Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Research, as seen by Nonfiction Writers

A bunch of us nonfiction authors (yes, it was the group of ALA speakers, plus others) were talking about doing research. Right in the middle of the discussion, Kelly Milner Halls (whose blog is here) spoke up and put into words the way we all feel about it --

"There is never enough room (in one book) for all the great stuff you find doing research. But that, too, can inspire new books. I have two new proposals drawn from pieces I couldn't use in two other books. Once you get rolling, there aren't enough
hours in the day. It's a fun job, isn't it? Lord, I love writing nonfiction for kids. Just feel excited every morning when I wake up to work on the next thing on my list."

Kelly's newest book is Saving the Baghdad Zoo, which will be published by HarperCollins/Greenwillow in November this year.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- 18 Nonfiction Writers at ALA

Come say "Hi" to me and 17 other writers at ALA in Chicago next week.

You are invited to -- Nonfiction Book Blast: Booktalks for Reluctant Readers
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Convention Center Room W181
10:30 am to 12:00 pm
ALA Annual Conference, Chicago
Our wiki is at http://nfbookblast.pbworks.com/

Track: Children & Young Adults; Literature & Collection Development

Despite the emphasis on fiction for leisure reading in schools, many reluctant readers are often more drawn to reading nonfiction. Expand your nonfiction repertoire as 18 authors booktalk their latest works. There will be lots of handouts for librarians, including postcards and bookmarks, plus a written version of our booktalks.

Panelists include several Maryland and nearby Virginia award-winning authors -- Amy Hansen, Mary Bowman-Kruhm and me plus acclaimed authors April Pulley Sayre (Vulture View), Kelly Halls (Albino Animals), and Carla McClafferty (Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium), as well as many additional prolific or brand new authors. Their booktalks, plus new ones crafted by audience members, will be yours to take back home to excite your customers in school and public libraries about reading nonfiction.

Please pass this information to any librarians or writers who might be attending ALA.
-wendie Old

Moderator: Sharon Mitchell, Library Media Specialist

Lisa Rondinelli Albert, Stephenie Meyer: Author of the Twilight Saga (Enslow Publishers, May 2009), So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor (Enslow Publishers, 2008)

Mary Bowman-Kruhm, The Leakeys: A Biography (Prometheus Books, 2009)

Laura Crawford, In Arctic Waters (Sylvan Dell Publishing), The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A to Z (Pelican Publishing), Postcards From Chicago (Raven Tree Press)

Jeri Chase Ferris, With Open Hands: The Story of Biddy Mason (Lerner), Arctic Explorer: Matthew Henson (Lerner)

Kelly Milner Halls, Dinosaur Parade (Lark/Sterling Publishers, 2008), Saving the Baghdad Zoo (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2009), Tales of the Cryptids (Darby Creek Publishing, 2006)

Amy S. Hansen, Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter (Boyds Mills Press, 2010), Touch the Earth (NASA and NFB, 2009)

Gwendolyn Hooks, Makers and Takers (Rourke Publishing, 2008)

Katherine L. House, Lighthouses for Kids:History, Science, and Lore with 21 Activities (Chicago Review Press, 2008)

Patricia K. Kummer, The Great Barrier Reef (Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009), The Great Lakes (Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009), North Korea and South Korea (two books) (Scholastic/Children's Press, 2008)

Suzanne Lieurance, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Sweatshop Reform in American History (Enslow Publishers, Inc.)

JoAnn Early Macken, Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move (Holiday House, 2008)

Carla Killough McClafferty, In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

Wendie Old, The Halloween Book of Facts and Fun (Albert Whitman), The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun (Albert20Whitman)

April Pulley Sayre, Honk, Honk, Goose: Canada Geese Start a Family (Henry Holt, 2009)

Anastasia Suen, Wired (Charlesbridge, 2007), The U.S. Supreme Court (Picture Window Books)

Christine Taylor-Butler, SACRED MOUNTAIN: Everest (Lee and Low Books, 2009)

Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn, Follow That Food Chain (Lerner, 2009)

We hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What a week!

I'm so glad it's the end of the week!
1. Our library system (and our library) has registered more children this summer for Summer Reading than ever before.
We're running out of string backpacks and book logs to give them.

2. Due to budget cuts, our library system has been under stress all June. Last week we learned that 7 or so people had been laid off and a branch was going to close.
This Thursday we learned that the threatened branch was not going to be closed, but the shortfall would have to be made up in other ways.
--No upgrades on computers. (our computers already can't read some of the information people bring into the library on flash drives, because normal people have up-to-date software and the library now isn't going to get a planned upgrade and will fall further and further behind. Oh, sorry you can't open that file someone sent you -- we simply don't have that version of Word or Excel or whatever.)
--Massive cuts in our materials budget. (sorry about that DVD you wanted to watch -- only one copy, if that, was bought for the system. Yes, I know we used to get the DVDs the day they were issued, but... budget cuts don'tchknow. Sorry about that best seller book you want to read. Would you like to be number 200 on the waiting list for it?)
--During the next few months, we'll learn how these deep cuts will affect how we work and what services we can offer at the library.

3. Thursday was lovely. No rain and I drove to Washington, DC, to hear Laura Amy Schlitz (last year's Newbery winner), speak to the Children's Book Guild. She's a local private school librarian. She talked about the writing process and learning the speech she gave, without notes, at the Newbery/ Caldecott banquet last June. And about her wonderful children at Park School, which is near Baltimore, Maryland. I always enjoy hearing how the people around the winner of that medal honor the winner and help them celebrate.

4. Then, after work on Friday I drove an hour to go pick up a second grandchild -- the six/ almost seven-year-old.
--They stayed up until almost midnight chatting. (GO TO SLEEP!)
--They've tried on all the ballet dresses and costumes in the house. (You gotta put away whatever you take out. Yes, Grandmom. -- it's still not done. promises, promises to do it tomorrow)
--They rode bikes.
--They went to the pool. The almost 7-year-old is finally doing some actual swimming, instead of her usual doggie-paddle. I was getting worried about her abilities because the family she lives with takes her out on their boat a lot. Today she managed to swim halfway across the pool. Maybe by the end of the summer she'll make it all the way across. Next year -- we'll aim for lengthwise.
--Meanwhile her sister, the 9-year-old (nine and a half, actually) is on the swim team at the pool, has learned a new stroke (breaststroke) and is earning ribbons swimming in the first heat -- sometimes the only girl in her age group from our pool.
--This evening, mad because I wouldn't let them camp in tents at the pool with the swim team, the two of them built a tent in our living room and are presently sleeping there -- with a large whale protecting them on one side and large Golden Retriever dog on the other.

Time for bed - -or else this post will be labeled as a Sunday message, not a Saturday one.
-wendie Old

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wackiest White House Pets

Yes, it happened again. Nonfiction Monday is being celebrated on a Tuesday this week. (That's what happens when the Summer Reading Program begins at a library -- other things have to take their turn behind registering children and organizing the Database.)

Wackiest White House Pets by Gibbs Davis, illustrated by David A. Johnson. NY: Scholastic Press, 2009. available now.

To save time, I'm going to quote the publisher's blurb about the book: White House pets come in every size, shape, and species. What are some of the pets that belong to the world's most powerful men and their families? John Quincy Adams' alligator liked to slither across the White House steps and was fond of chasing the guests! Thomas Jefferson took walks around the garden with his pet grizzly bears! James Buchannan received a herd of elephants from the King of Siam! William Howard Taft, who was fond of creamy fresh milk, kept a milk cow in the kitchen!

A list in the back of the book includes almost every presidential pet -- mostly dogs.

If you look carefully (I know, it's hard to see exactly what's on the cover because the duplication is so pale), you'll see President John Qunicy Adams (son of John Adams) being chased by a 'pet' alligator -- actually the alligator was the pet of a visitor who stayed several months in the White House. (which actually was called the President's House at that time, but this book doesn't tell you that.)

In fact, there are several historical errors in this book. I can't tell if the author just didn't know -- or the publisher simply wanted to simplify things to keep the word-count down. For a list of some of the errors, check the reviews here.

For more Nonfiction Monday reviews, click here and explore.
-wendie old

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Birthday

Saturday was my birthday.
And it occurred to me that it's also close to the birthday of this blog. I've been blogging (journaling?) for over 2 years now. And still manage to post at least 2 to 3 messages a week.

On Thursday, the library staff presented me with one of my favorite cakes -- Strawberry Sparkle Cake. Yummy.

Saturday after work, my husband and the 9-year-old took me out to dinner. Now, my husband hates to go out to eat -- he prefers my cooking. On the other hand, I insist that on my birthday at least I get to eat something someone else has cooked.

Naturally, I had my traditional lobster tail. My husband had a salad, and the 9-year-old copped out and had a grilled cheese sandwich. On the other hand, she took several bites of my lobster tail and has decided she likes it. Oh dear -- she's developing expensive tastes.

Both my daughters called from California which was also nice.

When we got back home from the restaurant, we had presents and coconut cake. The 9-year-old had found a plaque that said nice things about grandmas and my husband presented me with some dark chocolate non-pariells -- which he immediately 'tested' to see if they were okay. They tested out fine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We Were Warned

I had heard that it was going to happen.
But didn't realize it was really, truly going to happen.

We were warned that, during hard economic times, people would look toward the public library for free programming. And they certainly have done so this year.

The usual Summer Reading Program registration for my small library branch is about 400 to 500 children-- from babies through high school. (I'll check these statistics on Saturday to see if this estimate is accurate, and will change these numbers if necessary) However at this time, four days into our Summer Reading Program, we have already registered about 400 children. Wow. We usually register at least 200 more children during the summer, which means this year we'll have the most ever registered at our branch.

The largest branch in our county usually registers over 4,000 children. I can't wait to see what their final numbers.

Remember my last post that said we had registered 200 on Monday? Well, when ADM added the totals from all the branches for last Monday, it turned out that 4,600 children had registered at our 10 library branches.

Are we ready for that many people to come to our various programs? You Bet. We've invited super performers to come and expect at least 80 people or more at those events. We plan to vary those with more traditional craft and storytime programs. (Come to our Fancy Nancy party) Along with Bingo and a huge Games Day. (We collect White Elephant prizes all year long for these.)

We were warned.
Yes, we are prepared.
Having lots of (free) fun at the library this summer.
-wendie old

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Reading Program

Every year libraries across the nation run a Summer Reading Program.
Because teachers discovered that kids needed to keep their brains active over the summer. Kids who read (and/or do math) have a much better chance of doing well in the fall when they hit school, again.

For many years, each library system created their own Summer Reading Program with prizes for the children who participate. Eventually the libraries in Maryland banded together under the umbrella of one theme for the whole state. Recently Maryland has joined over 40 other states in the (almost) national summer reading program.

This year the theme is BE CREATIVE!
(yes, because it's nation-wide, the themes have to be very general.)

Monday was the first day of our library's Summer Reading program. Almost 200 kids registered and I had to get them into the database that day so that ADM could brag about statistics. Luckily the other staff members pitched in and all the children's names and information got input by the end of the day.

My own day ended at 5:00 pm, but I continued to enter children into the database until almost 6 pm. Then, I rushed home to take the 9-year-old to her swim meet where she got a first place in breast stroke (!) -- her first time ever using that stroke in a meet.

Is 200 a lot for the first day of Summer Reading?
For our library -- Yes.
However, I've found that, if a large amount of kids register early in the week, the rest of the week is slow -- keeping the total for the first week almost the same over the years. Our normal total for the whole summer is about 400 to 500 kids. (Keep in mind that we're a small community library -- the largest library in our county registers about 4,000 children during the summer. They're really swamped the first few weeks.)

(Harry Bliss is the current Summer Reading Program illustrator. Henry Cole will be the official illustrator next year. I can't wait! He's one of my favorite illustrators. He's local, too, living in Virginia.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- A Rainbow of Animals

Melissa Stewart has a new series-- A Rainbow of Animals-- published by Enslow, 2009. Available now.
Why are Animals Purple?
Why are Animals Orange?
Why are Animals Yellow?
Why are Animals Blue?
Why are Animals Green?
Why are Animals Red?

I can imagine your first response might be the same as mine -- HUH? Surely there aren't animals that color. Like me, you'd be wrong.

Take RED for example. A red bird? Okay, I've seen Cardinals. Yup -- red. (with black highlights) But the photograph of the huge Scarlet Ibis is almost unbelievable. And then I remembered that Flamingos are pink because they eat pink shellfish. I guess it stands to reason that the Ibis would be red from eating very red crabs. (although this Marylander is only used to Blue crabs who turn red when cooked -- and I'm sure no one cooks crabs for an Ibis. Never have seen a red living crab.)

Each book has a table of contents, Words to Know, and one double page photographic spread for each animal with a sentence or two explaining why that animal is a particular color. In the back is a guessing game where the reader can guess why the last two animals are that color. (answers on the last page) A double-page spread showing on maps where these animals live. Ending with four books to read to Learn More (some with even less words and information than this simple book has) and a few websites. Oh, and there's even an index.

More Nonfiction Monday posts can be found here.
-wendie Old

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Links to publishing information

Oh my -- Everything you ever wanted to know about publishing has been collected (with links) in one place on Nathan Bransford's blog.

If you're a writer, you need to look at these. (just ignore the 114 comments below his post.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


A line of thunderstorms raced through the East Coast on Tuesday, causing damage everywhere. A good bit of Maryland was without electricity overnight. (I don't know about the rest of the states, but I imagine that similar problems of downed wires and trees existed all over.)

Naturally, my husband's I-POD worked fine.
I was at work. He was at home with the 9-year-old.
He sent me a message about the electricity being out at home -- where were the flashlights?

Unfortunately, I couldn't see his e-mail, because there was no electricity at work, either. (It's a half-hour drive from home.) Plus, I was having the same problem at work -- where were the flashlights? There used to be rechargeable flashlights at every Information desk, charging away to be ready for emergencies. Except, we had discovered that they gradually died, making them unavailable once we did have an emergency.

Maintenance had installed emergency lights in the librarian's office, which has no windows and is dark as pitch when the lights go out. What a nice surprise when they went on.
ADM said that we couldn't close. Wait for an hour or so to see what happens. Well, what happened is that we discovered that the emergency lights are only good for a half hour. By the time we were allowed to leave, the office was pitch black, again.

Did the customers leave when the computers died?
They simply sat at their computer and waited. (laying claim to the one they had been using) I kept seeing lights over by the computers, so I went to see what was going on. They had their cell phones open, shining cell phone light onto their dead computer.

Finally most gave up and left. Except for three middle school boys and one lady. The three boys wandered around the library, waiting for the rain (hail/ wind/ storm!) to stop, because they had to walk home. They finally settled in over in a corner by some windows -- watching something on a Blackberry or I-Phone or something. The lady settled down at a table doing the same thing -- watching a movie on her Blackberry or I-Phone or something.

It's amazing how quiet a library gets when there are no computers running/ no electrical things running at all. (except for the library staff chatting over by the check-out desk and the murmur of the two movies running on those phones.)

Gradually the light through the windows died and it reached 7 pm. Ah. Officially we could close. We turned off every switch that might possibly have been on when the electricity stopped.
I drove home to discover I had to detour around a sparking fallen wire near home.

When was electricty restored?
2 am at my workplace, according to staff members who live a few blocks away.
And not until 7:30 in the morning at our house.

We had expected to get a good night's sleep, since there was "nothing to do" at home.
How-ever --
the 9-year-old kept waking us up.
She couldn't get asleep. It was too quiet. It was too dark.

How did the storms affect your area?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest, Where Birds Begin by Irene Kelly. New York: Holiday House, 2009. Available now.

Birds' nests.
If you live anywhere near trees, you've probably seen birds' nests.
But only some birds of the world build their nests in trees. Some build in Cacti (ouch) , some in holes in the ground or a cliff, and some pile up a compost heap which warms the eggs as the leaves rot.

Some birds don't build nests at all, depending on their body or feet to keep the eggs warm.

But the strangest of all is probably the bowerbird -- who spends weeks building and decorating and sometimes painting a huge building of a nest -- only to have the chosen female build a simple nest elsewhere to actually hatch her eggs.

The lightly colored pen and ink drawings were checked for accuracy by bird expert, Margaret Hart. A world map at the end shows where many of these birds can be found.

Remember the title?
You would think that an Ostrich's nest would be featured in this book, right?
You'd be wrong -- no Ostrich. weird. I have to admit, with no index, it was difficult to determine this, but I searched every page for an Ostrich and found nary a one. A definate OOOPS moment here.

Links to other nonfiction monday posts can be found here. -wendieO

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Thundering Herd of -- Kitten

Thumpetty-thumpetty thump-thumpetty-thump!
Here comes a herd of
One kitten?
One kitten is making all that thunder?
Around the corner. Leaping onto the rungs of the stool. Balancing like a gymnist. Swinging around the bar, catching another one, flying off onto the floor into a heap.
(lick/ lick -- smoothing fur -- I meant to do that. cold stare. walking away with tail aimed straight at the ceiling.)

Yes, our new kitten gets larger and stronger every day.
You can't sit at the dining room table without something (someone) attacking your legs or pant leg or skirt.
No wonder we call her "Monster cat" -- MC for short.

Friday, June 5, 2009

7 Things Editors Wish Writers Knew

Jon Bard, Managing Editor of the Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers sent this message:

Hey folks,
I've got another another free children's writing video for you. This one's called "7 Things Editors Wish Writers Knew" and it's based on our years of discussions with editors at publishers large and small. There are some good tips here that will help writers really impress an editor.

The video is waiting for you right here.
(you-all know to click on the link when I say 'here' or 'right here,' don't you? -wendieO)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What to do in Summer

Summer - time
And the livin' is eeeeeezzzzz.
Fish are jumpin'
and the cotton is high............

Not at our house.

What's a writer to do when the kids are out of school?

The writers over at "Through the Tollbooth" are discussing the problems of being a writer and having a life during the summer. Go check it out. Five different writers give five different views.
Which one do you agree with?
What's your summertime writing plan?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Don't Lick the Dog

Don't Lick the Dog, Making Friends with Dogs by Wendy Wahman. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2009. Available now

If you like busy, busy bright pictures/ people and dogs with exaggerated features/ sentences divided into short phrases/ words printed in a large type-face -- you'll like this book.

With all this busy-busy, you might worry about the readability. Words placed on busy, colorful backgrounds are often impossible to read. Not to worry. All of the sentences have been carefully placed on the bright background color, in an open space, making them easy to read. One page has white words on black -- which works because they are on a large expanse of black.

This book is full of excellent advice about making friends with strange dogs, presented with a dash of humor in a series of one or two full page spreads. Children will quickly pick up the rules which will make their encounters with strange dogs a happy one.

Other Nonfiction Monday posts can be located here.