Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Happy Thanksgiving to One and All

To All My Readers,

On this United States Thanksgiving, 2013, I wish you happiness and success in your lives.

I am thankful for my family and dear friends around the world.  I am thankful for the good things that have happened in my life. And yes, I am thankful for the bad as well.  Without some challenges, one's life is not complete, and real compassion is difficult to understand without having been there, walked through it, and survived so much stronger for having had the experience.

Those of you who are traveling, be safe.  Come back refreshed and renewed and ready for Christmas or Hanukkah and the New Year! 

Until my next post, wonderful wishes to you all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Better Literacy? An Age Old Question

As parents and educators, we ask ourselves the question throughout our adult lives.  And if we had literacy problems as kids, we were highly aware of the problem but probably couldn't put a name to it.

When I was a new teacher of young children, my emphasis was on the ‘how-to’ part of the reading process.  It was more prescriptive driven that holistic.  By that I mean my aim was to make sure that my students could technically read, and I taught them the way I was schooled to do it.  And mercifully, most of them achieved.

But as I grew older and became a parent, a paradigm shift occurred within me. Teaching reading is not only a technical thing.  What I was neglecting was the heart of the matter.  Literacy is about love.  Love of the printed word.  Wonder at what happens when one opens a book.  Anticipation at what lies ahead.  How can we achieve that magic today?

Modeling the love of reading to our young ones is the most powerful emotional literacy tool we have. It’s good to have a group of age appropriate books readily available.  Try to locate them in a place of importance, by a sofa in the family room, in the bedroom or the kitchen.  That ‘pride of place’ will rub off on the kids!

When I taught pre-service teachers, I emphasized ‘reading the room.’  Do the same for your little ones.  Label their belongings, not just in their rooms but all over the house.  Alphabet magnets are wonderful, particularly at their reaching level.  Make your home one of written words.  The safety children (should) find there, coupled with the richness of words wherever they look will do wonders for making reading a skill, a skill that exudes warmth and coziness.  No room for failure in such an environment.

Let’s not forget the tools for writing and drawing.  Manipulating crayons, pencils and waterproof markers is crucial in learning to hold the tool properly.  Those squiggles soon turn into primitive letters which lead to the magic of words.  Their imaginations and creativity will take over, leading the way to literacy.

Illinois Reading Council Conference Logo
Be a teller of stories.  Nothing fascinates a child more than hearing their adult loved one talk about a time when s/he was not there.  Or a world the story teller is spinning.  Or an animal that talks.  Or…whatever.  Listening is part of literacy, and listening to a person they love and respect is the cherry on top!

These are but a few suggestions for turning your child’s fertile mind into a blooming garden.  It’s so easy, so nurturing, so crucial.  If we can put as much importance on the love of all things literacy as we do on sports, video games, and television, our children will be the winners.  And we will have been the ones to take them to such achievements.  That, of course, is the best gift we as caregivers and teachers can give to any youngster.  It will change their lives forever.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

National Book Awards Announced

November 21 is the National Book Awards, 2013 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. 

Please have a look at the video announcing the the awards on November 20 posted below.
nationalbookawardJames McBride has won the fiction award forThe Good Lord Bird from Riverhead Books.
George Packer has won the nonfiction award for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Mary Szybist won the Poetry award forIncarnadine from Graywolf Press.
The Young People’s Literature award went toCynthia Kadohata for her book The Thing About Luck from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

You can read free samples of all the winners below to help fill your eReader or tablet.
Links to Free Samples of the National Book Award Finalists for 2013
Fiction Finalists
Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group USA)
Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press/Penguin Group USA)
George Saunders, Tenth of December (Random House)

Nonfiction Finalists

Young Adult Literature Finalists
Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck
Tom McNeal, Far Far Away
Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone
Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints

Poetry Finalists
Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion (Alfred A. Knopf)
Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke (Penguin Poets/Penguin Group USA)
Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture (Louisiana State University Press)
Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems (Graywolf Press)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Little Shepherd by Cheryl Malindrinos Reviewed

It had been a strange magical night …
A night of miracles.
Little Shepherd
(Please view trailer of The Little Shepherd and the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!)

Why, one may ask, would a book review begin at the book's end?  In this instance, these words tell it all.  We meet young Obed at the beginning of a night's journey, not only in distance but in a life lesson.

Cheryl Malandrinos has beautifully captured the Christmas Story in the life and words of the young shepherd from Jerusalem.  Only five years old, Obed's father allows him to watch his first flock of sheep. 

 That night, a strange light appeared in the heavens, and Obed and his father decided to follow and see where it led.  And the wondrous things they saw both in Bethlehem and when they returned to their flock grazing on the hills completes this heartwarming and original story.

This children's book captures the very essence of what Christmas to many people.  The story is rich in imagery, and the illustrations by Eugene Rubble weave a tapestry reminiscent of the times. 

Children and adults alike are sure to be enchanted by this book.  I would recommend it for both--the child as well as the adult who will read it aloud or listen to his or her young one read it.

Cheryl Malandrino

About the author:

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author and editor. Her first children’s book, Little Shepherd, was released in August 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing. She is a member of the SCBWI, a book reviewer, and blogger. Cheryl also writes under the name of C. C. Gevry. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.

Visit Cheryl online at and the Little Shepherd book blog at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 15 Marks America Recycles Day

 A most important and noble cause marks tomorrow, November 15, 3013.  The purpose of the day is pretty straightforward.  Keeping American Beautiful wants to convince Americans to quit throwing away things they no longer need or want and opt for recycling them instead.  Bella and Britt in Bella Saves the Beach  (Guardian Angel Publishing.) are happy to help!

Every  year Americans create about 240 million tons of solid wastes - about 4 1/2 pounds per person each day! Much of this waste ends up in landfills or is incinerated, but most of it can be recycled. Recycling is taking a product or material that is no longer being used and turning it into a raw material that can be used for something else.

 It is an easy but important way of helping to protect our environment from the pollution that our wastes can cause. Thanks to the environmental movement, recycling has spread across the country and around the world.

Until modern times, recycling was the normal way of life. During World War II for example, when the nation needed to conserve resources at home, 25% of all wastes were recycled. But by 1960 less than 8% of our wastes were recycled.

 Today, 32% of wastes are recycled in America and there are more than 10,000 curbside recycling programs in America! Each year over 60 million tons of wastes are recycled instead of ending up in landfills or incinerators. The EPA has set a goal for America to reach 35% recycling.

You can help save resources by practicing the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle:
Reduce: Precycle - 1/3 of all garbage is packaging - buy products with minimal or recycled packaging; say no to a bag when purchasing a small item.
Reuse: Many things can be reused before throwing them out.

- I pledge to find out what materials I can and cannot recycle in my community;
- I pledge to lead by example in my neighborhood by recycling;
- I pledge to recycle batteries, cell phones and other electronic waste.
- I pledge to email my elected officials to ask them to increase funding for my community's recycling programs.

- I pledge to tell five friends that recycling is the easiest thing they can do to slow global warming.
Recycling Day, on November 15, is an important opportunity to educate people about the importance of recycling for our environment, and how each of us can make a difference for a better world by recycling.
On the Earth 911 site ( you can locate the nearest recycling center for disposing of items like paint and batteries.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Caldecott-Winning Authors' New Books in 2013

Three previous winners of the Caldecott Medal — given annually by the American Library Association to the best-illustrated children’s book — have published new books this year.

Here’s a look at these new literary gems for young readers:

'The Favorite Daughter' by Allen SayWith her long blond hair, Yuriko doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Japanese girl, and her classmates sometimes make fun of her. But her father is Japanese and Yuriko understands that her father’s heritage is something she should take pride in.

In “The Favorite Daughter” (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 5-8), author/illustrator Allen Say reveals a slice of his life as father to his daughter Yuriko, as she struggles with her desire to fit in with her classmates but still be herself.

'Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle' by Chris Raschka

Chris Raschka has twice won the Caldecott Medal: in 2006 for “The Hello, Goodbye Window” and again just last year for “A Ball for Daisy.” Still, Raschka never seems to run out of inspiration as shown in his latest book, “Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle” (Schwartz & Wade, Random House, $16.99, ages 4-8).

The story is a universal — perhaps even an overly traveled — one: a child wants desperately to learn to ride a bike, the child has trouble learning to balance on a bike, the child is ready to give up but tries one more time, and — voila! — he/she can suddenly ride a bike.

Erin Stead, who won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” takes what, at first glance, looks like a minimalist approach to illustration in her picture books.

Stead is a master of using seemingly understated illustrations to both bring the reader into the story and expand the world of the tale being told.

Such is the case with her latest book, “If You Want to See a Whale” (Roaring Brook, $16.99, ages 3-7). As in the 2012 best-selling picture book “And Then It’s Spring,” Stead has paired up with author Julie Fogliano to tell a quiet, thoughtful story that will inspire young readers to use their imaginations.
Stead’s illustrations, done using linoleum printing techniques and pencil, portray a young boy and his devoted hound enjoying a series of adventures while hoping for a whale sighting.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Downtown Boston to Become First Literary Cultural District in the U.S.

 Isn't this something!  Have a look at a first in a city of firsts!
Downtown Boston
 The downtown Boston area will become the first literary cultural district within the United States. The coordinators behind this initiative will work on boosting tourism, taking part in literary events, and offering for families within the neighborhood.
The initiative came into fruition after a team of book-related organizations won the Adams Planning Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This group includes the Grub Street nonprofit, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the City of Boston, the Drum and the Boston Book Festival.
Boston Public Library
Grub Street executive director Eve Bridburg had this statement in the press release: 

Home to historical literary figureheads such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Boston is currently undergoing a literary renaissance. 

Stars like James Carroll, Steven Pinker, Tom Perrotta and Anita Shreve work here, alongside top-notch publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Beacon Press. With incredible institutions like the BPL and the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Book Festival drawing 30,000 people each fall, and Grub Street’s role as the nation’s leading literary arts nonprofit, Boston is clearly a natural fit for our nation’s first Literary Cultural District.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ernest Hemingway's Advice to a Young Writer

What words of wisdom would you give to a new writer?  Perhaps to write every day?  Write what you know?  Try to build a world for your characters?  All these would be appropriate advice. 

Interestingly, in October 1925, a young writer named Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to a younger Canadian author named Morley Callaghan.
Callaghan was frustrated with his writing life and wrote to his friend: “Have a lot of time and could go a good deal of writing if I knew how I stood.”
Hemingway’s response is included in volume two of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, out this month. It is terrific advice for writers of any age…
Christ don’t be an ass and say you could go on and write if you know how you stand etc. God knows you’re in the most depressing and discouraging surroundings–but that’s what makes a writer. You have to catch hell. You’ve got to take punishment … Write a lot–but see a lot more. Keep your ears and eyes going and try all the time to get your conversations right.
        Never one to mince words, Hemingway called them as he saw them.  This, of course, was no exception.  The other question then is :  What happened to Morley Callaghan?   He was apparently concerned late in life that people would remember him for one minor achievement: the little Canadian had knocked down the macho Ernest Hemingway in a boxing match refereed by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Although Callaghan preferred to be known for his novels, it's his short stories that are his lasting legacy. Along with the fact that he knocked down Hemingway in a boxing match refereed by F. Scott Fitzgerald