Archive for January, 2010

So Far Away

I am posting this from my sister’s home in Southern California where it has been raining so hard I fear we will be building an ark shortly in order to sail back to Massachusetts.  There is much to report since my last post.

I spent my weekend at the American Library Association‘s Midwinter Conference in Boston. My “job” was to walk around the Exhibit Hall and find the publisher’s who had Sydney Taylor Award Winners, Honor Books and Notable books and bring them congratulations and mazel tovs on behalf of the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Sydney Taylor Award Committee and also provide them with gold and silver seals for the winning books.  It was very exciting to meet the publishers and some of the editors responsible for these excellent books. Even more exciting, I got to tell them a bit about forwordsbooks and what I do.  Call me crazy, but I love publishers and exhibit halls. I have a stack of books at home that I am so looking forward to telling you about.

On Saturday evening, I joined up with the ALATweetup and met a number of interesting people from the kidlitosphere, kidlit publishing and children’s magazines.  I will admit, I went out of my way to say hello to Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, who I consider a STAR of the kidlitosphere.  We all have a right to our idols. Well, she is one of mine.  As always, Ms. Burns was gracious. I felt my Tweetup was well spent.

Immediately following,  I headed over the bridge to the Boston World Trade Center to listen to Brian Stokes Mitchell talk about the new book he worked on with Harriet Ziefert called Lights on Broadway from Blue Apple Press.  He sang two songs and let me tell you, this man has a gift from God.  When you hear someone refer to their voice as their instrument – this is what they are talking about.  I would have sat in that chair in that hotel conference room all night and listened to that man sing whatever he wanted. There was no theater orchestra, professional sound system, Broadway stage lighting, nothing.  Just “Stokes” (as everyone was calling him), a cordless microphone and a piano player.  Thank you very much…I was in heaven.

What could be better than that? Listening to him describe sitting in his public library as a kid, checking out every Broadway musical in the collection and sitting in a special room they had listening to the music. Hearing him describe librarians as his heroes. Watching him clap and bow to the librarians in the room.  All followed by his taking the time to have his picture taken, shaking hands, hugging and providing autographs for anyone who asked. We have a word for this – Mensch.

I was not able to attend the Awards Ceremony on Monday morning, but I did view the recording of the event.  How very exciting.  I was happy to see that on of our Sydney Taylor Honor Books, A Faraway Island by Annika Thor was awarded the Batchelder Award for the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English.  I was also excited that Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion & the Mouse won the Caldecott Award having seen him discuss the book at the School Library Journal Day of Dialogue last May.  As for all the rest of the award winners, let’s just say I have a lot of reading to do!

And now I am in Southern California, as I said, battling a rainstorm of “Biblical” proportions.  I am way behind in my Comment Challenge activities, but hope to catch up in the next couple of days.  I will keep you posted. Until then,

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

Bal Tashchit – Do Not Be Wasteful

While it may be difficult for those of us in the cold northeast to appreciate, at the end of January – on January 30 to be exact – we will be celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees also known as the Birthday of the Trees. Tu B’Shevat literally means the fifteenth of Shevat, referring to the date on the Jewish calendar when the holiday occurs. Because there are not many customs surrounding this holiday, it has become very popular with the Jewish “Green” Movement. As a result, you may hear this holiday referred to as the Jewish Arbor Day or Jewish Earth Day.

Books appropriate for Tu B’Shevat support the Jewish values of Bal Tashchit (do not be wasteful) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).  The following quote says it all:

“See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah §1-7:13

With that in mind, I want to introduce a few wonderful,  secular books about trees, nature and taking care of our planet that can be enjoyed during this holiday:

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont. Ages 4-8.  First published in 1956, this timeless classic is a perfect book for Tu B’Shevat explaining in simple language all the benefits that trees provide children and their families. From fruit to shade to the air we breathe, trees are an important and necessary part of our world.  The Caldecott Award winning illustrations further enhance the message, “Trees are very nice.

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The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Ages 5-9.  If I were to pick an author to write a children’s book to save our planet, Dr. Seuss would be my choice. When Truffula Trees are discovered and their tufts turned into Thneeds, no amount of warning from the Lorax will dissuade the manufacturer from continuing the destruction of the Truffula Tree forest. When the last tree falls, the forest animals have disappeared and the environment damaged beyond repair, the Lorax’s message becomes clear. With his unmistakable Seussian rhyme and his characteristic Seussian illustrations, the inimitable Doctor describes what happens in a world where greed and selfishness take precedence over the needs of the planet, its plants and animals.

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Measuring Angels by Lesley Ely, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Ages 4-8. “Every blade of grass below has a guardian official above.” Zohar (Book of Enlightenment.) In this charming and brightly illustrated book, a smart teacher uses sunflower seeds and flowerpots to help rebuild a friendship. A little girl, who used to be best friends with Sophie, is very unhappy when she finds out that she and Sophie are partners in the sunflower-growing contest. Their flower does not grow at all until…they begin talking nicely to it every day, and together with their friend Gabriel, create a beautiful angel to watch over it. This delightful story demonstrates the power of working together for a common cause and that every living thing needs tender loving care.

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Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister. Ages 4-8. Milo and his mice friends live comfortably on an island mountain in the middle of the sea. When Milo finds a beautiful, glowing stone, buried deep in the mountain that gives off light and warmth, everyone wants one. As the mice hurry off to grab their stones, the wisest mouse warns, “Don’t forget, the stones belong to the island. If you take something from the island, you must give something in return.” With two endings, one happy, one sad, you decide which direction to take. You can make comparisons to the choices we make everyday as we live on our personal islands on earth. This is a great discussion starter about the consequences of our environmental choices and actions.

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Once There Was a Tree by Natalia Romanova, illustrated by Gennady Spirin. Ages 4-8. A tree falls during a forest thunderstorm. Its stump becomes home to many of the forest’s animals from the smallest termite to the largest bear.  All claim the stump belongs to them, but who actually owns it? With rich text and magnificent illustrations, the author and artist make the interconnectedness of all living things clearly visible in this outstanding book.

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Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. Ages 3-8. For the very youngest children, this delightful, colorful book tells the simple story of a how a maple tree found its way to a young child’s yard, how the child helped to plant it and now watches it – and their friendship – grow. The text is simple and the illustrations are vibrant. The back of the book shares tips for selecting and planting a tree at your own home.

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Last but not least,  a new book I stumbled upon while wandering through my local bookstore. The Tree that Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science and Imagination is filled with the most amazing poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, and Linda Winston. All Ages. It is a perfect collection of poetry for Tu B’Shevat or anytime of year. It comes with an audio CD of some of the poets reading their verse aloud. Here is one of my favorites from this marvelous book:

FOR THE FUTURE

by Wendell Berry

Planting trees early in spring,

We make a place for birds to sing

in time to come.  How do we know?

They are singing here now.

There is no other guarantee

that singing will ever be.

May your Tu B’Shevat be filled with an appreciation and delight in the world around you.  Enjoy these books and allow them to add to your celebration.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection or my local library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I  may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You,
however, will incur no additional cost. I appreciate your support.

It’s National De-Lurking Week

And the Winners Are…

The Association of Jewish Libraries has just announced the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners for 2010. They are:

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

for YOUNGER READERS

  • New Year at the Pier. April Halprin Wayland. Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch.Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009.

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners

for YOUNGER READERS

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

for OLDER READERS

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners

for OLDER READERS

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

for TEEN READERS

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners

for TEEN READERS

  • Lost. Jacqueline Davies. Marshall Cavendish, 2009.
  • Naomi’s Song. Selma Kritzer Silverberg. Jewish Publication Society, 2009.

The 2010 Sydney Taylor Notable Book for ALL AGES

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It has been my honor and my privilege to be a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the past four years. My term ends with this award year. I have mixed feelings about saying goodbye to an opportunity that has brought me back in touch with my passion for Jewish children’s literature and with the people who ignite the fires for that passion in others – Jewish librarians and educators.

On one hand, I am now free to read and review whichever books I want. This means, without naming names or titles, if a self-published work comes to my door and I know just by looking at it that there is good reasons why it is self-published, I no longer have to go through the effort of reading the book, giving it a score and writing a review. It means that I am able to search for those secular books with Jewish values content that I feel are so important to have in our libraries. It means that I may, on occasion be able to sit back and enjoy reading an adult book just for myself once or twice a year.

On the other hand, I am truly going to miss my interaction with my fellow committee members. You have probably heard the joke about 3 Jews, 4 opinions. Well, imagine a committee of six Jewish women – Professional Jewish women – librarians, booksellers, authors, educators, managers – Opinionated professional Jewish women. Now imagine that these six women have spent a year reading, scoring and reviewing approximately 150 Jewish children’s books. They must arrive at a consensus as to which book will win the top prize in each of three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers and Teen Readers. Following that discussion, an agreement about Honor books takes place and then a discussion about Notable books.

Somehow, over a period of about 7-10 days, with a group that spans the continent and all its time zones, the Committee manages to pull this off every year, professionally, amicably, tactfully. Our significant others know that during this period we are not to be far from email access, and don’t even think about  talking to us as our minds our on the books, the books, the books, the Awarding of the Books. I wonder, do the Newbery and Caldecott Committees go through similar tzuris (Yiddish for troubles)? In the end, we all agree, we are happy and next year’s books are showing up on the doorstep. The cycle begins again.

Fortunately, during my time on the Committee, I have been blessed to serve under two remarkable Committee Chairs, Rachel Kamin and Kathe Pinchuck. It takes stamina, political savvy and emotional armor to sift through all the comments and steer this group in the a direction that will lead to consensus, both Rachel and Kathe managed the task perfectly.

So now the winners have been announced. In July, I will join my colleagues in Seattle for the AJL Convention, where we will discuss some of the books that did not make the list in our presentation “The Sydney Taylor Committee Tells All.” It is one of the high points of the Conference. Would you like to join us? Become a member of the Association of Jewish Libraries and meet us in Seattle.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

PS  There were also twenty-two Notable Books selected by the Committee for 2010. All the Winners and the Notable titles can be found at www.sydneytaylorbookaward.blogspot.com.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publishers cited.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I  may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur NO additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

I finished Bloggiesta!

It’s 10:08 PM and I have been working on my website all weekend. I have accomplished more than I would have thought possible. I cannot articulate how much I appreciate the individuals in the kidlitosphere who had the energy and the ideas to make this happen. I needed a kick in the butt and there they were to provide it. Thank you all so very much. So here is what I did this weekend:

  1. I began on Friday by signing up for the 2010 Comment Challenge on the MotherReader Blog. Since then I have commented on 18 blogs some of which I have not visited before.
  2. I prepared my 2010 New Year’s resolutions thanks to Rebecca at the Book Lady’s Blog.
  3. I began preparing cheat sheets and templates for my book reviews and blogs thanks to the great idea provided by Danielle at There’s a Book.
  4. I checked to make sure my copyright date was up-to-date and that my copyright information on my blogs was current, thanks to Pam at Bookalicious.
  5. I backed up my blog thanks to Jackie from Farm Lane Books.
  6. I joined the Bloggie Cult and asked to become a Mentee thanks to Kristen from Bookworming in the 21st Century. But wait, there’s more…
  7. I added RSS, Facebook and “Follow me on Twitter” widgets to my sidebar.
  8. I created a Facebook page for forwordsbooks.
  9. I added an Amazon.com search widget to my sidebar.
  10. I wrote my Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog for next Tuesday.
  11. I finalized my Tu B’Shevat Blog for next Thursday.
  12. I wrote 7 book reviews. I have a lot more waiting for me.

I have spent approximately 16 hours over the course of the last three days working on things connected with my website. That is simply fantastic. Thank you Maw Books, Pedro and everyone associated with Bloggiesta for the chips, the salsa or whatever it is that put that fire in my belly to move me forward. See you in June!

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

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