Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Book Quiz & Banner

In keeping with the "having fun with Banned Books Week" thing I have going on, today's offering is a Banned Books Quiz.  Take it and enjoy.  Thanks Gillian O'Reilly for the link.

And for your visual pleasure, here is the Banned Books Banner.
Banned Books Week BannerImage by DML East Branch via Flickr
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Virtual Classroom visits

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
Lately I've been posting about banned books, but today I want talk about the importance of celebrating literacy to encourage reading.  A great way to kick off or culminate a literacy focus for your school is through an author visit.  I say this not just as an author, but as a former teacher.  I've seen so many connections between writer and reader from both sides.  They can be truly transformative.  I recall one school visit where a student was so excited about the topic (bald eagles) that he ended up assisting me in a fact game.  He was thrilled.  I learned later that this student was autistic and did not generally participate in class discussions.  Other visits have culminated in story writing, art displays, research projects, and book journeys that may not have otherwise happened.  

Unfortunately, in this climate of economic constraint, not all schools can afford to have an author visit no matter how wonderful the connections between writer and reader.  Now, there is another way, a virtual author visit using Skype.  While I've not myself participated in a virtual classroom visit, many of my colleagues.  While they do pose some challenges, virtual classroom visits can be very rewarding.  This summer when visiting Salt Spring Island, my colleague and friend Margriet Ruurs showed me how it's done.  One of these days, I'll give it a  try.  But, in the meantime Margriet has written a helpful article about it in Canadian Teacher Magazine;  Using Skype to Bring Experts into the Classrooby Margriet Ruurs.  You won't regret it.
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    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Reasons for banning books can sometimes be hilarious

    Sometimes the reasons behind book banning can be hilarious...
    According to Yahoo news, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? written by Bill Martin & illustrated by Eric Carle was banned by the Texas Board of Education in January 2010 because they mistakenly thought it was written by the same Bill Martin who wrote Ethical Marxism:  The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.
    Just for the record, here are a few of the other Bill Martins not responsible for writing a great children's book:
    *a British rugby league footballer
    *four different musicians
    *a Washington DC Lawyer
    *a retired American basketball player
    *the Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan
    *two retired NFL football players
    *5 time Manager of the New York Yankees (Billy Martin)
    *a stage name briefly adopted by Billy Joel in 1972 

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Spork by Kyo Maclear

    One of the great things about my daughter working as a sales rep in the book business is hearing about great new titles (she works for Kate Walker which reps a whole bunch of publishers). One of books that she was excited about was Spork by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.  It isn't just cute; it speaks to fundamental issues and is a must for all schools and daycares.  It's a fabulous title with the cutest art work.  And now, thanks to Betsy Bird, I've discovered an equally cool trailer to go with the book.  It's almost as good as the book.

    Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading

    Cover of "Crank"Cover of Crank
    It's Banned Books Week in the US (Sept. 25- Oct. 2) so celebrate by your freedom of choice by reading one of the wonderful titles that someone has tried to keep from us.  You can get a list from your library or go to ALA's website for ideas on how you can keep intellectual freedom alive in America.  Personally, I think I may be rereading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and if I have time, I'll crack Ellen Hopkins Crank.  Both books have been challenged and both are books that need to be available to young readers.
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    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Great News about Enid Blyton Manuscripts

    Great news.  According to the Guardian, a Newcastle-based museum has acquired the original typescripts for nine of Enid Blyton's best-known novels.  Even better, one of them, Five Have Plenty of Fun came with a handwritten note form the author stating, "I do not write my books by hand but type them straight out of my head." I find that quite fascinating, especially given that this best-selling author wrote more than 700 books!  I can see that I'll have to make another trip over to England one of these days  to do another walking tour (I love Europe for walking) and I'm pretty sure that Newcastle and the Seven Stories Museum will be on my itinerary.  Yes...I am a bit of a nerd, having walked to various literary sites such as Virginia Wolf's The White Garden at Sissinghurst and Wordsworth's "Tintern Abby" and the childhood cottage of Rabbie Burns, but in my defense, I don't have to spend money on a gym membership!
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    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Scary Science: by Shar Levine & Leslie Johnstone

    With Halloween coming up...I know, it's still September, but it won't be for long...I'll bet you're already starting to search the web for great Halloween themed stories, activities and recipes. Here's a recipe that you might not have thought of, Scary Science:  25 Creepy Experiments by Shar Levine & Leslie Johnstone. For starters, kids can learn how to create that squeaky door sound. You'll have to wait for the ad to run through, but stick with.  Shar has some great tips for creep Halloween fun.  And, with more than 70 books under her belt, Shar is the go to Science Lady for all sorts of occasions. Check out this interview clip she did with The Vancouver Sun Newspaper recently. Shar Levine, Scary Science

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    The Bookworm is reading Waiting for the Whales!

    For the last several months, The Oak Bay Book Worm has been reading a different book every week, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Moby Dick are a few of the books being read.  My dog Ruby, aka "the shadow" is checking out what the Oak Bay Book Worm is reading this week; it's Waiting for the Whales!  Dan Bell, the creative horticulturalist behind The Oak Bay Book Worm, and all sorts of other horticultural masterpieces, you are awesome!

    By the way, if you like what you see, let the Parks & Rec. Department of Oak Bay know.  I'm sure it would be a treat for them to hear some positive feedback for their wonderful living art, especially art that has encouraged reading.  And, it's always nice to have one of your own books on the Book Worm's reading radar.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is being challenged

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, one of my favorite Young Adult novels is being challenged. To find out more, visit to my teenreads blog
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    David Weisner in Vancouver

    Great news!   Author / illustrator extraordinaire David Weisner will be at Vancouver Kidsbooks on Wednesday October 13th at 7pm.  His titles include Flotsam and Tuesday, both stunning books.  He'll be promoting his new book, Art & Max.  Tickets will be limited, so call today.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Presidential picture book on it's way

    Celebrity publishing has just hit new heights.  Now presidents are getting into the act.  In November, Knopf Books for Young Readers will publish Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, a picture book by US President Barack Obama.  Apparently, the manuscript was completed before Obama took office which is no surprise since it doesn't look like he's had much spare time since he was sworn in!  Any kid's book writer would be thrilled with the print run, which is starting out at 500,000 copies.  Random House has world rights, ensuring the book will be available around the world in English.  Who knows what the translation potential is here folks, but I'm hoping it sells like hotcakes since the proceeds will be donated to a scholarship fund for the children of deceased and disabled soldiers. The only question that remains is, will it be any good?

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    The 2010 Information Book Award finalists

     The 2010 Information Book Award finalists have been announced.  This unique award honours the best of Canadian non-fiction for children and is supported the Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada!  The winner will be announced in the new year.
    A Thousand Years of Pirates, William Gilkerson, Tundra
    Dieppe: Canada's Darkest Day of World War II, Hugh Brewster, Scholastic
    Follow that Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills, Scot Ritchie, Kids Can Press
    How to Build Your Own Country, Valerie Wyatt/Fred Rix, Kids Can Press
    You Are Weird: Your Body's Peculiar Parts and Funny Functions, Diane Swanson/Kathy Boake, Kids Can Press

    Celebrate Science! is coming. Don't miss it!

    Calling all Teachers, Librarians, and Parents in or near Vancouver
    Celebrate Science! A BC Sciencefest for Teachers, Librarians and Parents in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum
    Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010
    8:30-a.m. to 12:30 noon.
    The event supports the work of the Canadian Children's Book Centre, a not-for-profit organization devoted to promoting the reading of Canadian books for youth.
    Keynote speaker is the amazing astronomer Dr. Jaymie Matthews! Learn more about science and about new science books for kids and teens from a stellar line up of BC science writers--Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone, Cora Lee, Deborah Hodge, Adrienne Mason, Claire Eamer, Paula Johanson, Maggie Devries, Tanya Kyi, Avis Harley and Fiona Bayrock. You also welcome to visit the Canadian Children's Book Centre book collection found in the UBC Education Library.
    Don't miss the opportunity to meet authors, learn about science and science books for kids & teens, and for an exclusive tour of the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia which is home of the Blue Whale skeleton.
    For more information, contact: Jo-Anne Naslund, Instructional Programs Librarian Education Library 2125 Main Mall Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4 Tel. 604-822-0940 FAX 604-822-5378

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Books for "Airlift to LA"

    A few months ago, I was contacted by Helaine Becker, a writer friend.  She'd been in LA and had visited a school with virtually no books on the library shelves.  Not one to accept the status quo, Helaine decided to do something about it.  That something is about to come to fruition.

    The following is a press release she sent along this morning.

    Children’s book author orchestrates Canada-wide book drive to stack library shelves of inner city school in Los Angeles.

    Helaine Becker’s Airlift to LA highlights the state of Canadian school libraries.

    August 23, 2010 (Toronto, ON) Shocked by the empty library bookshelves during an author visit to a Los Angeles-area elementary school, children’s book author Helaine Becker is taking action. She’s started a campaign to put books in the hands of disadvantaged children in LA, and, just as important, is bringing attention to the alarming state of Canadian school libraries.

    Becker, an award-winning Toronto area author, has written over 40 books for children, including Science on the Loose (Maple Tree Press 2008), and is known for her wacky, off beat humour for the younger set.

    In a recent trip to California, Becker collected over 650 books (most were discards from more affluent schools) for Barton Elementary School, located in an inner city area of Long Beach. Books not up to library standards were given directly to the children and for most of these children, it was the first time they had ever owned a book or even read for pleasure. Now back in Canada, Helaine is spearheading a campaign — Airlift to LA — to stock the shelves of another Los Angeles-area elementary school in the Compton district.

    “The three schools I visited were all understaffed, underfunded, and under stocked to the point of breakdown,” explains Becker. “I was completely shocked by how bad the situation was there. The way U.S. schools are funded through property taxes means schools in low-income areas have virtually no ability to meet existing school standards, nor to effectively educate the next generation.

    “My hope is that by helping the kids in the Compton-area, we will not only deliver books to kids who need them, but also draw attention to the fact that Canadian school libraries are heading the same way. Our libraries are also dramatically underfunded, in every single province and territory,” explains Becker who recently visited a northern Canadian school whose dusty shelves included books such as The Red Indian and Young John Kennedy. “If you only have a part-time library tech to come in and look after the place one half-day a week, and no funding to restock the shelves with books less than 50 years-old, well, Compton, here we come.”

    A long-time advocate for school libraries, Becker sees helping the children in LA as a short-term solution. “The real problem we are trying to address is the systemic problems we face on both sides of the border. Almost none of the school libraries I visit are up to Canadian standards set by the Canadian Library Association,” says Becker who authored a document that allows the public to determine how their school libraries stack up. “If they do the assessment they will see how poorly we are doing and, as a result, why our literacy numbers are going sideways. My hope is that the public will use the results to put pressure on the government to put the funding back where it can do so much good — in a fully-functioning, fully-staffed school library.”
    Becker has partnered with Sandra Tsing-Loh, columnist and local celebrity in the LA-area and an advocate for public education, and Rebecca Constantino, founder of Access Books — a non-profit organization which organizes book drives and funding for underserviced school libraries. Last week, Becker shipped approximately 1200 books from over a hundred Canadian authors, publishers and the public to LA. in advance of the book presentation event at Ralph Bunche Elementary School, October 2, 2010.

    The event will include author presentations by several Canadian writers including Becker, Wendy Kitts, Rob Weston and Kari-Lynn Winters who will also help refurbish the Bunche school library by sorting and cataloguing books and painting wall murals with the students.

    For more information on Airlift to LA go to

    To see how your school library “stacks up”, download the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries and Canadian Association for School Libraries Library/Media Assessment Questionnaire at

    For further information on Airlift to LA contact:

    Wendy Kitts
    506-382-4360 or 506-852-1600

    Helaine Becker

    To send a book donation by October 2, 2010:

    Airlift to LA
    c/o Access Books
    3622 W. Slauson Ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90043

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Joan Steiner and Look Alike Books

    Joan Steiner, the wonderful illustrator of four Look-Alike books, died of cancer last week.  What a loss.  Her books were so wonderful.  As a teacher and presenter I frequently used them to get kids to look at the world more closely and to think outside of the box; something I believe is a prerequisite for success in all sorts of fields, including writing.  According to her publisher, Little Brown Children's, her books have sold over a million copies in 16 different languages. They will publish her final book, Look-Alikes Picture Puzzles, in spring 2011. If you haven't discovered her books before, look for them now.  They are an invaluable teaching tool.

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    Mockingjay review

    To check out my review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins check out my other blog.

    The Book Worm

    This is so cool.  The municipality of Oak Bay always does these very cool garden instillations close to where I live, and close to the local high school, Oak Bay High School.  This summer they did a reading bookwork all created with flowers.  Every Monday the title of the book would change.  It's been Treasure Island, Harry Potter, and lots of other great titles.  This week, the book title was OBHS Course Selection Guide.  Too funny.  I love creative people, and creative municipalities!

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    Short list announced for Victoria Book Prizes

    The big news in Victoria today is that the finalists for the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and the finalists for the Bolen Books Children's Book Prize have just been announced.

    Finalists for the Butler Prize for adult literature are:

    Frances Backhouse for Children of the Klondike (Whitecap Books) 
    M.A.C. Farrant for The Secret Lives of Litterbugs (Key Porter Books) 
    Eve Joseph for The Secret Signature of Things (Brick Books) 
    Jay Ruzeky for The Wolsenburg Clock (Thistledown Press) and
    Deborah Willis for Vanishing and Other Stories (Penguin Canada) 

    The finalists for the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize are:

    Dede Crane for Poster Boy (Groundwood Books); 
    Michelle Mulder for After Peaches (Orca Book Publishers) and
    Sylvia Olsen for Counting on Hope (Sono Nis Press).

    The winners will be announced at the awards gala on October 13.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    biographer of Robert Munsch

    Today is International Literacy Day. Celebrate by helping someone learn to read.

    Author Frank B. Edwards
    Monday September 20th, 7:30 pm
    at the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable
    Note: Roundtable meetings now take place at the Nellie McClung Branch Library, 3950 Cedar Hill Road, lower entrance.

    The biographer of Robert Munsch, Frank B. Edwards is coming to town.  Edwards also happens to be the co-founder of Bungalo Books along with illustrator Jon Bianchi and he's the author of 40 books, including Mortimer Mooner Stopped Taking a Bath. He will speak about his latest books, including his biography of Robert Munsch, and the writing process.
    The VCLR is open to the public. Members free, drop-ins $5, students $4. Meetings are held at the Nellie McClung Branch Library, 3950 Cedar Hill Road, at 7:30 pm. Come early and browse the bookseller's table, and bring a friend!

    For more information about the Roundtable, visit: