Children's Book Week, celebrating books for young readers, began in 1919. Now, nearly nine decades later, the traditional November time frame has been moved to May. This year's festivities will take place from May 12-18.
"It started for a fabulous reason that still holds true the love of reading," says Robin Adelson, executive director of the Children's Book Council, which administers the special week. "But I think what's happened over the years is it became a 'week' in name only."
The council hopes that moving the celebratory date away from preholiday events will serve as a springboard into summer reading.
This year's festivities include posters (available free online) and an activity guide for schools and libraries. New for 2008 will be a book award ceremony honoring popular books voted on by children (www.cbcbooks.org).
Finding new ways to bring attention to books and literacy has always been the mission of the Children's Book Council, seen in the recent appointment of Jon Scieszka as the country's first national ambassador for young people's literature.
Following are a few of my favorites to celebrate Children's Book Week:
• "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" by Mo Willems (Hyperion). The previous five Pigeon books have been favorites for the youngest listener. When the publishers conducted a nationwide contest for children to guess the next title, there were lots of opinions. This is the favorite title. It's an invitation to lots of giggles and rereading requests.
• "Never Take a Shark to the Dentist (And Other Things Not to Do)" by Judi Barrett and John Nickle (Atheneum). Fans of Barrett's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" will be delighted to have her new book with fold-out pages and nonsense galore.
• "Oops!" by Alan Katz (Simon& Schuster/McElderry). Children have sung Katz's "Take Me Out of the Bathtub" for years. Now, here is a collection of his verses to tickle their fancy. The biographical notes in the back are hilarious, and older readers will relate to the poet's school efforts as a young boy.
• "The Willoughbys" by Lois Lowry (Houghton/ Lorraine). Lowry's newest is a parody of old-fashioned children's stories with orphans, a sweet nanny and heirs that save the day. This is a "read-aloud" book, but children must realize it's an "Annie" or "Boxcar Children" type story (certainly not like the author's previous award-winners, "The Giver" or "Number the Stars"). Ages 8-10.
• "The Calder Game" by Blue Balliett (Scholastic). Super-kid-sleuths Calder, Petra and Tommy are back in a third mystery surrounding renowned art pieces. Lots of twists and turns make this a great read, as were "Chasing Vermeer" and "The Wright 3." Ages 8-12.
• "Lock and Key" by Sarah Dessen (Penguin). Dessen's latest young adult novel is about Ruby, a complex teenager trying to attain independence by living alone after her mother leaves. When a sister and famous brother-in-law take her in, she struggles with trust issues. A powerful coming-of-age story with a bit of "edgy" (sexual) context. Ages 13 and up.• "The King's Arrow" by Michael Cadnum (Viking). The setting is A.D. 1100, 50 years after the Norman conquest of England. Simon, a teenager, accompanies the king on a royal hunt. When he realizes he must flee for his life, the question begins: Was it murder or an accident? Cadnum claims to have solved a 1,000-year-old mystery. Ages 12 and up.
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