Friday, July 30, 2021

My Exciting NetGalley Experience

My exciting NetGalley experience is that, after having joined the site in 2016, I am actually reading my first book through it. When I didn't see anything I was interested in there 4 years ago, I forgot about it. 

This morning I even downloaded the NetGalley app onto my iPad, so I can read books there instead of downloading them to my old Kindle. I've been reading library ebooks through the Libby app (thank you, Beloved Son, for telling me about that) on my iPad, so I know reading on that device is something I like a lot more than reading on Kindle. This is not to demean Kindle. When I come into the present with a new Kindle (the one I have is so old it doesn't have lighting), reading there will be much improved, I'm sure.

What is NetGalley some of you may ask? It's a method for bloggers, reviewers, librarians, and other book people to get early access to digital copies of new books so they can promote them or, in the case of librarians and booksellers, make decisions about purchasing them for their collections or stores.

The publisher of the book I'm reading had to approve me before I could get the book. So I'm feeling like I'm somebody now. 

You may be hearing more from me about my NetGalley reading.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

July Childlit Book Releases

Well, here I am, watching Olympic coverage and working on this month's book post. As usual, these are just the books releasing this month that drifted across my radar. There are many more out there.


July 6 Fourteen Monkeys, Melissa Stewart, Steve Jenkins illustrations   

July 6 Who Was Juliette Gordon Low? Dana Meachen Rau, Dede Putra illustrations






July 6 The Girl in the Headlines, Hannah Jayne 






July 6 Swimming With Sharks, Melissa Cristina Marquez 






July 6 Minecraft: The Dragon, Nicky Drayden







July 6 My School Stinks, Becky Scharnhorst, Julia Patton illustrations 






July 6 Forever This Summer, Leslie C. Youngblood







 July 6 Except Antartica, Todd Sturgell





 July 6 The Last Super Chef, Chris Negron







July 6 The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow, Emma Steinkellner






July 13 When All the Girls Are Sleeping, Emily Arsenault 







July 13 Open the Witch's DoorJannie Ho illustrations






July 13 Paranorthern and the Chaos Bunny A-Hop-Calypse , Stephanie Cooke, Mari Costa illustraitons






July 13 Maya and the Robot, Eve L. Ewing, Christine Almeda illustrations






July 13, Margie Kelley Breaks the Dress Code, Bridget Farr 


July 20 Rhinos in Nebraska, Alison Pearce Stevens, Matt Huynh






July 20, The Secret Science of Sports, Jennifer Swanson



July 20, Better With Butter, Victoria Piontek 






July 20, The Halloween Moon, Joseph Fink  






July 20 Linked, Gordon Korman






July 27 A Life Electric, Azadeh Westergaard, Julia Sarda illustrations




Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Alaska Connection Makes All The Difference

The pre-teen girl who is an outsider in her new school is a staple in contemporary children's literature, as is the child who suddenly finds herself with divorced parents. Eleven-year-old Rigel Harman in 365 Days to Alaska by Cathy Carr is both those things. The irresponsible husband/father is a character who shows up all over childlit, too. (As well as all over adult lit, movies, and TV shows.) He's in 365 Days to Alaska, also, as the stimulus for the divorce that leads Rigel, her two sisters, and their mother to move in with Rigel's grandmother. 

That sounds like a lot of the same old thing, but what 365 Days to Alaska has going for it is Alaska. 

The Harman children have lived all their lives in Alaska, and not city Alaska, whatever that may be, but out in the bush. And the grandmother they move in with is in suburban Connecticut. I do not mean a cliched Gilmore Girls rich Connecticut grandmother. (No, I am not a Gilmore fan.) But for Rigel and her sisters, moving into a house with more than one bathroom, a dishwasher, and a TV makes their mother's mother a sort of rich Connecticut grandmother. 

For Rigel, who loved Alaska and thinks she's going back in 365 days to live with that irresponsible father (adult readers can predict how that's going to end), the transition to Connecticut is realistically difficult. We're not just talking I miss my friends, I need to make new friends. We're talking a true cultural change that Rigel, unlike her sisters, is not motivated to make.

Carr trusts the importance of the basic situation/struggle she's created for Rigel, and she doesn't load  her and this book up with one distracting problem after another, as we often see in children's books. Rigel's older sister isn't a monster teenager. Grandma isn't rigid and conforming or suffering from dementia. Mom has her own realistic but bearable problem transitioning back into the work world, and it doesn't overwhelm her to the point that she can't support Rigel when she needs it. The mean popular kids are realistically mean, and the outsider unpopular kids may not be all that unpopular since they have their own network of friends.

365 Days to Alaska is a very well done, readable book and proves that you can take cliched or classic situations (however you want to view them) and make them fresh by adding a new element and some good writing.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Some Virtual Opportunities For July

This month I'm including a writers' conference. (See July 30-31 below.) The Northwestern University Summer Writers' Conference is of particular interest because, not only is it virtual this year, you can also just register for the workshops you're interested in. They offer options for one, two, three workshops, or the whole conference.

This is a big deal to me. Sad to say, my interests appear to be pretty narrow. I'm hard put to find enough workshops offered at a conference that fit my work, either as it is now or I want it to be, to make it worth attending a one- day conference, forget about two. And I'm talking conferences just an hour or two from my home. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about the hanging around/networking thing. At least, I've heard about it. But if you've got only two one-hour workshops spread over even just a one-day conference that's a whole lot more hanging around/networking than I can tolerate. 

To be able to sign up for just one workshop, as I have for this NU program, and be able to attend it from my home--that is like a fantasy. On top of that, Northwestern is in Chicago. I am in southern New England. Yes, yes, we are talking a fantasy here. No, wait. We may be talking a futuristic sci-fi scenario.

UPDATE: I've added two more virtual opportunities for writers, these specifically for writers of children's books. See below.

As usual, as I hear about more virtual programs, I'll update this post. I tweet all the offerings so following me on Twitter would be a way to keep up with anything new that I find.

July 20 Alison Pearce Stevens, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska 7:00 PM CT 

July 20 Meghan P. Browne, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Texas 5:00 PM CT

July 21 Max Brallier, Supriya Kelkar, Minh Le, Alicia D. Williams, Kate Milford, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut  7:00 PM ET 

July 21  Chris Tebbetts First of two-part webinar, The Writers' Loft, Sherborn, Massachusetts 7:00 PM ET

July 21 Diana Lopez, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Texas 5:00 PM CT 

July 27 Erin Dionne First of a multi-part webinar, The Writers' Loft, Sherborn, Massachusetts 7:00 PM ET

July 28 Emily Arsenault, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut 7:00 PM ET

July 30-31 Northwestern University Summer Writers' Conference, Chicago, Illinois  CT

July 31 Jerry Craft, R.J. Julia Booksellers and E. Scranton Memorial Library, Madison, CT 10:00 AM ET

Monday, July 05, 2021

Multiple Ways To Participate In This Year's National Book Festival

Last year the National Book Festival was all virtual, which meant I was able to "attend" a number of events.  This year the Festival is going to take place over 10 days, September 17 through 26. There will be a number of ways for people to take part, virtually as well as, it appears, some ticketed events at the Library, for those able to go that route. 

Here is the line-up of authors to date

Though I had some technical difficulties with last year's Festival, it was still a fantastic opportunity. I hope that in years to come, the Library of Congress continues to make it possible for people across the country to take part in the Festival on-line, making it a true national event.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Environmental Book Club

I wish I could recall why I requested Outside In by Deborah Underwood from my library's e-book service. Was it on one of my 2020 monthly book release posts? Deborah Underwood and I follow each other on Twitter, so I may have heard about the book there. Or, since it appears the book has picked up a number of awards, it may have crossed my psyche in other ways. For instance, it's a Caldecott Honor Book for illustrator Cindy Derby's moody artwork, which really melds with the moody text. Since I read library e-books on my iPad and not on my ancient Kindle, I was able to enjoy said artwork.

Putting aside the mystery of how I found this book, reading it was a true experience. I was not terribly impressed with the first line. "Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us." Then came the next two. "There was nothing between us. Now sometimes even when we're outside...we're inside." With a perfect illustration.

It was at this point that I felt the top of my head come off, so to speak. If you are knowledgeable about Emily Dickinson, which I'm not, or have been watching the TV show Dickinson, which I have, you may be familiar with Dickinson's definition of poetry. If she is reading a book, she said, and "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."

I don't want to claim this book is poetry. I don't know enough about poetry to do that. I've seen nothing to indicate Underwood considers herself a poet, and her attitude is the all important one. But last year I developed a modest interest in prose poetry, and that's how I read this book--as a prose poem expressing a specific thought in an intense way.

Maybe that was because I had that top-of-my-head-off feeling while reading it.

Why Is This An Environmental Book Club Post, Gail?

Well, Outside In, is, I think, a description of how we live with the outdoors even when we don't know that we're doing it. I wrote off the first line as just the beginning of another cliched nature tale, about how humans have lost nature. But "Once were were part of Outside and Outside was part of us" isn't a lead in to that kind of story at all. Because what I think Underwood is saying here is that Outside has come in with us. That's how we live now with the Outside In with us.

Back on Earth Day, I wrote (twice) "In environmental children's literature, the environment is something that's not part of our general day-to-day life." This led, I believed, to A. Children needing to learn a lot of facts about the environment so a lot of children's environmental books are nonfiction; and B. Children needing to fight evil corporations in environmental fiction, needing to do something about some Other that's causing problems.

But Outside In most definitely is about day-to-day life and how we live with the outdoors now. It doesn't require readers to do anything. They don't have to learn anything. They don't have to become outraged about a bad guy. They are just led to see.

Who Would Like This Book, Gail?

The publisher describes this book as being for ages 4 through 7 and grades Pre-K through 3. I tried reading it to a nearly 4-year-old whose tastes run to Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Pete Oswald's Hike. In spite of the multitude of mini-hikes he did during the pandemic, Outside In was lost on him. Keeping in mind that one is not a statistically significant number, perhaps this book would be better for the readers on the older end of this age range.

Or how about:

  • Using this book as a classroom read aloud?
  • Using this book as part of a classroom unit on nature?
  • Using this book as part of classroom unit to encourage writing about nature?
  • Using this book as part of a nature writing workshop for adults?
  • Giving this book as a gift to an adult outdoorsperson?

Yeah, I'm kind of enthusiastic about this one.