It’s Cybils Day!

I’ve had a super busy fall, so I haven’t been as involved in the Cybils as I would have liked, but it’s been going on.  The shortlists were just announced and there’s a LOT of really great books on them (I even manged to nominate one that made it!). Some of my favorites, many I haven’t read. Do check all the lists out!

As for me, I volunteered to be on round 2 of the new category, Audiobooks. This is what I get to listen to over the next 6 weeks, and I couldn’t be happier! As always, check back on February 14th to see what we’ve picked as our winner!

Out of Abaton, Book 1 (Library Edition): The Wooden Prince
by John Claude Bemis
Oasis Audio
Nominated by: Lauren Snell

This surprising & original retelling of Pinocchio takes place in a magical steampunk version of 15th century Italy. The title character is an “automa,” a wooden robot powered by alchemy. He seeks to be reunited with Geppetto & the musical cricket Maestro as they all race to save Prestor John, ruler of the Magical Kingdom of Abaton, from the wicked Doge of Venice. Pinocchio’s discoveries about family, friendship, and free will are deftly woven in with episodes of high adventure. The audiobook is truly a movie for your mind, with a full sound track that includes music & sound effects.

Jeanene Johnson, Got My Book

Raymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Listening Library
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. Narrated by Jenna Lamia. Listening library. 2016
Raymie Nightingale has one goal, to win the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Her father left town with the local dental hygienist and Raymie’s plan is for him to read about her win in the paper and to come home to her. While preparing for the competition, she befriends Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski as they all take baton twirling lessons from Ida Nee, the town expert. The Three Rancheros, as they call themselves, help each other to solve the problems they are facing. While Raymie wants to win back her father, Beverly is determined to sabotage the pageant and Louisiana hopes to get her cat Archie back. These underlying motivations lead to some unlikely and amusing adventures for the quirky friends.
Lamia effectively conveys the emotions and personality of three distinctly different characters; single-minded, yet sensitive Raymie, ethereal and swooning Louisiana, and the tough and ardent Beverly. Lamia’s expert storytelling brings this this poignant tale of love and loss to life.

Maren Ostergard, King County Library System

The Best Man
by Richard Peck; narrated by Michael Crouch
Listening Library
Publisher/ Author Submission

A classic Peck tale, this is the story of Archer and his grandfather, uncle, and teacher. Told through his years as a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade student, we see the influence these individuals and others have had on his life during this bildungsroman story. Crouch strikes a balance between Archer aging through the grades, bring a sense of wisdom to the grandfather, and a general relatability to all the characters portrayed. Balancing both humor and touching moments, this audiobook is a fit for families and middle graders alike.

Stephanie Charlefour, Love. Life. Read.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz
Listening Library
Nominated by: Katy Kramp

On a dark night in 1242, a group of travellers gathers in an inn in France to exchange stories of three remarkable children: Jacob, Jeanne, and William. With flavors of The Canturbury Tales, each tale teller adds a unique slant to the collection, slowly building on each others’ version to build a complete picture. This is a book that’s perfectly done as a full cast production, as each narrator gives a spin to their section that makes the characters come to life. With plenty of topics that middle grade readers will relate to today, this is a historical book with just the right amount of humor and magical realism to give it a wide audience appeal.

Alyssa Feller, The Shady Glade

When the Sea Turned to Silver
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennie

Traditional Chinese tales are interwoven with an adventure story in this book that follows the pattern of Lin’s award-winning books Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. There are some characters in common with the earlier two books, but readers stepping in for the first time won’t feel out of place. Young Pinmei has grown up with her grandmother, the Storyteller, on a remote mountain. But one year when the winter has gone on far longer than it should, her grandmother is kidnapped by a threatening stranger Pinmei can tell is only disguised as a common soldier. She and Yishan, the boy who lives alone up the mountain, set out to rescue her. Kim Mai Guest’s narration portrays Pinmei’s journey to confidence, as well as the full cast of characters. The audio format highlights the interconnected details and the poetic language in this book that’s destined to be a classic.

Katy Kramp, a library mama

The Cybils and KitlitCon

Cybils-Logo-2016-Round-Sm I’ve been blogging for nearly 12 (!) years, and in that time, I have realized that the thing I enjoy most about blogging is not the actual putting of words on (electronic) page (though I have liked that I’ve — sort of — kept up with my writing). It’s the community. And, true, in those 12 years, I’ve seen blogging go from a little tiny community to a HUGE number of people. It’s dwindling, now, with the advent of so many different social media platforms and ways to connect with people.

That said, there are still two ways for people who love children’s literature to connect with other people who love children’s literature. The first, is our award: The Cybils. If you blog, even a little bit, about children’s books, please consider applying to be a judge. I’ve been doing it for eight years, and it’s a fantastic way to feel a part of something bigger. You’re exposed to a TON of books, and the process of selecting a short list (or a winner), is — to be completely honest — fun. Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun. And, whether you’ve participated before or not, you should give it a shot this year.

KidlitconLogo2016-SquareThe other way hits a bit closer to home this year: KitlitCon. I know it’s here in Wichita, which means it’s not really readily accessible to a lot of people (we’re kind of equally far from everything here). But, please consider coming. It’s a smaller conference, and one run by introverts, so we try to give everyone space to connect when they want and retreat when they need to. Charlotte has put together a fantastic program, with some interesting panels and good conversations planned.

Here’s the link to register to come. It will (I hope) be worth your time!

The 2015 Cybils Finalists Are Here!

And I had a fantastic time with my Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction panel. I don’t think I pulled my weight (the fall was busier than I expected), but the books were mostly good, the discussion was super easy, the other panelists were super smart and amazing, and I REALLY love our list.

Bayou Magic
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

In a simple but not simplistic story, 10-year-old Maddie visits her Grandmère in the Louisiana bayou in order to learn the magical traditions of her family. While there, she discovers how friendship and magic (and bonus mermaids!) can help with modern problems, and learns the importance of being connected to the land around her. Rhodes has created book with a lyrical mix of African, French and Creole traditions that has a huge heart and is full of magic and, ultimately, joy.

Melissa Fox, The Book Nut

Castle Hangnail
by Ursula Vernon

The titular castle of Castle Hangnail needs a new master, or it will risk being decommissioned, forcing all the resident minions to find new homes. When 12-year-old Molly comes knocking on the castle door, the minions (who expected a powerful dark magic user) are skeptical, but Molly is determined to convince them that she is wicked enough for the job (though she actually has a very good heart). Everything seems to be going well until an evil sorceress shows up claiming she is Castle Hangnail’s real intended master. Its illustrations, humor, messages of friendship and determination, and a host of memorable secondary characters (with a special nod to one minion–Pins, a voodoo doll with a talking goldfish) make Castle Hangnail an utterly enjoyable and charming place to spend your reading time!

Benda Tjaden, Log Cabin Library

Cuckoo Song
by Frances Hardinge

“Mummy, help me, please help me, everything’s strange and nothing’s right, and my mind feels as if it’s made up of pieces and some of them are missing…” When Triss wakes up from a mysterious accident, she is somehow not herself–she feels an overwhelming hunger that is only satisfied by eating the oddest things, dead leaves appear in her room, on her pillow, and in her hair; her little sister Pen rejects her completely. Triss/Not-Triss must put together the pieces of what turns out to be a larger puzzle, one that encompasses a family’s grief, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Set in post-World War I Great Britain, Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song is a beautifully written, deliciously dark fantasy for fans of historical fiction, horror, fairy tales, or family stories. We think that’s everyone.

Anamaria Anderson, Books Together

Mars Evacuees
by Sophia McDougall

Mars Evacuees– Blast off for Mars on this science fiction debut! In order to keep them safe from the ongoing human-alien warfare on Earth, Alice Dare and other kids from around the world are being shipped off to the red planet . But Mars is far from being a safe haven, and when all the adults vanish, Alice and her new friends set out to get help. Giant floating robot goldfish, unexpected alien encounters and a not-so friendly Martian landscape are just some of the challenges they will deal with along the way. This entertaining and smartly-written romp will make you want to buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Stephanie Whelan, Views From the Tesseract

The Dungeoneers
by John David Anderson

The Dungeoneers is a first-class adventure that reads like a role-playing game on the surface, while being booby-trapped with plot twists and laced with reflections on morality and loyalty. When Colm starts picking pockets to help his struggling family, they are horrified. But before he can be imprisoned, he’s rescued by a man impressed by his talents who whisks him off to study at legendary Tye Twodin’s School for Dungeoneers–professional treasure hunters and monster fighters. There Colm and his new teammates, the shy young mageling Quinn Frostfoot, tough-as-nails (unless she’s bleeding herself) barbarian-to-be Lena Proudfoot, and druid-in-training Serene (with her a pet spider named Mr. Tickletoes) have to master the skills of dungeoneering. Swordplay, spells and lock picking aren’t as challenging as navigating the social pitfalls of an extraordinary boarding school and figuring out who can be trusted…and that’s before the real adventuring begins!

Katy Kramp, alibrarymama

The Fog Diver
by Joel Ross

Set in a world where a deadly fog has taken over the planet, and people are forced to live in the skies, a quartet of ragtag orphans make a living off of what they can scavenge on Earth’s surface, even though it means sending their diver, Chess, down through the toxic mist while still tethered to their sky ship. Chess is in less danger than most, as he has a mysterious resistance to the effects of the fog, but the evil Lord Kodoc will stop at nothing to find out Chess’ secret.

When the four kids – Hazel (the daring captain), Swedish (the strong pilot), Bea (the cheery mechanic), and Chess (the secretive tetherboy) find out that the woman who raised them as family is dying from the Fog sickness, they decide to embark on an mission to save her life, and avoid the evil Lord Kodoc. Featuring air pirates, great characters, and a unique setting, The Fog Diver is a fantastic steampunk adventure with a sci-fi twist that will leave you wanting more.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Wings of Fire Book Six: Moon Rising
by Tui T. Sutherland

The Wings of Fire series returns with new dragons and a brand new story arc! After years of war, the kingdoms of the dragons are at peace, and a school has been founded to gather together young dragons from all the different factions. One of these students is Moonwatcher, a young Nightwing who has the Nightwing powers of telepathy and prophecy, gifts that might help her and her new friends thwart the dangerous and deadly plots that threaten the fragile peace. These books, with their wide range of heroic young dragon characters,, are just full of kid appeal, and Moon Rising is one of the best of them. Strong messages of friendship, tolerance, and forgiveness are presented alongside adventures large and small in a way that will have readers clamoring for more.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

Additionally, THREE  of my nominations that made it through: The Blackthorn Key (YAY!), Baba Yaga (YAY!), and Ms. Marvel (YAY!). Click here to see what all the other (excellent) finalist lists are.

KidlitCon 2015 in Pictures

Getting to KidlitCon this year took a bit more effort on my part. It just wasn’t a good weekend to be gone, and plans kept falling through, and things kept piling up. So when I finally made it to the airport, I was pretty frazzled. 
Thankfully, flights are about 6 hours with layovers and everything. I took myself out to lunch in Minneapolis (didn’t take a picture of that), and by the time I got to Balitmore, I was ready for some fun. I stayed with a Sequestered Nook friend, and she graciously offered to drive me into D.C. to go to Politics & Prose. How could I say no to that?

It’s a delightful bookstore.

We had to stop by the D.C. temple and snap a couple of pictures. I do miss seeing this all the time.

Friday, I took it easy, ate breakfast with my friends, then she drove me into Baltimore. She dropped me off at the wrong hotel (my fault), but the upside is that I got a nice walk to the right hotel. It was good to stretch my legs a bit. (Plus exercise!) I didn’t really take many pictures Friday (though I think I’m in some that are floating around) because I didn’t do much. Talked to some friends, got a few books signed, checked into my hotel room.  The view was less than stellar.
Friday night we had a birthday party for the Cybils, which is the blogger award I’m involved with. There was bowling, but mostly I just sat at a table and talked and laughed with My People. It was so nice to do that. 

Saturday morning, the sessions were fantastic. Lots of food for thought on diversity and intersectionality and representation. But my favorite panel was the graphic novel one. It was so much fun.

 Maggie Thrash is my new favorite person.

And I got two of Kristen’s graphic novels signed by the author and illustrator. They were impressed at how well loved they were.

I took lots of “notes” on Twitter as I was listening (as did lots of other people). Check out #kidlitcon if you’re interested.

Saturday afternoon, I was feeling cooped up again, so I went for another walk, this time down to the harbor.

Someone was getting married…

I did make it out to dinner with a group of people, which was a delight as always. That, and they talked me into being in charge next year. So there’s that as well.

My book pile from the weekend. I did read through some of it…

There was a Cybils board meeting (we’re a non-profit now, yay!) and I had enough time after to get back to my room to watch the live feed of the Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog Reunion Panel at New York Comic Con.  I love the internet.

Sunday morning, a group of us went on a walking tour of Baltimore. (I walked a lot this weekend. Huh.) I loved the convergence of old and new in the town. And it was delightful spending a morning with these ladies walking and talking and seeing the city.

We looked at each other and said: Anyone else see a snitch?

 I needed a donut fix. Of course.

We were on our way back by bus, when it stopped by the harbor. I decided, on a whim, to get out. Because water. I wandered around for a bit.

And then decided, on a whim, to take a water taxi. Best decision of the weekend.

I took myself out for lunch before my Nook friend picked me up again.

One of the places I didn’t get to on the walk was the Enoch Pratt Library, so we stopped in there. It’s gorgeous.

Oh, I got to ride in this a few times over the weekend. I was incredibly happy.

And my Nookish friends. There was a party and a lot of people asked how I knew everyone and were quite surprised when I said that I’d met them on the internet. Sometimes, the internet is a pretty great place.

Then I came home and went back to regular life. It was good to get away, and I am glad, in the end, that I did!

10 Pictures from California

I recently went to the Third Annual ABA Children’s Institute as a representative from the store. It was a good conference: I met a lot of authors (got to fan girl a bit!) and learned a few things. I do have one observation on bookseller vs. blogger conferences: while the swag is better at the ABA conference, I felt a little on the outside. Perhaps it was because it was my first conference, but I just felt like there was more connection at KidlitCon, like I fit better there. Maybe that’s just me.

Either way, it was a good time.

So. Ten pictures from my weekend in California:

Santa Monica Pier

Have I ever mentioned how happy the ocean makes me?

Surfers at Venice Beach

Geoff Rodkey, Mo O’Hara, Mac Barnett, and Jory John at a humor panel at the LA Times Book Festival.

Oliver Jeffers sighting in the “wild”. 

Bonus video of his presentation with Oliver Jeffers:

Since the conference was in Pasadena, I needed to drive by the Rose Bowl.

We stopped at Vroman’s bookstore. I was in love with the chocolate display.

I managed to say hi to Jewell Parker Rhodes again.

Stopped at the 826LA store.

And since I was nearly there, went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

KidlitCon in Photos

I could do a lovely wrap-up, but I’ve been home for two days, and I’ve been busy (and you can read everyone’s notes on the twitter feed). Needless to say, it was a fantastic trip, a wonderful conference full of good ideas (yeah, even for someone who’s been blogging for nearly 10 years!). I definitely think I’m more AWARE now, at the very least, of my own reading habits. And that’s a good wake up call.

So, 10 pictures.

1. Sacramento from my window, early Friday morning.

2. The organizing team I was a part of. They were fantastic to work with, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Tanita and Reshama. Both were quite lovely.

3. The disembodied head of Shannon Hale. Also the closest I’ve ever gotten to meeting her. (Also, Charlotte very kindly thought to give Shannon my phone number, and I got all fangirly when she ACTALLY called. To discuss some technical problems. But STILL.)

4. The delightful French Bakery where a group of us had breakfast Saturday

5. Lunch, in which we solve all the problems of the world. Also: Jewell Parker Rhodes is a FANTASTIC human being.

6. That the author event which Reshama and I planned actually came together and people enjoyed themselves.

7./8. Meeting new people: Reshama and a friend of a friend who came last-minute, Emily. I hope they both come again; I would love to spend more time with them!

9. Dinner on Saturday night. YUM.

10. The bus adventure with Karen Yingling. Once we made it to the bus (which involved a bit of running by the capitol building), it was quite nice to sit and watch Sacramento go by while chatting. I’m taking to heart her idea that everything is better when you hum the theme from Mission Impossible. It really is. (Sorry the picture is fuzzy. We took it right after racing for the bus and I, at least, was a bit giddy.)

It really was a fantastic time. And next year’s will be in Baltimore. Will I be there? Most definitely!

State of the TBR Pile: KidlitCon Edition

I’m hopping on a plane and heading off to sunny Sacramento, CA for KidLitCon 2014. I’m super excited to see old friends and meet new people and just have a fantastic weekend. But the other thing I’m excited about (you can tell I have kids) is the UNINTERRUPTED READING TIME on the plane, both there and back.

You know I have a reading pile. This is it:

The top 5 I’m dragging along to give away. The rest, I’m going to try and read.

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton
Not My Father’s Son, by Allen Cumming
Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Rethinking Normal, by Katie Rain Hill
Some Assembly Required, by Arin Andrews
Evil Librarian, by Michelle Knudsen
Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers

I’m hoping to get through a good number of them. See you in Sacramento!

KidlitCon 2014: Call for Session Proposals

The call for propoals for this year’s KidlitCon is out! This year’s theme is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?.

From the proposal submission form:

“We are looking for presentations and panels that will inspire and edify Kidlitosphere bloggers. While we’re specifically interested in presentations that address what bloggers can do to make a meaningful difference in increasing and promoting diversity in children’s and young adult literature, sessions covering other topics such as reviewing critically, trends, social media, marketing, technology, and industry relationships are welcome.”

I’m not planning on submitting one (but if someone else wants to come up with an idea and shoot it past me, I’ll be happy to participate) but that doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t. KidlitCon is a wonderful place to discuss ideas among friends.

Proposals are due by August 1, so there’s about a month to come up with ideas. Hope to see you there!


I’ve seen this slowly building over the course of the last week or so, and finally, Tuesday night, I sent out my tweet as part of it.

I honestly believe that. Even if 95% of what I actually read is about white females (because that’s what I relate to), I believe that there needs to be books for all the stories that can be told, not only so those readers can see themselves in the pages (like I see me), but so I can learn their stories. I firmly believe that books can change the world, can help people reach outside of their own experience in order to understand others. And that by doing so — by reading books about people of all stripes, orientations, colors, backgrounds, experiences — we will be able to have the empathy we need to make the world a better place.

Check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks (and the tumblr) for more reasons why all books are important and for good suggestions for books to read and support.

(As an aside, the store I work at, Watermark Books, has been challenged to the #greatgreenechallenge. I’m super excited about this. If you want to support me — us — you can pre-order the book from us here. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ll promise you it’ll be a good book, if only because Varian’s a terrific writer.)