Me circa: Autumn 2008
Before I type anything else, I need to thank my sister-in-law, who asked for a list of good kid's books to read to my niece and nephew and, after receiving that list encouraged me to start a blog and share my passion and knowledge with others. Mille Grazie!
My Background: I have always loved kid's books. As a child I was a voracious reader and that's probably why I ended up working at a bookstore, beginning when my oldest child was two. She is now fifteen. I also have 11 year old and 4 year old sons. I have always read out loud to my children, regardless of their reading abilities. Over the last few years, I noticed that, in addition to what I was reading out loud to my kids, I was almost exclusively reading children's and teen books for my own pleasure. The publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in America in 1997 has changed the world of children's books significantly. There are more chapter books being published for kids and teens now than ever before. Unfortunately, quantity does not always mean quality. I think the information you find here will help you to dig through the shelves and find the sometimes hidden gems.
My passion for children's books is something that I love sharing with the customers - especially the kids - I help when I am at work. Hopefully, through this blog, I will be able to help even more parents and kids find just the right book. While I will recommend popular books that you will find easily on the shelves of your bookstores and libraries, I will also mention a fair number of books that you might have to special order. The sad truth of the book selling industry is that sometimes a really good book doesn't get a chance to hang around on the shelf long enough to become popular. But, most book stores are happy to special order books at no cost to you and with no obligation to buy. And, of course, any of these books can be purchased online.
My Philosophy: You will not find every book, even some popular books, mentioned or reviewed here. I am only going to talk about the books that I am passionate about or at least have a good feeling about. However, I do sometimes venture out of the realm of my interests in kid's books and am sometimes pleasantly surprised. Over the course of my years at the bookstore helping parents find books for their kids, as well as working as a literacy volunteer at my kids' school, I have been inspired to read a book that I normally wouldn't look twice at, sometimes just to see what all the fuss is about. But, I admit that I am opinionated and sometimes snobbish about my tastes in kid's books. I have a firm policy for choosing books when I read out loud for story time at the bookstore: I do not read books that are based on television shows or movies. So, you won't see any reviews of books based on Disney television shows or the like in this blog. Those kinds of books kids can find and read on their own, and the often do. What I hope to share with you are some of the lesser known titles that have fallen by the wayside in this digital age when children's literature is rarely used as part of the teaching curriculum in public schools anymore and teacher's don't have the time (or sometimes the interest) in children's literature that they can pass on to their students.
I am definitely a person who believes in the transformative power of the written word - whether it is to carry the reader away to a new world for and hour or so or to shape the reader as a human being by showing how other people live and think and experience life. I hope that there is a book on this list that will carry your children away and inspire them learn to know what they like and to seek out books on their own.
Updated Me: January 2, 2010
So, I've been blogging/reading/reviewing for a little over a year now. After a year of three posts a week, I decided to drop down to two. I have such a huge pile of books -close to 200, I think, that I intend to read and rarely get around to, that I realized I needed more time to read what I have. That also means curtailing my reading of new books a bit. Over the course of my first year I was thrilled to be added to ARC lists for some great publishers. This means that I get new books seasonally, as well as having new books at my fingertips every time I go to work. Then, there is always the best way I have found to acquire a new book - when an author writes to me and asks me if I would like to read/review her book. Roughly half the time I respond with an enthusiastic YES. That is how I was introduced to Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose, My Last Best Friend, Secret Science Alliance and Operation Redwood, to name a few.
The other highlight of my first year+ as a blogger (I have to admit, I am a bit high minded and would much rather call myself a book reviewer, but really, I am just a self styled book reviewer. The truth of it is, I am a blogger and like millions of others, I keep what amounts to an on-line diary. My diary just happens to be a record of the books I read, with a few other highlights thrown in. I try to keep the personal stuff to a minimum. This will be my diary post, I guess) was being interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered by Michele Norris. October 2009 saw the publication of book 4 in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and I wrote a post on Book 1 in which I expressed concern and caution over the content of the book. Norris interviewed the author, Jeff Kinney, about his books, their popularity and their contentiousness, then I came on to share my views. It was AWESOME!!! I got to go to this really swank studio in Rancho Bernardo to record the interview and talking with Michele Norris was a pure joy!
Hopefully in this coming year I will find some ways to expand my reach, so to speak. Maybe I can find a gig writing reviews for a real publication... Tune in next January for another update.