Thursday, May 27, 2010

The NCBLA Recommends: Tell Congress Our Children's Education is a Priority!




Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, Librarians, Civic Leaders, Youth Mentors--Bring your children to the United States Capitol grounds in Washington DC on  Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 11 a.m! 

Join The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and the American Library Association and SHOW YOUR SUPPORT for OUR KIDS' EDUCATION and OUR NATION'S SCHOOL AND PUBLIC LIBRARIES!

For generations, America's children have walked to their own neighborhood public libraries to find not only the books and information they need to learn and grow, but in libraries they have also found music, movies, and magazines; technology access; passes to museums; literacy tutoring; teen employment information; book and reading clubs; live performances; story hours; art and photography exhibits; civic information; teen voting registration information; and so much more! And most importantly, our children and teens found, in libraries, safe havens filled with caring adults eager to help them along their journey to adulthood and responsible citizenship. 

Our children and teens are now losing what generations have long taken for granted--neighborhood libraries, the heart and mind centers of our communities. Libraries across America are laying off valuable staff, closing neighborhood branches, drastically reducing hours of operation, and drastically reducing new book, media,and technology purchases--all at a time when our kids and families need library services more than ever!

The NCBLA is going to Washington, so come to Washington, too, and tell Congress how you feel! And wear RED to the Rally in support of our nation's libraries!

Wear READ shirts! 

Wear READ pants!

Wear READ shoes! 
Wear READ caps!

Wear anything RED/READ you can find and bring flags of  
red, white, and blue! 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Exquisite Corpse Authors and Illustrators!

Meet Illustrator James Ransome:
Contributor to the NCBLA's  Exquisite Corpse Adventure!

James Ransome's colorful and delightful illustrations can be found in Episode 2, Episode 6, Episode 10, Episode 14, and Episode 18.

We lured James away from his oils, acrylics, and watercolors to ask him a few questions:

Q-What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of illustrating an episode for The Exquisite Corpse Adventure?
A-"The most challenging part was making sure the characters looked as they were described in the text. My biggest fear is that someone will write something about a character in episode 4 for example, I'd be asked to illustrate episode 10, and I'd miss some important detail that was written about in episode 4."

Q-What were some of your favorite books when you were in elementary school?
A-"There was not a large emphasis on children's books when I was growing up. One of my favorites from those I was introduced to was A Fly Went By, part of the Dr. Seuss series. I also enjoyed stories from a set of encyclopedias that we had in the house. They had one entire book with a collection of stories."

Q-What are you working on now? Do you have a new book coming out this year?
A-"I'm currently working on the illustrations for a book I've written entitled: New Red Bike.

I have two books coming out in the fall: A Joyful Christmas, stories, poems, and songs of Christmas which I collected and illustrated and Gunner, a Football Hero, the first book I've written and illustrated.
Baby Blessings is my most recent book."

James Ransome's wonderful illustrations have garnered him numerous awards and accolades from the world of children's literature. Be sure to look for his books at your library or local book store.

To see more of James Ransome's illustrations and information, visit James' website.

Related Topic: What is The Exquisite Corpse Adventure?

For those not in the know, The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is a series of episodes written and illustrated by famous children's authors and illustrators. Each author and illustrator inherits the story from the previous folks. It's like taking over a recipe in the middle, you need to understand what's gone into the stew so far and then add your own ingredients to make it hot and spicy! To catch up on all the exciting episodes go to

And parents, teachers, and librarians be sure to check out the NCBLA's Exquisite Corpse Adventure Educational Resources Center for great ideas on how to turn the Exquisite Corpse Adventure into a great educational adventure!

Check it out!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

At find out more about White House Dinners and Entertainments!

In "A Taste of the Past: White House Kitchens, Menus, and Recipes" at 


Find Out More About White House State Dinners, Food, and Entertainment! 



President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala at last night's state dinner at the White House.


President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nance Reagan with Great Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Dennis Thatcher in 1988

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with French Cultural Minister Andre Malraux and Marie-Madeleine Lioux Malraux in 1962.   

Eisenhower State Dinner circa 1959

President Theodore Roosevelt State Dining Room 1904- notice the large moose head over the fireplace!

Read more about White House menus and food at:

And as for the NCBLA's award-winning book for families, Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out at your neighborhood library or bookstore!

In Our White House, the book and the website, you will find poetry, stories, great art, and fascinating facts about our presidents, their families, their pets, and our White House, as well as great stories about American History. The NCBLA created Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out and its companion educational website, as a nonpartisan project to promote literacy and historical literacy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sneak Peek: Episode 18 Goes Live Friday, May 21st!

Latest Exquisite Corpse Adventure Episode Written by Gregory Maguire

In our last episode of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure 17, by Susan Cooper, the shadow in the doorway turned out to be Hathi, the elephant, Nancy and Joe's adopted mother. Boy were they happy to see her! Roberta, our disassembled robot, found more of her missing pieces-her heart and brain. Unfortunately, the chimney leg introduced in Episode 15 was not hers, but made of gingerbread. Rats! Once aboard Hathi's back, they were reunited with Sybil Hunch, the misfortunate-teller. Her crystal ball revealed events from the past as Hathi plodded away from the gingerbread house. The episode ended when the group saw a blaze of light. "What's that?" Nancy asked. "I have no idea," said Sybil Hunch. "Which is a very good sign."

In Episode 18 by Gregory Maguire, the group finds the light. What is it? Whose regional conference is it? What are the eggy-like things floating around? What key piece of the adventure is explained?

Read the Episode and see James Ransome's colorful and fun illustrations at!

Gregory Maguire has written six adult novels and more than a dozen children's books. One adult novel, Wicked, became a Broadway play and one of his children's books, Confession of an Ugly Stepsister, into a Disney movie. Gregory is co-founder and co-director of Children's Literature New England Inc., an educational charity whose mission is to raise public awareness of the significance of literature in the lives of children.

Be sure to check for Gregory's books at your favorite library and bookstore.

To learn more about Gregory Maguire, visit his website.

Award winning illustrator and author, James Ransome was named by The Children's Book Council as one of the 75 authors and illustrators everyone should know. His works have appeared on Reading Rainbow and PBS's storytime. You can find examples of James' vibrant illustrations in Episode 2, Episode 6, Episode 10, and Episode 14.

Some if James' works include:

Visit James' website for more information on his books and illustrations.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NCBLA Interviews Author Melissa Stewart!

Interview with nonfiction writer Melissa Stewart

Award winning author Melissa Stewart shares the intrigue, fascination, and beauty of the natural world in her over 100 nonfiction books for young readers. Her books teach us why animals are blue, red, or purple; why birds fly, plants breathe, or chameleons change color. Each one is an exciting adventure into nature.

We coaxed Melissa in from the great outdoors to answer a few questions:

Q-What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of writing nonfiction?
"When I'm writing a creative nonfiction manuscript, I always struggle with the structure. How can I bring the topic vividly to life in a way that is fresh and dynamic? My goal is always to delight as well as inform young readers. Sometimes I spend months thinking about it until one day, out of the blue, the solution just pops into my head.

For my book, Under the Snow (Peachtree, 2009), I had the "aha" moment while driving home from a Foundation of Children's Books program at Boston College that featured author-illustrator Timothy Basil Ering. Tim's presentation was so exciting, so inspiring that it put my mind in a whole different place, and finally, all the puzzle pieces I'd been wrestling with for months just fell into place.

I started a new draft of the manuscript as soon as I got home, and I didn't stop until 3:00 a.m. when I had a solid draft that I knew would work. After that, it was just a matter of revising lightly here and there."

Q-What were some of your favorite books when you were in elementary school?
"I was a reluctant reader as a child. But then a very smart librarian, Mrs. Freeborn, gave me a copy of Mr. Mysterious & Company by Sid Fleischman. The book's combination of intriguing setting and quirky characters fascinated me. After I read the last page, I turned right back to page 1 and started reading it again. I checked that book out of the library so many times that Mrs. Freeborn finally gave it to me, and I still have it today.

In 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Fleischman and telling him that his book turned me into a reader. It was a magical moment for both of us."

Q-What are you working on now? Do you have a new book coming out this year?
"My newest book, A Place for Frogs, came out April 1. The first book signing was in Chicago at the International Reading Association conference. It was very special because the book's illustrator, Higgins Bond, was there too. I live in Massachusetts, and Higgins live in Tennessee so we don't see each other very often.

A Place for Frogs is our third book together. Right now, she's illustrating our fourth book and I'm writing our fifth. It's been a great partnership."

Be sure to check out Melissa's books at your library or local bookstore.

 For more information on Melissa and her books, visit her website.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Congratulations Mystery Author Contest Winner!

Will Rogers Middle School
in Lawndale, CA
Wins The Exquisite Corpse Adventure
Mystery Author Contest

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance extends its best wishes and congratulations to Ms. Ashley Nichols-Lampkin, the Library Media Clerk at Will Rogers Middle School in Lawndale, California, for implementing The Exquisite Corpse Adventure Mystery Author Contest in the school's library. Ms. Nichols-Lampkin learned about the contest while perusing the website and decided it was a perfect  opportunity to help "grab the attention of students." The library keeps The Exquisite Corpse Adventure  displayed on its computers for students to read, and so Ms. Nichols-Lampkin invited students to play the contest by submitting entries in a Mystery Box that she placed on her desk.

As the winner of the contest, the Will Rogers Middle School Library will receive a collection of  books valued at over $600 from the NCBLA!

THANK YOU to ALL Our Mystery Author Contest Entrants!
The NCBLA would like to thank all our Exquisite Corpse Adventure readers across the country who played Twenty Questions to help guess the identity of our Team Corpse Mystery Author, Jack Gantos! We also thank our partner in literacy,, who helped promote the contest and also devoted space on their website for contest clues and information.

Be sure to check out the most recent Exquisite Corpse Adventure Exquisite Prompt Challenge writing prompts on both and This month's prompts are inspired by Team Corpse members Lemony Snicket and Steven Kellogg!

And keep reading--or listening to!--the latest adventures of Nancy and Joe in The Exquisite Corpse Adventure as we publish a new riveting episode every two weeks on Read.Gov. Don't miss out on the most recent episode, "Speak, Memory" penned by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

And teachers, librarians, parents, and homeschoolers, be sure sure to maximize the educational impact of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure by checking out the extensive educational materials available on the NCBLA's companion education site for The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, which include recommended reading lists, classroom activities, art appreciation articles, and discussion questions customized for each and every episode!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The NCBLA and President Obama Believe Citizens in a Democracy Have the Responsibility to Inform Themselves About Issues from a Variety of Perspectives


"The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, the NCBLA, created the national award winning book Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out because we believe that literacy is essential to the development of responsible citizens in a democracy.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820: 'I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.'

The more education Americans have, the more likely they are to be active citizens and vote in national and local elections.  Building on the links between literacy, historical literacy, and civic engagement, in Our White House and, we share historic and civic information that will help young people become thoughtful, engaged citizens. 

We encourage you and the young people in your life to seek legitimate news sources. Read newspapers, news magazines, and books in both traditional and electronic formats, moving beyond television sound bites and blog blurbs, seeking a variety of perspectives. As citizens, young and old, we need to make thoughtful decisions about national issues, national leadership, and our future; we can only do so if we are responsibly informed."

It seems President Obama feels the same way. In a commencement speech at the University of Michigan last week, President Obama stated:

"If you're someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you're a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. So too is the practice of engaging in different experiences with different kinds of people. 

For four years at Michigan, you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars; professors and students. Do not narrow that broad intellectual exposure just because you're leaving here. Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with some who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your race or your ethnicity or your religion, broaden your circle to include people who've had different backgrounds and life experiences. You'll learn what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes, and in the process, you'll help make this democracy work."

Introduce your kids, and yourself, to a wide variety of perspectives  on issues and current events. And take a look not only at the great art, poetry, information, and personal essays in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, but also at the "bookend" sections related to the War of 1812 and September 11th, where we "have purposely juxtaposed contradictory primary and secondary historical sources so that young people can experience what historians often discover in their search for objective truth – multiple perspectives representing different points of view."

We want to inspire young people to seek reliable historic and contemporary information sources that represent a wide variety of perspectives. We hope they will read, listen to, and reflect on these sources with a critical eye and ear, then discuss their thoughts and opinions with you – in the car, at the dinner table, and in the classroom.

Ask for Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out at your neighborhood library or bookstore, and read it aloud with the young people in your life! 

And be sure to check out the NCBLA's companion educational website at: 

Our White House Awards and Distinctions:
  • 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Humanities We the People “Picturing America
    Bookshelf Award
  • 2009 American Library Association’s Great Web Sites for Kids 
  • 2009 American Library Association Notable Children’s Book for All Ages, Nonfiction
  • 2009 National Council for Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council Notable
    Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
  • 2009 International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices Booklist Selection
  • Best Books of 2008 Top 10 Editors’ Pick for Middle Reader
  • Parents’ Choice Foundation Recommended Book Award, Fall 2008
  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2008
  • The Horn Book Fanfare, Best Books of 2008
  • Publisher’s Weekly 2008 Best Books of the Year, Children’s Nonfiction
  • Publishers Weekly 2008 Cuffie Award,
    Best Nonfiction Treatment of a Subject, Honorable Mention
  • Scripps-Howard News Service Favorite Children's Book of 2008

Sneak Peek: Episode 17 Goes Live Friday, May 7th

Latest Exquisite Corpse Adventure Episode Written by Susan Cooper

In our last episode of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure 16, by Kate DiCamillo, hunger had trumped caution as Joe and Genius Kelly, the pig, tore into the gingerbread house, stuffing their mouths with the so-so tasting exterior. Nancy screamed, "...haven't you ever heard of Hansel and Gretel?" Apparently not, for the two fell asleep from the drugged house, but not before Joe smelled meatballs and their enemy Boppo, the clown, appeared. Boppo proceeded to capture Roberta, the robot, and forced Nancy to listen to a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Toward the end, Boppo's narcolepsy kicked in. Nancy searched his pockets and, beside the usual clown paraphernalia, found Roberta's heart. Before they could celebrate, a shadow darkened the doorway of the house.

In Episode 17 by Susan Cooper, the shadow is revealed. Who is it? What do Nancy, Joe, and Roberta see in the crystal ball? What is the blaze of white light?

Read the Episode and see Chris Van Dusen's colorful illustrations at Read. gov!

Newbery winner, Susan Cooper knew she was fated to be a writer, "...when she found she was never going to be more than an OK pianist, and when she got over her crush on the physics teacher. Besides, she'd written her first book when she was 10." Fantasy lovers worldwide applaud Susan's decision to follow her destiny and write her stories.

Susan's novels and picture books can be found at your library or favorite book store. Be sure to look for Acting Out, a book of six one-act plays written by six Newbery Medalists.

To learn more about Susan Cooper, visit her website.

"Dr. Seuss and Robert McCloskey were my heroes," says author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen. "I loved the rhythm of Dr. Seuss' words and I was fascinated by the meticulous details of Robert McCloskey's illustrations. I had no idea back then that I'd end up writing and illustrating children's books when I grew up."

Check the top right to see a crop of Chris' Episode 17 illustration You can find more examples of Chris' fun illustrations in Episode 1, Episode 5, Episode 9, and Episode 13.

Here are a few of Chris' works, including his latest, The Circus Ship.

Visit Chris' website for more informaton on his books and illustrations.

Enjoy the Episode!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Identity of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure Mystery Author REVEALED!

Mystery Solved!
Team Corpse Welcomes
Author of Books for All Ages!

If you played our Twenty Questions game along with other Exquisite Corpse Adventure readers to try to identity our Mystery Author, you probably learned a bit about the life of a writer, as well as a bit about the life and work of our Mystery Author--JACK GANTOS!

JACK GANTOS really did break his brother's arm three times and he really would LOVE to live in a bookmobile. And, yes, it is also true that his inspiration to write came when he was a sixth grade student and, after reading his sister's diary, he decided he could write better than she could. Gantos has been writing ever since.

In addition to the Rotten Ralph Rotten Readers and the Joey Pigza books, Gantos has written a third series of books based on his own childhood collectively referred to as the Jack Henry Books.  The most recent book in the series is a prequel to the other four Jack Henry books and is titled Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue.

Gantos' books for young adults include Hole in My Life and Desire Lines. His most recent young adult novel is titled The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs.  School Library Journal has proclaimed Love Curse to be, "An eerie, nearly perverse gothic tale of love and devotion gone completely and frighteningly haywire. This thought-provoling story about free will and the arguments of nature and nurture will definitely stick with readers."

As the newest member to the talented writers and illustrators who make up Team Corpse, the NCBLA had the privilege of asking Gantos a few questions recently.

Q: You will be writing an episode that will be published toward the end of  The Exquisite Corpse Adventure. What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of writing your episode?
"What I anticipate to be problematic is that the through line must be pretty choppy so I'll have to sort through the story and attempt to find some way to unravel the original intent of the Corpse's previous chapters and then parse my chapter with what has come before me. This intent may be absolutely impossible to do given the many story stands that have busted loose so I might default into writing some time-stopping passage where the character's DNA have been altered in some subatomic way and so they are now thrown back into time and have become several of Czar Nicolas's unfortunate children who have been captured by revolutionaries--but before the tragic historic ending sends them to an unhappy ending--their ever rapidly evolving DNA will whiplash them back to the present reality of the ongoing Corpse and the writer after me will have the job of sorting it all out. In other words, I'll duck and pass the buck."

Q: Exquisite Corpse readers who played Twenty Questions to identify you know that two of your favorite writers of all time are James Marshall and William Steig. What were some of your favorite books when you were in elementary school?
"I started out reading all the books my older sister read, but when she started reading the Cherry Ames Student Nurse series I had to start making my own decisions. My favorite series of books were the WORLD LANDMARK BOOKS. There were hundreds of them and they were nonfiction histories of dramatic events in time (Pizarro conquering the Icas--John F. Kennedy's torpedo boat sliced in two by a Japanese destroyer--the sinking of the massive German battleship, Bismarck and the bio of Captain Cook). History really fascinated me as a child and still does as an adult."

Q: What are you working on now? Do you have a new book coming out this year?
A: "I'm just finishing up a novel titled: MY SUMMER OF WRITING OBITUARIES about the summer my mother loaned me to our town obituary writer, an elderly woman who taught me a lot about life (and who used to let me drive her car without a license when I was twelve). She had arthritic hands so she would dictate the obits to me and I would type them up for the newspaper. We were a great team."

To learn more about Jack Gantos and  his books, be sure to check out his video interview on and visit his website. And keep reading The Exquisite Corpse Adventure on Read.Gov. Coming this Friday is Episode 17, penned by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. And when can you expect to read Jack Gantos' episode? Gantos will be writing Episdoe 25...and we have all the confidence in the world that the muses will sing sweetly to him and he will therefore have no need to "duck."

THANK YOU to Our Mystery Author Contest Entrants!
The NCBLA would like to thank all our Exquisite Corpse Adventure readers across the country who played Twenty Questions and sent in entries to our Mystery Author Contest. We will announce the winner as soon as we have had the opportunity to contact him or her. So, please check back to learn the identity of our contest winner,  who will be the lucky recipient of our $600 book collection and a phone call from Jack Gantos.