Monday, April 27, 2009

ALAN Workshop Scheduled for November

''Scattering Light'' on our Freedom to Think, See, Imagine

The Assembly of Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) has announced that its 2009 annual workshop will focus on freedom of expression in young adult literature in the 21st century. The workshop will be held November 23-24 in Philadelphia.

Presenters will include a full panel of YA authors and top educators who use YA literature in their classrooms. Keynote speakers will include Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and the more recent A Lion Among Men, and Louanne Johnson, author of Dangerous Minds and The Queen of Education.

ALAN is an independent assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English. Founded in November 1973, ALAN is made up of teachers, authors, librarians, publishers, teacher-educators and their students, and others who are particularly interested in the area of young adult literature. Learn more on their website.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

River of Words Announces Contest Winners

Students Awarded in Four Categories of Poetry Competition
The California-based nonprofit literacy organization River of Words recently announced the winners of its 14th annual environmental poetry and art contest. The contest is the largest youth poetry competition in the world and is conducted in part with The Library of Congress Center for the Book.
River of Words seeks to improve children's literacy and cognitive skills through innovative projects that incorporate observation-based nature exploration, art, and poetry.
You can read the complete list of winners on the River of Words Press Release.

Samples of this year's winners' work is not yet available online. However, you can view artwork from previous years' contest winners on the online Art Gallery, and read poetry from previous years' contest winners on the online Poetry Gallery.

Friday, April 24, 2009

In Case You Missed It!

Will E-Books and a Growing E-Book Culture Change How We Read and Write? How We Think?

"As a result, I fear that one of the great joys of book reading -- the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author's ideas -- will be compromised. We all may read books the way we increasingly read magazines and newspapers: a little bit here, a little bit there."

"As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore. Reading books will go from being a fundamentally private activity -- a direct exchange between author and reader -- to a community event, with every isolated paragraph the launching pad for a conversation with strangers around the world."

"In other words, an infinite bookstore at your fingertips is great news for book sales, and may be great news for the dissemination of knowledge, but not necessarily so great for that most finite of 21st-century resources: attention.

Because they have been largely walled off from the world of hypertext, print books have remained a kind of game preserve for the endangered species of linear, deep-focus reading. Online, you can click happily from blog post to email thread to online New Yorker article -- sampling, commenting and forwarding as you go. But when you sit down with an old-fashioned book in your hand, the medium works naturally against such distractions; it compels you to follow the thread, to stay engaged with a single narrative or argument."

From: "How E-Books Will Change the Way We Read and Write" by Steven Johnson, The Wall Street Journal

Read more at:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chicago: Children's Literature Event featuring James Ransome and NCBLA President Mary Brigid Barrett

The Butler Children's Center at Dominican University's Graduate School of Library and Information Science
Invites You to Join
James Ransome and
Mary Brigid Barrett Celebrating the Lincoln Bicentennial!

Thursday, April 30, 2009, from 7-9 pm Dominican University's new Butler Children's Literature Center invites you to join them as they use children's and young adult literature to honor the 200th anniversary of one of our most well-known presidents and favorite son of Illinois! Featured presenters include James E. Ransome, the multiple award-winning author and illustrator and one of the Children's Book Council's "seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know," and Mary Brigid Barrett, President and Executive Director of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and lead creator of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.

The Butler Children's Literature Center is located on the main campus of
Dominican University at the

Crown Library 300
7900 West Division Street
River Forest, IL 60305

For more information go to:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Voices from Our White House: Mark London Williams

Williams Answers Questions About "Escape Map"

Welcome back to the NCBLA blog's new weekly feature, Voices from Our White House, a series of interviews with some of the talented contributors to the art and literary anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, conducted by NCBLA high school intern Colleen Damerell.

Our White House was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance. A collaborative effort by over 100 authors and illustrators, the book is the product of a desire to encourage young people to learn and read about American heritage. For more information, please visit and

This week we feature Mark London Williams, a journalist and author of the Danger Boy series. His piece in Our White House, entitled "Escape Map," is about growing up during the Cold War. Here's an excerpt:

Back in the '60s, we were so afraid of this "blowing up" that I drew an escape map on my bedroom wall. The map included our house, our neighbors' house, and my grandma's house, too, which seemed the best place to escape to. In those days, her home was on the edge of town, and I guess I thought I'd be safe there.
This all happened in a time—maybe like now—when no one felt very safe. At least the grown-ups didn't, and we kids could tell. It was a time called the Cold War.
We asked Mr. Williams a few questions about his piece:

NCBLA: It must have been scary to grow up during the Cold War. I was born in 1991, the year generally marking the end of the period, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, so I don't have any memory of the Cold War era. Was it difficult writing honestly to children about war and nuclear weapons?
MLW: It's always difficult to write with absolute honesty about potential annihilation -- heck, it's sometimes hard in my "Danger Boy" time travel stories to always write an unflinching account of history, since I don't want to provoke despair. On the other hand, there are many analogous tensions now, with the "portability" of weapons of mass destruction and the ongoing uncertainties about where global violence might erupt next -- and to what degree.

NCBLA: You're probably not drawing escape maps on your walls any more, but are you still afraid that everything could blow up around you? Do you feel safer now that you're older, or does the knowledge that comes with adulthood worry you more?
MLW: One would've thought that "grown ups" might have a better handle on solving some of the world's problems. At least, that's what I hoped when I was growing up in the 60's. Of course in that era, people who proposed visionary solutions to these problems usually wound up dead, at the all-too-convenient hands of some "lone nut" or other.

America's in another thankless war, as it was then, and top of that, environmental problems have gotten worse through decades of neglect.

So despite clear progress on other fronts, there still seems to be enough to, as you starkly note, "worry" about after all!

NCBLA: What are your hopes for President Barack Obama? What does he have to watch out for to keep the country safe?
MLW: To keep the country truly safe, President Obama will have to watch out for the special interests that see their own good as more important than the country's or the world's interests. Since a lot of these interests control cash flows to political campaigns, that will require a lot of intestinal fortitude.

The president will also have to watch out for fundamentalists of every stripe who seek to impose their agendas and beliefs on people here and in places like the Middle East. When you see your reward as coming entirely in the hereafter, and the world you have now as completely expendable in getting there, you tend to make some pretty bad -- if not horrific -- decisions.

Obama will also have to act on a wide array of environmental issues, such as climate change and species extinction , as well as the alternative fuel supply and food supply questions they raise. That will mean standing up to a *lot* of special interests.

And my hope for President Obama is that he's willing to be not-well-liked in the same way another White House occupant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was when he joked to a visiting band leader of the opposite political party, "Millions of people hate my guts!"

"Change we can believe in" isn't going to be easy. But we'd best get on with it.

NCBLA: If you could have any job in the White House, what would it be?
MLW: Well, being a journalist, I would probably prefer to be communications director or press secretary! Or Secretary of the Interior, so I could propose radical and sweeping wilderness protection. I probably wouldn't last long in that job, though...

NCBLA: If you met John F. Kennedy at the "big cocktail party in the sky," as my English teacher calls it, what would you ask him?
MLW: Hmmm... Is it a 60's era cocktail party? Are members of the Rat Pack there? Is Marilyn? Are we wearing skinny ties and drinking martinis? If Sinatra's there, I might ask him if he thought supporting Nixon because he was personally mad at the Kennedys was, in retrospect, such a good idea.

As for JFK, well, the awful --yet inescapable --question would be whether he had any speculation about who authored his particular demise. I might also ask him what he thought a second term would've been like for him and whether he really was planning to disband the CIA and end the Vietnam War.
All those "what ifs" and "might have beens." In the 60's, we lived through too many of them. Which is undoubtedly part of the reason I grew up to write time travel stories -- kind of a "second chance" at history.

For more information on Mark London Williams, please read his OWH bio and visit his website.

Urgent Support Needed for Library Services and Technology Act

Ask Your Senators to Support Library and Literacy Funding

The ALA urges you to contact your senators and ask them to sign the "Dear Colleague" letter being circulated by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in support of funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program.

The deadline to sign the letter is Tuesday, May 5.

LSTA and Improving Literacy Through School Libraries are two of the most important federal programs for libraries today. Without substantial support for these programs, funds for them will most likely be cut. The letter is addressed to the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriation Subcommittees and requests that the Senate include $300 million for the LSTA and $100 million for the Improving Literary Through School Libraries program for FY 2010. Please contact your Senators and ask them to call Andrew Odgren with Senator Reed at 202-224-4642 or Mathew Hussey with Senator Snowe at 202-224-5344.

Learn more on the ALA website.

Monday, April 20, 2009

America SCORES National Poetry Slam to be Held at NY Stock Exchange

Boston Students to Compete in National Poetry Slam

Two America SCORES New England students will take the New York Stock Exchange stage to perform their original poetry at the 3rd annual America SCORES National Poetry Slam tonight! America SCORES New England is Boston’s leading after-school soccer, literacy, and service learning program, and the two chosen students will present along with students from twelve other cities across the nation.

Congratulations to rising poets, Linda Qin and Antonio Weathers! Linda, who is 11 and a student at Jackson Mann Elementary in Allston, will perform a personal poem entitled “The Second Depression,” which details her family’s struggle to survive during tough economic times. Antonio, who is 10 and a student at Lee Elementary School in Dorchester, will recite “The Way I Am,” which discusses his desire to never give up and to achieve the most he can.

America SCORES New England is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk urban youth develop life skills, literacy and health through soccer. America SCORES New England utilizes Boston Public School teachers to empower youth through the unique combination of athletics, creative writing and service learning. Please visit the America SCORES website to learn more.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Notable Blogs for Lovers of Children's Literature

Treat Yourself to Treasures of the Blogosphere

Do you ever feel as if there is more information in cyberspace than grains of sand on all the beaches of the world?! How does one sift through it all to find the worthy nuggets?
If children's literature is your passion, then relax and take a moment to review these sparkling gems of the blogosphere that we have uncovered! Overflowing with reviews, commentary, interviews, and links to many other fabulous literary resources, each blog is a must-read for teachers, librarians, and parents--anyone with a vested interest in children's literature!

The Notes from the Horn Book online newsletter bills itself as "News About Good Books for Children and Teens." April's issue focuses on books about space travel and exploration in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the first moonwalk. Featured is an interview with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Jen Robinson's Book Page "promotes the love of books by children, and the continued reading of children's books by adults." Today's edition celebrates Patriots Day...providing the opportunity for everyone who lives outside of Massachusetts to learn about this revolutionary holiday!
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast calls itself "A Blog About Books. " Today the blog features a sneak-preview of Steve Jenkins' visual feast, Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea, which will be published in May...and you can read about many other books in the archives.

Teacher and librarian Richie Partington reviews at least one book a week on his blog, Richie's Picks. He mostly recently reviewed Waiting to Score by J.E. MacLeod, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, and The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King. You might also enjoy his review of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out!
Also be sure to check out Planet Esme, which reviews a book a day in a feature titled "The Best New Children's Books from Esme's Shelf ." Today's blog entry reviews the nonfiction You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax by Jonah Winter and Andre Carrilho.

We hope you enjoy reading these fun and informative blogs!

New Visitor Center Open at Monticello

Step into the Past at the New Monticello Visitor and Education Centers

Monticello, the house that Thomas Jefferson designed and built for himself and his family, stands on a hill on the luscious grounds of the Monticello Plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia (about 125 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.). Yesterday the newly expanded Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center were celebrated with a grand opening ceremony. The new center boasts four new exhibitions, a hands-on learning room for kids, and classroom space.

Learn more about Thomas Jefferson and his home on the Monticello website. Be sure to review the section of the website titled Jefferson Today, which links what's happening today--such as piracy off the coast of Africa--to issues dealt with by Jefferson! This is an excellent resource for teachers looking to help make sense of history and modern events in the classroom.

Visiting presidential historic sites is also an excellent way to actively engage young people in American history! For an extensive field trip guide, be sure to check out Presidential Birthplaces, Houses, and Libraries on the NCBLA's website

RIF Reading Challenge Continues

Read with a Child and Help RIF Reach its Goal!

All across America adults and children are reading together...and Reading Is Fundamental is keeping track! Since April 1 of this year, RIF reading challenge participants have logged over half a million minutes in its annual reading challenge. Join the challenge to help RIF meet its goal of 5 million minutes read with kids before June 30. Participants will have the chance to win a family vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort® and more great prizes.
Learn more about the Read with Kids Challenge on the RIF website.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Champion of the First Amendment

Judith Krug, 1940-2009

In a 2002 talk, Ms. Krug explained that the role of librarians is to bring people and information together. “We do this by making sure libraries have information and ideas across the spectrum of social and political thought, so people can choose what they want to read or view or listen to. Some users find materials in their local library collection to be untrue, offensive, harmful or even dangerous. But libraries serve the information needs of all of the people in the community — not just the loudest, not just the most powerful, not even just the majority. Libraries serve everyone.”-The New York Times

Judith Krug, a founder of Banned Book Week, was a librarian from Evanston, Illinois, who had the courage not just to talk, but to act, insuring that all of our citizens, young and old, have equal and ready access to information and story. “My personal proclivities have nothing to do with how I react as a librarian,” Ms. Krug said in an interview with The New York Times in 1972. “Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom, of providing all pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself.”

To find out more about the extraordinary life work of Judith Krug, go to:

To find out more about the American Library Association's Banned Book week and how you can help, go to:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Voices from Our White House: Chris Van Dusen

Artist answers questions about "TR's Family and Friends"- an interview with Chris Van Dusen

Welcome back to the NCBLA blog's weekly feature, Voices from Our White House, a series of interviews with some of the talented contributors to the art and literary anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, conducted by NCBLA high school intern Colleen Damerell.

Our White House was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance. A collaborative effort by over 100 authors and illustrators, the book is the product of a desire to encourage young people to learn and read about American heritage. For more information, please visit and

This week we feature Chris Van Dusen, who has both written and illustrated the Mr. Magee series of books and illustrated the Mercy Watson series written by Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo. Van Dusen's newest book, The Circus Ship, will be published by Candlewick Press in September 2009.

Van Dusen's full-spread illustration in Our White House shows Theodore Roosevelt, his children, and their unusual collection of pets having a good time in the White House; it precedes "Storming Down the Stairs" by Albert Marrin, which is about the plethora of animals and children occupying the house during Roosevelt's administration.

We asked Mr. Van Dusen a few questions about his illustration:

NCBLA: Your picture depicts both the chaos and the fun of living in the White
House with so many animals and children. Did you have a lot of pets growing
up? What were their names?
CVD: I have four brothers (no sisters!) and it seems that we all had pets at
some time, but not the traditional pets you think of. My grandmother was
allergic to fur and pet dander, so we never had cats or dogs growing up.
Instead we had fish tanks and those little green turtles you used to be able
to buy at Woolworth's. At one point, my brother thought he wanted to be a
Herpetologist (that's someone who studies reptiles and amphibians) so we had
Soft-shelled Turtles, Diamond-backed Terrapins, Skinks, and a really nasty
Gecko that used to escape from his tank and hiss at us from the ceiling. It
was quite a scene! My brother didn't name any of those creatures. I guess it
just wasn't the scientific thing to do, but I do remember we had a tortoise
once named "Torty." How's that for originality!

NCBLA: Do you currently have any pets? If you could adopt any kind of animal,
what would you choose?
CVD: Currently we have one pet, a Yellow Lab named "Pearl" and that's
perfect. I wouldn't want any other pets.

NCBLA: The image is busy and brightly colored. I like that the people and
animals have light halos around their outlines which makes them "pop" off
the page-is there a word for that? Who or what influences your style?
CVD: Other people have commented on the "halos" on my work. I don't really
even think about it and as far as I know it doesn't have a name. I just do
it so certain characters or areas stand out from the background.

I've always enjoyed the illustrations of Robert McCloskey and I'm sure I've
been influenced by his work. I'm also a big fan of animation and cartoons,
especially Warner Brothers' Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner cartoons. I used to
watch those every Saturday morning as a kid. I bet that stuff rubbed off on
me too.

NCBLA: Do you use a computer to "paint" your pictures...or do you really paint
them? What type of paints do you use?
CVD: I don't use any computers to produce my illustrations. I paint all of
my pictures in gouache, which is a water-based paint. It's kind of like an
opaque watercolor. You can use it thick or thin, and the colors you get are
bright and clean.

NCBLA: What do you think would be the most fun about living in the White House?
Where would you spend most of your time there?
CVD: I think the history of the White House would be the most fascinating
part of living there. If I lived there, I'd constantly be thinking about
what President did what and where. To know Lincoln slept in the next room
would be so cool! But since I've never toured the White House, I don't know
where I'd spend most of my time. I'd probably just wander around and admire
the paintings!

For more information on this artist and author, please read his Our White House bio or visit his website.

The White House has a New Top Dog!

Read More About
White House Pets

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out!!!

Sasha and Malia are welcoming a new pet, Bo Diddley, a Portuguese water dog, to the White House. In the NCBLA's award-winning publication
Our White House:
Looking In, Looking Out
renowned author/illustrator Steven Kellogg traces the amazing line of White House pets, starting with George Washington's hounds, with wonderful prose and vibrant illustrations.

Find a Our White House:
Looking In, Looking Out
at your local library and book store and use a young person's interest in White House pets as a springboard to introducing them to more stories about our Presidents and their families and the rich heritage of our nation's history!

And be sure to check out the NCBLA's companion education website to Our White House--- to find more stories, historical resources, and lots of ideas that will excite kids about American History!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

White House News: Easter Egg Roll April 13

Egg Roll Is Largest Public Celebration at the White House

The White House Easter Egg Roll has been enjoyed by American children for over 130 years, since President Rutherford B. Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes first hosted the event in 1878. Now an annual tradition, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host this year's Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 13. The celebration will include storytelling, sports, cooking classes, musical performances, and of course, the traditional Easter egg roll! For more information, visit

The White House serves as an entertainment venue for many events and festivities each year. You can learn more about the Easter Egg Roll, as well as other traditions celebrated at the White House (such as the lighting of the Christmas tree), in the art and literature anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. Be sure to check out artist Eric Carle's brightly-colored painting of the Easter Egg Roll!

Learn more about President Hayes and First Lady Hayes, as well as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, in the Presidential Fact Files and First Lady Fact Files on

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Focused on Literacy: River of Words

River of Words Integrates Literacy with Art and Nature

The nonprofit literacy organization River of Words seeks to improve children's literacy and cognitive skills through innovative projects that incorporate observation-based nature exploration, art, and poetry. River of Words was established in 1995 in California and conducts training workshops for teachers, park naturalists, librarians, and other adults who work with young people.

Every year River of Words works with The Library of Congress Center for the Book to conduct a free international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of WATERSHEDS. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover. The winners of this year's contest will be announced April 25.

View artwork from previous years' contest winners on the online
Art Gallery.

Read poetry from previous years' contest winners on the online Poetry Gallery.

Teachers: Be sure to check out the integrated "Watershed Explorer's" curriculum materials that incorporate natural sciences into an arts and letters format.

Learn more about the mission and projects of this amazing literacy organization at their website: River of Words.

To investigate other literacy organizations, visit the Library of Congress website and its list of partners.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Today, April 2nd, is Library Legislative Day in Boston

MA Residents Encouraged to Support Libraries

The American Library Association encourages ALL Massachusetts residents to send email messages to state leaders imploring them to support library funding. Library usage continues to rise, so funding is critical. Here's why:

* People are using computers and other resources at libraries to prepare resumes, search for work, and apply for jobs online.

* Libraries save money for residents of Massachusetts! In these times people are borrowing library materials-books, CD’s and DVD’s to make it through these tough times.

* Those who never could, or who now cannot afford a monthly Internet charge, are using the free terminals at the library to bridge their digital divide.

* School librarians are teaching essential 21st century learning and thinking skills including critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, collaboration skills, and information and media literacy skills. Kids need to learn these skills now! Without these skills Massachusetts will not be able to compete in the global marketplace.

* Libraries are helping thousands of residents everyday.

Click here to Take Action Now and learn more!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Marks National Poetry Month

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 with the ultimate goal of widening the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. This year the Academy offers a list of 30 ways (one activity for each day of the month!) you can celebrate National Poetry Month. Here's ten from their extensive list:

1. Read a book of poetry.
2. Memorize a poem.
3. Revisit a classic poem. Maybe a Shakespearean sonnet?
4. Put poetry in an unexpected place...perhaps the bathroom mirror?
5. Bring a poem to your place of worship.
6. Attend a poetry reading at your bookstore, library, or coffee shop.
7. Support a literary organization.
8. Take a poem out to lunch.
9. Recite a poem to family or friends.
10. Add your favorite verse to your email signature.

Visit to discover the remaining 20 ways you can celebrate National Poetry Month! Which is your favorite? What other ideas can you come up with?

TEACHERS! Be sure to check out the Academy's Tips for Teachers for great classroom poetry activities!

Poetry lovers who also enjoy American history may delight in reading Gregory Maguire's poetic metaphor about the White House titled "Looking In, Looking Out" and Nikki Grimes' poem about a blind student's visit to the White House titled "Staking Claim." Both are available exclusively on

Also be sure to review the diverse poetry included in the printed anthology Our White: Looking In, Looking Out, which is available in libraries and bookstores. Included in the Our White House collection are Jane Yolen's imagined conversation between John and Abigail Adams titled "The White House First Residents," Jack Prelutsky's humorous poem about the Clinton's cat titled "I Live in the White House," Jon Scieszka's rhyme titled "The White House," Lee Bennett Hopkins' poem titled "Good Nights," Kate DiCamillo's touching piece about Lincoln's death titled "In Early April," and Paul B. Janeczko's haunting "Mary Todd Lincoln Speaks of Her Son's Death, 1862."

Learn more about Our White House at