Monday, February 23, 2009


I have another post up at ForeWord Magazine: eBooks, PDFs, and Audiobooks, Oh My.

Here's the sneak peek:

I admit that I have techno-lust for an e-reader: they are so sleek! So shiny! So small! Think of how uncluttered my house would be if the books were all in this one small reader!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Flygirlby Sherri L. Smith. Putnam. 2009. Copy supplied by publisher.

Want to know what I think about Flygirl? And why it's being added to My Favorite Books of 2009? Well, you're going to have to click over to the YALSA Blog to find out.

Plus: My Twitter review.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Welcome, Choice Literacy Readers!

Choice Literacy has a post about St. Patrick's Day and Poetry Friday, which includes a link to Tea Cozy.

Welcome, readers who have come here from Choice Literacy!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

What About the Catholics?

Laurel Snyder has written a kick-ass article about Jewish children's literature. Betsy at Fuse also talked about Laurel's article. The conversation in the comments evolved, as conversations do, as to how Laurel's thesis (good Jewish children's literature) can apply to any group.

And Wendy asked about Catholics in books.

On the one hand, as a child I assumed every character in a book was like me until I was told differently. Unless there was evidence to the contrary, the characters were Catholic like me.

Of course, that's not true. I think some authors perhaps do that deliberately (not mentioning religion at all).

So what about the Catholics?

And DO NOT refer me to that VOYA article. Personally, an article about religion in books that includes books that are anti that religion really do not meet that need. If I gave Godless to a person asking for a book about Catholics (unless the RA said, "and I want it to be a book about no longer being Catholic"), I would be doing a huge disservice to the person asking for the book. And, frankly, most of the VOYA books fall under the "religion is to be questioned and found wanting if you're smart" category. Don't get me wrong; Godless and the other books in the VOYA article are great. But it does not answer the question -- where are the books that show Catholic kids and teens?

Now to answer that question!

Well, since many authors don't mention religion, it's a bit hard for me to remember Catholic characters. Often, it falls under "the person is Catholic and they realize religion is wrong" category, or it's historical, or it's the "big Irish family with too many kids and too little money the father drinks" stereotype that is insulting (yet still exists in literature and books and movies.)

Here are the books that I can think of. Do you agree? What others can you think of?

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm (my review here)

Clay by David Almond. (my review here) For the record: Almond is one of those few authors that asks questions about religion and belief and Catholicism, but does so in a way that is always respectful and true. His The Fire-Eaters includes abusive religious teachers; but, like Clay and Stained (below) includes wonderful things about belief and religion.

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (my review here)

Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Litman (my review here) The main character's spiritual journey brings her back to her Jewish faith, but her flirtation with Catholicism is depicted with warmth, wisdom, and respect.

Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (my review here) A beautiful book; and this shows how a book can ask hard questions (here, about a priest and a teenage boy as well as about how people within a religion don't always live up to the principles) yet still be spiritual and belief filled.

Historically, anything by Lenora Mattingly Weber. Her books are set amongst Catholic families and were contemporary at the time they were written (early 40s through the 70s). Personally, I always liked Katie Rose better; but Beany is pretty good, also.

There aren't many Catholic publishers today; not like you see with other religions. Since most Christian publishers include books with a "have you found Jesus/convert to our brand of Christianity" moment, I hesitate to look towards them for books. I'm going way back now; but I adore the Mary Rose at Boarding School series by Mary Mabel Wirries, written and set in the early part of the 20th century, and published by Benziger Brothers. Wikipedia shows that it's currently RCL Benziger. A very quick look at their website shows no fiction.

OK, that's it for me this morning! I have listed no picture books. I cannot think of any off the top of my head, that aren't Bible Stories types of things.

What have I missed?

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz Memorial Service

The drawback of being on Facebook and Twitter is that I sometimes think I've written about something, only to discover that no, it was part of a FB/Twitter conversation

In January, after the ALA Midwinter Conference, ALSC members Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz were killed in a car accident on their way to the Denver Airport. The New York Times wrote a beautiful article about the two women; the ALSC blog collected memories of the two women, and posted other updates.

Kate McClelland was the vice-president/president-elect of ALSC. Following ALSC rules, Thom Barthelmess was appointed to be vice-president/president-elect.

If you've clicked through any of these links, right now you're realizing what a loss this is to these women's families, friends, library, and the profession.

Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich, Connecticut is holding a Memorial Service on March 20. Full details are at the library blog.

Cross-posted at Pop Goes the Library.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All Of A Kind Family Taught Me Everything I Know About Judaism

I may exaggerate slightly, but I went to Catholic school.

All-of-a-kind Family taught me about turn of the century New York, and Mama hiding buttons to get the girls to dust, and changing the color of a white dress by steeping it in tea. It also taught me about Purim. They were wonderful books about the story of five girls (and later, one brother) growing up in New York City. I learned things because the story was great; Sydney Taylor didn't set out to educate kids like me.

Laurel Snyder has a must-read article about Jewish children's literature, Where the Wild Things Aren’t, at Nextbook. Snyder writes about what Jewish children's books are -- and are not.

If you're reading a picture book, and religion isn't mentioned, what religion are the main characters? An illustrator for one of Snyder's books decided that the default religion is Christian and included Santa Claus in an illustration: "Of course I was bothered. I don’t, as a rule, keep books with Christian elements in my own home, and yet here, in my book, was Father Christmas himself. Still, I couldn’t fault the artist, since there was nothing in the text to indicate what I had assumed people would know—that the book was Jewish because it was written by a Jewish author. "

Snyder's article is an excellent look at Jewish publishing today; as well as an examination of when the need to tell a good story collides with the belief books should be educational, with messages. Snyder links to some great stuff, so while you're reading it, be sure to click the links.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Carlie at Publishers Weekly

Well, we here at Tea Cozy are just the busiest people in the world!

What now?

Frequent Tea Cozy contributor Carlie Webber has an article at Publishers Weekly, What They Don't Know Won't Hurt Them: Persuading adults to read YA literature.

Personally, I love introducing adults to YA books. What books do you give to adults that are YA?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shelf Space: How Do You Read That Book?

My post at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space blog is about how reading for the Printz Award impacted my reading habits.

Here's a sneak peek: Being on the Printz Committee was awesome. A dream come true. But it was reading unlike any reading I've ever done before. The first and most important thing, it wasn't about me and what I liked or didn't like. The Printz is about literary excellence, not "Liz's Favorite Books". Now, a year later, I have the award criteria memorized; but at first, I didn't. So in addition to printing out the criteria, I had post-it notes with short reminders of what to look for when I read the books. Now? I have those paragraphs memorized.

Want to read the whole thing? Head over to the Shelf Space blog!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Show & Tell

How closely do you look at pictures in books? Do you understand why your eye is drawn to something, or how you get an emotional impression from a picture? Depending on your answers, you might want to take a look at Show & Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans.

In this beautifully designed book, Evans examines the works of twelve different picture book illustrators, from giants like Hilary Knight and Trina Schart Hyman to newcomers like Betsy Lewin and Harry Bliss. Each artist is discussed in an eight to twelve-page spread, their own words and thoughts interspersed with reproductions of their art and Evans' elegant breakdown of what makes certain pictures work.

For someone like me, who knows next to nothing about art, I came away with a much better understanding of what illustration is and how much it enhances a story. If, by contrast to the characters in Lane Smith's books, your reply to "Have you seen art?" is to say you don't know anyone named Art, you might want to check out Show & Tell and get a different answer to that question.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Dear Joss Whedon,

I watched the first episode of Dollhouse last night.

Joss, we've been together since 1997; I did watch the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, but really, the date of my lovefest is from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show. I stayed with you during all the ups and downs in both Buffy and Angel. Now, it's true I didn't follow you into space and I regret that, and took up the cry of Serenity, eventually.

So, I will continue watching Dollhouse. Despite my misgivings, which remain after last night's episode.

The good? Well, there is you, Joss; and because of that, I'll stick around to see what Big Backstory is going on, to watch characters develop and stories deepen. You've assembled a great cast: Amy Acker, Reed Diamond, Olivia Williams, and be still my heart, Tahmoh Penikett (I love you, Helo!)

But... man. A dollhouse? Really? Humans with no memories, who get personalities downloaded into their brains, then rented out to fulfill whatever dream or need or want they have?

I know you've written some great roles for women: Buffy Summers and Zoe Washburne to name two. But the space prostitute, er, companion storyline of Firefly was always one of the weak spots of that series.

And Dollhouse... sorry, Joss. I don't see the humor nor adventure in a storyline where rich guys make human girls into their playthings -- their dolls -- to fulfill their emotional and physical needs, as we saw in the first few minutes of the show.

It's especially troubling when, unlike Inara, the women are not in on it, but rather empty vessels to be filled with the type of super-women the men want. The BuffyBot was at least a robot, not a real person; the same goes for the robots of Westworld. Echo wasn't acting in the first few minutes; she really was that dream-girl. And the Echo in-between downloads is oddly disconnected. Which means I don't connect.

Oh, I know; the main story in the episode had nothing to do with sex. Instead, it went very Nikita (and the backstory of Echo also, well, echoes Nikita's story.) It was about being a hostage negotiator! Echo's job will change every week!

I understand that this is being done in part to highlight the acting range of Eliza Dushku. One of the things I've always liked about good science fiction TV is the ability for actors to stretch and show multiple talents and faces. Perhaps if I were a bigger fan of Eliza, I'd be more excited about the show. But I want to watch a Joss show; not an Eliza showcase.

Will I DVR this show? Yes. Am I in love with it, the way I was with Buffy? No. Will I give it time, it case things turn out to be something other than what they seem? Yes.

Take care,


2009 Cybils Winners!

Edited to add the NonFiction MG/YA winner!

Great work, people! Congratulations to the winners and all the hardworking panelists.

The 2009 Cybils Winners

Easy Readers
I Love My New Toy written by Mo Willems

Fantasy & Science Fiction
Middle Grade

The Graveyard Book written by Neil Gaiman
Young Adult
The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins

Fiction Picture Books
How to Heal a Broken Wing written and illustrated by Bob Graham

Graphic Novels
Elementary/Middle Grade
Rapunzel's Revenge written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
Young Adult
Emiko Superstar written by Mariko Tamaki illustrated by Steve Ralston

Middle-Grade Fiction
The London Eye Mystery written by Siobhan Dowd

Non-Fiction MG/YA
The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir written by Cylin Busbyand John Busby

Non-Fiction Picture Books
Nic Bishop Frogs written and illustrated by Nic Bishop

Honeybee written by Naomi Shihab Nye

Young Adult Fiction
Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The written by E Lockhart

Full information is at the Cybils website, including a synopsis of the book, why it was selected, and who nominated the book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bowen Press


Is there any good news in publishing? Apparently not.

The Bowen Press blog. No news yet on Brenda Bowen, other than she's left HarperCollins.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Delacorte Press, Random House. Publication Date: April 2009. Advance Reader's Copy supplied by publisher.

The Plot:

Mary's life in the village is predictable. The Sisterhood, the Guardians, and the Guild keep the secrets and protect the village. People follow the rules, whether it's staying away from the Fence or marrying the person you should, not the person you want. When Mary loses her parents and her family, she begins to ask questions and to want more than to love or be loved. Before she can figure out the answers, the Unconsecrated threaten to overrun the village.

The Good:

I can't help myself on this one.

Zombies! And good, old-fashioned zombies: dead, slow moving, moaning, hungry, stoppable only in the traditional ways. And, most importantly -- the zombies are horrible, scary, terrifying, ever-present. All you who read and loved World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War don't have to know anything else; you will love this book. Trust me.

Now, for those of you who I didn't have at "zombie."

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, like any good horror movie (or Buffy), uses the threat (here, zombies) as a metaphor. Mary wrestles with questions about life and love, about asking questions or staying happy with the status quo of her life. The walking dead represent both Mary's fears and her limited choices.

Ryan uses language beautifully; the true horror of the Unconsecrated (never zombie) is revealed slowly. Mary has always known them, as they claw at the Fence, moaning, a constant soundtrack in her life. "...I hear a familiar clank. It is the sound of the Unconsecrated pulling at the fence. Looking around, I realize that I have come up in a small clearing far away from the village that is protected by a ring of fence twice as tall as I am. The Unconsecrated are beginning to swarm around me. Two steps in any direction and they could reach me through the metal links. Blood hammers through my body, panic clouding my vision, making my hands shake and pound with the rhythm of my heart."

But the language isn't just awesome when describing the zombies and horror; there is also the everyday joys. Mary falls in love with one boy; yet it's his brother who loves her. "It's a warm day and he's sweating and I press my mouth against his skin, tasting his salt on my lips. I want to melt into him, to forget every barrier between us and it is everything I can do to suck in air and sit here and not press myself harder against him. He's not mine but Cass's and I know I should turn away, leave this place. But I am not strong enough to do so. Just this last time I want to revel in his essence, to wrap it around me like a memory."

And, with death around her -- the dead literally surrounding the village every day -- there is still the loss felt by someone dying. "Never did I wonder what my mother believed. What sort of life my mother lived at my age. So acutely do I miss her at this moment that I want to crawl into myself with shame and longing."

Does Mary find love? Do the zombies break through the Fence? Will we get more books in this haunting, haunted, beautifully shown future world?

Finally, Carrie Ryan is a lawyer. As a former lawyer myself, you know I love authors who are lawyers!

Edited to add: My first Favorite Book Read in 2009!

Reading Rants review
Pinot and Prose review
My Twitter review

Monday, February 09, 2009

See, Definitions Are Important!

School Library Journal's article on where to shelve The Graveyard Book ignores the real issues and instead tries to stir up controversy.

The stirred-up controversy: because The Graveyard Book starts with the murder of Bod's family, fearful librarians shelve the book in YA to protect the children. Think of the children!

Remember, a few posts back, I mentioned how important it is to discuss how we define terms?

As Roger Sutton also points out, there are two questions to ask:

What age/grade is the book for?

Where do books for that age/grade get shelved in your library?

SLJ notes that The Graveyard Book is reviewed by SLJ as Grades 5 to 8. Roger adds that The Horn Book reviewed it as Grades 6 up.

So the next question is, logically, where do you put a book for these ages?

Guess what -- Young Adult can start at 12 in some libraries. I'm on the NJLA YA Section; Garden State Teen Book Award list has a list for Grades 6 to 8, reflecting that, in New Jersey at least, many YA librarians serve Grade 6 up.

Logic shows that for some libraries, YA is the right place. And it's for valid reasons. And this isn't the only book where libraries make this judgment call; any book reviewed Grades 5 to 8 raise this question, with the library using a variety of factors to decide, if the book straddles library age ranges, where does it go?

So, as my final question.... since SLJ infers that a murder in a book means that librarians will place a book in YA, no matter what, what other books for children include murders?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, even when abridged, has a murder.

I seem to recall another book that begins with parents being murdered; oh, yeah, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

So, what ones can you think of? Double points for any book that is considered a classic!

So, what other children's books contain a murder?

Board Buddies Board Books

"Board Buddies" Board Books. Copies supplied by publisher, Marshall Cavendish Children.

How Do You Sleep? by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud, illustrated by Kristin Kest.

A bedtime story with the repetitious question how do you sleep asked of different animals, from bears to frogs, ending, of course, with asking children.

My favorite, both for words and illustration, are the rabbits:

Bunny rabbit, bunny rabbit, deep underground, how do you sleep when the moon comes 'round? I chomp on my carrot with a crunch, crunch, bit, then I tunnel down my hole where I'm safe for the night.

Illustrations show both awake then sleeping animals.

Pirates! Illustrations by Vivana Garofoli.

If How Do You Sleep? is a reassuring and soothing bedtime story, Pirates! is an action packed adventure for toddlers.

The pirates are clearly children, and the words are all about setting sail: "All hands on deck!" "Swab the deck!"

The best part? Doing your best pirate voice as you read this out loud.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Definition, Please

Sometimes my family and friends hate when my inside lawyer rears it's head. One very lawyer thing: to define a term that is being used, so that we know whether or not we are talking the same thing.

Tween: What ages do you mean when you say 'tween'? It's definitely a buzz word being used a lot in libraries, schools, books, magazines, etc. But what ages are people talking about?

I posed this question on Twitter and Facebook. I'll update as I get new answers. I'll also update, later, on my own thoughts on this newish term and what it means.

My own age-only answer? 10 to 12. Seeing as, well, "teen" covers ages 13 to 19, I don't go to age 13. And since tweens seem to be the "almost teens" crowd in terms of marketing, and my own personal belief that we sometimes push kids into being too old and sophisticated for their age, I'm reluctant to go below age 10.

But now on to the wisdom of the crowd!

"I go back and forth between 10 to 12 and 9 to 12. Nine is really a tough age."

"10-13, 7-9 makes a good age group, and the 14s can usually blend with the older kids."

"nine to thirteen. I know thirteen is technically teen - but I think they straddle the definition."

"even 8-13 is tween"

"I think 9-13 is a good standard... actualy, I kind of think it should be 10-13. I hate how we are wanting kids to grow up so fast these days."


Edited to add:

"i define it by grades....5-7, easier than ages, since sometimes kids are older or younger, but they tend to follow their peers in the same grade...but using those grades, would go with 10-13 as rough ages"

"10-12. Maaaybe 13."


"it's kind of either 10-13 or 8-11/12" Note this is in response to a Twitter conversation about a Tween book applying to the entire age group used. Of course, once we say there are young Tween books and older Tween books, there is the same divide as with Teen books, younger Teen and older Teen.

"i agree about 10-12 (maybe even as low as 9)."

"I think 9-12...and we actually just surveyed the teen specialists at libraries throughout the county, and that was the most common response."

"I go back and forth from 9-12 to 10-13. It depends a bit on what kind of program/activity it is."
"I'm on board with the 10-13 people"

"The new black" (giggles....Tween has totally become the new black in publishing.)

"ages 8-12"

"Lordy....this discussion never dies...I look at tweens as the 10-13s, or 9-13s depending on where you live....a more sophisticated middle grader. (I am sure that the sophisticated word might get me in trouble)"

"I think it's the 9-12 age group or 4th to 8th grade. It all depends on what your teen age group is."

"Tween: A 10-12 yo reader who's interested in some of the elements of YA without being quite ready for the heavier, edgy stuff."

"is10-12, those that are in double digits but aren't in our teen"

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sophie at Comic Con

Sophie Brookover (my co-author and Pop Goes the Library founder) will be speaking at New York Comic Con with Betsy Bird and Matt Bird. Full details are up at Fuse #8.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What Comes After Zombie?

We've had vampires, and now zombies.

So what supernatural creature will be the next "it" book?