems both entirely fitting and slightly surreal that I’m sitting with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler discussing how knowledgeable Father Christmas is.

Julia is the slightly eccentric former busker who’s become the fourth biggest-selling writer in British history – despite only publishing her first book when she was 45 – and the first author to record UK sales of more than £10 million for five consecutive years, while Axel is the illustrator who brings her stories to life.

. . . .

 Although the book is aimed at a pre-school audience, parents seem to adore it too. She doesn’t bat an eyelid when I tell her Stick Man’s happy ending is so touching it used to make me weep when I read it to my children.

. . . .

 Like so much of Julia and Axel’s work, Stick Man came about by accident. It was pure chance that Julia started writing books in the first place – she was working as a songwriter when a publisher asked if she could turn her song A Squash And A Squeeze into a book. Axel was the third illustrator she approached, which in itself turned out to be a happy accident for him.

. . . .

 ‘I can’t make the figures tally,’ she says. ‘Axel and I get about three per cent each per book – probably less once you count the foreign sales or the books that are sold at a discount. But even then I still can’t work the figures out. I certainly don’t receive as much as you might think. I’m not complaining but I imagine people think we’re billionaires; that’s certainly not the case.’

Link to the rest at Daily Mail and thanks to Mike for the tip.

PG is moved to tears by these royalty payments.

Scholastic Reading Club #WeNeedDiverseBooks special edition

9 November 2015

From Scholastic:

The need for books showcasing the growing diversity of America’s classrooms is growing. Teachers, parents, librarians and family members have been asking us for resources to help children discover books that reflect their lives and characters that reflect them and the people they know– both in the classroom and at home.

Today, Scholastic Reading Club and the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books have joined together to answer the call for this need with a special edition We Need Diverse Books Scholastic Reading Club flyer offering 75 key book titles for grades 4–8 that feature diverse characters and storylines.

This special, curated offer includes award-winning titles, beloved classics, and new releases, and will reach over 100,000 classrooms and 2.5 million students with great books in time for the holidays. All book orders are placed through a classroom teacher, and, for every purchase, the teacher earns reward points that are redeemable for books and other classroom materials.

. . . .

Q: What has been the feedback from teachers?

We are repeatedly asked year after year for more diverse titles by our teachers. This has been an initiative for many years. As club editors, we consistently make sure that we are selecting diverse titles and books by authors who represent diverse backgrounds. We also have a long history of advocating for more diversity from our publishing partners. This offer is a way to highlight and elevate those titles in a curated collection.

. . . .

Q: What role can teachers and parents play to help kids find diverse books?

A: Teachers and parents are who kids go to for book recommendations. With that in mind, they can infuse diverse literature into all the good work they’re already doing. And they can take an active role in seeking out diverse books and making sure to speak about them accurately and be open to having conversations with their students. This is an opportunity for them to make sure every child in their classroom is represented and exposed to stories and viewpoints with which they may be unfamiliar.

Link to the rest at Scholastic

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.

. . . .

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.

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