• How the Heather Looks


Gifted: Walk This World

Walk This World: a Cel­e­bra­tion of Life in a Day Lot­ta Niem­i­nen, a Finnish-born graph­ic design­er and art direc­tor Big Pic­ture Press, an imprint of Can­dlewick Press, Novem­ber 2013 As you con­sid­er gifts for this hol­i­day sea­son, we sug­gest … (book #2 in our Gift­ed rec­om­men­da­tions) … Vis­it 10 coun­tries in one book! This styl­ish […]



Gifted: Spike, Ugliest Dog in the Universe

Spike, Ugli­est Dog in the Uni­verse Debra Frasi­er, author and illus­tra­tor Beach Lane Books, Octo­ber 2013 Ever since I saw my 10-year-old niece pose in front of the tele­vi­sion, try­ing to imi­tate the super­mod­els at the end of the run­way, my aware­ness of the beau­ty cul­ture in this coun­try has been acute. We took her […]



Gifted: Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventure!

Arlo’s ARTra­geous Adven­tures! writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by David LaRochelle Ster­ling Children’s Pub­lish­ing, 2013 If you’re con­sid­er­ing gifts for the hol­i­day sea­son … (book #1 in our series of Gift­ed rec­om­men­da­tions) … No mat­ter how unin­ter­est­ing Arlo’s elder­ly rel­a­tive insists on mak­ing their trip to the muse­um with her warn­ings to be seri­ous and qui­et and […]



Anatomy of a Series: Topps League Books

We’re in post-sea­­son, when a lot of fans start to look wild-eyed, won­der­ing how they’ll hang on for three months until spring train­ing starts in Feb­ru­ary. Here in Min­neso­ta, it’s tough for sand­lot base­ball or Lit­tle League games to be played in the snow with an icy base­line. Young fans can keep up the momen­tum […]



Discussing the Books We’ve Loved: Déjà Vu

As I ready this arti­cle for pub­li­ca­tion, I am sit­ting in the cof­fee shop where I first met Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick, now a much-admired author of some of my favorite books. I still enjoy get­ting caught up in a series, accept­ing the like­able and not-so-like­able char­ac­ters as my new-found cir­cle of friends, antic­i­pat­ing the treat […]



Alongside the Books We’ve Loved: Venom and the River

This week, join me as we con­tin­ue to look at books that orbit the con­stel­la­tions of chil­dren’s series books much-loved by adults: Louisa May Alcott’s books, the Lit­tle House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Bet­sy-Tacy books. A brand new nov­el, Ven­om on the Riv­er, is now avail­able from my favorite […]



Behind the Books We’ve Loved: A Wilder Rose

Grow­ing up, I loved to read mys­ter­ies, biogra­phies, but espe­cial­ly series books. I did­n’t read Nan­cy Drew or Anne of Green Gables (not until I was an adult), but I fol­lowed most every oth­er series char­ac­ter. I read Cher­ry Ames, Sue Bar­ton, Trix­ie Belden, Beany Mal­one, Janet Lennon, but espe­cial­ly Louisa May Alcot­t’s books, the […]



Packing up the tent?

Sum­mer Read­ing No. 2 Many of you are mak­ing plans to get out of Dodge when your kids are out of school for the sum­mer. I imag­ine thou­sands of peo­ple mak­ing a list: tent, sleep­ing bags, mini-grill, rain pon­chos, clothes­line (from our camp­ing expe­ri­ence, some­place to hang things up to dry is essen­tial), cool­er, GPS, […]



Best Truck Stop Ever

Sum­mer Read­ing No. 1 Trav­el sea­son begins now. Resorts and road­side attrac­tions and Dairy Queens are all spruced up. The OPEN signs are once again flipped to the side that mat­ters. Will you be trav­el­ing the high­ways and back­roads, look­ing for adven­ture? I’ve read a new pic­ture book that made me look dif­fer­ent­ly at some­thing […]



… who taught me to love books

I’ve just begun read­ing Three Times Lucky by Sheila Tur­nage. Many peo­ple have rec­om­mend­ed it to me, aghast that I have not already eat­en it up. I’ve got­ten as far as the ded­i­ca­tion: For my par­ents — Vivian Tay­lor Tur­nage and A.C. Tur­nage, Jr. — who taught me to love books. What a gift. How big-heart­ed and under­stand­ing of […]



No book to print book to e‑book to …

Pub­lish­ers Week­ly report­ed today that Neil Gaiman addressed the fifth Lon­don Book Fair Dig­i­tal Minds Con­fer­ence by say­ing, “Peo­ple ask me what my pre­dic­tions are for pub­lish­ing and how dig­i­tal is chang­ing things and I tell them my only real pre­dic­tion is that is it’s all chang­ing,” Gaiman said. “Ama­zon, Google and all of those […]



Cooking up a bookstorm

One of my favorite gen­res of read­ing is cook­books. It all began when I was ten, the Christ­mas of 1963. My moth­er gave me Bet­ty Crock­er’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1957 by Gold­en Books, illus­trat­ed by Glo­ria Kamen, and writ­ten by, well, Bet­ty Crock­er, of course! A lot of cook­ing […]



Chapter & Verse picks the winners … or not

In CLN’s Chap­ter & Verse, with six of our book­stores report­ing, we had no clear win­ners for our mock Calde­cott, New­bery, and Printz Awards. Steve and I have vis­it­ed many of these loca­tions, talk­ing with the book club mem­bers. Each book club has its own char­ac­ter. The mem­bers bring dif­fer­ent life expe­ri­ences, dif­fer­ent read­ing pref­er­ences, […]


Boy Reading

Doing it Yourself

In the ten years that CLN has exist­ed, one of our great­est chal­lenges has been self-pub­­lished books. Do we include them or don’t we? The rules of pub­lish­ing are chang­ing in seis­mic ways. We’re watch­ing the shift­ing trends. CLN believes in pre­sent­ing books that can fit the cre­do “the right book at the right time […]



When Thunder Comes

Just in time for the Mar­tin Luther King remem­brance on Mon­day, J. Patrick Lewis has a chal­leng­ing new poet­ry book, When Thun­der Comes: Poems for Civ­il Rights Lead­ers. The title cap­tured my atten­tion and held me: Mr. Lewis is includ­ing me as a civ­il rights leader. Each of us. All of us. By includ­ing his read­ers, […]



A matter of character

I enjoy so many types of books, mar­veling that a writer or com­ic artist or archi­tect or jour­nal­ist or cook or explor­er thought long and stud­ied hard and wrote and revised and gave count­less hours to the cre­ation of their book. After all, how do you count the hours a book’s author spends dream­ing, observ­ing, […]



A stellar book of fiction or nonfiction?

Non­fic­tion is get­ting a rock­et lift-off into the con­scious­ness of edu­ca­tors … and pub­lish­ers … through­out the Unit­ed States. Why? The Com­mon Core State Stan­dards require that non­fic­tion text is includ­ed in the class­room. I, of course, am cheer­ing over this. I haven’t put the list of books I’ve read on a scale, non­fic­tion on […]



Fan Fervor for 70-Year-Old Books

Yes­ter­day we attend­ed the Bet­sy-Tacy Con­ven­tion pre­sen­ta­tions at the Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture Research Col­lec­tions at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta, a/k/a the Ker­lan Col­lec­tion. There was SRO in a room that was set up for about 150 peo­ple (best guess). Kath­leen Bax­ter was the host of the soirée, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly wel­com­ing every­one to this mean­ing­ful set­ting for the […]




Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is […]



An Artful Storyteller

In per­son, Gary D. Schmidt is a sto­ry­teller. Some­times that’s an inter­nal aspect of an author and it does­n’t extend to con­ver­sa­tion or pre­sen­ta­tions. Gary shared a sto­ry at Spot­light on Books that came from his grow­ing-up neigh­bor­hood on Long Island, NY. He engaged his lis­ten­ers by giv­ing them the respon­si­bil­i­ty for pre­serv­ing the sto­ry, […]



When I Was Your Age

When I was a small child, I spent a lot of time around adults. Hav­ing no broth­ers or sis­ters, no cousins liv­ing near­by, and spend­ing sum­mers and vaca­tions with my grand­par­ents, I went where they vis­it­ed. Many of those peo­ple were their age. So I heard this phrase often: “When I was your age …” […]



Show, Don’t Tell

I am fre­quent­ly remind­ed in our Chap­ter & Verse meet­ings that peo­ple read a book, look at the illus­tra­tions, but may not con­sid­er the illus­tra­tions. Study them. Won­der about them. Unless an illus­tra­tor sits at your elbow as you turn the page of a pic­ture book or illus­trat­ed book, explain­ing the moti­va­tion and tech­nique behind […]



A Busy Day

We’ve been get­ting ready for weeks and final­ly the CLN Books for Break­fast is tomor­row. Steve and I are still print­ing hand­outs, stuff­ing fold­ers, cre­at­ing the Pow­er­point, and it’s only three hours until we need to walk out the door. It’s unbe­liev­able to me how many peo­ple’s efforts go into this three-hour event. We host […]


Reading Ahead

A Streak of Gold in the Reading Pile

There are times when the read­ing pile pro­vides a streak of can’t‑put-the-book-down read­ing. It gets me all whipped up about read­ing, writ­ing, authors, illus­tra­tors … and I respect all the play­ers in this equa­tion, the cre­ators as well as the read­ers who get to play in the words. I’ve just recent­ly been on such a […]



This is a wonderful book but …

I hear this all the time from our book club mem­bers. “This is a won­der­ful book but I could nev­er get kids to read it.” Why? That’s my imme­di­ate and fierce reac­tion. Why? Some of the books we’ve dis­cussed in Chap­ter & Verse are Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, The Green Glass Sea […]



Farm livin’ is the life for me

If you rec­og­nize that quote,* you might have a some­what warped idea of what liv­ing on a farm is all about. It’s the first day of the Min­neso­ta State Fair, which lasts for 12 days, and began 147 years ago as an homage to farm­ing and all the ways we depend on The Land. In […]



Written in code

Hav­ing just fin­ished a ter­rif­ic new book called J.R.R. Tolkien, by Alexan­dra and John Wall­ner (Hol­i­day House), I was remind­ed about codes. I spent a good num­ber of hours dur­ing my junior high days fash­ion­ing notes in Elvish and leav­ing them in my friends’ lock­ers. The runic writ­ing fas­ci­nat­ed me and, of course, the idea […]



Monkey see, monkey do

As ear­ly as I can remem­ber, my moth­er clipped recipes from mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, find­ing ever-more-elab­o­rate meth­ods of fil­ing them. Recipe box­es, giant clips, and plas­tic bags are stuffed to the gills with recipes in her house. I’ve had fun in recent months dig­ging through those trea­sures. Food styles change! I feel like a His­to­ry […]



Sparking the flint

Chil­dren aren’t the only kids who get bored dur­ing the sum­mer. Teens are look­ing for some­thing to do in more sub­tle ways. If they’ve got the writ­ing bug … or if they don’t have it yet … you might tempt them with one or more of these books. You’ll find some­thing for every taste, with […]



No need to be bored!

Although I remem­ber my puffy pink diary with the curi­ous brass clasp, I don’t recall writ­ing in it much. Age nine, I may have exper­i­ment­ed with writ­ing on the first page. Some­thing like, “Today was my birth­day. I had a par­ty. Noth­ing else hap­pened.” If only I’d had books about writ­ing sto­ries … I loved […]



Free, Playful, and Courageous

Call me crazy, but my fam­i­ly knows very well that trav­el­ing to a new city means vis­it­ing one site in par­tic­u­lar: the library. It’s best if we have time to go inside. I like to see the walls, the sig­nage, the spe­cial rooms. I look to see how the books are arranged, not only Dewey […]



Approaching the last day of kindergarten …

Kinder­garten. It’s not pecu­liar to the USA, but the States took up the move­ment toward ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion after Friedrich Froebel intro­duced the con­cept in Bad Blanken­burg, Ger­many, on June 28, 1840. “Chil­dren are like tiny flow­ers; they are var­ied and need care, but each is beau­ti­ful alone and glo­ri­ous when seen in the com­mu­ni­ty […]



Thoreau at Walden

If you have built cas­tles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foun­da­tions under them.” I’m re-read­­ing Hen­ry David Thore­au’s Walden; or Life in the Woods. I do this once each year in Feb­ru­ary, when it’s dark and snowy and cold here in Min­neso­ta. […]



A Book is a Book is a Book

I always looked for­ward to pack­ages under the tree that were a cer­tain rec­tan­gu­lar shape and thick­ness, heavy and not resilient … I knew they were books. But which book? I enjoyed receiv­ing fic­tion and biogra­phies and books about for­eign places and his­to­ry, so in that moment before care­ful­ly remov­ing the tape and turn­ing back […]



Holiday reading

My favorite gift of all time was the paper­back boxed set of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien that my moth­er gave me when I was fif­teen. I still vivid­ly remem­ber lying on my bed at my grand­par­ents read­ing the first few chap­ters late on Christ­mas Eve. There was an over­head light in […]



Musings of a lifelong reader, part three

When I was in col­lege, work­ing on a project for one of my library sci­ence class­es, I wrote a pro­pos­al for edu­ca­tion­al reform. Thir­ty years ago (gulp) it seemed to me that school did­n’t work very well … at least not for me. I was cer­tain I could­n’t be the only per­son to feel this […]



Musings of a lifelong reader, part two

Why do we have books with­out illus­tra­tions? Only in the last few years has the con­cept of a “visu­al learn­er” become famil­iar to me. By all def­i­n­i­tions, and ped­a­gog­i­cal con­tro­ver­sy aside, this describes the way I absorb knowl­edge. I was­n’t aware of a name or the­o­ry when I was learn­ing to read, or active­ly engaged […]



Musings of a lifelong reader, part one

In a com­mu­ni­ty of read­ers, the dia­logue will occa­sion­al­ly drift to “do you remem­ber learn­ing to read?” Do you? I don’t. I have an ear­ly mem­o­ry of sit­ting on the floor in the bed­room at my grand­moth­er’s house turn­ing the pages of The Poky Lit­tle Pup­py. I remem­ber the illus­tra­tions. I don’t remem­ber the words. […]



It’s not just one or the other

Music has played a key role in my life­long learn­ing. Intro­duced to the clas­sics by our ele­men­tary school music pro­gram, the entire school was bussed once each year to hear the Min­neso­ta Orches­tra at a young peo­ple’s con­cert. I fell in love with Mr. Tweedy, the tim­pani play­er. He added dra­ma to the music. My […]



All is not lost

I read a lot of books writ­ten for young peo­ple. Late­ly, as we pre­pare for mock New­bery and Calde­cott dis­cus­sions, it has been one or two each day. One nov­el and one pic­ture book seems to be the pace. Our choic­es will be announced on the CLN site on Novem­ber 1st, so those of you […]



Aiming at Good

I wish I were half as smart as my uncon­scious mind. When I’m work­ing on a tricky design or try­ing to intu­it a way to visu­al­ly rep­re­sent a per­son or writ­ing a col­umn, I’ve learned that it’s best if I don’t force myself to sit down and do it. Of course, that’s not always pos­si­ble. […]



A gentle nudge

Some­times we get so caught up in dis­cussing the lit­er­ary mer­its of a book that we for­get who the intend­ed read­ers are. Some­times we enjoy play­ing the game of who will win the awards so much that we for­get there are all kinds of read­ers who are touched by books in many ways … and […]



A Tyrant to Treasure

Read­ing my way in delight through the First : Sec­ond graph­ic nov­els has been a treat. I love a good mys­tery, adven­ture, thriller, romance, rib-tick­­ler … and I’ve found all this and more in graph­ic nov­el form with this imprint. First up, the rib-tick­­ler. That would come in the form of pint-sized, impe­ri­ous monarch, Ethel­bert […]



Creative every day

The ques­tion authors are asked most often is, “Where do you get your ideas?” And many authors would answer that get­ting ideas is not a prob­lem. As a graph­ic design­er, I get ideas when my eyes are open and when my eyes are shut. I see col­or, type, focal points, neg­a­tive space, tex­ture, shad­ow, line […]



A reading path from Japan to America

My explo­ration began when a young man, aged 7, rec­om­mend­ed that I read Ship­wrecked! the True Adven­tures of a Japan­ese Boy (Rho­da Blum­berg, Harper­Collins, 2001). The title sprang imme­di­ate­ly to his mind when I asked him what he’d read late­ly that was good. Find­ing a copy, I opened it and began read­ing, real­iz­ing that this […]



Declaration for the Right to Literacy

A doc­u­ment has been cir­cu­lat­ing around the coun­try since it was draft­ed in 2009. Called the Dec­la­ra­tion for the Right to Lit­er­a­cy, it cur­rent­ly has 30,000 sig­na­tures, but more sup­port is need­ed to make a big­ger impact when the doc­u­ment is pre­sent­ed to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma next month. You have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show your sup­port […]



Life on the farm

It’s that time of year. Farm­ers’ mar­kets are burst­ing with col­or, smells, and day­dreams of splen­did meals. Peo­ple are putting food by … know­ing that berries and cucum­bers and toma­toes and corn will be hard to find in the win­ter months. A lot of peo­ple are putting in a big effort to make sure we […]



How lucky we are

I’m in the midst of read­ing Lea Wait’s books for chil­dren (she also writes mys­ter­ies for adults). I’ve fin­ished Finest Kind, I’m in the midst of Win­ter­ing Well, I’m eager­ly look­ing for­ward to Sea­ward Born, and I’m on the wait­ing list for Stop­ping to Home. The two books I’ve read so far are plumb full […]



What’s got my dander up?

I can’t decide whether I’m angry or sad. When Steve and I trav­el around the coun­try, we stop in at book­stores and pub­lic libraries and schools, observ­ing the state of chil­dren’s books in those envi­ron­ments. We talk with book­sellers, librar­i­ans, and teach­ers. Some peo­ple are aware of our con­nec­tion to chil­dren’s books … some are […]