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Geisel Ceremony

_SCC0376I thoroughly enjoyed the Geisel Ceremony. Mo Willems made a truly funny speech. My boys particularly appreciated the line: “Screw you!” He suggested it as his preferred comeback to the dog in ‘Go Dog, Go” who keeps saying “I do not like that hat.”

Chicago trip-3Richard and I received nice plaques with our certificates mounted on them. My friend Hester Bass (author of the forthcoming title The Secret World of Walter Anderson) led the “whoops” section. By happenstance, we ended up sitting not in the section reserved for honorees but among the various selection committee members. This made it easy for me to thank the Geisel committee members for noticing Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.

It was fun to hear Kadir Nelson talk about his first meeting with Hank Aaron, who would write the forward for his multiple-award-winning book, We Are the Ship. Nelson was accepting the Siebert Medal.

We went back to the exhibit floor to sign books for an hour. The boys, meanwhile, worked on restaurant selection. We ate a late lunch at Giordano’s and then Richard and the boys took off for the suburbs. I went back to sign for another hour.

Visitors to the booth continued to express interest in Growing Patterns. I gave out a bunch of business cards to librarians who expressed an interest in my website‘s supplemental material for Wolfsnail — especially the teachers’ guide and slideshow.

Young Authors & Illustrators Awards

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Today I gave the keynote address at the Reading Rainbow Young Authors & Illustrators Awards Ceremony at Mississippi Public Broadcasting. I was able to listen to stories by winners from kindergarten through third grades. I loved the stories, the illustrations (including some photographs), and the confidence of the young readers. Their stories ranged from chronicling the everyday joys and sorrows to documenting the momentous to imagining the fantastical. These kids are clearly reading and writing a lot at home and at school. Hooray!
This was the first time I’ve had the luxury of using a lapel microphone and it worked like a dream. I am always trying to read and point and move around and I hate being tied to a particular spot. Thanks to Darrell, who took photographs using his camera and mine, and to Maggie Stevenson, who invited me to speak.
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This is my son painting the face of one of our day campers. My three boys are running a four-day camp for some neighborhood kids. I caught them “working.”
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Wolfsnail Roundup

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I got a call this week from my local independent bookstore, Lemuria, saying Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator had been added to a local school’s summer reading list. The bookstore needed four more signed copies. Another local school, Madison Station Elementary School, has Wolfsnail on its list of finalists for the 2009-10 Mockingbird Award. Wolfsnail is also on the summer reading list for Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, MD, and Parish Episcopal School in Austin, TX.

It also makes an appearance on the Horn Book summer reading list. Wolfsnail earned a mention on Through the Tollbooth, in an entry noting how nonfiction titles are winning notice even in categories not exclusive to nonfiction. To sum up, Nancy Bo Flood asks: “Is nonfiction about content – facts – or story and passion?  I say both are essential. And great visuals – ones that intrigue as well as clarify. Write with passion. Find the story. Tell the facts.” Well said.

Another mention was in the online edition of the Naples (Fla.) News, in the education briefs.

The Magnolia Award

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Mississippi is launching a new award in children’s literature; it is called The Magnolia Award: Mississippi Children’s Choice. As the name implies, children will vote to determine the winning title. I learned about this award during the Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi earlier this month. A committee of children’s librarians and others who are passionate about children’s literature, including faculty members from education and library science departments, has selected 12 titles for the 2009-2010 vote.

They are: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee, Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson, Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee, Pictures from Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins, Pale Male by Janet Schulman and Meilo So, How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz, The Wall by Peter Sis, John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, and Robot Dreams by Sara Varon.

The state Department of Education, the state Library Commission, the Mississippi Reading Association are part of the partnership that created The Magnolia Award. Third through fifth graders in public, private and homeschooling situations will be encouraged to read the full list of books before voting takes place in April 2010. Librarians in schools and public libraries will run the voting.

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I learned this weekend that Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator was nominated for the state of Alabama’s children’s choice award. Through its Emphasis on Reading program, Alabama has been giving a children’s choice award for nearly 30 years. You can see the full list of 2009-2010 nominees here.

The librarian at Orrington School in Evanston, Illinois, included Wolfsnail on her library’s Great Science books list. What’s fun about this for me is that I was born in Evanston and lived there until I was 7. I remember going to Evanston Public Library (which is on Orrington Avenue) for books. Now, there are several copies of Wolfsnail available there. Cool.

Wolfsnail Makes the CCBC Choices 2009 List

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I just learned from my publisher that Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator was included in the CCBC Choices 2009 List. It is the annual best-of-the-year list of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am honored by this inclusion. Boyds Mills Press has three other titles on the list: The Freedom Business by Marilyn Nelson, and Piggy by Mireille Geus and Rits by Mariken Jongman.

Rebecca Hogue Wojahn, another blogger who is also a children’s librarian and writer, put Wolfsnail on her favorites list, too. Thanks.

Read Across America Day — Wolfsnail

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I celebrated Read Across America Day with my friends at Davis Magnet IB World School. In the photograph at the left, I am reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator to Diane Setzer’s kindergarten class. As you can see, we are all wearing our Cat in the Hat hats. I first read the Dr. Seuss classic and then my book. This Read Across America Day, which is always celebrated on or near Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday, was special for me because the American Library Association named Wolfsnail a 2009 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book.

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Mississippi Public Broadcasting arts reporter Ron Brown recorded some of the reading and interviewed students and teachers for a report that will air Friday, March 6th, at 6:35 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. Tune in if you can. I hope all of you dedicate some time to read today with the children in your life. It makes a difference and it’s just plain fun — especially if you wear a funny hat.

Two Kinds of Log Cabins

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Here’s the knitted log cabin blanket I started when I was recuperating from my surgery. The pattern is from Mason Dixon knitting. The yarn felt wonderful to work with and the colors kept me happy. I am sending it to a relative as a late Christmas present. She’s having some tough health problems, too, so I hope it will bring her some comfort. You followers of this blog will know that I also knitted a hat during my recuperation. The two were very different projects. The log cabin blanket involved just plain knitting, knitting, and more knitting. The hat involved knitting in the round, purling, counting stitches, etc. I think I’ll try to keep a log cabin knitting project going most of the time — it’s so simple and keeps my hands busy. Plus, I have lot of little bits of yarn left. My friend, Julie Owen, turned me on to log cabin knitting this summer when she would turn up at the pool with knitting when I turned up with quilting.

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Now for the kind of log cabin I am more familiar with — a quilt. My first log cabin project, when I was a teenager, was a Christmas table cloth. It turned out so well that I made a bunch of them. My grandmothers, my godmother, and our family’s best friends all got Christmas table cloths that year. I had never tried a full-sized log cabin quilt until now. I chose yellow, blue, creams, tans, and browns. At first I had it laid out in diagonal lines, but Richard suggested this layout and I love it.

Update: The Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book stickers I ordered arrived today so I went to Lemuria to leave them enough for their signed stock. Here’s a post on A Year of Reading by a teacher who went by her local bookstore and picked up a copy of Wolfsnail.

Wolfsnail named 2009 ALA Notable Book

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There was more good news today from the American Library Association (ALA): Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator earned a spot on 2009 ALA Notable Children’s Books for Younger Readers. See the whole list here. Several librarians posted responses to the Geisel Honor Book announcement. My friend at Pink Me called Wolfsnail “The little non-fiction book that could (win a Geisel Honor, that is).” You can read the post here. Jennifer at Jean Little Library noted that she hadn’t thought of Wolfsnail as an easy reader, but she recommends it: “It’s difficult to find good read-aloud nonfiction for the younger ages and this was perfect.” Read the whole post here.

Writing for Readers

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I have been planning this post for some time, but several things (scanner down, computer down) conspired to keep it from going up until now. And I’m glad. Earlier today, I learned that Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator had been named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book by the American Library Association. The award recognizes authors and illustrators of beginning readers “for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading.” Here’s the committee’s description of Wolfsnail: “An exciting nonfiction look at the carnivorous wolfsnail trapping and devouring its victim, this science book uses bold block type against a white background to enhance the ease of reading. The magnified, detailed photographs and playful, informative text will amaze and attract readers.”

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The above picture shows a young reader, named Jackson S., who read Wolfsnail in the first months after it was published. He sent me my first (and only) fan letter. I will quote from it here, keeping his invented spellings:  “I like your book because the plot helps me learn about woulfsnails in a fun way! Are you going to write any more books? Maybe you could write about spiders or lizards. I would prefer lizards.” He also told me about the wolfsnail he and his older brother found in their yard. “I let go my wolfsnail because I was afraid it was goining to die. It ate about one snail evre two days. I got its food off our brick wall! It staid in its shell about an hour and then it would come out and search for food. We named it wolfy!”

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I telephoned my editor, Andy Boyles, when I heard the award news and he suggested one of the reasons I won was the fact that I take children seriously. I do. The chair of the Geisel committee, Joan Atkinson, told me the panel liked the fact that the book had a story arc, that it included some suspense. Though some of the language seemed at first glance a little more advanced than in your typical beginning reader (“toothy tongue”), it was appropriate to the story and well supported by the photographs. The above photograph shows me signing my book for a beginning reader who at age four negotiated “toothy tongue” and the rest of the text just fine. (This photo was taken at the 2008 Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg. See previous post.) I am so glad these kids are diving into books like Wolfsnail and discovering the wonderful world of reading and the joys of nature.

Update I visited St. Therese Catholic School in the fall and the librarian wrote a tribute post today. I feel so honored.

Wolfsnail Named Geisel Honor Book

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I was thrilled to learn this morning via voicemail that Richard and I are being honored by the American Library Association’s 2009 Youth Media Awards committee with the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award — Honor Book. Here’s what is says about the award on the ALA website. I am so excited. I’ll be watching the announcing via web streaming here.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The winner(s), recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading, receives a bronze medal. Honor Book authors and illustrators receive certificates, which are presented at the ALA Annual Conference. The award was established in 2004 and first presented in 2006. The award is named for the world-renowned children’s author, Theodor Geisel. “A person’s a person no matter how small,” Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, would say. “Children want the same things we want: to laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted.” Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents. In the process, he helped them to read.