For people who might not be familiar with Children's Book-A-Day Almanac, can you tell us a little bit about how and why you created it?
The idea for the Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac was proposed to me by my Editor at Roaring Brook, Simon Boughton. He thought it would be a creative way for me to recommend the best books to teachers, parents, librarians, booksellers, and those who love children’s books. Like a regular Almanac, it is organized around the calendar. For each day of the year, I talk about a book and what makes it special and sometimes tell the story behind its creation. Essentially each essay is a love letter to a book or person. Readers can and, thankfully, do comment – often discussing their own experiences with the book. On a side bar I note other events of the day -- authors’ birthdays or historic events--and link them to other books people might want to use.
You have been reading and writing about Children's Books/Children's Literature for many years. Are there trends that you see being repeated or new ones that you are excited about?
I always say that trends don’t matter but individual books and authors do. Our great works almost never appeared as part of a trend and were often rejected by editors because they were so different from the prevailing publishing norm. One of my mentors used to say that trends in publishing are like sun spots – they come and go for no earthly reason. But great books endure.
If you could hang out for the day with your favorite book characters, who would they be and what would you do together?
After reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, I’m skeptical about the idea of actually befriending my favorite character in the real world! But as a child, I desperately wanted to have Anne of Green Gables as my best friend. And I still do.
As a child, did you have a book that you would identify as "the book" that got you hooked on reading?
I don’t have a single book. I loved books from my earliest memory. My grandmother trained to be a teacher at the turn of the 1900s, and I was her last, and I hope, her best pupil. My father, an engineer, pioneered all the commercial electronic devices of the 1950s and 1960s. We had the first black-and-white television and the first color television in the area. I would humor him, pay attention to each new invention to please him, and then go back to reading books. I really think there must be a genetic component for me. I even organized my stuffed animals, putting them in groups, and helped them develop reading skills.
Knowing that you have read literally 1,000's of books, do you have a favorite author or illustrator that rises to the top for you? Maybe someone who no matter what type of book they release you know you will pick it up?
I could never choose a favorite author or illustrator – there are too many. On the Almanac you will see one favorite each day! But I have often said that if I had only one book to take to a desert island, it would have to be Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting. Every time I read it, I am moved in a different way.
What advice might you give to teachers who think they are too busy to keep on top of current book releases or those who might have gotten stuck in a rut and continue to assign or recommend the same books?
They should just spend five minutes every day on the Almanac to learn about the best of the new books and to be reminded of the classics they may not have used recently in the classroom. If they want to scroll through the archives, quite easy to do, they can read about more books and often find testimonies from teachers in the comment section. The Almanac, in fact, was invented for a teacher or a parent who wants to spend a little time catching up with books --but doesn’t have hours each day.
Do you have a guilty pleasure type of book that you love to read?
I always say that all reading is good reading. To relax at night I love picking up murder mysteries – who knows why? Currently I’m working my way through Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander Mysteries, classic detective stories set in Sweden.
Thank you Anita for stopping by to tell us a little more about yourself and your love of books!
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