Sep 30, 2015

Time Is Running Out... Nominate Favorites Today!

Time is running out for you to participate in the nominations for the 2015 Cybils Awards for Children's Literature. Don't miss your chance (it's not available for most awards) to nominate your own favorite titles in each category. The deadline is OCTOBER 15, so check this out.

Here you have the categories for 2015 Nominations:

Book Apps
Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle-Grade Nonfiction
Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle-Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Young Adult Nonfiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction

The rules are simple:
Take a minute to check out our Rules and Regulations. The big one: the book needs to be published between October 16, 2014 and October 15, 2015. Oh, and ONE book per CATEGORY per PERSON. No exceptions. The form will kick you back if you try to nominate more than one book (or if someone else has already nominated the book). But you can nominate in EVERY CATEGORY!

You can see if your own favorite FICTION PICTURE BOOK TITLES have been nominated or not by checking the current listing, here . At last check, the titles are edging toward a hundred, but this category often includes two hundred or more before closing. Make sure your own favorites are included in our first round considerations! 

And check the other categories as they stand, here. The deadline is OCTOBER 15. TICK-TOCK!

Sep 18, 2015

Exciting News to Share: CYBILS Panelist for Fiction Picture Books!

And here it is:  the gorgeous logo for the CYBILS 2015 Children's and Young Adult Literary Awards.
For those not familiar with the CYBILS awards, you can learn about their mission, history, process, and ways to become involved from this page of the CYBILS website. (Here)

Ever since the awards began, I've nominated my own favorites in most categories, followed the process and progress of the many titles being evaluated, and read with excitement (and sometimes smug satisfaction) the eventual award winning titles.

This year I decided to take a leap and apply to serve on the Stage One panel of judges for fiction picture books. After all, the worst that could happen is they'd say "No, thank you." I'm not the sort who withers in the wake of rejection, and I'd be reading as many of the nominated titles as possible whether I was selected or not. 

In the fiction picture book category there are sometimes hundreds of titles nominated! Here's a link to the 2014 finalists in the category with additional links to the prior years. An amazing array of titles, right? Reading and narrowing down a huge list of wonderful titles to arrive at these must have been an overwhelming challenge. Hmmm... maybe not getting picked for that responsibility would be a good thing. That's what I told myself after clicking to submit my application.

So, are you ready for my news?  Please, please, please say "YES!" Oh, ready or not... 

I was selected for the 

ROUND ONE panel of judges!

Even though my pre-emptive rationalization/consolation if not selected was totally valid, I'm genuinely jazzed (and humbled and honored) to be included in the 2015 process. I received the news from the category chair, Terry Doherty (@readingtub, @thereadingtub, and her website: 
I'll be sharing the panel responsibilities with bloggers April Crews (@writerindc and, Hannah DeCamp (@hrdreads), Sondy Eklund (@sonderbooks,, Maggi Rhode (@mama_librarian,, Carrie Charley Brown (@carriebrowntx, Carry on...Together) and Jodell Sadler (

When you click their sites (not if, WHEN) you'll see what amazing backgrounds, expertise, passion, and experience they bring to this process. To learn even more, the official CYBILS announcement about our category of judges is HERE. Take some time to check out the other categories, too, including the nonfiction picture books. 

Be sure to  nominate your own favorite titles in the categories you read and enjoy from October 1-15. The process is easy and it's a great way to send a shout out to books you love. Trust me, those of us on the panels will begin reading your nominations as soon as they roll in, and the earlier the better!

So, stay tuned, take part, and read along with us! 

Sep 12, 2015

Dave the Potter: Powerful Life Story, Powerful Picture Books

My posts in recent months have been focused on specific topics and releases, but this post returns me to my original purpose when I started this blog nearly four years ago. 

Picture books are a format, not a single genre, not aimed at a narrow target age or a particular "stage" of childhood. A recent feature in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL included interviews with outstanding teachers who use picture books with middle grade and high school students, including AP English classes.
Used with intention, with understanding of the complexity, layers, and potential of quality literature in this format, picture books are not only appropriate for any age, they can elevate and enhance the quality of learning, discussions, and writing.

An outstanding example is ETCHED IN CLAY: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet, with text and woodcut illustrations by Andrea Cheng.
Lee and Low Books, 2013

In this book the combination of powerful woodcut art and free-verse voices examines the varied events and individuals who shaped Dave's life. Their impact was every bit as real as if the hands of owners, mentors, family, and society of that time and place had molded the clay of his being. Even so, he exerted an equally powerful molding influence on his life in knowing what, at its core, made him who he was.

I found the details of Dave's life AFTER the war and emancipation a deeply unsettling confirmation of facts reported in GIVE US THE BALLOT, by Ari Berman. Dave's  literate life was more limited post-Civil War by unwritten forces (Klu Klux Klan and others) than he had been as a slave.
With well-cited resources in the back matter of Etched in Clay, I suspect other readers will want to do as I do, to explore further the life and times of this remarkable artist.
Little, Borwn Books for Young Readers, 2010

A nonfiction picture book version of his story,  DAVE THE POTTER: ARTIST, POET, SLAVE , by Laban Carrick Hill and  multi-award-winning-illustrator  Bryan Collier, was my introduction to the life of this remarkably gifted artist, an intelligent survivor of pre- and -post- Civil War slavery.

DAVE THE POTTER: Artist, Poet, Slaveincludes powerful text (a free verse extended poem), quoted lines from poems by Dave, and the intensely deep, rich images of Bryan Collier, layered with details and visual references to slavery and society of the time. 
The back matter in this book elevates it from a surprising discovery of an unknown artist to a dense journey into the past. It gives Dave's artistry and literacy a voice and presence in the twenty-first century.
Like the best picture books, it will appeal to younger readers and intrigue their own creative selves while providing insights to history.
For older readers, though, it is a portal to the past that pairs well with ETCHED IN CLAY: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet.
The two sources combine to step away from the "concepts" of slavery, individual rights, and freedom into the shoes of a documented individual whose artistry and intelligence might have made him a world leader had he lived in other circumstances.

That's a prospect worthy of discussion and exploration at any age, don't you agree?
Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.