Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 ALA Awards Announced

The American Library Association announced the 2009 award-winning books on Monday. Thanks to modern technology, I watched the live webcast from the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver. It was so much fun to hear the book titles announced and hear the response from the crowd of librarians. For a list of winners, click here.

The most famous awards are the Caldecott (illustrator’s award for most outstanding picture book), the Newbery (most outstanding contribution to children’s literature), and the Coretta Scott King Awards (outstanding books by African-American authors and illustrators). By listening to the presentation, I learned more about the other awards presented. A new award this year was the William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award. The winner was A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, a retelling of the fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin.

Long and loud applause seemed to erupt after the following awards were announced:

We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson (Coretta Scott King Author Award)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written and narrated by Sherman Alexie (Odyssey Award for best audio book for children or YA)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (John Newbery Medal)

After the recent discussions on whether books awarded the Newbery are actually for kids or just to please teachers and librarians, a book about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard is this year’s winner. Do you think the committee was thinking of teachers and librarians with this one or the audience of readers?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Presidential Literature

I am not a fan of conflict (except in books) so you will rarely find me engaged in political debate. However, I do enjoy watching election results unfold on television and especially the pageantry of the presidential inauguration.

One of my favorite things about these events is the opportunity to learn more about our nation’s past presidents from Pulitzer Prize winning author and presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. I am fascinated by the wealth of presidential facts in her brain. If you read my earlier blog, Mythical Dinner Party, I would definitely invite her to my dinner.

If you enjoy presidential facts, you should read one of my favorite picture books, So You Want to Be President, by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small. Both the text and the illustrations are a treat. Kids (and grownups) can find out which president was the tallest, shortest, largest, oldest, youngest, who had the most siblings, and what jobs they held before becoming president.

This book won the 2001 Caldecott medal. The American Library Association will announce this year’s winners of the best books in children’s literature next week. Stop by next week to discuss.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Arrival of the King Cake

Traditionally the Parker family enjoys our first king cake on January 6th, the first day of the Carnival season. Even though we no longer live in the land of Mardi Gras, we still need the king cake.

I did not plan ahead appropriately, so this year we received our king cake one week late. It arrived in the box with a packet of icing and three little cups of sugar, purple, green, and gold. It was a decorate-it-yourself king cake, which stunned the grownups in our house and delighted the children. We must have done okay with the decorating, because it tasted just as wonderful as usual.

If you’re not familiar with the king cake, here are a few fun facts:

*The king cake is named after the Wise Men who brought gifts to baby Jesus.

*The colors on the cake are the colors of Mardi Gras.
Purple stands for justice
Green stands for faith.
Gold stands for power.

*There is a plastic baby inside each cake. The person who finds the baby in his/her piece of cake should buy the next king cake.

*King cakes are plain dough with icing and colored sugar on top, but they can also be filled with cream cheese, praline or fruit filling.

*The Parker family prefers praline and cream cheese.

Have you ever enjoyed king cake? What is your favorite flavor?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Required Reading

I read a lot of books in 2008. But it’s required right? Writers must read to keep our fingers on the pulse of the current market. A few years ago, I started keeping a log of books read for the year, so I could go back and check a forgotten title of a book I wanted to recommend to a friend or see how long ago I first read a favorite book (Outlander in 2006). Reading through the lists of titles today felt like looking at photos of past holidays, a few bad ones, but most of them are good memories.

I now keep the list in an excel spreadsheet and it grows from year to year. My number one reading category this year was historical romance with middle grade novels coming in second. I love reading historical romance, but do not ever expect to write in this sub-genre. I think that is one of the main reasons I like it so much. It is just a pleasure to read. And I love middle grade novels because they’re wonderful! Hopefully mine will be on your reading lists one day.

Just a few of my favorite books read in 2008 were:

*The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck (middle grade historical)
*The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (middle grade mystery) [This novel deserves its very own blog post. Stay tuned.]
*Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra (young adult)
*Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs (women’s fiction)

Books I look forward to reading in 2009:
The Associate by John Grisham
What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

What were your favorite reads of 2008? Are there any books you look forward to reading this year?