Interview: Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Children's Picture Books: Mad Tea Party by Frank Dormer

Alice at the Mad Tea Party, by Frank Dormer

Today I continue my series of interviews with children’s book bloggers in an interview with Julie Danielson (abbreviated “JD” below), who blogs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, or “7-Imp” for short.  Jules  is an influential blogger in the kidlitosphere and is an aficionado of children’s picture books .  As you’ll see from the interview, she’s a wiz with American Sign Language and is also pretty darn funny.  Pithy enticing quote: “…very simply, I’m an Illustration Junkie and must feed my habit.”  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature blogs out there. So, if you are also a sucker for children’s picture books, after reading the interview I encourage you to check out Julie’s blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Click here for the previous interview in this series, with Jill Tullo of the Well-Read Child.

Q: When and how did you become interested in children’s picture books?

JD: I blame Eisha Prather, my best friend and fellow imp—and whom regular 7-Imp readers will recognize as my partner-in-crime in co-founding the blog. Not too terribly long after college and before each of us went off and got hitched, we were roommates in a lovely, if un-air-conditioned, old farmhouse in beautiful Maryville, Tennessee. That’s “Murvul,” by the way, if you’re a true East Tennessean. At the time, she was a public librarian and would bring home her favorite picture books and leave them on the dining room table for me to read. I’d wander off with them and explore. I fell for them. And fell hard. Continue reading

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Finding the Best Children’s Books: Reviews, Lists, and Blogs

Image of the John Newbery medal, the best children's books

The John Newbery medal

Today I wrap up my series on how to choose children’s books by pointing to a number of book lists and other resources that can help adults find some of the best children’s books. Relying on the opinions of those who put such lists and resources together is of course not a fool-proof way to find the best children’s books, but it can be a very quick way to zero in on some that are probably good.  Such lists and resources should not replace your own judgment about children’s books—which I hope has been refined a bit over the course of this series (mine has!)—but they can be a helpful supplement.  Before launching into the resources, I should probably also state the obvious: the children’s librarian at your local library is also a fantastic source of recommendations and information on children’s books.  Don’t forget him or her.

If you would like to read this article series from the beginning, click here for “How to Choose Children’s Books”.  For the previous article in the series, “Disney Princess Books: Commercialism in Children’s Literature,” click here.

Lists of the Best Children’s Books

The first kind of resource that can help you find great children’s books quickly is a book list.  There are many great book lists out there, but here are some of my favorites: Continue reading

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Interview: Barbara Bietz, Jewish Books for Children

Jewish Children's Books, Like a Maccabee, Barbara Beitz
Here’s another in my series of interviews with children’s book bloggers. Today I report on my interview with Barbara Bietz (abbreviated “BB” below), who blogs at Jewish Books for Children. As you will see from the interview, Barbara is a children’s author and has a special place in her heart for Jewish Children’s Books.  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature blogs out there. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Barbara’s blog, Jewish Books for Children; its focus on Jewish children’s books makes it a unique and important member of the kidlitosphere.  Click here for the previous interview in this series, with Monica Edinger of educating alice.

Q: I understand that you write children’s books.  How and when did you decide to become a children’s author?

BB: I have always enjoyed writing and did quite a bit of academic and technical writing. From the time I was young I would write poems and stories but was afraid to share them with others.  Finally, I took a class on children’s literature with Alexis O’Neill. In the safe environment of a critique group I gradually became brave enough to share my work. Over the years I have met some wonderful writers in classes and workshops. Writing is a passion but it is also a skill that needs to be developed and nurtured. Continue reading

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Interview: Monica Edinger, educating alice

educating alice monica edinger

"What a curious feeling!" said Alice, "I must be shutting up like a telescope!" And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high.

Here’s another in my series of interviews with children’s book bloggers. Today I report on my interview with Monica Edinger (abbreviated “ME” below), who blogs at educating alice and the Huffington Post. As you will see from the interview, Monica is a teacher and an author, and she has worked around children’s books for a long time.  She has even served on the Newbery Medal committee. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature blogs out there. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Monica’s blog, educating alice; it is one of the most widely read and respected blogs in the kidlitosphere. Click here for the the previous interview in this series.

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking and writing about children’s books?

ME: I have always been interested in children’s books.  Drawing and art was what I did as a kid and so in high school I consciously decided that when I grew up I was going to be a children’s book illustrator.  I worked on a number of projects, most notably illustrations for Madeleine L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle and J.R.R. Tolkien’s  short story, “A Leaf by Niggle” [in The Tolkien ReaderThe Tolkien Reader, by J.R.R. Tolkien].  In college and after (say, when I was in Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps Volunteer) I continued to do art—fairy tales, Kipling’s The Elephant’s ChildRudyard Kipling, The Elephant's Child, and a few chapters of another favorite book, Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandAlice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.  I had an agent or two and took my work around, got a few nibbles, Continue reading

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Children’s Literature Guide: Elizabeth Kennedy, About.com

Elizabeth Kennedy, About.com Children's Books, a children's literature website

Elizabeth Kennedy, About.com Children's Books

Here’s another in my series of interviews with bloggers at children’s literature websites. Today I report on my interview with Elizabeth Kennedy (abbreviated “EK” below), who blogs at the children’s literature website About.com Children’s Books. Elizabeth is one of the hardest working children’s literature bloggers you’ll meet.  In this interview she shares some great insights on helping reluctant readers to embrace reading, and the impact of e-readers on children’s literature. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent children’s literature websites. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Elizabeth’s blog (link above). Click here for the the previous interview in this series.

Q: I understand that you studied both English literature and children’s literature while in college.  What spurred your interest in children’s literature?

EK: My interest in children’s literature grew from the time I read The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden as a child.  It was the first book I had ever read during which I felt that I was actually there: seeing what was going on, feeling what the characters were feeling.  Like a lot of kids, I had a somewhat difficult childhood and found great comfort Continue reading

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Cynthia Leitich Smith: Children’s Book Author Interview

Cynthia Leitich Smith face graphic

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Here’s another in my series of kidlitosphere blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with children’s books author and blogger Cynthia Leitich Smith (abbreviated “CLS” below), who blogs at Cynsations.  Cynthia is a New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author, and is a member of the faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. Program in Writing for Children and Young AdultsCynthia’s official author website was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her blog, Cynsations, was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/young adult publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.

The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites in the kidlitosphere. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Cynthia’s blog (links above), her fantastic website, and the other children’s books resources she mentions in the interview. Cynthia Leitich Smith, ladies and gentlemen!

Q: How and when did you become interested in writing children’s books?

CLS: I’d just graduated from law school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and took a clerkship at the Department of Health and Human Services in the loop in Chicago. I’d been haunting local bookstores and begun reading children’s and YA books.

Then after the Oklahoma City Bombing, Continue reading

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Kidlitosphere Interview: Blogger and Author Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray

book-loving stingray image from Chasing Ray about page

A book-loving stingray

Here’s another in my series of kidlitosphere blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Colleen Mondor (abbreviated “CM” below), who blogs at Chasing Ray. Don’t miss her hilarious anecdotes about flying small charter planes in Alaska! The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent blogs in the kidlitosphere. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Colleen’s blog (link above), as well as the other children’s books resources she mentions in the interview. Thanks Colleen!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

CM: I never left my affection for children’s books behind – probably because several of them (esp Little WomenLittle Women and A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time were so significant to me. I worked in an indy bookstore in the mid 90s and we were very involved in reading contests at the local schools (this was basically the only bookstore in Fairbanks, AK) so I kept up on new children’s and YA [Young Adult] titles as part of my job. And then my son was born in 2001 and that started me back on picture books again for obvious reasons. As a reviewer at Bookslut when I saw there was no one doing a YA column there I pitched the idea to Jessa [Bookslut editor-in-chief] and she thought it was great. And I’ve been professionally reviewing kid and YA books there ever since. Continue reading

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Interview: Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

kira kira by cynthia kadohatakira kira by cynthia kadohata
Here’s another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Charlotte Taylor (abbreviated “CT” below), who blogs at Charlotte’s Library.  As you will see from the interview, Charlotte’s blog focuses on fantasy and science fiction children’s books (especially for middle-schoolers and teens).  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Charlotte’s blog, and the excellent resources for fantasy and science fiction children’s books it provides. Thanks Charlotte!

Q: How and when did you start your children’s books blog?

CT: It all started in September of 2006 with a hardcover first edition of Kira-Kirakira kira by cynthia kadohata I picked up at a library booksale for fifty cents. My sister saw it lying around my house, and let me know it was worth something. Indeed, it was—more than enough to cover that pesky sewer bill. Knowing that next September would bring a fresh sewer bill, it occurred to me later that fall that it might be useful to buy another first edition Newbery winner, so I went online to find out if anyone had predictions. And this led me to this post on Linda Sue Park’s blog—the very first blog post I remember reading.

I was in a bad patch, bookwise, constantly running out of things to read. I would wander into book stores, not know what I wanted to buy, and leave again empty handed….very sad. Linda Sue Park’s list of recommended books seemed like manna from heaven—not just these specific titles, but the realization that there were people out there who could help me. Continue reading

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Interview: Terry Doherty, The Reading Tub

The Reading Tub logo
Here is another in my series of interviews with kids books bloggers. Today I report on my interview with Terry Doherty (abbreviated “TD” below), who blogs at Children’s Literacy: Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub Blog. Terry’s blog reflects her passion for children’s reading and literacy. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on kids’ books, including children’s reading and literacy resources. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Terry’s blog (link above), as well as the other excellent resources she points to in the interview.  Thanks Terry!

Q: How and when did you become interested in children’s reading and literacy?

TD: I have always loved reading. I was one of those flashlight-under-the-covers kids. The literacy light bulb turned on when First Lady Barbara Bush started talking about the importance of reading.

I was a young bureaucrat at that point, steeped in my career, so the spark just sat quietly and waited. Fast forward 12 years … I am a full-time mom and I want to share my love of reading with our new baby girl. As she grows as a reader, so do I. I volunteer in her school, and I have learned so much by watching her and her peers. Even in your (cough) 40s (cough) you can learn a lot from Kindergartners! Continue reading

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Interview: Carol Rasco, Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental logoHere is another in my series of interviews with kids books bloggers. Today I report on my interview with Carol Rasco (abbreviated “CR” below), who blogs at Rasco From RIF.   Carol is a prominent children’s reading and literacy advocate in the United States and is currently CEO of Reading is Fundamental (RIF).  In her blog she shares reviews and reflections on the world of children’s books.  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on kids’ books, including children’s reading and literacy resources.  RIF’s website has some particularly good resources that can help children learn to read.  So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Carol’s blog (link above), as well as the excellent resources on the RIF website. I also encourage you to consider making a donation to RIF.  Thanks Carol!

Q: How and when did you become interested in children’s reading and literacy?

CR: I was an avid reader from an early age, always wanted to have plenty of books in case I finished one book, ready to start the next.  And I found studying authors great fun, loved many genres early on but in particular biographies, poetry, and travel books in addition to the more traditional novels.  My undergraduate degree was in elementary education and I then taught sixth grade until going into elementary / early childhood counseling when I used bibliotherapy in many situations.  While I then took a pause from the “paid workforce” as my two children were born, I re-entered that workforce in the policy field for the next 20 years.  When that period came to a close I chose RIF as the place I wanted to be, back to the children’s books! Continue reading

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Interview: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan, Bookends

Bookends Blog - A Booklist Online Blog, bannerHere is another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan (abbreviated “CD” and “LR” below), who blog together at Bookends – A Booklist Online Blog.  Their “Bookends” blog is one of several hosted at the Booklist Online website.  Cindy and Lynn take a refreshing tag-team approach to their children’s book reviews. They are also both middle-school librarians, as you will see from the interview, so they have special insight on teen and tween readers. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Cindy and Lynn’s “Bookends” blog (link above), as well as the other excellent resources they mention in the interview. Thanks Cindy and Lynn!

Q: How and when did you become interested in young adult and children’s books?

CD: In the fourth grade I was a library helper and soon decided that I wanted to become an author of books for children. I decided that a career in library science would be a good back up and would put me in touch with the market. Then I had a YA Literature class in college and was hooked. Now I just need to write that first book…

LR: I have always loved children’s books – I probably just have never really grown up.  Early in my library career I fell in love with that wonderful magic of connecting kids with good books.  My own children were big readers, which just reinforced my love of youth books.  As much as I love adult books, I think my heart has always been with youth books. Continue reading

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Illustrator Interview: Don Tate, The Brown Bookshelf

the brown bookshelf african american children's books blog bannerHere is another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Don Tate (abbreviated “DT” below), who blogs at The Brown Bookshelf, a multicultural children’s books blog focused on the work of African-American artists and authors.   At The Brown Bookshelf Don posts children’s book reviews and news that fit with the focus of the blog.  As you will see from the interview, Don is primarily an illustrator of multicultural children’s books.  He has illustrated (beautifully!) many books, some of which are sprinkled throughout this post, and he maintains a website (Don Tate – Children’s Literature Illustration) focused on his illustration work.   The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books.  I am particularly excited to introduce my readers to Don Tate and The Brown Bookshelf, as they inject an important African-American voice into the discussion.  So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out The Brown Bookshelf, as well as the many excellent multicultural children’s books resources he mentions in the interview. And why not buy one of his books while you’re at it?  Thanks Don!

Q: I understand that you are primarily an illustrator.  How and when did you begin being interested in illustration?

DT: Well, I’ve always been an artist. I was the “best drawer in class” throughout grade school, and I never considered anything else beyond art. I went to a vocational-technical high school. My core area was commercial and advertising art, so I’ve always operated within the commercial art realm—art with a commercial purpose. Following college, I started getting freelance illustration projects from a local educational publishing company. I loved children’s publishing, and have pretty much stuck with it. Continue reading

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Blogger Interview: Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse #8 Production

Children's Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career cover art, by elizabeth bird a fuse #8 production
Here is another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Elizabeth Bird (abbreviated “EB” below), who blogs at A Fuse #8 Production.  Her blog is one of several hosted at the School Library Journal websiteElizabeth Bird is perhaps the most prominent and prolific blogger in the kidlitosphere (kidlit celebrity?).  She posts children’s book reviews, along with news, videos, and funny stuff related to kids’ books.  She is also a public librarian in New York City, as you will see from the interview. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out A Fuse #8 Production (link above), as well as the many other excellent resources she mentions in the interview. Thanks Elizabeth!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

EB: Excellent question.  Basically, I stumbled into it.  After I determined that I wanted to become a librarian I was a little vague on what kind of librarian I could be.  I took a course on children’s literature to fill a credit while getting my MLIS (Masters in Library and Information Science).  Honestly, I probably just saw it as an easy “A”.  But then as I started to get into the class, I discovered my calling.  I’d been reading books like Harry PotterHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and His Dark MaterialsHis Dark Materials for years for fun.  It never occurred to me to make a whole occupation out of it. After that, I was a clear goner. Writing about children’s literature just seemed a natural next step after studying them all the time. Continue reading

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Interview: Melissa Fox, Book Nut

melissa fox book nut photo children's books
Here’s the next installment in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Melissa Fox (pictured to the right, abbreviated “MF” below), who blogs at Book Nut. Melissa’s blog focuses on children’s book reviews, though she reviews some adult books too.  She is also an active member of the online children’s literature community (the “kidlitosphere”), as you will see from the interview. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Melissa’s blog (link above), and the other kidlit resources she points to. Thanks Melissa!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

MF: Back in about 1995, a friend of mine was appalled that I had never read BeautyBeauty, by Robin McKinley by Robin McKinley. She insisted that I read it, and I was hooked: I loved the story, I loved the writing, I loved the idea that, as an adult, I could experience books that I’d missed as a kid. But then, over time, I realized that there was just so much more good writing and story telling going on for children, more so than for adults, and that’s what appeals to me most. So, that’s what I read. Continue reading

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Interview: Jen Robinson, Jen Robinson’s Book Page

jen robinson's book page logo baby book worm image
Here’s another post in my series of children’s books blogger interviews.  Today I report on my interview with Jen Robinson (abbreviated “JR” below), who blogs at Jen Robinson’s Book Page.  Along with excellent children’s book reviews, Jen’s blog has a particular focus on child literacy.  She is also a leader in the online children’s literature community (the “kidlitosphere” as it is sometimes called), as you will see from the interview.  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books.  So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Jen’s blog (link above), as well as the many excellent resources she mentions in the interview.  Thanks Jen!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

JR: I never stopped reading children’s books, just because I enjoyed them so much. I was also always an advocate of people helping kids to grow up to love books. I think that the whole growing bookworms concept [AMM: hence the bookworm graphic above] resonated with me because I loved books SO SO much as a child. And my love of books enriched my life, both subjectively (countless hours of pleasure) and objectively (high SAT scores, admission to my dream college, etc.). I was a grassroots advocate for literacy for years, long before there were blogs, but I always wished that I could do more. Blogging gave me a platform to work in an area that I was already passionate about. Continue reading

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