Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tale of 3 Blogs (and 4 Bloggers)

I'm a relative newbie to the Kid-Litosphere here at The Imaginary Blog. So I wanted to learn a bit more about other kid-lit bloggers, their quirks, their voices, their blog-o-reasons-for-being. Please join me as we venture deep into some of the best cyber-minds of the Kid-Litosphere. What can we glean from the hearts and creative personalities of the real people behind these blogs?

I'm imagining this experiment as a sort of literary, slightly random, Word-Association-Rorschach-Blotty-Blog-Interview, so come along now and please welcome our 3 blogs and 4 victims, I mean participants:

1. Cynthia Leitich Smith, Grandmommy of all KidLit Bloggers at Cynsations. Cynthia is a children's and YA author, faculty member at Vermont College's MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults, and a Web Goddess Guru. She's been blogging since July 2004.

2. Elizabeth Bird, Children's Librarian at NYPL and Blogger
Extraordinaire at Fuse #8 Productions. Elizabeth has been blogging since February 2006 on her old site and since June of 2007 on her new one.

3. (and 4). Eisha & Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Librarians & Amazing Blogger Team.

Jules describes their blog as follows: "We set out to blog about books for any age, but thus far, 7-Imp’s been 99% children’s lit. And then about 70% or maybe 71.67834% picture books, ‘cause I loves me some good illustration. Eisha might summarize the blog differently. Who knows. We've been blogging since August 2006."

Lynn here again. I noticed a trend with numbered lists at Fuse # 8, & Seven Impossible Things, so I asked our four bloggers to please indulge me in the following:

Please think (but don't think too much) about the voice, intent, and surprises of your blogging experience and without showing your responses to any other guests please sum up your blog with a nifty list pyramid. In 8 separate lines with one less word in each successive line, please tell us...

8 Words: About Why You Blog
7 Words: About What You Blog About
6 Words: About What Makes Your Voice Unique
5 Adjectives: Used By You or Others to Describe Your Blog
4 Adverbs: About How You Write/Blog
3 Words: Culled From Your Comments
2 Words: Any Words
1 Noun

Imaginary readers, do you want to know the fun thing about these Kid-Lit Bloggers? They all joined in. No questions asked like, "Huh?" or "What?" or "Are you crazy?" And they made up some fun words, and long hyphenated words. I'm rather fond of made-up, imaginary, and long hyphenated words, aren't you?

Their responses are as unique and interesting as they are! Please take a look.

From Cynthia Leitich Smith at Cynsations:

From Elizabeth Bird at Fuse # 8 Productions:

Elizabeth adds:
"Fascinating stuff. I can certainly say that I haven't done an interview that required this much pure unfiltered thought on my part in a long time. I'm afraid that this won't look like much of a pyramid since my adverbs throw it all off (I learned Adverbs from the Mad-Libs school of writing). This was fun."

(a note from Lynn: I played with the spacing, size and formatting to get their lists a little more pyramidy and to fit into the confines of Blogger, especially the mad-libby-adverby-hyphenated-made-up-words :-)

From Eisha at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:

From Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:

And now for a few more thoughts that didn't fit into the confines of the pyramids:

Jules explains her pyramid & predictions:
"My first line is what it is because, if I’m really honest with myself, my true reason for blogging is ‘cause I have strong opinions about children’s lit and don’t want children to read what I consider craptastic literature. Is that arrogant or what? I can tell myself it’s to keep up with children’s lit while I’m temporarily away from children’s librarianship, etc. and all that---and that’s partly true---but, honestly, it’s because when I read what I think is a fabulous book, I can’t keep my big, fat mouth shut about it. Barbaric yawp. Rooftops of the world. And all that.

The last line is an inside joke between me and Eisha, so I should explain: This really fabulous, hysterical blogger emailed us when he was starting out and asked us for tips as to how to increase traffic (which is funny, because I don’t even know how to follow our reader stats, nor do I really care to know. Shoot, as long as one person is reading, I’ll run my mouth). He said he was asking us, because we’re “juggernauts.” About a week later, that finally registered with me and Eisha, and we stopped and laughed about that. Not at the blogger for saying that. He’s a sweetie-pie punkinhead. But at the notion that we’re juggernauts, which we certainly don’t think we are. But we’ve been having fun creating new words, such as “juggertabulous” and “juggerninja” and “juggernads.”

I have no future predictions for kidlitosphere blogging. I like to sit back and watch trends, but ultimately I just wanna talk books and their creators. I’m happy I can be a part of it. I particularly love that Blogistan has no rules."

Cynthia says:
"For time-sensitive information—-like award or event announcements—-a blog post works better than the main site. I can only highlight, but I’m on my own schedule (hello, back list and paper releases). The credit goes to those book professionals who’ve been so generous with their thoughts. I’ve been wowed by the tremendously enthusiastic response of the youth literature community. Sharing news and interviews from the publishing world feeds my inner journalist. I offer a positive haven, a place of information and inspiration. I don’t have the budget to have interviews professionally formatted. Cynsations is a teacher, and I’m its devoted student...I suspect the next wave will be live, streaming blogging, but I much prefer the current incarnation."

Lynn: Wow, that was fun, wasn't it? We've seen the blog-essence of Cynthia's, Elizabeth's, and Eisha & Jules' blogs. Now does anyone care to analyze any trends or coincidental overlaps in wording (or lack thereof) in our four bloggers' pyramids?

Oops! That was so interesting, I forgot to ask my last question and post my forecast...

Forecast: Increased likelihood of a few more juggernautastic words from our bloggers...

Lynn: Since this is an Imaginary Blog, I'm curious to hear what you imagined the blogging experience would be like when you first started, and how that compares to your current reality--what's different, better, worse than you imagined? Anything you'd have done differently if you had known what you now know?

Eisha responds:
How I thought it would be: just me and Jules, talking about books we'd read, and maybe one or two friends chiming in occasionally in the comments. Maybe once in a while a friend would say something like "Hey, I read that book you were raving about - it was awesome!"

I really had no idea what the kidlitosphere was, or that there were so many other people talking about books out there in cyberspace. I never imagined that I'd actually make new friends through the blog, some of whom I've never met in person but still feel like "friend" is the right word. I never imagined that we'd ever get up the gumption to interview published authors and illustrators. I never imagined that authors and illustrators and publishers would be contacting us to see if we were interested in their books. I never imagined that I'd go to a book-related event and someone would say to me "Oh! You're Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast!" like it was my name. Those things have been surreal, but in a good way.

One thing that's maybe a little harder than I expected: the actual writing. Since it turns out some people actually do read our blog, I often get... I dunno, blog-fright, I guess... when I'm trying to write. It's intimidating, especially when there are so many talented, insightful, hilarious bloggers out there (like our lovely co-interviewees, for example). Also, as anyone who knew me in school will tell you, I occasionally have just a teensy little problem with deadlines: specifically, with starting a writing project before it's due. I never imagined I'd be pulling all-nighters for a blog, just to get stuff up for blog tours and other deadline-ish things we sometimes participate in.
Thanks again for the interview - it's been fun!

Cynthia says: I jumped on so early that I wasn't sure what to expect. It came as a pleasant surprise to me how easy it was for people to subscribe and read the blog each morning. Many Cynsations readers--especially librarians--have told me that it's the newspaper with their morning coffee. The only downside is that my schedule (and lack of organizational skills) means that I'm not as participatory in group efforts as I'd like to be. I'm a huge fan of several of the community blogs and poetry/non-fiction days, but it's all I can do to juggle the features within my own focus niche.

Jules adds:
My answer is easy: I never expected to be the recipient of review copies when we first started blogging, and---in fact---Eisha and I turned them down at first. After deciding to accept them, for different reasons, and coming up with a review copy policy, blogging changed dramatically. In good ways, interesting ways, challenging ways. Ultimately, I'm grateful for them, though, as our focus has always been to keep up with what's new out there and share our thoughts on those titles.

Would I have done anything differently if I had known what I know now? I don't think I even think about that. I've said before: I love that Blogistan has no rules. We're flyin' by the seat of our pants, taking it day-by-day. It's fun. Woot!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And Now-- SHIFTY News

Cynthia Leitich Smith over at Cynsations interviewed my editor at Tricycle Press, Abigail Samoun. Check out the full interview at Cynsations.

I learned a lot about Abi, including that she shelves her books in an interesting manner...

Abigail says, "I prepared for this career by being a lover of books. I thought of favorite authors as kind of abstract friends---when I looked at my bookcases, it felt almost like I was looking at a family photo album. It was always reassuring and comforting.
I even shelved my books according to which writers I felt would get along. Margaret Atwood next to Gail Godwin, Italo Calvino next to Borges, Kundera next to Norman Mailer. It made complete sense to me."

And you'll see why my favorite of Cyn's questions (and favorite response) is below:

Cynthia: "If you had to pick just three, what are Tricycle Press's don't-miss titles of 2008? And why?

Abigail: Just three? Hmmm…

The young adult novel I mentioned above is a definite "don’t-miss." Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen (of Mermaid Mary Margaret and Buzz Bumble fame) (author interview), leads you through the emotional territory of a fifteen year old who has spent almost his entire life in foster care. The events of the book take place over the first few weeks of summer vacation and explore the developing trust and affection between Shifty and his eight-year-old foster sister, Sissy, who serves as both his conscience and his partner in a series of unlikely escapades.

Both Shifty and Sissy are drawn with sensitivity and nuance, I missed them after I shipped the book to the printer----but Lynn also brought to life characters that didn't even speak: Chance, an infant and the third child in the foster home, and Lester, a cat who, as Shifty says, "can’t even meow right."

Lynn here again. Wow, thanks Abi! And Abi is right--The cat says "meowp."

I think I mentioned last month that Allen & Unwin was publishing SHIFTY in Australia.

Indeed they are. Take a look at the Australian cover. I love the American cover (top of this page) but I love the Australian one, too. What do you think?

Each is so different and the Australian version has such wild colors and energy. Love the blues and green of the original American version, too. And I'm so excited that I got my first teen review of SHIFTY by Sam, 16.

'Witty, fast, makes you think.' - Sam, 16.

I couldn't ask for a better first teen review. Thanks Sam, whoever you are.

The ISBN, for the Australian "translation" of SHIFTY is 978-1-74175-590-9. You can learn more at Allen & Unwin's website. There is also an amazing free downloadable "Teachers Notes" pdf on Allen & Unwin's SHIFTY page, created by Dr. Susan La Marca, perfect for thoughtful classroom discussion, writing prompts, book clubs, homeschoolers and more. I really like what she has prepared for teachers, students, and readers. Take a look.

For more info and to read the first chapter of SHIFTY, go to:
The book will be available soon in both the U.S. and Australia. Of course feel free to pre-order from your favorite bookseller. Thanks for taking a look at SHIFTY.

Forecast: More reviews? Meowp!

Cinder Rabbit News

Hello Imaginary Readers,
Hip-hop-hurrah! Please join me in some good news about Cinder Rabbit ...(Yes, it's for real)

Cinder Rabbit is included on a Mock Geisel Award Reading List at the Allen County Public Library. Take a look and if you've read Cinder Rabbit, please add to their comments section.

But wait, there's more...(including hoo-ing, ha-ing, belly-laughing, and the response of real children! I love hoo-ing, ha-ing, belly-laughing and the response of real children!)

Jules over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast did a round-up of "EmergingBeginningInterChapterMediateReaders" and she included her thoughts on Cinder. I'll quote her...

"Author Lynn E. Hazen, who writes for just about every age, brings us a new early chapter book, released in April from Henry Holt, entitled Cinder Rabbit. I can’t say that I’ve read this to a huge group of children (perhaps yet), but a certain four-year-old and almost-three-year old whom I know quite well (who happen to, uh, live with me) hoo’ed and ha’ed and belly-laughed (along with me) when I sat down and read this aloud to them — front to back, in one sitting.

It’s time for the spring play at Grand Rabbits School, and this year it’ll be a production of Cinder Rabbit. As fate will have it, Zoe is chosen to play the title role. But Zoe, who normally knows the ins and outs of hopping, seeing as how she’s a rabbit, suddenly can’t do so after hopping into a big mud puddle and getting teased by class-mate Winifred. Now that she’s been humiliated, she simply freezes up and no longer hops...There’s a lot of comedy here, and the story is sweet without being cloying. With a book like this, divided into short chapters, I can see the need for an “early chapter book” category; this seems perfectly appropriate for those children just graduating from beginning readers. Elyse Pastel’s illustrations bring Hazen’s cast of characters to life with style and oomph. A very fun read, a fitting choice for any child who’s ever felt stage fright or been the recipient of a bully’s taunts."

Read more about Cinder Rabbit and Jules' take on EmergingBeginningInterChapterMediateReaders

Still more! Booklist posted a positive review of Cinder Rabbit. See highlights below and some snippets of two previous reviews from Kirkus & SLJ that also make me hoppy!

First, from Booklist:

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof Issue: June 1, 2008

Zoe landed the lead role of “Cinder Rabbit” in her classroom’s spring play, which will be performed in less than a week. She is very excited until she learns that for the finale, she will have to lead the entire class in the bunny hop. Poor Zoe can’t bunny hop, a terrible thing for a young rabbit not to know, and she is terrified of what bully Winifred will say when she finds out...This simple, sweet beginning chapter book contains the right amount of story for children just starting to read longer books; and the charming black-and-white illustrations, decorating every page, will engage children in the story as they break up the text into easily manageable segments that will help youngsters feel successful.

— Shauna Yusko

Zoe is ecstatic when she lands the lead in her school's spring play, Cinder Rabbit. That is, until she realizes that she will have to lead the other students in the Bunny Hop. Zoe hasn't been able to hop since Winifred laughed at her when she bounced into a mud puddle and fell. As the play approaches, Zoe feels increasingly anxious and, practice though she may, she can't get her hop back... On the night of the performance, despite her buoyant nature, Zoe freezes up until Prince Charming's amusing reenactment of a trip to town inspires her to leap above her fears. Plentifully illustrated with darling, expressive bunnies, this early chapter book lightly but effectively explores the consequences of bullying while extolling the virtues of perseverance. (Fiction. 6-9) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal:
K-Gr 2-Zoe, a young bunny, is excited to have the role of Cinder Rabbit in her school's spring play. That is, until she learns that as the star she will be required to lead the class in the Bunny Hop. Zoe was quite a confident little hopper until an unfortunate mis-hop left her in a mud puddle with class bully Winifred laughing at her...This early chapter book is for any reader who has ever frozen in the face of pressure, or for those who face the taunts of a bully. It is sweet and fun, with bunny details liberally inserted throughout. Black-and-white illustrations on each spread expand on the characters-a bunny selected as the assistant director wears a bow tie, the teacher has a double-pierced ear, and Zoe's nemesis has a perpetual frown. Short chapters will allow beginning readers to finish in manageable segments, and the book's simple but consistent story arc will leave them cheering for Zoe's triumph in the end.-Heather M. Campbell, Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Wait, wait, there is more...And this might be the best.

I just got a nifty card from a young reader. How cool is that? I'm counting it as another "positive review." This particular young reader was one of the children who inspired me to create the story of Cinder Rabbit and the character of Charlie. Charlie is the truck-loving bunny who is assigned the role of Prince Charming Whiskers in the Grand Rabbits' School Play. Of course Charlie would rather be in a play about trucks!

For more details on my inspiration for Cinder Rabbit, free downloadable pdfs of a Cinder Rabbit discussion guide, a fun "How to Draw a Bunny" page by illustrator Elyse Pastel, and a podcast or two, hop on over to

Forecast: More hoo-ing, ha-ing, bunny hopping & belly-laughing, I hope.

(Cinder Rabbit illus's by Elyse Pastel)