Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cybils 2010 Science Fiction & Fantasy Panels

In case you missed it, the 2010 Panels for the Cybils awards have been posted over on the Cybils site. Choosing the panels for the Fantasy/Science Fiction category was heart wrenching. There were so many good volunteers, and just not enough spots to go around. There were good people, excellent people, who should have had a spot, but whom I had to pass on because I couldn't fit them in. There were 85 people who expressed interest in the SFF panels, and I had only 24 spots. I wish I could have fit everyone in.

I spent many many hours over the last few weeks looking at the blogs of all the applicants, as did all my fellow organizers. I was looking for people who showed a good background in reading a variety of different types of SFF and a good understanding of the principles of SFF, as well as the principles of good YA or MG writing.

I read everyone's "About" page and "Review Guidelines," if any was available. For reviewers, I read several reviews, trying to read at least one review of a book that I had read, and one review of a book I hadn't read. I looked for reviews that had at least some analysis of the elements that make up a good book: plot, character, voice, writing style, etc. For blogging authors who blog primarily about their writing journey, I looked for posts about their own writing that showed a good understanding of those same principles. I also looked for things like a unique voice or perspective, and for strong advocates for under-served groups.

Beyond the individuals, I looked to balance each of the panels. As did all the organizers, I strove for a good mix of returning and new panelists, and a good diversity of background and perspective. I tried to make sure each panel had a mix of librarians, teachers, writers, parents, students, and others. (I'm probably the only one with an archaeologist on my panels, though!)

If you didn't get on a panel this year, I hope that you'll apply again next year. We consider everyone fresh every year, and try to make sure we include new as well as returning panelists. Pay attention to the elements listed above in your blogging this year. If there are one or two categories that you are especially interested in, you might try to focus your blogging on those categories and develop/show some expertise in those categories over the next year. Read some good books on literary evaluation, such as the excellent From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books by Kathleen T. Horning. If you're specifically interested in the SFF panel, books on writing science fiction can give a good background on the principles of the genre, even if you aren't a writer.

Other things you can do are to join the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group and participate so that we can get to know you. Participate in the Carnival of Children's Literature for the same reason. Read and comment on other Kidlit blogs.

If you are already doing all these things and didn't get a spot on the panels, please don't be disheartened. We just couldn't include everyone. Please try again next year. Be sure to nominate your favorite books between October 1 and October 15! A nomination form will be available on the Cybils site starting October 1.

We hope that you'll also follow the awards on the blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Join the conversation by commenting and posting your own thoughts. Share on your own blog & social networks what books you think should make the shortlists and/or win. And don't forget to buy some Cybils bling to show off at Kidlit Con 2010! (I covet that tote bag!)

If you've made it this far in this long post, here are the folks that I'll be working with on the 2010 SFF panels:

Panel Organizer: Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

Panelists (Round I Judges), MG/Elementary:

Anamaria Anderson, Books Together
Gwenda Bond, Shaken & Stirred
Cindy Hannikman, Fantasy Book Critic
Aaron Maurer, Coffee for the Brain
Nicole Signoretta, Booked Up
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library
Karen Yingling, Ms. Yingling Reads

Panelists (Round I Judges), Teen/YA:

Steve Berman, Guys Lit Wire
Tanita Davis, Finding Wonderland
Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom
Sheila Ruth (see panel organizer)
Angie Thompson, Angieville
Hallie Tibbetts, Undusty New Books
Heather Zundel, Secret Adventures of WriterGirl

Round II Judges:


Melissa Baldwin, One Librarian's Book Reviews
Kate Coombs, Book Aunt
Emily Mitchell, emilyreads
Nancy Tsai, Kidsmomo
Tanya Zavestoski Turek, Books 4 Your Kids


Emma Carbone, Miss Print
Anne Levy, Cybils
Sam Musher, Parenthetical
Sarah Stevenson, Finding Wonderland
Steph Su, Steph Su Reads

I can't wait for October 1 to get started!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Lost in Lexicon

Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers
by Pendred Noyce
Illustrated by Joan Charles

Spending the summer with Great Aunt Adelaide starts out great, but soon cousins Ivan and Daphne are bored in their aunt's TV- and video-game-free home. When Aunt Adelaide sends them out to the barn to find adventure, they find more than they expected, when stepping through a window takes them to the land of Lexicon. In Lexicon, they soon learn that something is wrong. Children have been disappearing, there have been strange weather phenomena and lights in the sky at night, and many things are out of kilter in the land. Ivan and Daphne set off on a quest to try to figure out what's wrong, and to find the missing children.

Lost in Lexicon was inspired in part by The Phantom Tollbooth, and it shares the same joy of word and number play. When I first heard about this book, I was worried that it might try too hard to be like that classic book, so I reread The Phantom Tollbooth before reading this book. Lost in Lexicon is different enough to be unique, while still celebrating the fun of words and numbers.

Lost in Lexicon is at its best when it celebrates without trying too hard to teach. There's plenty of fun adventures, including an attack of punctuation, a town where each quadrant is limited to speaking using only one part of speech (verbs in one quadrant, nouns in another, etc), and an adorable llama-like animal which acts as a thesaurus. Unfortunately, the book is a little too didactic in places, especially in its warnings against the evils of television and video games, which are definitely the villains of the story. I don't think that kids are going to be persuaded to give up their screens by this, and the preachiness of it is likely to be a turnoff for many young people.

As Daphne and Ivan travel through Lexicon, they encounter math villages and word villages in equal measure. I found the word villages to be more fun than the math villages, but that might have been just personal preference. There are also social issues raised in some of the villages. Lost in Lexicon is pretty well-written, although it lacks the sharp wit and distinctive voice of The Phantom Tollbooth.

The characterization of Daphne and Ivan is a little flat. I was also a little disappointed at first that Daphne is good at language but despises math, and Ivan is good at math but not language. In a time when much effort is being put into encouraging boys in reading and writing, and girls in math and science, I thought it might have been better to show counter to the stereotypes. However, as the book progressed, this situation allowed for growth; Daphne discovers that she can do math, and Ivan finds value and skill in words.

Try Lost in Lexicon on kids who enjoy math and word games, and those who liked The Phantom Tollbooth and are looking for similar books. It also might be good as a classroom or homeschool read-together, where the book can lead to discussion of the concepts and ideas raised. There are games and activities, as well as a book club guide, available on the web site at www.lostinlexicon.com.

The book is enhanced with fun black and white illustrations by Joan Charles.

Lost in Lexicon will be published in October, 2010.

FTC required disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The Amazon.com links above are Amazon Associate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Exciting new SFF digital book project

Subutai Corporation has announced a new book project that sounds pretty exciting. The Mongoliad, a speculative fiction novel set during the 13th century Mongol invasion of Europe, will be written by a team of authors that includes bestselling authors Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear. (I was particularly impressed to read in the author bios that Greg Bear is one of only two authors to win a Nebula in every category!)

What makes this project unique is that it will be posted serially online, and will take full advantage of the digital platform to offer special features and collaboration between the audience and the authors.

"The form of the traditional novel is a consequence of the technology of the printing press," said Jeremy Bornstein, co-founder and President of Subutai. "We wanted to explore what the novel could be now that it's practical to use a platform more modern than paper."

Among the features will be a Foreworld 'Pedia, a kind of audience-editable wiki of information about the world of The Mongoliad and the people in it. They promise that there will even be secrets in the 'Pedia! There's also a tantalizing suggestion that, "If we really like something you've written, we may just add it to the Foreworld Canon."

The subscription price for all of this is $5.99 for 6 months, or $9.99 for 12 months. Given that's less than or equal to the price of most traditionally published eBooks, it sounds like a good deal. I've already subscribed, and you can find my profile here:


Not much on my profile yet, though, as the "upload a profile picture" doesn't seem to work yet.

There will be apps available for various platforms, but those are apparently in the approval stage and not available yet. It's all still in the early stages, but it looks like they're ramping up quickly and it should be a lot of fun. You can find the world of the Mongoliad at www.mongoliad.com

(via Publishers Lunch via Yahoo News)

Cybils 2010 Call for Judges

If you're a children's and/or YA blogger and you'd like to try your hand at serving on an awards committee, the Cybils Awards has put out the call for 2010 judges. The Cybils, short for "Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards," is the first blogger-awarded book award, and is now going into it's fifth year. We seek to recognize outstanding children's and YA books that bridge the gap between literary excellence and "kid appeal." Check out the call for judges and eligibility requirements here.

I've been on a first round panel for three of the last four years, and I can tell you that it's a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. If you have the time and are crazy enough to want to read and discuss (by email) at least 3-4 books a week over a three month span, I can't recommend it enough. Second round panelists only have to read 5 or 7 books over a six week period.

I'm the Science Fiction and Fantasy organizer this year, as I have been for 3 out of 4 years (a shout out to the terrific Tasha Saecker, who took on that duty the year I couldn't!). I'd particularly like to find people who are well-read in a variety of different SFF subgenres, and who understand the unique requirements of middle-grade or Young Adult SFF. I'll be looking at the blogs of everyone who volunteers, but if you're submitting yourself for consideration for the SFF panels, and you don't feel that your blog adequately demonstrates your SFF experience, please feel free to email me at sruth@wandsandworlds.com and tell me a bit about yourself. (But you still must email the cybils09 email address to get on the official volunteer list, as specified in the eligibility requirements at the link above).