Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A baseball Fib...

Baseball is near and dear to my heart, and I think sports Fibbery is still underserved, so I thought I'd toss up a baseball Fib. This is also a tribute to the remarkable weather we've had out here lately. You know, the type of weather where you understand why people settled in the middle of a giant desert....

No way.
Come on -- stay.
Nothing else will do:
It's a perfect day to play two.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


As this school year comes to an end, I find myself reflecting again and again on the amazing amount of generosity I've run into this year in building our elementary school library. While it's said that everyone will offer advice, some people do so for the best of reasons... and give whopping good advice, to boot. At the library, the advice gave me avenues to get books, weed books, find books to read-aloud and so much more.

The amount of time so many parents and library-friends dedicated to the library this year is another remarkable form of generosity. It's easy to say "well, that's what it takes!" But it's far rarer, I think, to see "it" actually happen.

And then, of course, there are the generous individuals and organizations who gave us books, organized book drives, or sent us, gasp, specific titles/gift certificates! A special tip o' the hat to my fellow SCBWI members, so many of whom have helped in ways small and large. And as I mentioned here, one reader of this blog bought us books... and this weekend another sent an gift certificate! It kinda restores your faith in humanity, you know?

I will likely not speak of this too often, lest this become a lovefestblog, but I promise to announce any noteworthy events (such as if McGraw-Hill donates the entire catalog of Patricia Polacco books).

Monday, May 29, 2006

A worthy challenge....

And it's not even Fib related....

Mother Reader has challenged fellow bloggers to a 48 Hour Book Reviewathon.

Further refinements to come, but I think it's a great opportunity for book reviewing bloggers to unite and show off the power of the blogosphere. So head on over to the link up above and sign up to "play."

Just quickly...

I am not one who reviews books with the frequency of so many of the folks over in the "Blogs!" list over on the right. OK, I don't review them, really. But the fine folks at momready asked me to do a monthly book talk column with a handful of recommendations, and the May column is up today. Lotsa good stuff for parents (that's moms and dads both, in truth) over there, and as far as I'm concerned, you simply gotta like a site that has a "Rant" called No, I'm not pregnant... I'm just fat.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weird, yes, but sometimes that's good

Ever since Mother Reader coined the phrase Weird-Ass Picture Books (and I'm just assuming she coined it. Maybe it's been around for decades without seeping into my life), I've been looking at books with a whole new eye.

Everyone will define this new genre differently, of course. I mean, around the GottaBook place, we're big fans of Josse Goffin's Ah! and Oh! but they are definitely odd. I'd also put J.otto's Penguin Dreams in the weird category.

But I must tip my hat to Fuse #8 for her discovery of Else-Marie and her Seven Little Daddies. As Fuse says, perhaps it defines the genre? Regardless, it's fun to keep a lookout for these off-kilter books, and I'm sure I speek for others when I say "if you find 'em, don't keep 'em secret!"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lazy Saturday...

Yup, I'm having a lazy Saturday, so once again, I'm gonna let my fellow bloggers provide entertainment:

The Disco Mermaids again dazzle with their breaking of The dePaola Code, this time with their stellar analysis of Strega Nona.

Following up on her encounter with Mo Willems, Mother Reader gives notes on Mo's speech and then, and I simply have to respect this, writes an Ode to Mo in Fib form!

And over at Big A little a, there's an assortment of links over the past two days that will send you to great stuff, as well as Kelly's review of Sea of Monsters.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Why I love the Net (reason 10,001)

If you didn't see the brief exchange in the comments of a recent post here, I'll recap: librarian extraordinaire Fuse #8 had recommended Jules Feiffer's Bark, George as a great read-aloud... but I noted that we didn't have a copy of it at the school library I've been helping create this year.

Well, guess what?

Thanks to a GottaBook reader's generosity, there's a copy ON THE WAY! Nope, I kid you not. And a copy of Learning to Fly! And, I'm told, a couple other rocking, rolling, great read-aloud picture books.

So, a very public THANK YOU!!!!

PS: Imagine hearing that "thank you" from a couple hundred kids, not just that lovable GottaBook fellow. It sounds better when they say it.

Writing? Fun?

This week a first grader asked me "what was the most fun you ever had writing?" Hmmm. I have absolutely no answer to that. I usually have great fun writing, unless it's the type of writing that feels like pulling teeth. Oh, or the writing that is mindless. Or when the outline isn't working. Or when the right word is elusive. Or when it's a job that I really wish I hadn't taken. Or when it's really late and things are due the next morning. Or when you know you're just gonna be rewriting the junk you're spewing out right now just to get to the end of this section because you really know you gotta but it just isn't working. Or...

Well, look, other than THOSE moments, the truth is I'm happiest when I'm writing and probably have been since I can remember. So there's no one time... no one phrase that I wrote that made me say "THIS IS THE MOMENT!"... no time I was so far into "the writing zone" that it overshadows all others. But a good question anyway.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Giving kids credit

As some have heard me say before, it's frustrating to write, say, a picture book manuscript and be told "kids wouldn't get that" when you know, in fact, that kids WOULD get that. Admittedly, not EVERY kid, but still a large percentage "get" quite a bit. I was struck by this again while reading the Newbery Honor-winning Dr. DeSoto by William Steig. Like most of his work, it doesn't stint on vocabulary, ideas, complex thoughts, and wonderful illustrations that others might shy away from (like the blood-dripping tooth extracted by the titular Dr.). And, of course, it's a hit as a read-aloud. Ah well... I guess the goal is to become as well-known as William Steig so you can wield a little clout and prove your point!

Some more of the recent library read-alouds...

Duck For President - Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Giggle, Giggle, Quack - Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Things that are MOST in the World - Judi Barrett. Illus. by John Nickle
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett. Illus. by Ron Barrett

A Fib journal

For all you Fibbers out there, here's a potentially interesting opportunity: The Fib Review!

The Fib Review is the brainchild of poet/playwright/actor/teacher R.G. Rader. I'm happy to see someone pick up the Fib ball and run with it. I hope y'all don't overload him with too much Fibbery. OK, maybe I hope you do :-)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

From 0 to 10,000 in seconds flat!

This week has marked a milestone at the elementary school library I've been helping to create this year: we have crossed 10,000 volumes. When you consider that it was a year ago (okay, plus one week) that we started off with zero books... well, we've done good (and since there are 525,600 minutes in a year, you can do the math of multiplying by 60 to see just how many seconds it took us).

Now, to the librarians who stop by the blog, let me point out that I'm well aware that counting sheer numbers isn't a great measure of a collection. Yes, we have some duplicates and triplicates of books that we really don't need. Then if I were to remove some of the earliest donations we accepted when we entered almost everything gratefully into our system... well, I could take a good 15% of the raw numbers away without breaking a sweat.

But I also happen to know that our collection is pretty remarkable, all the more so considering we've done it without spending a penny of school money (which is good, as school money in CA simply doesn't get to the library level often enough regardless of the additional issues we face as a startup public school). Our picturebook shelves overflow (and that's not including the eight, great Bill Peet books a parent just donated nor the hundred or so picture books we got this week from a book drive held for us by a wonderful 6-12 school). Our MG/YA collections are honestly overflowing their shelves and stocked with amazing reads. Our non-fiction section could be stronger, but even there I suspect we are in better shape than most LA elementary schools. In fact, I know we are.

It's all a testament to a group of bullheaded parents and volunteers who have worked hard, thought outside the box, gotten lucky, and in the process, dare I say it, have shown a school full of kids how important we think books are. In return, we've been rewarded by seeing how much the kids love the library... love picking out their books... and, it seems to me, genuinely love reading. I encourage you all to help out in your own communities, because I gotta tell you, this experience has been rewarding on a level few others have ever been for me. And, of course, if you happen to have some great K-6 books that are looking for a home, feel free to get in touch!

Just a couple notes...

MotherReader has an encounter with Mo Willems. I'm not sure I'm going to follow her approach if I happen to run into him at the SCBWI Summer Annual Conference.

The Disco Mermaids continue crack the dePaola Code! I see that Mr. dePaola's Master Class at the above reference conference has sold out. Coincidence? I suspect the Mermaids would say "there are no dePaola coincidences."

As for me... it's a library morning, so I gotta book.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Got nothing else to do?

Well, if you live in Harford County (MD), there's still time to get to the Harford Poetry and Literary Society meeting today. Why? "Members should take writing materials to learn how to create a sausage poem, a fibonacci and a cento."

A sausage poem? Who knew?

Monday, May 22, 2006

McGraw-Hill and onward

Blogging about the McGraw-Hill/Patricia Polacco imbroglio has been a definite change of pace here, it's true. As I've noted, I have been underwhelmed with their desire to place blame, rather than admit they made a mistake. On the plus side, I like the image of folks in NJ and Ohio searching blogs all over just to make sure...uh... well, just to make sure, since they clearly have no interest in posting again in the blogosphere.

Now, it's not like I never thought this blog would get serious. For example, I've talked before about libraries/schools pulling books. It's not a steady feature here, and luckily, many others continue to point out the oftentimes absurd cases that keep coming to light. Hmm. It's not lucky the cases exist, of course. Anyway, here Bookshelves of Doom finds a School Board member wanting to remove seven books from the curriculum... all books she's never read. There are a other such challenges in recent posts on Bookshelves as well.

Another place that focuses on children's literature under protest is the fine blog at As If, a group of YA writers who have sometimes found their own books under fire. Good, reasoned reading there.

I'm sure such acts will be blogged about here again in the future, much as there will be other unexpected veers into "issues" and the like. I find myself unable and unwilling to turn a blind eye as I once tried to do. Maybe it's because I have kids, or because of changes in the world at large, but there will be times I won't bite my tongue (or is it bite my fingers in this medium)? Most of the time, it'll be frothy fun hereabouts, of course. But this post serves to thank you all for hanging in when it's not all fun and games.

Now, I'd post something fun and frothy, but it's late, so I gotta book. Tomorrow, so they say, is another day!

Sounds familiar....

I wanted to post another one of the Style Invitational's funny Fibs here, as I think many folks who read this blog for non-Fibbery will still be entertained due to its children's literature bent:

Wyth showres
Hath made hys drizzle,
Thenn wander pilgryms, fo' shizzle.

-- K. Viswanathan, Cambridge, Mass.
(Mark Eckenwiler, Washington)

So far this isn't a topic of conversation on Geoffrey Chaucer's blog, but ya never know....

Get yer cotton candy...

Today brings the 4th Carnival of Children's Literature. Hosted by Melissa Wiley of Here in the Bonny Glen, it's full of links to great posts all about... take a guess... yes, Children's Literature. Get some cotton candy or a hot dog on a stick (or really, now, ANYTHING on a stick) and enjoy!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sometimes it is rocket science....

One of the advantages of living in the greater LA area is that you get to take advantage of some unique opportunities. Today that meant the Jet Propulsion Lab open house. Talk about sparking the imagination of kids and adults alike: Mars rovers, sounds from space, pictures from space, robots, and lots o' free posters, stickers, and bookmarks.

There are many times when I jokingly call something "research" for future writing, but there's no question that a trip to JPL filled me with ideas, questions, and a touch of awe. Definitely fun, and even had it been a work day, definitely not procrastination.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekend reading...

It's great to see the new issue of The Edge of the Forest up this weekend. That means I don't have to come up with anything clever to post about the world of children's literature. Instead I can direct you there for great reviews, an interview or two, links to blogs (including here, thanks!), and other goodies, too.

Whatcha waiting for? Go read. I'll be here when you finish....

The Style Invitational Fibs!

There's been a lot of great Fibbery posted on my blog (check those links to the right, or just go to The Fib, Fibs are Fab, or More Fibbery for the largest concentration of Fibbing). Yes, lots of great Fibs. But I'm utterly amused by the Fibs posted in The Washington Post Style Invitational. Looks like 35+ Fibs posted there -- with the contest requiring two lines that rhyme as well as a subject that was in the news. There are some great ones all through (including a children's literature related one that cracked me up). Here's the first runner up followed by the "winner," but I strongly urge you all to click the above link and read 'em all.

Shows us:
Tony's in,
John may take a hike:
Proves no two Snow flacks are alike.

(Ira Allen, Bethesda)

PM comes,
You meekly kowtow.
'Cause Dubya, Hu's your daddy now.

(Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

Tip o' the hat to GottaBook reader David for his Honorable Mention Fib in the Invitational. That and his other entries are posted on his blog. Any other readers who have their entries posted on their blogs, please let me know!

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Code is Cracking!

Again, I'm not talking the DaVinci Code. I'm talking the Disco Mermaids' brave (some would say utterly crazy) attempt to crack the dePaola Code!

It's a dangerous path they're on. Don't believe me?

Ask yourself, Who is missing amid Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs? Answer: Nana in the Middle, of course. Rearrange those letters to reveal our first clue. Amend Ninth Ideal.

It's a post well worth a good look....

Oddaptation: The Rainbow Fish

For those of you reading your first Oddaptation, you might be wondering just what you've stumbled into. Basically, I've decided to do Cliff Notes versions of classic and/or huge-selling picture books... and I combine synopsis and analysis in one short, rhyming package. Oh, yeah, there's some attitude thrown in, too.

As you'll see if you read the other Oddaptations linked on the right hand side of the blog, I'm still debating what, exactly, makes one of these "perfect." Just like in writing a picture book manuscript, there's a balance needed between images, plot, and "moral," for lack of a better term. I can safely say, however, the balance is very different when one Oddapts.

As always, feel free to suggest a title for an Oddaptation. Who knows? One morning you may wake up to find your favorite title here... and you may never look at it (or me) the same way again. Who can pass up a possibility like that?

by Marcus Pfister
Oddaptation by Gregory K.

Its scales shine and shimmer – a rainbow in motion.
There’s no fish quite like it no matter what ocean.
But sadly that fish was quite lonely and blue:
“It’s just ‘cause I’m special, but what can I do?”
It could have looked inward or tried acting nice…
Instead it went swimming then followed advice.
It gave out its scales to fish sisters and brothers
So all fish were equal (and none more than others).
Thus Rainbow Fish learned, as new “friends” came a-swarming,
Don’t try to be special; Find joy in conforming!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

McGraw-Hill stays silent...

It's now been seven days since McGraw-Hill left their comment on my blog and many other blogs that were discussing the Patricia Polacco "disinvitation" story. After that, Ms. Polacco updated her statement as well, totally taking the teeth out of most points in the McGraw-Hill statement.

A few times since their initial visit, I have asked public questions of McGraw-Hill. They haven't answered. I don't think this surprises anyone. I don't think they view blogs as a place to discuss the facts, but rather to try and bury the story. Of course, they COULD have said "boy, we shouldn't have hired Ms. Polacco to do two speeches that she is well known for since we didn't know that those speeches were critical of NCLB. Since we're paying for the gig, we'd rather that not hear that, so we'll cancel." They COULD have done that and been totally within their rights, and the story woulda been done. But no. As far as I can tell, they chose the path of blame and spin. It's disheartening.

Maybe I'm misjudging, of course. Maybe they can provide facts that would change my mind. So far, though, they've chosen to speak once then disappear... although I would bet that they visit this blog every day (and probably visit other blogs that have and/or still do speak of this story, as well). What a shame they merely waste their time bopping around the Web, but not participating other than their one try. I can't say if their blog-tactics created more conversation or, as they intended, put an end to the story. Perhaps they know if it was a success... but they remain silent instead.

WhatIs and what was.

The WhatIs Fib contest has ended.

Check out the entries!

And you can click on the link you find there to take you to the winners. Picking one Fib over others is pretty much a lesson in subjectivity. Sure, it was easy to rule out ones with poor syllable counts (even allowing for variations on pronunciation as listed at which factored into the viability of a winning Fib). And yes, if a Fib didn't mention tech, it didn't qualify. But other than that... I suspect picking the top Fib has more to do with mood than anything else. Great fun.


A writer pal of mine scoffed at my comment from yesterday that "cleaning my desk" was a euphemism for procrastination. He maintains that cleaning ones desk is both necessary AND something that should be done AT LEAST once a day. Nothing procrastinatorial about it, says he.

I'm curious if anyone else has practiced techniques of procrastination that they use when writing. You know, other than stopping to check the e-mail. Or make coffee. Or "review the outline."

Oh... or blog.

I'm sure I've got more, but I gotta book: my desk is a mess!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A McGraw-Hill amusement...

I did a quick search today to see if there was any new news in the McGraw-Hill/Patricia Polacco situation. Imagine my amusement when my search turned up... concert links for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (husband and wife country-singing superstars).

I then tried to come up with other teamings in the realm of children's literature. I didn't do so well (okay, I didn't spend THAT much time on it), but if any of you have some good combos, let me know. I came up with a whopping two:

Little Richard and James Brown
Ben Harper and Phil Collins

A tip of the cyber cap to anyone who can match Paul Simon with a famous "Schuster" singer....

Found Fibs

In cleaning my desk (which, I must tell you, is a euphemism I use for any form of procrastination), I discovered a few pages on which I'd scrawled some Fibs. (For those hearing of Fibs for the first time, look to the right of the blog for the links collected under the headling "The Fibs."). So, fresh from the pages of this big finding, I share two pop-culture Fibs with you now....

It's fixed!
Voted off?
Demand a recount!
Damn you, American Idol.

This sucks.
I told you,
Always, yes, always
Turn left at Albuquerque.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A brief Fib note...

The Knitting Curmudgeon has a link to the PDF file of the top 10 Fibs from her contest. You'll even see my entry in there. The link is just under the headline The Final Fibs near the top of her post.

Not the DaVinci Code...

And not even Fib related. No, this is bigger, I tell ya.

The ever-clever Disco Mermaids have discovered and are attempting to unlock a children's literature mystery with clues hidden in the works of one of the genre's best known illustrators. Yes, the Mermaids are speaking of... The dePaola Code!

Polacco and SRA/McGraw Hill: new info from Patricia Polacco

There is new information/a new statement from Ms. Polacco on her website. I'm not sure specifically when she posted this, but it's new to me since I last looked.

In her statement, she disputes many of SRA/McGraw-Hill's assertations, gives a clearer picture of timelines/who said what, admits that she should've known who the contract was with, and thanks McGraw-Hill for posting that contract... since she now believes they owe her $5,000.

There's MUCH of interest in her statment. This is probably my favorite part:

I had agreed to do two of my well-known speeches. “The Heroes in My Life” and “Tales and Talk”. My corporation produces videos of both of these speeches. Within the content of both of these programs I make reference to the NCLB and it’s destructive and counterproductive force in American education today.

I find this pretty darn amusing, assuming it's true. McGraw-Hill contracted an author for talks that she is known for, that reference NCLB negatively... then they cancel the appearance for that very reason. Yet, McGraw-Hill has stated, here on the blog and elsewhere, that Ms. Polacco was going to give a "public policy speech." Nice spin... but apparently ONLY spin.

Also from Ms. Polacco...

Another ridiculous assertion by SRA/McGraw Hill is: “Patricia Polacco was to be paid for her appearances, therefore making her an employee of SRA/McGraw Hill, which means that she is obliged to represent the views of our company”…

I have NOT yet seen that statement by SRA/McGraw Hill. I'd love to find it, however. If any of you can point me to it (including, of course, anyone representing SRA/McGraw Hill either from their New Jersey base or their Ohio contingent), please do so.

The point of this blog wasn't to be involved in stories like this, but SRA/McGraw-Hill came here and has left unanswered questions. They made this bed, so I'm just keeping it warm til they come back and sleep in it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Other weekend findings...

I see from this week's Style Invitational that next Sunday brings us the results of their Tell Us a Fib contest (with the new title Dorkerel making an appearance). The entries in their currently printed contest give me great hope that we will see fantastic Fibbery.

I also learned that Google finance has a link to blog posts on their company information pages (for example, a McGraw-Hill search would lead you to blogs discussing stuff that I've been discussing).

I still haven't seen any Fibs being used in promoting The DaVinci Code feature. How disappointing. On the plus side, Fibs keep popping up on the blog (check those links to the right under "The Fibs") and around the Web as well.

I also learned that there are some people who are incredibly cool under pressure. For those with a high-bandwidth connection, check out the BBC's mistake when they had the wrong guest on. Watch the poor fellow's reaction as his "name" is announced... but then see how calm and cool he becomes. Found humor at its best.

McGraw-Hill/Polacco updates...

On Saturday, the New York Times had an article about the mini-imbroglio.

Again, it's still not exactly clear if Ms. Polacco simply told McGraw-Hill that she would speak about NCLB out of some spontaneous feeling that she needed to let them know OR because, as she said in her letter, she was asked to have her speech approved. It would be nice to clear that up with firm statements from Ms. Polacco or SRA.

The Times article mentions bloggers talking about this topic but doesn't mention SRA/McGraw-Hill's decision to come to the blog level to post their statement. You always take a risk when you try to play in an area where you might not understand how the "rules" really work. Just like going into Wrigley and saying "hey, it's really dumb to throw that other guy's home run ball back on the field," I think McGraw-Hill's strategy was inherently risky. Yes, they did clearly point out that Ms. Polacco either did know or realllllllly shoulda known exactly who hired her, but they didn't settle the issue of why they had the right to look at her speech. And their attempt at spin has been pretty well recognized in all the other blogs I've peaked at... and has probably done more on the downside than the upside due to that. Certainly with this blogger it's caused more posts on the subject than would otherwise have existed. Was that the SRA/McGraw-Hill intent?

Certainly, SRA/McGraw-Hill has no obligation to respond to the questions I've asked them here on the blog. It would give them far more credibility if they did reply in some fashion, but I suspect that they didn't give a lot of thought to how blogging and the Net work: they simply wanted to get that statement out. I'd be shocked to be told there haven't been visitors from McGraw-Hill and their Ohio connections to this blog since I asked my questions... but again, they have no obligation to respond.

Interesting times in the blogosphere....

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day -- a mother's day poem

Gregory K.

I made my mom a giant card
With letters three feet tall
(I couldn’t find the paper
So I used the playroom wall).
Then I made her breakfast –
Trix and jam rolled up in bread!
I think she would’ve liked it,
But I spilled it on her bed.
Our neighbor grows great roses,
So I filled our biggest vase.
I wish you could’ve seen it –
What a look on Mommy’s face!
Our cuckoo clock chirped six A.M.
I said I’d go and play.
Then I told my mom I loved her…
And she said I’d made her day.

(for your procrastinatory pleasure, links to this and other poems here on GottaBook are collected to the right under the headline "The Poems".)

If you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

Friday, May 12, 2006

SRA/McGraw-Hill, Patricia Polacco, contracts, and comments in blogs

Today, SRA/McGraw-Hill placed a statement in the comments of a post on my blog. That same statement was placed on other blogs, as well, in posts also talking about the Patricia Polacco "disinvited" controversy at the recent IRA Convention. Ms. Polacco, a well known children's book author, is an outspoken critic of No Child Left Behind. McGraw-Hill (and others) make money from selling materials used in NCLB.

Other than being impressed with the hustle of SRA/McGraw-Hill's folks -- who really should've made a Blogger profile that allowed us all to fully check them out -- at first I thought their statement made some sense. This wasn't a case of censorship, but of someone signing a contract and then attempting to do something different. But there was also a link to the contract signed by Ms. Polacco and SRA/McGraw-Hill. Hmmm.

While that contract gives Ms. Polacco two topics to speak about and "proposes" how the talks be geared, there is certainly no languange in them that implies her speeches would have to be approved (let alone non-political, non-critical, or anything else). So, if it's true, as Ms. Polacco states in her open letter that it wasn't until some time later that she was asked to send in her speech to have it okayed, well, I can fully understand her surprise and dismay. That said, Ms. Polacco also says she didn't know that she had been hired by SRA/McGraw-Hill, but the signed contract would seem to contradict her statements. Still, in the comment left on blogs, SRA/McGraw-Hill makes no mention of Buchanan Associates of Dublin, OH... with whom Ms. Polacco states she dealt. Clearly, there's differing accounts here, but I continue to go back to a more basic issue: the way I read it, that contract doesn't state that Ms. Polacco's speeches must be approved or "non-controversial."

I posted a question for SRA/McGraw-Hill here on my blog, asking if they can clarify if that contract gives them the right to approve the speeches in question. I'm curious, too, if the other two authors who did presentations for SRA had to submit full speeches for approval. I'd also like to hear from McGraw-Hill about what role Buchanan Associates played in this, if any. It also seems to me that SRA/McGraw-Hill had every right to cancel on Ms. Polacco. Censorship? Well, yes, on some level... but it still seems legit.

While there are clarifications needed from both sides, I find it interesting that SRA/McGraw-Hill tries to place the blame solely on Ms. Polacco for "insisting that she wanted to use her appearances as a platform for expressing her personal views on public education policy," but fails to discuss what gives them the right, based on the contract they show, to control what she says.

And finally, SRA/McGraw-Hill ends their statement with the following:
SRA's intention was to have Ms. Polacco deliver four presentations that would inspire the people who have the greatest impact on educating our children – classroom teachers.

Apparently, then, SRA has made themselves the arbiter of what will inspire teachers. A more accurate statement, it appears to me, would be for them to say that they only want teachers inspired in a positive, non-controversial, upbeat way... or at least some way THEY define. I don't like their attempt at spin, and I'd be curious to hear if any teachers who come by here like that attitude.

Still, I hope this whole imbroglio starts some constructive dialogue about the issues at play here. I look forward to SRA/McGraw-Hill's reply to my question(s), and also look forward to any comments from others.

Oh, SRA/McGraw-Hill, if you're still poking around...

Since y'all have been kind enough to come out this way, I do have some follow-up questions....

Where in that contract that you posted does it actually say that you have approval over the content of the speeches in question? You "propose" that the author gear a message a certain way, but I can't actually see anything in those pages that spell out a requirement that says all speeches must be given to you for approval.

Can you point out what I'm missing?

I believe that if you don't ask for that in the contract, the speaker would NOT expect otherwise. I think this is what Ms. Polacco was saying, though I'd like to hear her clarification as well. And I look forward to yours here in the comments...

SRA/McGraw-Hill speaks... right here!

(I have removed this post and re-organized and clarified many of its thoughts, observations and links in this newer post. I blogged too quickly here this afternoon, then added edits, and soon the post was unweildy and hard to follow. The new post corrects that, I hope.)

Class is in session, apparently

Today brings a sixth grade class to the blog, if one believes their Fibs.

They've posted Fibs in a few places that I found so far.

Where are they from? What was their assignment? It's all a mystery, but it's good to see 'em here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Was that really a read-aloud?

The book Tuesday by David Wiesner has basically no words in it. A few times-of-day and maybe two sentences. So the question is, when it was part of storytime... was it a read-aloud or show and tell? Regardless, there was laughter... and lots of frogs.

I'm glad I can occasionally blog the titles that have been read in the library. I cannot imagine being able to compile the chock full of great stuff posts that Cynthia Leitich Smith does allllll the time on her blog Cynsations. It's daily reading for me, but it's definitely the type of blog I can never, ever, ever imagine emulating!

Other library read-alouds of recent times (besides Tuesday)...

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato -- Lauren Child
The Story of Ferdinand -- Munro Leaf (illus. Robert Lawson)
Willy Dreams -- Anthony Browne

All the news that's Fib, I'll print

You'd think I'd've used that headline on the day Fibs were in the (wildly gratuitiously relinked!!!!!) New York Times. But no. I didn't think of it.

It comes to mind now, not so much for actual NEWS, per se, but because I note that the Knitting Curmudgeon says she'll be posting the entries to her Fib contest this weekend (including one of mine, I must add). Also, the What Is contest will announce winners on the 19th, and the Style Invitational has been closed for a week with winners to be printed sooooooon. I'll be sure to post all the links, and maybe even add 'em to the collection of Fib links over to the right on the blog. And one never knows what other Fibbery will appear. Maybe Tom Hanks will decide to Fib while promoting the DaVinci Code.... Hey, it COULD happen! I'd hold my breath, but instead I gotta book and go read-aloud for spell. Much better than breath holding....

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

other updates

Which do you want first? Hmmm. I'll give you the meatier one:

School Library Journal has a nice, balanced article on the Patricia Polacco/McGraw Hill stuff.

Publisher's Weekly has the story of a book sold by blog-word of mouth.

(Tip o' my hat to Fuse #8 for both those.)

But there's no one but me to blame for eating up all your free time by telling you that Babble has been upgraded, making it easier, I think, to obsessively spend time finding alllllll the words. Oh, goodie!

The Candle, an update

I simply have to note that I have written a ton of email today. I think that spirit of writing candle has worked!

What? I do that every day?


Next you're gonna tell me that the numbers from my fortune cookie don't actually improve my odds of winning the lottery....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Waxing poetic...

Cleaning out a rarely used box in my office closet today, I ran into something purchased in New Orleans maaaaannnnyyyy years ago: a candle from a "Magick" shop labeled The Spirit of Writing.

With so many projects batting around the old desktop, seems like a good time to light this puppy. I'll update y'all on its powers later... assuming I can clear off the layers of dust and grime on the wick! I do remember buying the candle to give as a gift (never given, obviously) at the same place I bought something for my then-lawyer: a "potion" called "Other Lawyer Be Stupid." How can you not believe in that????

Random blogging thoughts...

Susan over at Chicken Spaghetti is going to hit her one year blogging anniversary on Friday. I realize there are blogs out there that are multiple years old, but as I'm still a mere infant (approaching three months), I don't like to look that far ahead.

While April was all full of Fibs and poetry, and both those will be future staples here at Gottabook, I continue to ask myself what I can offer that will keep folks coming back again and again. Well, besides cash and my undying gratitude, of course. And I keep not hitting on any answer other than to post what's interesting to me -- Fibs, poems, library stuff, volunteering, books, reading, children's literature, kumquats, and whatever else comes about. (Note to self: that was first kumquat post). I'm certainly glad I've gotten less serious in tone than when I started -- even my "serious posts" are more relaxed -- but despite the tremendous excitement around here last month, I'm still a rank beginner.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Talking about reading and talking...

Oooh, controversy and seriousiness again here on Gottabook....

Children's book author Patricia Polacco has an open letter to Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists on her website, but the letter should really be read by parents, writers, and anyone with any interest in children's education.

In short, Ms. Polacco did not appear at a McGraw Hill/SRA sponsored event at the recent International Reading Association Conference in Chicago when she learned that her speech had to be approved and be "upbeat, non-controversial, and non-political." Ms. Polacco is a longtime critic of the No Child Left Behind Act, and McGraw Hill/SRA happens to make a lot of material that sells (at least in part) due to said act (including Open Court).

This isn't censorship, per se, as Ms. Polacco was to be an invited guest at a private event, but if the company is so concerned that negative statements could somehow undermine their programs, it surely seems to me that they have no confidence in said programs (or that Act that enables them). So why should others? There are also other controversies involved here, including a history or ties between the Bush family and McGraw Hill, as discussed on Jim Trelease's site. (For those who don't know Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, I highly recommend it.)

I'm less concerned about the "education only for profit" aspect of this as I am with the fact that there really can't be a "one size fits all" method to teaching reading. I am not an expert, but I observed one class with Open Court and knew that it would NOT work for my son. In fact, it would kill any joy he had found in reading. Still, I am sure it works for others. The point to me, however, is that the company behind it shows an attitude that is the exact opposite of what we should teach our children: to listen, learn, work to better, and be open to the fact that not everyone will ever share your opinion. Bad show... but a good one by Ms. Polacco.

(EDIT on 5/12: head on up to this post for an update, including a comment from SRA/McGraw-Hill posted elsewhere on this blog)

Apres apropos posts: Fibbing

Nah, that post title means nothing special, but it's accurate and I think it has a great ring to it. This ties into something I quickly realized when I was first working on Fibs: the sound of a word not just the meaning of it was a key part of making a good word choice. Again, having started Fibbing as a writing exercise, I was more attuned to thinking about what I was doing, not just doing, so I was all about seeing what it could teach me. And the thing is... while I was dubious about whether writing such precise poems would have an impact beyond just writing them, I have realized that it actually has.

When you're dealing with the 17 syllables of a Haiku or the 20 syllables of a Fib, every choice counts. I think due to the 1/1/2/3/5/8 structure of the Fib, you end up with four lines (the first four, natch) were a single blah word can color the entire line (whic his the main reason I had my original no articles guideline for the first lines). I do think Fibs have helped "train" me to be even more cognizant of each word, in description and dialogue both.

I was thinking of this not because I'm Fib obsessed (well, perhaps I am, he says, as he notes that there are Fib links collected on the right of the blog), but in part because when I did my most recent visit to Harold Underdown's Purple Crayon site, I read Margot Finke's latest Musing's column... and it's all about finding good words. And also, I'm about to start a quick scripting job, and was, as always, thinking "OK, time to write some dialogue that really POPS." I figure as long as I don't accidentally make the characters speak in Fibs, I should be in good shape....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Apropos of something, I guess

It appears to be my day of random minutes caught on the computer used to catch, well, random things.

Courtesy of BoingBoing, we GottaBookers have spent a fair amount of time today looking at Sticklebook's invisible bookshelf. Since we have, oh, one or two books lying around, and I suspect many of my readers do, too, this seems like a pretty darn cool addition to a room....

Apropos of nothing...

This has zero to do with children's literature, Fibbing, libraries, or anything like that, but there's an article in today's LA Times about trademark issues involving the smiley face it uses. Because there's a legal issue here, we get to see something like this from WalMart:

The 'smiley face' design is comprised of a circle, within which appears two dots, parallel to each other and in the upper third of the circle, approximating eyes in a human face, and an upturned parabola in the lower third of the circle, approximating a smile on a human face. The design appears sometimes with, sometimes without, lines perpendicular to the corners of the 'smile' element. It is usually represented in the color yellow.

Oh, wait. I can tie this in to picture books. All that description or a simple picture? You be the judge....

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Might as well face it...

... I'm addicted to blog. Or more to the point, I'm addicted to checking the email address associated with this blog. Because besides all the great junk mail I've mentioned, I also get much more interesting responses. I've exchanged mail with someone from Iceland who had questions about Los Angeles, received an email totally in Greek about Greek poets (but not a mention of Fibs), gotten two emails in languages I could not decipher, heard from editors and teachers and writers who were interested in Fibbing, and yakked with dozens of fellow bloggers. It's been great. Sure, I haven't received e-mail from a hot man of children's literature, but since that's not my phrase, I guess that's to be expected.

I've been trying to stop checking obsessively, but how can you fault a guy who's having fun? So with that, I gotta book... and check the mail.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Invaded (but in a good way)

Today saw an invasion of my blog by what clearly seems to be a whole bunch of folkd doing a class project. Check out all the new Fibs posted in the comments of Fibs are Fab!

Who were they? Where did they come from? Who gave the assignment to "write and leave a Fib on the GottaBook blog"? I may never know, but it was great to see anyway.

This is not the first group to descend en masse. Folks from the University of Vermont had also dropped in... and later put up some cool websites with Fibs. I'm sure other groups have stopped in. Everyone's encouraged to say hello, of course, or simply browse away.

I realized today that I never summed up the LA Times Festival of Books last weekend. As usual, it was too hot, too crowded, but fun nonetheless. The highlight? Watching Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart do a pop-up demonstration. Way cool, even though they were just showing the bare basics. Their books, of course, are as far from basic as can be, but even the simple pop-ups we all learned are pretty darn fun. Don't believe me? Go to Robert's website and follow the instructions yourself. Truly fun for kids. OK, fine. Adults, too.

Star Fibs

Thanks to DonnaG for this link to the Toronto Star Fibs.

Later in May we still get the results from the Style Invitational and WhatIs, not to mention the promised/threatened PDF of Fibs from the Knitting Curmudgeon. Good fun indeed....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"The Annual"

I see that information for the SCBWI 35th Annual Summer Conference is up.

For those who have any interest in becoming a writer/illustrator of children's books, this is really a wonnnnnnderful event. This'll be my fourth year running, and each year I leave exhausted, exhilirated, and sure that NEXT year can't possibly have guests better than what I've just seen. But...

Mo Willems!

Jane Yolen!

And... oh, I can't even possibly link in everyone tremendous. Go click on the link up at the top of this post and see for yourself.


One of the best things about the Big April Fibstravaganza (or BAF! as I now like to call it) was that I ended up "meeting" so many fellow bloggers. It's true that there's nearly a gazillion (that's an estimate, by the way) different subjects one might blog about, but there's no question that despite those different starting points there's a real community aspect to the blogosphere that's not entirely apparent to those who don't hang out there. So a tip o' the hat to you all.

I'm also pleased to see that folks keep coming by here to have a Fibbing good time, and again draw your attention to the right of the blog. There, under the headline "The Fibs" you'll find links to tons of Fibbery right here on GottaBook. Comments continue to come in, so it's worth checking out the top two posts from time to time.

Meanwhile, over at The Knitting Curmudgeon, the Fib contest winner has been posted. And better yet, there's talk of a PDF posting of all the entries coming up sooooooon. Hmmm... and I wonder if the Toronto Star ever ran any Fibs that they got in response to their "Send Us Your Fibs" plea? Any Toronto Star readers in our midst?

More later, but for now, I gotta book.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Extra large!

I'm not saying this is the greatest read-aloud book of all time or nuttin' like that, but today I read Lane Smith's newest, John, Paul, George & Ben, thus giving me the great pleasure of being able to say, quite loudly I might add,
Extra-large underwear? Sure we have some! Let's see, large, large, EXTRA-LARGE! Here thye are! Great big, extra-large UNDERWEAR!

This was another book with some jokes that seemed squarely aimed at the adults reading, though some kids certainly got most of the humor, depending on their knowledge of American history (and of the Beatles). Also, the book certainly takes liberties with characters and history (that was Paul Revere selling underwear in his shop as opposed to silver), but it's not as if I was reading this as a primer on the Revolutionary War. In fact, the true/false questions at the end actually did lead into real history talk... and everyone seemed to have fun with it. That seems good to me. Then again, I'm just a volunteer librarian... and a guy who enjoyed saying the above passage with all library doors open.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some thanks, some books, and some stuff

Besides the obvious fun I was having here on the blog last month, there were some other nice things that happened slightly "behind the scenes." For example, I got great advice from, and had fun chatting with, my friend Jeremy (and his dad, too). You'll note, if you visit Jeremy's site, that he has some mighty impressive friends, so it's nice to be in that group.

I also learned of and got to read Joy N. Hulme's wonderful book Wild Fibonacci (illustrated by Carol Schwartz). It's full of poems about Fibonacci in nature and well worth checking out.

And, despite a lovely spring break, there was still library duty to attend to. Many books were read since I last updated, but here are just a few of the more recent read-alouds (along with a lot of poetry, natch)....

The Missing Piece -- Shel Silverstein
Wibble Wobble -- Miriam Moss/Joanna Mocklar
House Mouse, Senate Mouse -- Peter W. Barnes, Cheryl Shaw Barnes

And finally, when I began blogging, I never expected to be linked to from the American Mathematical Society site. But such is the wonderful path that Fibbing has taken, and I couldn't be happier about it. Yes, once again, my geeky roots are showing... but even though I'm in Hollywood, I don't plan on dyeing them.