Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Dia Calhoun, author of Avielle of Rhia and The Phoenix Dance, sent me an email about an exciting new project. Dia and three other authors, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover and Justina Chen Headley, have teamed up to create readergirlz, a new online book community for teen girls, which celebrates gutsy girls in life and literature. readergirlz is about more than reading; it's about discussing and sharing books, getting to know the story behind the books, making new friends and finding new role models, learning about yourself and finding inspiration.

Each month readergirlz will feature one "gutsy girl" book with discussion questions, author interviews, party tips, and even a playlist to listen to while reading. In addition to the readergirlz web site there is also a MySpace page to bring readergirlz together.

Me as a viking

A new show about the dark ages will be premiering on the History Channel this Sunday. As part of the promotion leading up to the premiere, they have an interactive game to create your own dark ages character. You get to choose things like gender, role, and clothing, and it generates a character name for you based, using some mysterious algorithm, on your name.

I chose "Viking" for my role, and my character is named Geira the Ash Tree. You can see her here:

Check out my Dark Ages profile!

And yes, that's really my face! It lets you upload a photo to use for the face.

I had a lot of fun playing with this, although the gender limitations frustrated me. After I selected female for my gender, I was presented with four options: Lady, Viking, Nun, or Peasant. Lady? Bo-oring. Nun? No way! Peasant? Too hard. So I opted for Viking, which sounded pretty exciting to me. Unfortunately, I should have remembered from reading Viking Warrior that the life of women in Viking culture was not very exciting. So Geira is stuck caring for the children and supervising the servants, when I'd much rather go out viking! Oh, well, it could be worse: at least I'm not one of the servants! And while I wish it could be otherwise, the gender-based roles made sense in a game which is meant to teach you about the dark ages.

Edited to add:

My son David also created his own dark ages character: he opted to be a monk. He also cracked the name code and figured out how to pick his own name rather than being stuck with a randomly selected one.

See Godomar the Wandering Scholar

Friday, February 23, 2007

Disappointed in Blogger

I finally got up my courage to convert my blog to the new blogger. The good news is that the conversion went smoothly. The bad news is that everything is exactly the same. I don't see any of the new features. After doing some searching, it looks like because I use ftp to publish my blog on my own server, I won't be able to use any of the new features. That really sucks. I'm not sure why I bothered converting my blog. I'm really disappointed.

ForeWord Magazine finalists

ForeWord Magazine, a journal covering the best books from the independent presses, just announced the finalists for their Book of the Year Awards. Perusing the lists of finalists is a great way to find some great, independently published books.

View the finalists for:

Children's Picture Books

Juvenile Fiction

Juvenile Nonfiction

Young Adult Fiction

Young Adult Nonfiction

I was pleased to see a couple of Cybils nominees among the ForeWord finalists, and one Cybils winner: Scaredy Squirrel.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cure for the winter blues: the 11th Carnival of Children's Literature

This month MotherReader is hosting the Carnival of Children's Literature, and she's put together a great one! February is chock full of special events, but MotherReader found lots of quiet reflection in the submissions, as well. Visit the carnival here for lots of great reading!

Interview with Cybils poetry winner

Now that the Cybils winners have been announced, we're going to be posting author interviews. The first interview, with Cybils poetry winner Joyce Sidman, is now up on the Cybils web site. Thanks to Kelly Fineman for this fascinating interview.

Keep checking back, as we hope to be able to interview all of the winning authors and illustrators.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Book Review: Flora Segunda

Flora Segunda

by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Thirteen-year-old Flora Segunda is from an old family, the Fyrdraacas. Fyrdraaca's are soldiers, and Flora is destined to be a soldier too. When she comes of age at 14, she'll be expected to go off to the Barracks for training. But Flora doesn't want to be a soldier; she wants to be a ranger like her idol, Nini Mo. Rangers scout and spy and use magic. But Flora could never tell her mother, the General, that she doesn't want to go to the Barracks. And there are no rangers anymore; the Ranger corps has been disbanded and outlawed.

Flora lives in an old Great House, Crackpot Hall, but since her mother banished the house's denizen, the magical butler Valefor, the house has fallen into disrepair. One day, when Flora's mother is out of town, Flora is running late and decides to take Crackpot's elevator, in spite of her mother's orders not to use the elevator. The elevator takes an unexpected detour, and Flora discovers the butler Valefor, a weak and fading entity since his banishment. Valefor begs Flora to help him, and she agrees, unaware of the danger her help puts her in. Flora and her best friend Udo embark on a quest to restore Val.

Flora also discovers that Nini Mo's right hand man, Boy Hansgen, has been captured, and she and Udo come up with a plan to rescue him. The two quests - to rescue Boy Hansgen and to restore Val - intersect, and add up to a whole lot of trouble for the two young people.

Flora Segunda is an unusual, complex, and highly imaginative book. It's a difficult book to describe: the plot twists are so complicated, and the tone has a way of sounding flip or tongue-in-cheek even when describing dark events. It's a little confusing at times, both because of all the complicated names, and because the plot jumps around, including some side quests that seem a distraction from the main story. Still, it's an engaging book and I enjoyed it. It's a fun read and an inspirational story about the importance of being true to yourself. Sensitive kids may be disturbed by a couple of gruesome scenes. Some plot threads seem unresolved; I assume for a sequel.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The envelope please...

The results of the 2006 Cybils awards for best children's and YA books have been posted! Nine outstanding books, the best of their class, as nominated by the world and selected by the hard work of over 80 bloggers.

See the winners of the 2006 Cybils!

This is the moment we've been waiting for! Go! Go now! What are you doing still here?

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Cybils winners are in...

...but you'll have to wait until the official announcement tomorrow to find out. :-( Oh, sorry, was that mean? All I can say is that some great books won! (But then, you expected that, right?)

The winners will be posted tomorrow (Wednesday) starting at about 2 PM central time (if all goes well) at the Cybils web site. Can you feel the excitement building?

While you wait, there's lots of interesting things to read at the Cybils web site:

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Carnival of Children's Literature deadline

Don't forget that MotherReader is hosting the next Carnival of Children's Literature. Posts are due in just a few days, on February 15th. You can submit your post at the carnival site or directly to MotherReader.

Book Review: Avielle of Rhia

Avielle of Rhia

by Dia Calhoun

Princess Avielle is a Dredonian Rhian, whose silver skin makes her appearance closer to that of her Dredonian ancestors than that of most of the other inhabitants of Rhia. Dredonian Rhians are generally despised and distrusted in Rhia, because of Rhia's uneasy relations with its neighbor Dredonia. But Avielle is despised more than most; she resembles her great-great-grandmother, the legendary evil Dredonian sorceress who killed all the birds in Rhia with her curse, which continues to keep Rhia bird-free. In spite of her royal blood, Avielle is treated with suspicion and contempt by everyone, including members of her own family.

But when the palace is destroyed by Dredonian terrorists, Avielle's entire family is killed and Avielle herself forced to go into hiding. Avielle stays with Gamalda, a kind older woman who possesses weaving magic. Gamalda helps Avielle to discover her own magic, magic which Avielle resists because she fears that she will become like her great-great-grandmother. Conditions deteriorate in Rhia, as without a king or queen, the Council considers whether to acquiesce to the demands of the Dredonian sorcerers known as the Black Cloaks. Hatred and discrimination grows against the innocent Dredonian Rhians, as the people of Rhia fear what the Black Cloaks will do. Eventually, Rhia will have to decide whether to remain in the safety of her concealment, or whether to face her fears, including her fear of her own magic, and risk everything to save her friends and her country.

Avielle of Rhia is a beautifully written book with special meaning for post-9/11 teens. The attack on the palace is clearly a 9/11 analogue, and the discrimination afterwards against the Dredonian Rhians clearly parallels our country's treatment of Americans of Arab descent since 9/11, although there are also some Holocaust references here as well. We spent a lot of time in the Cybils nominating committee discussing this allegory and what it meant for the book. Some of the nominating committee felt that it was an author trying to make a statement, which detracted from the book. Others, including me, felt that it wasn't a statement so much as it was a reflection of the concerns of young people today.

Avielle was a weak and fearful character, which made it hard to like her at first. Of course, a weak character can be a good thing because it offers opportunities for growth, but I felt that it takes Avielle too long in the story to come into her own. There is some growth throughout the story; it was interesting watching her get to know her new neighbors on Gamalda's street and become friends with them. Those friendships become very important in the story, because Avielle is truly redeemed by the love of her friends. I just would have liked to see her do something to stand up for her friends sooner in the book.

In spite of its flaws, though, I loved this book. The world and the characters are interesting, and the writing is lovely. I personally liked the 9/11 angle, and didn't feel that it was too preachy. Avielle of Rhia should have a lot of appeal to teens who love a rich, detailed fantasy world.

Avielle of Rhia is a Cybils nominee.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

One week to go!

Only one more week to go until the winners are announced in the Cybils awards! I can't wait to see which of the excellent finalists will win.

If you're curious to know how things are going in the judging committees, you can read an update on the Cybils site. Of course, we don't really tell you anything; it's all just to whet your appetite. While you're there, you can participate in several interesting discussions:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

King of Shadows book discussion

Michele of Scholar's Blog kicks off her new monthly book discussions today with a discussion of Susan Cooper's King of Shadows, a time-travel historical novel about a modern boy who goes back in time to the 16th century and has the opportunity to meet Shakespeare and act with him in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe Theatre. If you haven't read the book, it's a wonderful book. If you have read it, then head on over and join the discussion!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Book Review: Who Killed Albus Dumbledore

Who Killed Albus Dumbledore: What really happened in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince?

Edited by John Granger

Who Killed Albus Dumbledore is really about much more than just the death of Dumbledore. It's a collection of essays by various Harry Potter fandom experts on various facets of the books. Each essay focuses on a topic and presents theories related to that topic:

  • John Granger discusses unanswered questions and theories of what really happens in Half Blood Prince. He also presents the idea that Rowling uses "narrative misdirection" by using the limited omniscient point of view to mislead us.
  • Wendy B. Harte examines the Black Family tree and presents theories about the R.A.B. locket caper.
  • Sally March Gallo discusses how Slughorn and Dumbledore could have staged Dumbledore's death. Although this essay was written before Rowling's announcement that Dumbledore is definitely dead, it was included in the collection for the possible insights it could provide.
  • Daniela Teo speculates on the known and unknown horcruxes, including the question of whether Harry is a horcrux.
  • A live journal posting by Swythyv, along with excerpts from the following discussion, analyzes the implications of Lupin's reaction to Tonks in Half Blood Prince.
  • Joyce Odell speculates about Dumbledore's death, the events leading up to it, and the implications for book 7.
  • In the final chapter, the contributors make their predictions about book 7 (including the title, and unsurprisingly, none of them guessed Deathly Hallows.) ;-)

The essays in this collection vary widely, both in writing style and the strength of the arguments. Some of the theories seemed pretty far-fetched, and others seemed quite possible to me. But all of them were intriguing, and even the highly improbable theories had some interesting nuggets worth considering. And the point of the essays isn't to provide answers, but to get the reader thinking, and it certainly does that. The most interesting speculations to me were those concerning Regulus Black. I hadn't taken the time to speculate on R.A.B. other than the question of who it was, which was easily solved, and it hadn't occurred to me that there might be more to the story.

Overall, this essay collection was worth reading for the serious Harry Potter fan. Whether you agree or disagree with their theories, they're sure to provide some fodder for your own theories.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Book Review: Silver World

Silver World

by Cliff McNish

Silver World is the third and final book in the astonishing Silver Sequence. Earth is being attacked by a creature from outer space, a vicious and hungry assassin known as The Roar. Meanwhile, Carnac, the grown son of The Roar, waits underground for his mother's signal to attack from below. The Roar is a born killer, an ancient being who has spent millennia perfecting the art of killing. She has no mercy and unimaginable weapons. All that Earth has to stand against her is a few special children, transformed in unusual ways to meet the challenge, the world's animals, and The Protector, an ancient being dedicated to battling the Roar and her kind, but who is severely wounded and trapped under the ocean. How can they possibly hope to stand against a threat as overwhelming as the Roar?

Silver World is an outstanding conclusion to an exceptional series: a suspenseful, mesmerizing book that you just can't put down until the last page. The Roar is such an overwhelming enemy that it's impossible to tell if the heroes will triumph, or even if they will survive. The characters are fascinating, and the obvious affection that they feel for each other makes the reader care about them even more deeply. Some of the transformations could be viewed as hideous deformities, but Cliff McNish makes masterful use of alternating chapters from different points of view to show how the children view each others' transformations as beautiful, and that beauty shines through for the reader, as well.

Book 1 is The Silver Child
Book 2, Silver City is a Cybils finalist.

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The anti-awards

Colleen at Chasing Ray has been doing some musing lately about book awards. She's made some really interesting points, especially that awards are generally limited by both size (only a few honorees) and publication date (only new books). Her feeling is that this does a disservice to readers, because it limits the potential for them to discover books that they may enjoy.

So Colleen decided to take the initiative and start her own "anti-award." The category for this first round is "Coming of Age" and nominations are open now. You can nominate any number of books published in any year, and Colleen will compile the nominations into a "best books" list. The only restriction is that they must be coming of age books, and be children's/YA books or adult books that crossover. Multiple nominations count in a book's favor, so nominate your favorite book even if it's already been nominated!

Nominations close February 27, so head on over and nominate!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Harry Potter vanquishes blogger

When I heard that a release date had been set for Harry Potter book 7, I tried to post about it to my blog. Unfortunately, Blogger seemed to be having problems; it loaded slowly, and when I tried to "Create post" I kept getting an error. I have to assume that Blogger's servers were overwhelmed by millions of people rushing to post the news about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Looks like Harry defeated Blogger!

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The end of an era

The announcement that everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: Harry Potter book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be published on July 21 (not July 7, or 7/7/07, as many people have speculated). The retail price will be a hefty $34.99, but is selling it for a huge discount, at $18.99. I'm not sure how is able to do that, but it's going to make it really hard for retail stores, especially independents, to compete.

Although I'm thrilled that the date has finally been set, I'm also a little sad. After all, this is the end of an era. Although it's been hard to wait for each new book, it's also been fun discussing and speculating on the books while waiting. In a way, we've been fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in a great community mind experiment that probably will never happen quite like this again. It's been a unique time in the history of literature, brought about by a fortunate confluence of events: the slow release of a rich series with plenty of fodder for speculation, and which appeals to both adults and children, occurring exactly during the explosion of the Internet and online social networking. Future readers will be able to go right from one book to the next, without taking the time to pause and consider and discuss. I personally think that they will have lost something.

I've been reading a book of speculation about the Harry Potter series and book 7, Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?: What Really Happened in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Six Expert Harry Potter Detectives Examine the Evidence, and I'll be posting a review of it in the next couple of days. If you haven't already, I recommend that you take some time and read this and/or one of the other books of theories about the Harry Potter series, discuss it with your family and friends, and participate in some of the online discussions. You'll never have this opportunity again.

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