Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guest Blogger:
Mark Scott Reports
from the United Kingdom

Crossing the pond – will you like what I like?

It is with some trepidation that I am writing this to be included on the NCBLA blog. MB2 made a personal request to me to give her – you – some sense of the world of children’s books this side of the pond. But when one looks at the list of distinguished NCBLA board members… the audacious nature of the act becomes apparent; to put one’s words in front of or alongside such an illustrious bunch can be nothing but daunting.

So, I began to think about a question that interests me: why it is that some British writers I rate highly never seem to be ‘big’ in the US? Of course this cannot be the case all the time; we all have our favourites and why should my favourite be yours? Despite this, I thought I would use this first shot at my ‘Blog from the Old Country’, to bring one such writer to your attention.

In summer 2006 I was hunting through the on-site bookstore between sessions at Children's Literature New England 20, that marvel of Children’s Literature scholarship, and was delighted to find there a couple of books by Kevin Brooks, a British writer who now has several novels for young adults under his belt. I remarked to the store-keeper that I was both delighted and surprised to find them: “We all like him in the store,” she remarked, and so began a fifteen minute conversation about the relative merits of his work. We parted, energised, but a little deflated by the admission from the store-keeper that he “…isn’t that well known in the States.”

And I am surprised. He writes, with terrific regularity, some terrific books. But I warn you, they don’t come for free. Brooks is a hard-hitting writer who deals with some hard-hitting themes. One has to dig in and invest time to acquire the taste, and then each book has the potential to deliver a feast. I am not alone in my admiration.

For his debut novel, Martyn Pig, Brooks was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal and won the Banford Boase Award--given for a first novel. It is a dark and quirky story that has its fair share of surprising twists and turns. Martyn Pig is a remarkable debut and whereas I liked it, I cannot confess to loving it.

But with Brooks’ second novel, Lucas, I fell head over heels. Here is the blurb from the jacket:
Caitlin’s life changes from the moment she sees Lucas walking across the causeway one hot summer’s day. He is the strangest, most beautiful boy she has ever seen – and when she meets him, her world comes alive. But to others, he quickly becomes an object of jealousy, prejudice and hatred. Caitlin tries to make sense of the injustice that lurks at every unexpected twist and turn, until she realises that she must do what she knows in her heart is right.

Intrigued? You will be. Lucas is at times both beautiful and disturbing, and it has an extraordinary climax. I remember vividly the place and time of its reading. Sat in the darkened cabin of a Jumbo-jet, returning from a business trip in Hong Kong, my reading light blazed, a beacon in the darkness alongside a few flickering entertainment screens, and I read Lucas from cover to cover in one sitting. We all recognise this breathless scene and wish it for our kids – a story so compelling that, once started, it is impossible to put down and, when it is over, a story that stays spinning inside one’s head for days afterwards. The Sunday Times wrote this of Lucas: “It gets to you. Then when this has passed, you want to tell everyone how good it is.” That’s it – exactly!

Since the publication of Lucas in 2004, Brooks has delivered his work at breathtaking speed and regularity. Of particular note is Candy, an unusual and brave story about Joe and his obsession with a young prostitute. This is a taut thriller with Brooks’ trademark shattering climax, the story that, the Guardian newspaper notes, “doesn't offer easy solutions, but its implicit, carefully understated morality will exert a powerful influence over the book's teenage readers.” And Kissing the Rain, the story of Moo Nelson, an overweight kid, bullied at school, who retreats to his bridge where he can watch the cars go past and think. Until, one day he sees a murder… The book is told in a quirky style, using Moo’s unique way of speaking and framing events.

What set me off to write this blog was buying The Road of the Dead today. Again, it is not an easy subject and the book blurb hints at its darkness: Late one night, two brothers learn that their sister has died in the worst way imaginable. She’s found, strangled, in a desolate place hundreds of miles from their East London home... I would hope to know a bit of what is to come from this synopsis until I read a bit further and find that one of the brothers is telepathic…

I did warn you didn’t I? Brooks’ stories do not come for free, investment is required, and with it the requirement to leave preconceptions at the door. Philip Ardagh, writing in The Guardian says this: “When I finished The Road of the Dead, I felt that I, too, had been on a journey. It was no walk in the park but I was very glad I’d been.” And that’s pretty much how I feel about Brooks’ stories. Kids and prostitutes? Kids and murders? Kids and sex? Surely we are in the land of taboo. But are we really? Go see for yourself. Don’t worry if you hate these books, at least you tried, but – and here is the wonder of literature - you and your kids, in whatever form they’re yours, may find yourself loving them too. Start with Lucas.

Martyn Pig (2003)
Lucas (2004)
Kissing the Rain (2005)
Candy (2006)
The Road of the Dead (2007)
Being (2007)

Author details here:,%20Kevin&btype=fiction11

Mark Scott resides in Sheffield, England. His day job is I.T. specialist, his soul work is writing. He regularly attended Children's Literature New England, and like many participants contributed a great deal to the symposium's success by his active involvement and participation. Thank you Mark!
M.T. Anderson brings to our attention:

U.S., Britain
fare poorly in children survey
UNICEF ranks the well-being of youngsters in 21 developed countries.

From the Los Angeles Times:
The U.S. was at the bottom of the list in health and safety, mostly because of high rates of child mortality and accidental deaths. It was next to last in family and peer relationships and risk-taking behavior. The U.S. has the highest proportion of children living in single-family homes, which the study defined as an indicator for increased risk of poverty and poor health, though it "may seem unfair and insensitive," it says. The U.S., which ranked 17th in the percentage of children who live in relative poverty, was also close to last when it comes to children eating and talking frequently with their families.

Britain had the highest rate of children involved in activities that endangered their welfare: 31% of those studied said they had been drunk at least twice by the age of 15 (compared with 11.6% for the United States), and 38% had had sexual intercourse by that age (statistics unavailable for the U.S.). Canada had the highest rate of children who had smoked marijuana by age 15 — 40.4% (compared with 31.4% in the U.S.). Japan ranked the worst on "subjective well-being," with 30% of children agreeing with the statement "I am lonely" — three times higher than the next-highest-scoring country.

Read more at:,0,5374235.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Activist Alert!
Only 35 percent of 12th graders are proficient in reading.

This morning The New York Times wrote an editorial related to the latest test results published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress-commonly referred to as the national report card. It is interesting that every major newspaper in the country published these results in the front pages of the paper, but few national news broadcasts covered the story. The findings, as noted in previous NCBLA blog posts, are dismal. Twelfth graders are not only performing worse in reading than twelfth graders did in 1992, but reading performance has been distressingly flat since 2002.

This information provides an opportunity for all of us who care about kids, reading, education, books, and libraries- an opportunity to say to those who are in a position of power and influence in the media and the government, “WE CARE! DO SOMETHING!”

Right now our nation is perched at the precipice of change. Legislators and leaders in both parties are worried about the next election; very few can assume votes. In other words, power has shifted to the voter, the individual citizen- us!

If you care about young people, if you care about education, literacy, writing, literature, libraries, and the arts, if you care about the direction we are headed nationally, now is the time to contact the media, write to your legislators and tell them what you think, how you feel. Do you think educational issues should be a top priority on our national agenda along with health care and the environment? H0w do you feel about the Leave No Child Behind Act? Should our nation’s libraries get increased funding on a state, national and local level?

Isn’t it time that we stop focusing on one age of child development – like preschool education, high school illiteracy, etc., and take a holistic approach to educational reform? As the parent of three kids, now grown to young adulthood, I would never state that one stage of their development was of any more importance than another. All parents have to be concerned and caring through every age of their child's development, constantly vigilant. Physicians and healthy care providers do not treat any one age as more important in either preventative measures or ongoing treatments.

We have learned from studying our global environment that what happens in any one place on the planet influences the rest of the ecosystem and that is true of education, too. We can no longer focus only on reforming preschool education as we did a few years back, or middle grade education- it is time we take a much broader look, a lifelong look at educational reform in this country and ask some huge questions.

In an age when the average person will not only have 3-5 job changes, but 3-5 career changes, isn’t it time that we expand educational avenues rethinking arbitrary distinctions of age and grade levels and address lifelong education in a serious and committed manner? Shouldn't we have an educational system that meets the needs of all citizens from birth to old age? Shouldn't libraries be an equal partner in our educational system? Public libraries are the only place that anyone in this country can education him or herself throughout life; libraries are also the hub of every community in our nation.

Business and corporate America constantly complain about our nation's schools, but no one wants to spend the money it will take to create a first class educational system. Many people in this nation believe that putting major funding into education is not the answer, yet would any major corporation say that an influx of new capital into their business is a bad thing? We live in the most capitalist society on the planet; in our culture money talks, money reveals priorities. Any assessment of our nation’s priority yardstick reveals that education and kids are not a high priority- not even close. The amount of the federal dollar that goes into education is less than a penny. We say kids and education are important, but when it comes time to putting our money where our mouths are, our lips are sealed shut.

Charter schools and vouchers are inadequate band-aids on a system in which every major blood vessel and organ is hemorrhaging. We need to make a response to this national emergency on a grand scale, to question and rethink, and build our educational structure from the ground up.

Sometimes a barn can be rebuilt, but sometimes the roof has too many holes, the framing is too worm-eaten, the foundation is crumbling, and you just have to take it down and build anew. And when you have a barn raising you bring in the whole community. And we need to do that, too. We need to bring in teachers, administrators, and academics, but we also need to bring in parents, and grandparents, sociologists and health specialists, artists and creative thinkers, business people, union people-representatives from all walks of life because schools and libraries touch each and everyone of us, often every day. In America, schools and libraries are part of every person's past, and they are the real institutions that will determine all of our futures.

Please take the time to write to the media and your local, state, and national government legislators and officials. Write a personal note on a piece of paper- for that piece of paper will have far more impact than an email or phone call. And yes, if there is pending legislation or time is a problem, email and phone calls are best. But right now, when you have some time and a little leeway- writing a short, clear, concise letter can make you a powerful agent of change. Write and tell these people in power what you think and how you feel, and tell them to act. Tell them you will withhold your vote, your dollar, and in the case of the media, your viewer or readership if they do not cover the issues you care about.

And throw you cynicism out the window. You are a free citizen in a democracy; you have extraordinary power, especially if you work with others and raise your voices together. Change is not the exception; it is the norm. And things can change for good. In this country child labor is practically nonexistent. Civil rights for all citizens are not only a legal reality; every day civil rights are more and more a social reality. There is a huge difference in the limited opportunities that our mothers had compared to the wide opportunities that our daughters have now. There may be people who are hungry in America, but no one is starving to death. Change is inevitable, and in America each of us can become a powerful agent of change. Each of us can also choose to sit back, watch, and complain. And instead of shaping that inevitable change in a positive direction for ourselves and our children your choice of complacency will allow others-- others who may not have all of our interests at heart--to take over and enact change that promotes their self-interest. We will then suffer the deadly repercussions of our inaction, as will our children.

Write that letter now, today!
If you need help finding contact information for your local, state, and national legislators go to the activist basic pages on the NCBLA website at:

Write letters and email your local newspapers and television stations and bombard national media outlets. And if you live outside of New York and write to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, or any media outlet that has more of a national profile, your chances of being heard and getting published go up if you live outside of New York.

Thank You!
Great Books for Boys in the News!

Today, in the Living Arts section of The Boston Globe, David Mehegan writes about the challenge of getting boys to read and introduces Peggy Hogan and Steven Hil, cofounders of Flying Point Press, which publishes nonfiction books for boys ages 10 to 15.

Mehegan writes interesting feature stories about literature and publishing on a regular basis for The Globe. Importantly, those articles appear in the Style/Living Arts section and so reach a far broader audience than if they were published in the Sunday book pages of the paper. Anytime anyone in the media gets literary, literacy, and/or library information "beyond the choir," we should applaud their efforts. So hurrah David Mehegen! Hurrah Boston Globe!

To read Mr. Mehegan's article on books for boys go to:
To read more about great books for boys go to:
And go to Jon Scieszka's Guys Read website at:

Monday, February 26, 2007

In case you missed it...
Bill Gates writes about innovation, education, and how to keep America competitive.
from The Washington Post

Mr. Gates writes that "Innovation is the source of U.S. economic leadership and the foundation for our competitiveness in the global economy. ....
But our status as the world's center for new ideas cannot be taken for granted. Other governments are waking up to the vital role innovation plays in competitiveness....if we are to remain competitive, we need a workforce that consists of the world's brightest minds."

He goes on to say that,"Two steps are critical. First, we must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy. We must also make it easier for foreign-born scientists and engineers to work for U.S. companies."

Yes to all of the above Mr. Gates, but literacy comes first, before numeracy, before critical thinking. And innovation demands both critical and creative thinking skills, skills fostered by studying, understanding, and analyzing literature, music,and the arts. To be able to think critically and creatively, to become an innovator, one must have time to absorb, reflect, and play--that kind of time is now rare in young people's lives both in home and at school.
For more go to:

The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum:
A Great Place to Stop, Look, and Enjoy

Besides the excellent Saul Steinberg illustration exhibit that runs through March 4th, the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum has two shows of great interesting running now through April.

Private Treasures: Four Centuries of European Master Drawings is a must see for anyone who feels that the raw power of drawing reveals far more the artist's heart and mind than layers of paint.

And for all bibliophiles and anyone that thinks that mass marketing is a function only of our contemporary culture, explore Victorian Bestsellers and see original manuscripts, first editions, illustrated editions, and rare printed ephemera, all drawn largely from the Morgan's renowned literary collections.

Somewhat overshadowed by larger institutions, the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum is sometimes undiscovered by visitors to New York City. Designed by Charles McKim, the museum is a rare treat and a special destination for those who love drawings, prints, literature, and history. It is also a great place to enjoyably interrupt a hectic day of business or sight seeing. For directions and information go to:
Newsweek Magazine:
Social Predisposition and Exclusion?
When do children begin to reject other children? What can parents do about it?

Newsweek's Anna Kuchment interviews Professor Melanie Killen, associate director of the Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture at the University of Maryland concerning children's inclusion and exclusion of others. The interview is interesting but leaves one wanting more information. Go to:
The New York Public Library's Digital Collection:
Fabulous Website for Kids and Adults Alike!

The New York Public Library's Digital Collection provides great research materials as well as hours of serendipitous discovery. The collection is far ranging including every topic you can think of from science and technology to arts and culture. The visual materials are enticing; you will lose track of the world while exploring the site. The home page is at:

And you will want to explore all the subsections, most especially the digital galleries at:

As well at the collection description page at:

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More on The Higher Power of Lucky on NPR's Weekend America...
Weekend America's Julia Barton talks with some kids to hear their thoughts on the controversy.
Happy 10th Anniversary Read Across America!

This year the National Education Association's annual
Read Across America Day is March 2. The RAA website offers: suggestions and reading lists for parents; resources for educators and ideas for reading events and activities; and an on-line tool kit. It is not too late to plan a Read Across America mini-event or celebration! For information go to:
Quotes of Note....

The dragon is the stranger, the other, the non-human:
a wild spirit, dangerous, winged, which escapes
and destroys the artificial order of oppression.
The dragon is the familiar also, our own imagining,
a speaking spirit, wise, winged,
which imagines a new order of freedom.
The child who is in our care,
the child we have betrayed, is our guide.
She leads us to the dragon.
She is the dragon.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Children's Literature New England Symposium 1992

Years ago I used to admonish parents
who revered facts over fancy,
“it takes a certain elasticity of mind to comprehend a dragon."
Ethel Heins
Children's Literature New England Symposium 1989
Parents and Teachers!

Need suggestions for great young people's websites that are informative, educational, and enjoyable? Visit the American Library Association's Great Websites for Kids page at:

Friday, February 23, 2007


Susan Cooper and Katherine Paterson received standing ovations at the recent Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators national midwinter conference in New York. The NCBLA is pleased to be able to share an excerpt of Susan Cooper's speech with you.

"... when children ask me for tips on writing, here is what I say to them: “Read, read, read. Anything and everything, but specially the things your teachers and librarians suggest. The rhythms and patterns of the stories you read will go down into your subconscious and help you to write – and though you may not believe this, you’ll never again have so much time for reading as you have now.”

I mean what I say, about the rhythms of good prose soaking into them. Sometimes I add that the major influences on my own prose were Shakespeare, Dickens and the King James Bible, and the kids look at me with horror and dismay. ( What? Who? King James - he’s a rapper?.... gospel singer? )Above all, though, I am urging them to read for the sake of their imaginations. Especially children who want to write. In this age of the screen and the instant message, the imagination is at risk; like a muscle, it can’t develop without being exercised, and exercise takes time and effort. Reading requires that, and provides it; watching images flash by on a screen does not. On my car I have a bumper sticker, even though they aren’t fashionable these days. My daughter gave it to me one Christmas, because she knows me so well. It says FIGHT PRIME TIME - READ A BOOK."

Fore more information about SCBWI go to:
Children's Literature Conference at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, March 31st!

Professor Masha Rudman welcomes speakers: E.B. Lewis, Julius Lester, Jane Yolen, Patty MacLachlan, Liza Ketchum, Yetti Frenkel, Ellen Levine, Richard Michelson, Heidi Stemple, and Patricia Lee Gauch to the annual Perspectives in Children's Literature Conference at U Mass Amherst. It is a wonderful conference for teachers, librarians, parents, and all who cherish literature.
For information call 413-545-4190 or 413-545-1116; email
And go to the website at:
We're sleeping through a crisis!
Dismal reading scores for High School Students

From The Boston Globe:
"I think we are sleeping through a crisis." said David P. Driscoll, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, during a Washington news conference convened by the Department of Education. He called the study results "stunning."

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said he found the results "dismal." After years of reforms aimed primarily at elementary schools, Fuller said, the studies "certainly support shining the spotlight on the high school as a priority for reform efforts."

The reports summarized two major government efforts to measure the performance of high school seniors as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. One was a standardized test of seniors conducted in 2005. The other was an analysis of the transcripts of students who graduated from high school that year.

The transcript study showed that, compared with students in similar studies going back to 1990, the 2005 graduates had racked up more high school credits, had taken more college preparatory classes, and had strikingly higher grade point averages. The average GPA rose from 2.68 in 1990 to 2.98 -- close to a solid B -- in 2005. That was the good news -- or so it seemed. But the standardized test results showed that 12th-grade reading scores have generally been dropping since 1992, casting doubt on what students are learning in those college prep classes.

The reports also showed that the gap separating white and black and white and Hispanic students has barely budged since the early 1990s. And while the results were not broken down by state, a broad regional breakdown showed that the West and Southeast lagged well behind the Midwest and, to a lesser extent, the Northeast.

David Gordon, superintendent of schools in Sacramento County and a participant in the Department of Education news conference, said he found it especially disturbing that the studies focused on "our best students," those who had made it to the 12th grade or who had graduated.

Go to:

And more at:,1,1407397.story
And see previous posts for more on this crisis.
Great Website!
Check Out the U.K.'s Guardian Children's Book Pages!

The Guardian has a great children's book section which features interviews, articles, reviews, wonderful book illustrations, and has a great "backlist" of helpful information for parents and teachers. Check it out!
Go to:,,95692,00.html
February is Black History Month
Family Field Trip to "African Vision" at the African Art Museum, the Smithsonian,Washington, DC

Since 1984 the Disney-Tisch collection of African art has been locked away in a climate controlled warehouse. Rarely seen, it is now on display at the National Museum of African Art in Washington and will fascinate children and adults alike.

Discover a mask from Cameroon, its full beard made from spider web silk; a guardian figure from Gabon which curators found had a surprise face on its back; five masks from Nigeria and Cameroon constructed from antelope skin; rare sculpture and items from 75 different cultures and 20 countries.

If you live in the DC area, or plan to visit, be sure and check out this fascinating exhibit at the National Museum of African Art Museum in the Smithsonian. If you cannot attend in person, you can visit the collection online and get more information at:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More on High School Reading Scores Dropping in The New York Times at:

See earlier post for more in USA TODAY.
Lynda Johnson Robb, literacy and children's book advocate, shares this posting!

Check Out the Auction to Support the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature!

The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) is a non-profit organization celebrating its 1oth Anniversary promoting the art of children's books. NCCIL provides recognition of the artistic achievements of illustrators and gallery exhibitions of their works. Additionally, the NCCIL designs educational programming that relates to illustrations in children's literature in order to stimulate creativity, promote literacy and to increase appreciation for art.

NCCIL website:

NCCIL Anniversary Auction website:
M.T. Anderson brings to our attention...
High School reading skills have worsened since 1992.

"U.S. high school seniors are taking more challenging coursework and earning higher grades than ever, but their reading skills have actually worsened since 1992, data released Thursday by the U.S. Education Department suggest....

The average high school senior doesn't read as well as in 1992, the first year the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was given to 12th-graders. In 2005, 35% of students scored "proficient" or better, down from 40% in 1992. Reading at a "proficient" level means students can make critical judgments, and read at a more sophisticated level, describing for instance, how two editorials argue different viewpoints. "Basic" means students can read and retrieve information from a document and recognize a sequence of plot elements."
Read more in USA TODAY at:
From Carol Rasco, President and CEO
of Reading is Fundamental....

The Reading Is Fundamental Board of Directors and I are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Gabrielle Elena Miller as the Vice President of Education and Literacy Programs at Reading Is Fundamental. Gabrielle came to RIF after 14 years at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore where most recently she served as the Assistant Vice President, Education Programs. She also jointly served at The Johns Hopkins University School of Professional Studies in Business and Education for the last 11 years where she most recently held the rank of Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education. Gabrielle holds a B.S. in Elementary/Special Education from the University of Delaware, a M.S. and an Ed.D., both from The Johns Hopkins University with a major in Special Education (Mild and Moderate Disabilities) and a minor in Education Administration.
For more information about RIF, visit their great web site at:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Cleveland Plain Dealer:
One Word Ignites Some Librarians' Ire

From the heartland, Connie Schultz, Plain Dealer columnist, comments on the recent controversy over Susan Patron's Newbery Award winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky. Go to:
NCBLA's Katherine Paterson Interviewed on
All Things Considered!

NCBLA vice-president Katherine Paterson and her son David Paterson were interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered this past weekend talking about Katherine’s book Bridge to Terabithia, as well as other topics including the meaning of literature in children’s lives and censorship issues. If you missed it, you can hear it now at:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Scrotum Controversy!

Whoever thought the NCBLA would be addressing a turmoil about scrotums? That is to say, one scrotum: that of a dog named Roy bitten by a rattlesnake. On the first page of this year's Newbery Award winning book The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, one of the characters talks about his dog and the exact place where the unlucky dog has been bitten- his scrotum!

Apparently this poor dog's scrotum not only has to survive a nasty rattlesnake bite, it must now survive national attention the likes of which the children's book world has not seen since Maurice Sendak's Mickey from In the Night Kitchen- stark naked, with his little penis in full view--cried, "Cock-a-Doodle Doo!" waking up anxious adults all over America.

As the daughter of a surgeon who was raised from birth to use words like bowel movement, urinary tract, vagina, and colon I applaud the use of correct anatomical vocabulary wherever it appears. As an advocate of reading rights for children, as well as the first amendment, I actively work against censorship. As do all the authors and illustrators of National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance: M. T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Susan Cooper, Steven Kellogg, David Macaulay, Patricia MacLachlan, Fredrick McKissack, Patricia McKissack, Gregory Maguire, and Katherine Paterson.

In fact, we feel so strongly about a child's right to read, that together we wrote a statement addressing reading rights.

"The NCBLA believes that every person has the right to read. In a free society, this includes the right to choose what one shall read.

Parents, as the primary educators of their own children, have the responsibility of ensuring that their children learn to read and of guiding them in their selection of reading materials. We recognize that there will be occasions when conscientious parents will find certain books and/or materials inappropriate for their children. We acknowledge the right of parents to restrict materials they deem objectionable, and, in the case of school assignments, to ask for alternate reading for their children, but we believe this right carries with it the obligation to respect the right of other persons to make different choices for their own children and themselves."

The key word here is choice, and choice means that there must be many different kinds of books, fiction and nonfiction, on library shelves, for all kinds of kids with differing interests, needs, and backgrounds.

Those who have tried to remove The Higher Power of Lucky from view have accomplished the opposite.Thousands of kids who might never have given the book a glance are now going to devour it from cover to cover.

The NCBLA supports Susan Patron and congratulates her on her Newbery Award winning book. We stand with all librarians who believe that children and their families should have a multitude of book choices. We also stand with all parents who take care to be involved with their children, helping them to make the book choices that are right for them and their families. We believe all children and their parents have the right to choose. We urge everyone who agrees with our reading rights statement to request that all school and public libraries place The Higher Power of Lucky on their shelves, so that any child who wants to read it is free to do so.

For more information on children's reading rights and banned books, go to this page on the NCBLA website:

For more information concerning challenges to The Higher Power of Lucky go to this article in the New York Times:

Or go to the Publisher's Weekly webstite at:

And read NCBLA vice-president Katherine Paterson's views on censorship at:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

M.T. Anderson calls to our attention:
The 2006 Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards

The Cybils, a loose acronym for Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards, recognize both a book's merits and popularity. "In keeping with the democratic and unpredictable nature of the blogosphere, anybody can nominate a book, so long as it was published in 2006 in English. Yep, anybody: teens can log their choices, authors can nominate themselves, random Googlers can leave word too."
For a list of this year's winners and nominees got to:

For Parents and Teachers

Remember Jennie the Cat?

I reveal my old age sharing that I discovered Esther Averill's wonderful stories of Jenny the Cat while watching Weston Wood's films on CBS's old children's show, Captain Kangaroo. (Do you think that Ken Burns could have learned his filming techniques from watching Weston Woods films?)

After years of searching for Averill's books, I finally found them at The New York Review of Books Children's Collection. The collection has a number of Averill's books, including Jenny's Moonlight Adventure and Jenny's Birthday Party, as well as a number of old favorites which kids today will love. Also look into:

Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf, illustrations by Robert Lawson
Mistess Masham's Repose by T.H. White
D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale
The Little Book Room by Eleanor Farjeon, illustrations by Edward Ardizzone
and many more well loved favorites at:


Katherine Paterson shares the following quote-
From Bill Moyers: Discovering what Democracy Means 2/12/07

The Hebrew prophet was another kind of public intellectual, one who was also condemned and persecuted by the political elites he addressed. A century before Socrates, one of those prophets—Jeremiah—came from a small village into Jerusalem to preach repentance to a faithless Israel, with its houses full of treachery, and its rich kings and princes who gave no justice to the poor widow and the fatherless child. And of course, near the end of his life, Jesus of Nazareth also went to Jerusalem, to preach the same message in an even more dangerous public way, confronting the ruling elites before great crowds on the Temple grounds. When he predicted their imminent destruction in his parable about the wicked tenants who hoarded the fruits of creation, his fate was sealed.

Jesus would not be crucified today. The prophets would not be stoned. Socrates would not drink the hemlock. They would instead be banned from the Sunday talk shows and op-ed pages by the sentries of establishment thinking who guard against dissent with the one weapon of mass destruction most cleverly designed to obliterate democracy—the rubber stamp.

A stock broker who makes bad picks doesn’t last too long. A baseball player in an extended slump gets traded. A worker made redundant by cheaper labor abroad or by a new machine—well, she’s done for, too. But four years after the invasion of Iraq—the greatest blunder in foreign policy since Vietnam—the public apologists and advocates of the war flourish in the media, while the costs of their delusions accrue in body counts and lost treasure. A public that detests the war is relegated to the bleachers, fated to watch from afar the playing out by political and media elites of a game that has been rigged.


Great Website for Parents and Teachers!

The Reading Rockets website-- --offers great information for parents and teachers of young children to help kids learn to read and read well.

And be sure to check out children's literature expert and librarian Maria Salvadore's great blog, Page by Page, where she explores "the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom!" Maria's blog is at:

Article of Interest

Yesterday new documents were released revealing Otto Frank’s thwarted efforts to transport his family from Amsterdam to America, where they would be safe from Nazi persecution. For more information-- which adds yet another layer to this tragic story-- go to:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


February is Valentine's Day and Black History Month!

"…. art knows no boundaries…anything you love in art you can make your own. Marian Anderson, learning the classical songs of the world, learned them and sang them—'You must first possess a song yourself before you can give it to another'—and her singing of German lieder in German was loved. It’s the same with Black classical singers today. They do not think: I’m not German or I’m not White or I’m not Italian. They give themselves to the music, and they find a way to offer it to others. And that’s what I ask of you—in your own style, with your own voice, and with your own kind of rhythm. Everyone comes from a heritage that is unique and special." Ashley Bryan

For more about incredible children's book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, got to:
Valentine's Day- a poem, and a picture, to keep us focused on the real

Hearing that his Friend was Coming Back from the War
by Wang Chien, Chinese, 756-835 AD
In old days those who went to fight
In three years had one year’s leave.
But in this war the soldiers are never changed;
They must go on fighting till they die on the battlefield.
I thought of you, so weak and indolent,
Hopelessly trying to learn to march and drill.
That a young man should ever come home again
Seemed about as likely as that the sky should fall.
Since I got the news that you were coming back,
Twice I have mounted to the high wall of your home.
I found your brother mending your horse’s stall;
I found your mother sewing your new clothes.
I am half afraid; perhaps it is not true;
Yet I never weary of watching for you on the road.
Each day I go out at the City Gate
With a flask of wine, lest you should come thirsty.
Oh that I could shrink the surface of the World,
So that suddenly I might find you standing at my side!

Go to:]?rss


PLEASE----Just One More Book

"Powered by passion" the Just One More Book site hosts thrice-weekly broadcast discussions of children's books as well as author/illustrator interviews and more. Check it out at:

Monday, February 12, 2007

Readers! Writers! Teachers! Librarians! Literature Aficionados! COME TO "THE GATHERING IN THE WOODS"

Incredible Literary Conference!
This Hot Summer, Gather Under a Starry Night in the Cool Mountains of Pennsylvania

The Gathering, a literary conference for readers, writers, thinkers – anyone who loves literature – is open for registration. The dates are July 26-29, 2007, at Keystone College in the Endless Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. This theme-based event features core lectures, author/speakers, workshops, panels, and discussion groups. The theme is “Starry Night,” in which participants will contemplate the heavenly bodies and the natural world as the setting for literary imagination. Speakers include Katherine Paterson, Francine Prose, Carlos Eire, and poet Molly Peacock. Some special events are planned, including an evening of stargazing at Keystone’s Cupillari Observatory. Visit The Gathering Website: Request a brochure, ask questions, or register online.


"Democracy assumes the protection of the values that contemplative reading makes possible."
James Carroll

Don't miss James Carroll's provocative lead op/ed piece in this morning's Boston Globe at:

He notes that historically, when vast number of people were illiterate, reading was a group and/or public activity; most people needed someone educated to read stories aloud and disseminate information. At some point, people became literate and could not only read individually to themselves, eventually they read silently without moving their lips when reading.

"This marked a move away from authoritarian literalism to the imaginative autonomy of the intelligent reader. Here is the most important implication of reading as a wholly interior act: To perceive is to interpret. Truth has no meaning apart from its meaning in the reader's mind. Silent reading is thus both the sign of and a means to self-awareness, with the knower taking responsibility for what is known.

This inescapable individualism is the bedrock principle of democracy, a form of social organization that became possible only when contemplative reading was widely enabled by the mass production of the printing press, and the popular education that followed. .... But democracy assumes the protection of the values that contemplative reading makes possible -- the self-awareness of citizens, their privacy, their capacity for willed interiority. Only because of such reading is each one a center of knowing, thinking, choosing, and acting. But what happens to consciousness when such values are put at risk?"

What happens indeed? That is one of the questions the NCBLA hopes to address at its national summit Democracy @ Risk to be held at the Library of Congress, spring 2008. For more information go to:


What could be better than to hear favorite poets reading their work aloud!?

Their words, their voices--Lord Tennyson, Seamus Heaney, Ogden Nash, Derek Walcott, Sylvia Plath, Wendy Cope, Stevie Smith and more.... all reading their work aloud. Go to:
And share these recordings with friends and colleagues!

Friday, February 9, 2007



Elizabeth Mastern Hammell, Mount Holyoke College '65, and her colleague Mary Briggs, raised over 6 million pounds to create Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books transforming an old mill into a national gallery for children's literature in northern England. Check out their great website and collection online at: and visit their galleries when you travel to the U.K.


Encourage Kids to Read the Book
Before Seeing the Movie!

The movie Bridge to Terabithia premiers next week. Though the promotional advertising may lead one to think otherwise, many librarians at ALA's mid-winter meeting felt that the film, based on NCBLA's vice-president Katherine Paterson's Newbery Award winning novel of the same name, is not only wonderful, it is true to the heart and the soul of the book. Much of the credit for this goes to David Paterson, the gifted writer who wrote the screenplay. For a preview, read an informative review at:

Even though this visual interpretation is by all accounts highly successful, the NCBLA encourages parents to read the novel, Bridge to Terabithia, aloud to your children before seeing the movie. There is very little on television in the early evening that is appropriate or of interest to kids. Reading novels aloud, chapter by chapter before bedtime, is both relaxing and enjoyable for the entire family. When your children experience a story first in book form, they use their minds, their imaginations, to create their own pictures of characters, settings, and action. Seeing a movie before reading the book robs your child of that incredible opportunity because once your child sees the film, images supplied by the director of the movie will be burned into his or her brain.

So read Bridge to Terabithia aloud together, as a family, before you see the movie. It is an experience that you and your children will remember and cherish forever.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


In Five Years The New York Times will be Published Solely in an Electronic Format

For details go to:
As advocates who link literacy, critical thinking, and universal information access to responsibility citizenship in a democracy we must pose a few questions:
Will newspapers going totally electronic increase readership?
What happens to members of our society, young and old, who do not have electronic access to print information?
Libraries are the only place that all of our citizens have free access to the Internet. Will they be able to fulfill that need as it grows on current local, state, and federal funding?
Do we- young and old-digest, internalize, and assess informational text on an electronic screen in the same way that we digest traditional printed information?
Will information sources become even more consolidated, giving us fewer viewpoints?
How will this affect the continuing education of all our citizens? How will this effect the decisions and actions we make and take as individuals and as a nation?

What Will Happen to Harry Potter?
If you are wondering what will happen to Harry Potter in the final Rowling novel... go to

Will Harry find and destroy all of Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes? Is Dumbledore really dead and if so, did Snape murder him as a part of Dumbledore’s or Voldemort's larger plan? Will Harry survive and become the Dark Arts professor at Hogwart’s? Will Hermione and Ron become an item? Did Sirius's brother take the horcrux necklace?
For more on this website go to:

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Listen Up!

In case you missed it, you can go to NPR's website and listen to NCBLA Board Member M.T.-Tobin--Anderson's interview concerning his National Book Award winning novel The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume I, the Pox Party.
Find it at-
Thanks and a hat tip to M.Kemper for informing us!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Tom Feelings, at The Center for the Study of Children's Literature, Simmons College, 1980
"Black artists, going into any art form, including book illustration…give to that art form a humanism that is sometimes exactly the opposite of Western society’s pessimistic and cynical attitude. The attitude is based on the belief that it is impossible for any individual or the group to change for the better, that all men are inherently greedy, self-centered, and in constant battle to conquer each other or nature. For the most part I believe that our ability to endure and survive with dignity the worst kind of anti-human oppression in American history points to the fact that all human beings can hold on to their souls, through anything, and therefore can change themselves and the society they live in for the better."

Jill Paton Walsh, Children's Literature New England, 1995

"Perhaps the most famous, and most troubling, question ever asked was asked by Pilate of Jesus. 'What is truth?' he asked."

Tom Feelings, Children's Literature New England, 1990
"Will we learn from our past? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes? Not if we begin telling all the children the truth about this big house—this building we all live in, called the United States of America. Tell them about the climate, the atmosphere, the environment it was built on—who it was taken away from. Tell them about the true conditions those great documents of freedom were created under. Tell them the truth about the men who wrote them. Tell them all of it."


Gone Blogging!

Eisha and Jules publish a very interesting blog about children’s books, Seven Interesting Things Before Breakfast at:
We discovered their blog after reading The Horn Book’s Roger Sutton’s great blog at
So thanks Roger!

We asked Eisha and Jules if they could recommend other blogs that may be of interest to NCBLA readers. Here is their best blog lis and have fun checking these sites out:

Fuse #8:

Big A little a:


Chicken Spaghetti:

The Excelsior File:

The Blue Rose Girls:

Proper Noun:

Jen Robinson's Book Page:

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy:

The Brookeshelf: