Wednesday, December 19, 2007

All I want for Christmas is a recording contract









Cute: check.
Costumes: check.
Talent: TBD, but these babies have a real future.

Thank you Anna McQuinn, author of Lola at the Library, for this hilarious picture from the Acton Library Baby Book Club Christmas party. It looks like the entertainment was top shelf.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Poetry in Flight

Today I began a bug poetry residency with third and fourth grade students in Middlefield, Connecticut. We'll be exploring poetry, investigating insects, then putting our work all together in some kind of grand finale yet to be determined. The classroom teachers and art teachers are involved, and when the new music teacher heard about our plans he wanted in as well - something about dynamics I don't understand but I'm totally up for! It is a privilege, and very exciting to be in a school that celebrates, collaborates, and integrates the arts in this way.

Another extra wonderful thing about visiting this school is that it's the school my two college student daughters attended for first through fourth grades. Two of the three teachers I'm working with are "mine" - that is, they each had one of my daughters in their class. I am so lucky to be working with them and revisiting the elementary school I loved so much when I was a parent volunteer/hanger-arounder, wishing I was in elementary school again. I learned so much from these teachers then, and I'm looking forward to learning from all of them and their students as our residency progresses.

Each group of students brought a different interest sand excitement to our poetry study. Lots had poems to share with me that they'd enjoyed reading, or had already written themselves. In one of the classes, kids were raising their hands to volunteer rhymes, and one student raised her hand and also stood up. She was practically shaking with excitement. Wow, I thought, this lesson is better than I thought. When I called on her, her raised hand became a pointing finger. "Look!" she said, hopping up and down, "a butterfly!"

Sure enough, the first of 21 butterflies had emerged from its chrysalis, part of their class study of the life cycle of the monarch. We stopped rhyming to admire the insect's crumpled, small, but perfect wings, and then the students broke into a spontaneous welcome butterfly dance. Wahoo!

Within minutes, the monarch looked every bit as regal as its name. I can't wait to visit again next week and see whose wings will spread!

Posted by author Leslie Bulion, October 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Annie and Me, We Disagree

Anne Lamott is my favorite writer who writes about writing.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is my favorite book about writing.

Word by Word by Anne Lamott is my favorite audio tape about writing.

So why aren't I happy with Anne Lamott? Because of something she said at the beginning of Tape One, Side One. She said: “Publication has nothing to offer you... It will work like a big plate of cocaine, where if you get the good news, it will take your mind off things for a while. And then very quickly you will need more good news and better good news.

Lamott argues, “The writing itself can provide the solace, the illumination, the direction, the self-awareness... and it
can open your heart. And there's nothing more important than that.” She dismisses publication as like “like being on the rat exercise wheel. You can’t sell enough and you won't sell enough...”

I so strongly disagree. Publishing—not just writing; publishing—has made a huge difference to my life. And I'm not talking my financial life—though it’s made a big difference there, too. I’ve been considerably poorer as a writer than when I had gainful employment.

No, the big difference is right in
the heart of Anne Lamott country; it’s spiritual. Being a writer—a published writer—has allowed me a spiritual life so rich that it would be otherwise almost unattainable.

For instance... I wake up to the sun, not the jangling of an alarm clock.
That’s a major spiritual gain in the first 30 seconds of the day. I don't race out of the house to catch a bus or train. So I've eliminated that daily frenzy. Because my work is anything but routinized, I've abolished boredom. Today I write about Lake Champlain in autumn; tomorrow I write about hate crimes in Montana. After lunch, if the sun is shining, I go for a walk. If there's snow, I cross-country ski. Either way, I go with my wife—she’s also a writer— our dog and maybe a neighbor or two. If I'm on assignment, I get to travel to far-off lands and meet fascinating people. If I'm not, I get to search my mind and see what stories lurk there.

And, because I'm a published writer, I get paid for the whole enchilada.


It’s the pay that lets
me live this kind of life. The pay comes from publication. Not from keeping a journal, not from nature poems, not from writing as therapy— it comes from publishing my words. So publication is responsible for improving my spiritual life.

In her oth
erwise wonderful tape, Anne Lamott complains that while she tries to teach students the secrets of great writing, what they really want to know is where to put their name on the page when they send out a manuscript.

I don't have that problem. I a
lso try to teach my students the secrets of great writing, but long before I get to the fancy stuff, I show them where to put their name on the page.

It’s a little detail that can help in the hard business of getting published. And if they’re to e
njoy that rich spiritual life that Anne Lamott and I share... they’re gonna have to get published.

You can get Anne Lamott’s audio tape,
Word by Word, in libraries, bookstores or by calling the publisher at
(800) 88-W-R-I-T-E.

And, by the
way, your name goes on the upper right side of the page. Don’t forget to double space and leave one-inch margins all around.

Posted by Jules Older, author of Cow, Pig, and Ice Cream.

Monday, October 22, 2007

We're getting used to it!

We waited 89 years for the 2004 win. This time we only had to wait 2. That's better. Easier on the heart. The Red Sox win the American League Championships and are back to the World Series!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Let it Snow!

Robert's Snow: For Cancer's Cure is sweeping the kidlitosphere. Check out this beautiful video on YouTube created by Sheri Goad of Goading the Pen.

Robert's Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates.

Please visit Robert's Snow and learn about Grace Lin and her inspiring story. Visit the blogs linked below daily to get an inside peek at the illustrators behind the wonderful snowflakes!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging for the Cure

Robert's Snow is an online auction that benefits Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates.

Please stop by and view all the 2007 snowflakes here.

Monday, October 15

  • Randy Cecil
  • Michelle Chang
  • Kevin Hawkes
  • Barbara Lehman
  • Grace Lin
  • Tuesday, October 16

  • Selina Alko
  • Scott Bakal
  • Alexandra Boiger
  • Paige Keiser
  • Janet Stevens
  • Wednesday, October 17

  • Rick Chrustowski
  • Diane DeGroat
  • Ilene Richard
  • Brie Spangler
  • Don Tate

  • Thursday, October 18

  • Brooke Dyer
  • D.B. Johnson
  • Erin Eitter Kono
  • Sherry Rogers
  • Jennifer Thermes
  • Friday, October 19

  • Graeme Base
  • Denise Fleming
  • Jeff Mack
  • Jeff Newman
  • Ruth Sanderson
  • Saturday, October 20

  • Linas Alsenas
  • Theresa Brandon
  • Karen Katz
  • Judy Schachner
  • Sally Vitsky
  • Sunday, October 21

  • Matthew Cordell
  • Maxwell Eaton III
  • Roz Fulcher
  • Susie Jin
  • Susan Mitchell
  • Monday, October 22

  • Rose Mary Berlin
  • Christopher Demarest
  • David Macaulay
  • Mark Teague
  • Sharon Vargo

  • Tuesday, October 23

  • Carin Berger
  • Sophie Blackall
  • Erik Brooks
  • Marion Eldridge
  • Brian Lies
  • Wednesday, October 24

  • Sheila Bailey
  • Frank Dormer
  • Elisa Kleven
  • Jimmy Pickering
  • Consie Powell
  • Thursday, October 25

  • Margaret Chodos-Irvine
  • Julia Denos
  • Rebecca Doughty
  • Brian Floca
  • Friday, October 26

  • Margot Apple
  • Juli Kangas
  • Ginger Nielson
  • David Ezra Stein
  • Saturday, October 27

  • Sarah Dillard
  • Julie Fromme Fortenberry
  • John Hassett
  • Abigail Marble
  • Sunday, October 28

  • Barbara Garrison
  • Kelly Murphy
  • Ashley Wolff

  • Monday, October 29

  • Joanne Friar
  • Alissa Imra Geis
  • Diane Greenseid
  • Sean Qualls
  • Dan Santat
  • Tuesday, October 30

  • Bill Carman
  • Ann Koffsky
  • Gretel Parker
  • Matt Phelan
  • Stephanie Roth
  • Wednesday, October 31

  • Rolandas Kiaulevicius
  • Adam Rex
  • Shawna Tenney
  • Mo Willems
  • Thursday, November 1

  • Molly Idle
  • Melissa Iwai
  • Victoria Jamieson
  • Karen Lee
  • Diana Magnuson
  • Friday, November 2

  • Holli Conger
  • Sarah Kahn
  • Sylvia Long
  • Tracy McGuinness-Kelly
  • Jeremy Tankard

  • Saturday, November 3

  • Ellen Beier
  • Susan Miller
  • Wendell Minor
  • Judith Moffat
  • Hideko Takahashi
  • Sunday, November 4

  • Joy Allen
  • Robin Brickman
  • Lauren Stringer
  • Nancy Wallace
  • Monday, November 5

  • Anna Alter
  • Laura Huliska Beith
  • Cece Bell
  • Denise Ortakales
  • Tuesday, November 6

  • Carol Heyer
  • Joe Kulka
  • Steven James Petruccio
  • Carol Schwartz
  • Wednesday, November 7

  • Jeff Ebbeler
  • Scott Magoon
  • Connie McLennan
  • Julie Paschkis
  • Thursday, November 8

  • Genevieve Cote
  • Linda Graves
  • James Gurney
  • Matt Tavares

  • Friday, November 9

  • Susan Kathleen Hartung
  • Mary Peterson
  • Annette Simon
  • Melanie Watt
  • Saturday, November 10

  • R.W. Alley
  • Jeannie Brett
  • Daniel Mahoney
  • Amy Young
  • Sunday, November 11

  • Tim Coffey
  • Elizabeth Dulemba
  • Chris Gall
  • Amy Schimler
  • Monday, November 12

  • Jane Dippold
  • John Nez
  • Mike Wohnoutka
  • Liza Woodruff
  • Tuesday, November 13

  • Cynthia Decker
  • Jane Dyer
  • Gutierrez
  • Cecily Lang
  • Lee White
  • Wednesday, November 14

  • Timothy Bush
  • Peter Emmerich
  • Philomena O’Neill
  • Maggie Swanson

  • Thursday, November 15

  • Yangsook Choi
  • Mary Newell Depalma
  • Leanne Franson
  • Laura Jacques
  • Friday, November 16

  • Mary Haverfield
  • Lisa Kopelke
  • Salley Mavor
  • Greg Newbold
  • Elizabeth Sayles
  • Saturday, November 17

  • Paul Brewer
  • Wendy Edelson
  • Joan Waites
  • Aaron Zenz
  • Sunday, November 18

  • Annette Heiberg
  • Giles Laroche
  • Annie Patterson
  • Teri Sloat
  • Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    “What I did on my Summer Vacation” by Beach Pig


    Hi, everyone. My name is Beach Pig and though I look simply like a big, pink stuffed-animal in cool green sunglasses, beneath the surface I am a passionate poetry lover. So you can imagine how pleased I was last April during “National Poetry Month” to meet Karen Jo Shapiro , a lady who writes silly poetry for children. She liked me immediately (what can I say? I have charisma!) and invited me to do some poetry shows together in libraries, bookstores and schools around North Carolina. Since I really enjoy the beach, I was happy to be outfitted in a bathing suit, floppy pink sun hat, and water shoes- perched in my beach chair- while Karen Jo read aloud the title poem from her new book I Must Go Down to the Beach Again and Other Poems. (She read other poems too, but I’m, not the STAR of those).


    In June, Karen Jo and her family were going to travel to the Boston area, so I had the brilliant idea that we could do a little book tour in New England in which I would be the STAR. (I discovered I really like acting out poetry) We drove North in the Shapiro mini-van (Can you imagine? Me- Beach Pig, a lover of the outdoors- was squashed for hours in the back between suitcases and pillows. I passed the time daydreaming about lovely water sand, and sky). Our first event was at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, MA. It was great! The book’s illustrator, Judy Love, joined us for the reading, and afterward there was a fun beach craft project with shells, and a snack of cookies and juice.


    Our next stop was Cape Cod! I love the seashore so visiting the delightful bookstore in Chatham called Where the Sidewalk Ends, was a real treat. (The owners- Joanne and Caitlin- were super nice to us). The kids were good listeners and they enjoyed coming up and touching my marvelous beach toys- a red toy boat with a string to pull it by, a bathtub duck, a yellow truck, and a plastic squirt toy for spraying). After the event we had a yummy Cape Cod style lunch and watched sea otters at the shore.


    I spent the 5th of July at the Wellesley Booksmith, although I had less to do than usual because the audience was small and mostly adults. (But we did get mentioned in Alison Morris’s Publisher Weekly blog, the Shelftalker!) A few days later, the Shapiro family was off to their annual vacation in Rangeley, Maine, and I was invited along to perform at the Rangeley Public Library. I must say, Rangeley Lake is a beach where the games and fun really do begin! I floated beneath the sky on my blow-up boat and basically enjoyed life. Oh, and I also OF COURSE entertained crowds at the library with my shows. We did two programs and lots of nice families came. In between the events, I got to sit on the front table in my beach chair and greet all the nice people checking out their books.


    So, now I am back in North Carolina, and as the school year begins for children all over the United States, I am inspired to do even more programs to get kids excited about poetry. Maybe this will be the year I’ll even write a poem myself. And before too much time goes by….I must go down to the beach again!

    Posted by Karen Jo Shapiro

    The Warehouse Sale

    Krystal found a new book!

    Every year, Charlesbridge opens the doors to its warehouse and lets the good folk of Watertown, Waltham, and surrounding areas to come and load up on children's books at rock bottom prices. But it's more than a savings, it's a fun Saturday morning. Charlesbridgians get to hang out in our play clothes and meet the little readers, and the little readers get to run around and play in our child-proofed warehouse and pick new books to take home. Some people load up on so many books, they're good until next year. It's a great opportunity for teachers to get plenty of new books for their classrooms without going broke.

    Everyone's welcome. So, if you're thinking about traveling to New England in September, put the Charlesbridge warehouse sale on your travel agenda.



    Our warehouse sale is this big!

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    Gettin' wiggly wit it

    Patrons of Blue Chair Children's Books wiggled and waggled, squiggled and squirmed, their way through the store on Saturday.

    The independent children's bookstore in Glendora, California, threw the worm event of the year: a Wiggle and Waggle party with author Caroline Arnold and illustrator Mary Peterson on Saturday.
    "The shop did a great job preparing for our visit. We had a nice audience with plenty of bug juice and dirt for snacks," said Mary. "Caroline and I read the story, sang the digging song, had real worms for the kids to pet - and sold some books! We had a great time."

    "The live worms were a big success, as well as the gummy worms in "dirt" (chocolate pudding mixed with Oreo cookie crumbs) that the store prepared for a snack," said Caroline.

    Those real worms aren't nearly as cute as Wiggle and Waggle, but they're still a lot of fun!
    Kudos to Rachel and Doug Rustenberg at Blue Chair for hosting a great event!

    Wednesday, September 5, 2007

    Writing a Book: A Winding Path

    Are you a published writer? Or a prospective writer seeking publication? Regardless, we all travel a winding path with multiple turns before inspired idea becomes marketed manuscript. Successful navigation of these turns requires research, which most writers put in the same category as dread disease. A few years ago a speaker at a conference for children’s writers asked the 60+ attendees to raise our hands if we liked to do research. About five hands slowly went up. Like it or not, successful research can make us less likely to take a spill on our way to being published. When I consider my use of time I am amazed how many different types of research devour my writing life.

    One type of research involves visiting the location for a book. After a trip to Kenya to do research on The Leakeys (Greenwood), a young adult biography, I decided to write a book for high school students about the life of Jackson Minteeng Liaram, a Maasai

    warrior now a nature specialist at a camp in Kenya, his love of the land, and his desire to preserve it for future generations. A return trip to Kenya is now planned. Needless to say, travel to somewhere as exciting as Africa is the very best type of research!

    Deciding on a topic leads to a need for research of another kind. A writer has to investigate the target audience. After looking online at various school systems’ websites and swapping emails with teachers and with Wendie Old, my librarian friend and co-author of Busy Toes and Busy Fingers (Charlesbridge), I decided readers in grades 5-8 would enjoy a book about a young man like Jackson and it would also fit into the social studies curricula of most states at those grade levels. Ta-dah! I made a major turn on the path to writing Jackson’s story.

    Targeting the book to an audience mandates a trip to the library. I reviewed all kinds of nonfiction books for ages 9 and up, like Susan Bartoletti’s Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 (Houghton Mifflin), and Sally Walker’s Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth. I enjoyed reading these quality books and I also used them to research style, tone, voice, and organization—topics critical to both nonfiction and fiction.

    At last the time comes to do intensive research. Fiction or nonfiction, whether we need details about the ancient past, the immediate present, or the possible future, accurate information is crucial. Could a medieval king have worn glasses? How does that gadget attached to plugs in teens’ ears work? How might a fast food restaurant be different in the 22nd century? Although basic information can be found via the Internet, this type research requires locating books and articles by credible authors and carefully taking notes and keeping a reference list.

    And speaking of someone credible, of course I added Jackson’s letters and e-mails to my “Maasai Warrior” folder since they contain unique personal correspondence that will enliven the writing.

    But wait! Another fork in the road. I began to type a story Jackson sent me about an elephant that charged toward tourists he was leading on a nature walk across the Kenyan bush! Inspiring! Thrilling! I couldn’t resist stopping my research to tell this story as a picture book. I wrote:

    “We were walking between two hills,” Jackson begins. “I spotted a herd of elephants in the distance. One was a mother with a baby calf barely a week old and still shaky on its feet.”

    I added additional information about the Maasai Mara, the beautiful area in Africa where Jackson lives and works, and included other bits from his letters. Much later, after re-writes, ruminations, and research on the habits of elephants, I concluded with the joyful image created by Jackson’s own words.

    Jackson finishes his story: “Our small group relaxed also and we continued our walk. As we walked, we watched in the distance while the mother elephant paused to suckle her calf.”

    I sent him the manuscript to vet and he wrote back that the additions I made were correct. We had collaborated on a picture booka turn I did not expect to take in the path to writing a middle reader about his life, but using the same material for several writing projects is always a welcome step.

    Now another type of research must be done, equally important and for which no shortcuts exist. I must search for a publisher that might be interested in The Elephant Charge--Vishindo vya Tembo! I will review past issues of Children’s Book Insider, pore over Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, look at materials of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and investigate websites like that of the Children’s Book Council .

    Then it’s back to research for my original book proposal. Will either of the two books I’m working on be published? I don’t know. Writing is truly a winding path that leads a curious and wandering spirit in many directions. And sometimes, even if good research is part of the path taken, a writer runs into a high brick wall!

    Posted by author Mary Bowman-Kruhm

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    Yes, there is so a National Museum of Dentistry


    Charlesbridgian Connie Brown, pictured right, goes to the most fascinating places on vacation. Keep your Saint Moritz, your Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, Connie prefers basking in the glow of well-brushed and flossed teeth and dentures.

    On a recent trip to the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland, Connie perused the gift shop and found Charlesbridge well represented. We're proud to be on display at the museum, and its gift shop. Little known fact: company wide, we only have 17 cavities. All filled. That's far less than the national average, which if you don't know it, can be discovered at the National Museum of Dentistry.

    Charlesbridge: Connie, what's the museum like?

    CB: A fascinating and fun place that no one’s ever heard of. And it’s right between Oriole Park and Babe Ruth’s Birthplace Museum—I mean, prime Baltimore real estate!! It’s a Smithsonian affiliate with incredible displays and info about all facets of dentistry from ancient times to the cutting edge technology of the near future. It even has every single one of George Washington’s sets of dentures—and, no, not one of them is wooden!

    Charlesbridge: Sounds great, Connie. And you're right, we should have a launch party for Sneed Collard's upcoming book Teeth.

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    We're Number 8!

    Cannot help being excited to return to the PW Bestseller list with our back-to-school favorite, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Judy Love.

    Thanks to all the teachers from Maui to Malaysia who read First Day Jitters on the first day of school. It's not too late to join them if your first day is yet to come.

    Next year: #1!

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the requisite Charlesbridge wedding shower!


    Jill, Jill our dear friend,
    Your single days now must end.
    Now you're going to be a Mrs.
    With joy, glad hearts, and lots of kisses.
    - oh, my!



    'Something's going on,' Jill thought.
    Party planners might get caught!
    'Everyone's running all around.'
    But no one peeps, not one sound.


    Charlesbridgians in all their finery
    Line up to toast with champagne winery.
    The conference room in bride's disguise,
    Hush, hush, keep quiet for the big surprise!



    Jill, Jill, our dear friend,Happy tidings your friends do send.
    May your wedding be a happy day,
    With laughs and love and cafe au lait!



    ___________________________________________________________________

    Interns will work for food!








    Posted by Donna

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    The Mommy Editor


    I was an editor before I became a mother. There’s a persistent, if whispered, rumor in children’s publishing that unless you have kids, you can’t really be a good editor. I don’t believe that’s true—heck, Ursula Nordstrom had no kids—but I do find that having kids has changed the way I work.

    I’m a different reader now: the internal kid voice I use when I read books and manuscripts is no longer just Kid Me, but also Kid Munchkin (my three-year-old) and Kid Niblet (my baby). Those extra voices make for a rather noisy brain, but I’m convinced the extra noise is worthwhile. (Kid Me was kind of a weirdo, after all.)

    I’ve found that the tips that authors and illustrators hear all the time really do have merit. Repetition really IS important in books for toddlers; I knew it before, but now I have empirical evidence. (Over and over and over and over, I have empirical evidence.) Similarly, those little repeated or hidden elements in illustrations really ARE a special treat: I see that more clearly, now that I’ve watched my own kid gleefully point out the mouse in Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown, Harper).

    There is a downside, alas: the inability to turn off my editor brain. Whether we’re at the library, at the bookstore, or just reading books at home, I find it hard to relax and just read the darn book. For the most part, I’m evaluating each book the way I would any manuscript. Does the plot hold together? Do I care about the characters? Do the illustrations complement, enhance, and extend the text?

    But sometimes I find myself editorializing, too: I can’t read Martha Speaks (Susan Meddaugh, HMCo) without inserting our official family policy on the phrase “Shut up!” (For the record, it goes like this: “ ‘Martha, PLEASE! SHUT UP!’ Which is not a very nice thing to say at all.”) I’d never suggest that the phrase was inappropriate for the book—it’s not! it’s perfect!—but it does make me realize that other parents may do the same kind of read-aloud revision of the books I work on, too. Horrors!

    The biggest perq to being a mommy editor is, of course, the in-house focus group. I can’t say I’ve brought home manuscripts to try out on the Munchkin (she’s not quite ready to sit still for a story without pictures), but I do bring home the books I’ve edited. There’s nothing better than sitting down with my own kid and sharing a story I helped bring to life—especially when it’s one she likes. (And for those who suspect a family bias: believe me, she would let me know if she didn’t like it. No shrinking violet, my Munchkin.)

    Photo note: The Munchkin and the beagle are reading Aggie and Ben (Lori Ries, Charlesbridge).

    Posted by Emily Mitchell

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Ich bin ein Berliner

    Sorry folks, no jelly doughnuts here.

    I've been back stateside for two weeks, and I'm finally getting around to posting a blog and some photos from my Eastern European getaway. While I'm glad to be back in a country that does not make me pay for clean drinking water, my trip certainly reminded me of how young America as a country is compared to those in Europe.

    First stop: Berlin. Berlin was hands down my favorite city. It's a city rich with history, and much of that history took place in the last century. Although many buildings, churches, and monuments were destroyed during WWII and the Cold War, many iconic landmarks, including the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenberg Gate, and the Reichstag, remain. They serve as constant reminders of the city's past.

    One monument in particular stays with me. Bebelplatz is a beautiful square on Humbolt University's campus, near the street lined with linden trees (Unter den Linden). It's a peaceful square flanked on all sides by buildings where students gather to learn, and that's what makes the Nazi book burning that took place there all the more unbelievable. I can't even begin to think of the number of first editions that went up in flames here. A small glass plate set into the cobblestone gives onlookers a view into a stark white room below. There are shelves, but they are all empty. It's an empty library capable of housing the 20,000 books by Jewish and other "degenerate" writers that were burned on May 10th, 1933. What's especially haunting is the bronze plaque that lays beside the glass plate. It highlights a quote from Jewish poet Heinrich Heine that reads, "Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen," ("Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.") Heine wrote that in 1821.

    Berlin constantly walks that fine line between forgetting and glorifying its notorious history. Neither forgetting or glorifying are acceptable, and I think city officials have done a good job at acknowledging the past and looking to the future. For example, instead of destroying the austere Nazi government buildings, like Joseph Goebbels's Department of the Propaganda, the government still works in these buildings. Another example is the Reichstag. Once the seat of the Third Reich, the German house of parliament was rebuilt with a glass dome on the top. The dome itself symbolizes the need for transparency in government. Within the dome is an inverted cone of mirrors that serves not only as something cool to look at, but also as means of gathering energy to power the building. It is a testament to Germany's dedication to energy conservation. Looking to the future and recognizing the past.

    No trip to Germany's capital could be complete without stopping by a local bookstore. I picked up a copy of Der Struwwelpeter (or Slovenly Peter), the popular German children's picture book written in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffmann. Comprised of ten illustrated and rhymed stories, the book pokes fun at the strict punishments preached by religious rulers by exaggerating what happens to children when they don't do as they are told. It's supposed to be a parody of the cautionary tale, but the gruesome illustrations and horrible consequences of each child's actions will scare, if not traumatize, even the bravest of among us.

    Like Boston, Berlin seemed to me to be a city under construction. The city has become a playground for the world's best and most innovative architects. Cranes and scaffolding ruin any attempt at capturing that perfect photo of the city's skyline. However, I am convinced that unlike Boston, Berlin's construction will come to an end in the foreseeable future. I plan to go back in 5 years to find out what kind of progress they're making. Anyone want to join me?

    Posted by Jenny

    Monday, August 6, 2007

    The Big 3-0


    Congratulations to Brookline, Mass's, Children's Book Shop. They turn 30 this year (you don't look a day over 29) AND they won Boston Magazine's 2007 Best of Boston's Kids Books selection. It's a little place for little people, but they have a lot of choice in over 21,000 books. 21,000 books... imagine.

    I love the way the writer for Boston Magazine (who? I don't know) described it: "The shop may be considering a spiffing up for its 30th anniversary this year, but here's hoping it'll always be a tad dog-eared: after all, that's how bookworms mark a place they want to go back to." It's so poetic because it's true.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007

    Trekking the Kokoda Trail with Prue Mason

    My name’s Prue and I wrote Camel Rider which is an adventure story set in the Middle East. It’s about two boys called Adam and Walid who trek through deserts and mountains to save a dog called Tara.

    I love adventures and I’m just in the middle of packing for a trek of my own. This one is through the jungles of Papua New Guinea. One of the best things about being a writer is that I can go on adventures and call them research. This one should be an adventure because Papua New Guinea is a country where people still live in their remote mountain villages without running water or electricity like their parents and grandparents and great, great etc. parents did before them.

    The reason I’m going is because my two brothers talked me into it. Our Dad was a soldier in the Second World War and he fought alongside the Americans in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. They had a really tough time because this is how a soldier who was there described it – “Imagine an area approximately 100 miles long – crumple and fold this into a series of ridges each rising higher and higher until 7,000 feet is reached and then dropping to 3,000 feet – cover this thickly with jungle, short trees and tall ones tangled with vines… About midday and through the night pour water over all this so everything becomes slippery and muddy.” Sounds great doesn’t it? Well if you like trekking through mud and being eaten by mosquitos and attacked by leeches it could be fun.

    My Dad and lots of other soldiers traveled along a track through this area called the Kokoda Trail. Not only did they have to try and make their way up and down these slippery, muddy ridges and through fast flowing rivers but they were also being shot at by their enemy. I remember my Dad showing me and my sisters and brothers a scar on his back that he told us was when an enemy soldier dropped out of a tree and had his knife almost into Dad’s back when luckily for Dad, but unluckily for the enemy soldier, there was a friend behind Dad who saved him. Dad said he learnt a lot about himself and life during the time he was a soldier. He said one time when he was fighting he got so close to an enemy he looked into his eyes. He saw the man was really frightened. From that time on Dad said he knew that there’s no such thing as an enemy – just people who don’t know each other but who have got themselves into a situation which is about life or death and they’re just doing what they can to survive.

    When I’m struggling up and down those folded ridges I’m going to try and remember that at least I’m not being shot at.

    But I’d better get on with my packing. When I get back from this trip I’ll be back to work. One of the interesting things about being a writer is the variety of work you can do. My next job is reading nearly 15,000 poems from children all around Australia because I’m one of the judges of a national poetry competition. Someone asked me what I’ll be doing with all those poems after I’ve read them. I figure I might plant them in our garden. Maybe I’ll grow a Poetree.

    Hope you enjoy Adam and Walid’s adventures. I wrote this story when I was living in the Middle East and although Adam and Walid aren’t real people, Tara is a real dog. She’s here alongside me now and is waving a paw. She likes being the heroine of the story and has visited lots of schools here in the Australia when we go and talk about Camel Rider and what it was like living in the Middle East.

    Posted by author Prue Mason.