Monday, July 19, 2010

Something New To Remember

Something has been in the works here at Tea Cozy and I can finally share it with you all.

This blog is moving!

And not just moving, because...

The new URL is, drumroll please:

Yes, Tea Cozy is now a School Library Journal blog, along with A Fuse #8 Production, Bowllan's Blog, Good Comics for Kids, Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog, Neverending Search, Nonfiction Matters, and Practically Paradise.

What does it mean?

For the most part, it's same blog, still me, just at a new location. I will be concentrating more on young adult books, ages twelve and up, and less on picture books and books for younger readers.

The new RSS for Bloglines and Google Reader:

Today is my first post at the new place, please stop on by to say hello!

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Booklist: Everyone's A Critic

One of the programs I wasn't able to attend at ALA was Booklist's Everyone's a Critic: The Future of Book Reviewing program, with Jennifer Hubert Swan of Reading Rants, along with Ron Charles of The Washington Post Book World, Otis Chandler of Good Reads and Jon Fine of Amazon.

Jen has been doing online book reviewing (what we call book blogging) since 1998.

Yes. 1998.

The program is available to listen to at Booklist online, along with the PowerPoint and handout of the panelist's trusted review sources.* Who is one of Jen's review sources? ME. I am so amazed because Jen is the Original Rock Star of online book reviews so, yes, WOW. Thank you, Jen!

This panel talks about traditional print reviewing as well as blogging. Good Reads, Amazon reviews, etc are also discussed. So go and listen!

*Which I have had trouble printing out. Any suggestions?

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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Common Sense Transparency

Over at School Library Journal, Brian Kenney's latest editorial is Fear Factor: Kids' Lit Style, about Common Sense Media.

As you may recall, back in February I wrote about Common Sense Media in the context of their reviews being used at Barnes & Noble, called No We Don't All Agree. Many other bloggers and writers also wrote about it. Publishers Weekly did a story, called Common Sense raises issues at B&N.

At the time, I wrote: "If a parent wants the type of detailed "how many f*cks?" "is there kissing with tongue" "is it blasphemous" type of review, fine. Great! I even think CommonSenseMedia is a great resource for us readers who don't count the number of times a kid talks back to an adult, but have patrons who want to know. . . . Yes, it is biased; read some book reviews of books you have read, and you'll see this is not objective or factual. Which is fine, because some people want this. For example, in writing about The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, drinking and parental obedience is highlighted . . . . So, for those parents whose concern is drinking regularly? And being a dutiful child? This website is for them."

Kenney says, "Well, when it comes to book reviews, it turns out there's plenty not to love. In fact, its book reviews are frightfully inept and tremendously dangerous." and then continues, "For Common Sense's reviewers, children's literature is just one big minefield of scary topics, and their job is to comb through books for any offending passages. The message is clear: based on narrow criteria, some material is problematic, children need to be protected from it, and it's the job of teachers and parents to help kids avoid questionable content. The offending incidents are presented without context, while the overall message, intent, and literary quality of a book are rarely addressed. Book after book, Common Sense reviewers harp on the negative while the positive aspects of reading broadly--including tackling books that are challenging--are never addressed."

Alas, I cannot comment at SLJ and I really, really, want to.

I decided to revisit Common Sense Media and Barnes and Noble.

My new thoughts; and please, if I've made a mistake, give me a link and I'll edit and revise.

Common Sense Media reviews are no longer available at Barnes & Noble's website. The original press releases, the original pages that highlighted the partnership, exist, but I couldn't find a children's or teen book that provided the Common Sense Media review. I don't order books from Barnes & Noble; anyone have any idea when this happened?

Judy Blume's books are no longer reviewed at Common Sense Media. How Blume's books were reviewed was one of the issues raised by Salon and Meg Cabot. Now? Nothing at Common Sense Media. It's as if the books were never reviewed there at all. I did manage to find a "kids review" section about ARE YOU THERE GOD, but when I tried to get to the original review I was told it's protected and I had to join to see it.

Common Sense Media has no transparency about the rules and procedures its reviewers are to follow, or how to use its rating system. The best I could find was a very broad "how to understand our ratings."

And the last one is why I'm changing my mind about Common Sense Media and leaning more towards Kenney's concerns. Because it's impossible to find, flat out, their bias for a parent to make an informed decision about what slant Common Sense Media uses. A scattered number of reviews leads me to conclude that unless a book fits a particular, narrow profile (obedient children, traditional gender roles, proper religious values) it will get more criticism. Yet I cannot find anywhere on Common Sense Media to reveal that to parents.

Example one: Octavian Nothing Vol. II and Bloodline. Common Sense Media says Octavian is a "brilliant, brutally violent novel for mature readers only" yet totally omits from the review the "the good stuff" part of the review. Message: nothing good here! Also watch out for the bad messages, which are (emphasis added): "Plenty of racism and despicable acts and attitudes toward African Americans. Speculation about the inherently evil nature of man, as well as wit about the nature of God that some might consider blasphemous." So a book whose entire meaning is "racism is wrong" is a bad message in that it shows the racism that is wrong. Plus, uh oh, blasphemy!

Now, Bloodline. Common Sense Media includes "the good stuff" for this tale of "Dark ages adventure a draw even for history-phobic teens". Unlike Octavian Nothing, this book is educational because (again, my emphasis added): "Although much written about the early dark ages must be conjecture, Moran has done extensive research that reveals much about day to day life in the seventh century and readers will learn much about the time and the spread of Christianity." What do parents need to know? "This is historic fiction at a very high level that gives a marvelous introduction to the rise of Christianity, the pagans' reaction to the notion of one God, and daily life in the dark ages." And what types of things should families discuss? "Families can talk about the rise of Christianity and how it spread throughout the world. What were the other world religions in the 7th century, and how many of them are still practiced?" Now, readers of this blog know that I love a book that portrays religion positively; I love historical fiction; I want to read this book. But why such a heavy emphasis on Christianity on a secular website? Especially when the professional reviews, as shown at Barnes and Noble, do not emphasize that aspect, leaving me to wonder just how important that aspect of the story is to the average reader?

Example Two: Calpurnia Tate, not a good role model. Calpurnia gets a ranking of only 2 out of 5 for "role model." Why? "Calpurnia is tomboyish, dislikes sewing and cooking, but mostly dislikes being indoors. She recognizes the injustice and points it out." Can someone explain this rating system, as to why that is not a 5 out of 5 in any way, shape, or form, other than she is operating outside of typical gender roles so gets a lesser ranking?

Example Three: Charles and Emma don't inspire. On messages in this book: "This biography probably won't inspire any young readers to become scientists, although it does glorify the life of the mind; nor is it particularly inspirational to those of religious faith. It may inspire some readers to be kind and attentive parents". Yes, let's point out that it won't inspire faith and ignore the message of how two people with opposing views of religion led a happy, loving life. And I still don't understand the role models ranking, as Charles and Emma, like Calpurnia , received only 2 out of 5 for being this type of role model: "The relationship between Charles and Emma, both with competing belief systems, reveals a partnership based on love rather than a union based on similar beliefs and conformity to expectations. They are both devoted parents". Since 2 out of 5 usually isn't a good ranking, I can assume this description means "not good role models." Except I don't read it that way. I think that is a 5 out of 5 role model!

My conclusion?

Admittedly, this is only a handful of reviews. And yes, some parents do want a Common Sense Media type of "tell us the bad stuff." My question now is Common Sense Media's lack of transparency about how reviews are done and the standards and training its reviewers follow. There are parents whose questions are about blasphemy, how a religion is portrayed, and traditional gender role models. If those parents are Common Sense Media's primary audience, shouldn't that be clearer to the average person?

As Kenney at SLJ points out, are these full reviews or ones that are quick to point out the "bad" without pointing out the "good"?

What standards are being used?

EDITED TO ADD: Kenney links to this letter sent by NCAC to Common Sense Media about its issues with how CSM treats books. The current review of Chains is significantly different from the one described in the letter and is marked as edited at a date later than that letter. Are You There, God, It's Me Margaret and Beloved, both mentioned in the letter, no longer appear at the CSM site. Does anyone have a link to CSM's official response to this letter?

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

Friday, July 09, 2010

Kidlitcon 2010

Why, yes, it is July and in the 90s, so of course a blogger's thoughts turn to October, the cool climate of Minneapolis and OMG it's the KIDLITCON 2010!!!!!


As you may (or may not) know, the Kidlitcon AKA Children's and Young Adult Book Bloggers Convention is entering it's fourth year.

It began as a "wouldn't it be great if we could meet in person over a potluck dinner in Chicago" in 2007. Let me tell you, when I got on that plane for the first conference, part of me wondered if I'd be met by serial killers. Instead, I was met by awesome book bloggers, who eat, breath, and drink books.

Anyway, here is information and resources:

When: Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where: Minneapolis; hotel deals are still being finalized but the date and time are ON.

Note to self: make reservations ASAP. My plan is to fly in Friday morning and stay until Monday, because I have the time and want to have time to just hang out with everyone. But, since the conference is only one day, and a Saturday, it is possible to attend and not take any time off from work.

Have a great idea for a presentation? Here is the call for submissions for program ideas.

Here is the Blog: Kidlitcon 2010

The Kidlitcon floats across the country, in the hopes that eventually, one will be close enough to book bloggers that they can attend it locally. Individual bloggers host and organize it, which is a helluva lot of work, and which means that location also depends on local volunteers. It's a mix of authors and bloggers; this time around, the hosts are bloggers who are also in the publishing industry: Brian Farrey (hey, can we do something Whedon?), Andrew Karre, and Ben Barnhart.

More details, from the blog:

The rough schedule calls for a wine and cheese reception on the night of Friday the 22nd, a day of workshops and panels on the 23rd, followed by a closing conference dinner in the evening.

We're still working out the details of cost for the conference and hotel; we hope to have all the particulars very soon. Our goal is to make the cost comparable to past conferences. Once we've finished getting bids, we'll post registration information. BUT, if you send an e-mail right now to with the subject line "Intent to Register," you will receive $5.00 off the cost of registration.

Follow us on Twitter here:
And here's the Facebook page:

My posts about Kidlitcon 2009. I couldn't attend 2008; and 2007.

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

Summer, and the Reading is Easy

Believe it or not, I do read grown up books!

I am putting together a list of "what to read" this summer.

Two titles already on the list: Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern and Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim.

The following suggestions were made by friends on Twitter:

Beginner's Greek: A Novel by James Collins

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Capital of the Mind: How Edinburgh Changed the World by James Buchan

Case Histories: A Novel (the Jackson Brodie series) by Kate Atkinson

Any other suggestions? For grown up books, in no particular order (and no, they don't have to be new) my preferences for summer reading are: history; mystery; family saga.

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

Thursday, July 08, 2010

ALA 2010: Laura's Life

One of my favorite things about going to conferences is meeting other bloggers.

As you know, I am on the Schneider Family Book Award Committee. That is how I found out about Laura Rodgers of the blog Laura's Life; here are some of the awesome and touching things Laura said about this Award: "I am in LOVE with this award because these books are great books AND they talk about disability appropriately; as a kid growing up with a disability I like to see books where the characters look like me and I get really annoyed when characters with disability are talked about using outdated and wrong language. The Schneider Family Books are great and I hope having this award improves how all authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers include disability."

Who is Laura? From her blog, "I am a 4th grader at Stonegate Elementary School in Zionsville, Indiana, and live "in the middle of nowhere", rural Indiana. Several years ago as a second grader I decided to read all the Newbery Medal winners before I got to middle school. For me middle school starts in 5th grade. I became interested in this goal when my mother told me about a Newbery Club her elementary school had. After I set my goal I realized that it was way easier when my mom did it (there were fewer books and middle school did not start until 7th grade for her). As it turns out I reached my goal with time to spare. You can read more about me at: "

Yes, Laura is ten and has read all the Newberys. And is reading the new books to figure out what will be next year's pick. And has also decided to read thru the Schneider Family Book Awards. And another thing - part of the reason Laura is amazing? Her parents and their support. They took their family vacation to make it into an ALA trip for Laura. Her mother was at ALA with her, and pretty much said Laura selects the books she wants to read, I sometimes read them with her, why would I tell her not to read something? Laura's most recent reading? Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen.

Anyway, thanks to the Schneider Family Book Awards, I got to meet Laura and say "hi".

Here is Laura's video interview from ALA:

Wait, you want to know if I've read all the Newberys? I got as far as The Story of Mankind and gave up. Laura had the right idea -- she saved it for the last book read!

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

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

ALA 2010: Children's and Young Adult Book Blogs

Children’s and YA Book Blogs: Enhancing Library Services.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
8 a.m – 10 a.m.

I presented with Travis from 100 Scope Notes and Pam from MotherReader. Despite competing popular programming, such as the YALSA “speed dating with authors” coffee klatch, as well as an 8:00 a.m. start date, 130 people attended this panel on using book blogs to assist in library services such as collection development, readers advisory, and programming.

The PowerPoint, should you want to look at it, is available at SlideShare at

Travis has a terrific video at his website; and Pam also reports on ALA at her blog. The Photo is from Mitali Perkins. (Thanks Mitali who doesn't know I borrowed it...well, she knows now.)

Blogs mentioned in the PowerPoint, in order they were initially mentioned. All were accessed and live as of June 2010; I added a couple of updated URLs were appropriate.

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

Pam Coughlan, MotherReader,

Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes,

Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen, currently blogs at

Cybils, and

Robin Brande,

Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, and information about the October 2010 Conference is at

Kidlitosphere Central,

A Fuse # 8 Production at School Library Journal,

Kids Lit,

American Indians in Children’s Literature,
Charlotte’s Library,

From the Mixed Up Files . . . of Middle Grade Authors,

Little Willow,


Color Online,

Chasing Ray,

Steph Su Reads,

Small Beer Press,

TLC Book Tours,

Cynthia Leitich Smith at Cynsations,

Reading in Color,


Librarian By Day,

POC Reading Challenge,

The Story Siren,

School celebrates Lincoln's 200th birthday with presidential impersonator, Web cast, Grand Rapids Press February 2009,

Bookends at Booklist Online,

Good Comics for Kids at School Library Journal,

Shelf Talker at Publishers Weekly,

Chicken Spaghetti,

Hi Miss Julie!,

Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog at School Library Journal,

Collecting Children’s Books,

The Reading Zone,

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast,

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

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Katie Davis & Her ALA Question

Katie Davis of Book Burps about Books created an ALA 10 video that asks authors, illustrators, publishing folk and a blogger or two the question: "If you could work for any character in children’s literature, who would you work for and what would be your job be?"

I, totally unprepared for the question, could come up with only one answer.

While Fuse #8 figured out how to embed it, I could not. So click thru to watch the video.

Yes, I'd be the equivalent of a monster hunting redshirt, dead in the first ten pages, I'm sure. But oh, what a ten pages they would be!

Go, Team Monstrumologist!

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

Monday, July 05, 2010

Nibbles: A Green Tale

Nibbles: A Green Tale by Charlotte Middleton. Marshall Cavendish. 2010. Copy supplied by publisher.

The Plot: The guinea pigs love to eat dandelion leaves. They love them so much no more are left. Hungry Nibbles finds the last dandelion growing outside his window. What is a guinea pig to do?

The Good: A guinea pig saves the day, I mean the dandelion! Nibbles goes to the library, reads up on dandelion care, and then spreads the dandelion seeds around town to restart the dandelions.

Nibbles explains to young children about limited resources and how to care for them. Nibbles doesn't give up eating dandelions; he just recognizes that replacements must be grown to balance all that are eaten.

While Nibbles will work for schools and story times about conservation, ecology and gardening, it's not a didactic message book. Told in bright and cheerful pictures, Nibbles has a dilemma (loss of his favorite) food and achieves both long and short term solutions that make sense.

What else? As is usual with animals in picture books, the guinea pigs stand in for children, playing soccer, wearing clothes, and dreading the dandelion replacement -- cabbage!

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Children's Literature on NPR

Monica Edinger (Educating Alice), Esme Raji Codell (Planet Esme website and blog) and Pete Cowdin (Reading Reptile) were on On Point Radio on NPR talking about summer books for kids and teens!

Highlights for me included:

acknowledging how the economy has impacted bookstores;

a shout out to the Kidlitosphere Central website at as a resource to find children's and young adult book blogs;

ALA and bloggers at ALA, including "new ones all the time";

and book lists. I'll let you click through, below, to see just how great those lists are.

There was also talk about reading other than books, and reluctant readers, and, well, A LOT of food for thought.

For example, are certain titles good literature or guilty pleasure? Does it hurt children's literature and cause differences in the market here in the US and in Europe?

I put aside time during Saturday morning with my coffee to sit back and listen. Which for me meant sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing and always enjoying the show!

Listen to it yourself at On Point at NPR, and read the book lists.

Monica blogs about the experience. New York Times book reviewer, now on NPR, perhaps Oprah is Monica's next step!

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

Friday, July 02, 2010

ALA 2010: Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools

On Friday, I presented at the preconference, Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools. Wendy Stephens organized it, and did a terrific job. Wendy on Twitter; and her website.

My topic? Fanfiction! So of course, I had to wear my favorite Team Peeta T-shirt.

I was part of a "speed dating" presentation, so speaking with a small group of attendees, moving on to the next group, etc.

I had a one-page handout for attendees. For those of you who are curious, here are the resources I included. Any questions, please let me know!



Archive: Online site that stores fan fiction. May be general or specific to one fandom.

Beta reader: Editors for fan fiction.

Canon: The source material.

C&D: Cease And Desist letters. When the copyright owner requests you stop.

Fandom: The fan community for a story, book, movie, television show, game, etc.

Fan fiction: Fan written stories inspired by original works by others.

Mary Sue: An idealized character, often perceived as representing the author. When male, called “Gary Stu.” Sometimes found in original fiction.

Ship: A romantic relation”ship” between two characters.

Slash: A romantic relationship between two same sex characters.


Anelli, Melissa. Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon. Pocket, 2008.

Burns, Elizabeth and Carlie Webber. "When Harry Met Bella: Fanfiction is all the rage. But is it plagiarism? Or the perfect thing to encourage young writers?,” School Library Journal, Vol. 55, No. 8, August 2009.

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, Legal issues for online activity., Largest online archive.

Moore, Rebecca C. “All Shapes of Hunger: Teenagers and Fanfiction.” Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2005.

Pflieger, Pat. Too Good To Be True: 150 Years of Mary Sue. Presented at the American Culture Association conference, March 31, 1999, San Diego, CA. Revised.

Schaffner, Becca. “In Defense of Fanfiction,” Horn Book. November/December 2009.

Edited to add: Cazzy Files reports on the preconference.

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

Thursday, July 01, 2010

ALA 2010: In Photos

Friday began with breakfast with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl and a bunch of book bloggers at Teaism.

So much fun!

First photo: Meaghan from A Bookworm’s Haven, me, Kami Garcia

Second photo: (Back Row) Katie (Katie Tweets YA / Read What You Know), Drea (Book Blather / Awaitin Serenity), Alexa Barry (Not Enough Bookshelves), Kami Garcia, Tiffany (TiffanyE), Michelle (GalleySmith); (Front Row) Sarah (Green Bean Teen Queen), Margie Stohl, me & Meaghan (A Bookworm’s Haven)

And yes, I totally stole the photos and all from Kami & Margie.

Mitali Perkins photographed an ALA ARC Party, taking photos of attendees with ARCs/books they picked up. Here I appear, midsentence about something or else. I am holding a signed copy of A Plain and Simple Christmas: A Novella by Amy Clipston.

I have snagged a couple more photos, from the presentation I did with Travis / 100 Scope Notes and Pam / Mother Reader, but that will wait for another day!

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

Oh, What A Busy Time...

I know, I know, promises were made about posts after ALA.

They WILL be here by next week, promises, cross my heart and pinky swear.

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