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Authors & illustrators

You can't let your failures define you

"You can't let your failures define you — you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time." What an important and powerful message for students from President Obama.

What's in a backpack?

My son started school today. Even though he's in high school, some things never change.

He packed up his backpack neatly and with great care, filled with clean notebooks, capped pens, and uncluttered with superfluous papers.

That'll soon change — and has ever since my well-organized, basically neatnik son got his first backpack in 2nd grade.

Mission Impossible meets Viola Swamp

What happens when a perfectly dreadful adult is forced to deal with a talented albeit unusual group of children? A very funny, offbeat book by Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman called The Dunderheads (Candlewick).

Roar (and more)

Imagine…a small mouse being chased by a hungry owl disturbs a fierce looking lion. The lion, however, release the mouse only to be caught up in a rope trap himself. When the mouse hears the lion's roar, what does he do?

If you've read the "Lion and the Mouse," a fable credited to Aesop or even a tale called "Androcles and the Lion" (in a collection by Joseph Jacobs now long out of print) then you know it's been around for a while, a long while.

Listen to the wind! One person can change the world

Children often feel powerless. Can reading about one person's dedication to an idea turned into action empower young people?

I think the approach of Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth (who also illustrated the book; published by Dial) does that and more.

Whodunnit? Spring break mysteries

Both girls, Molly (8) and Anna (6), are obsessed with mysteries right now, and they spent most of their spring break tearing through several. It started awhile back when they stumbled into the Boxcar Children series.

A birthday of note

Forty is a milestone for anyone, but it's especially impressive for a something that started out small, grew with each morsel consumed, went away for a while, and emerged to fly.

As you've probably guessed, it's the small green, very hungry, and ever-popular caterpillar, of course.

Newbery or not? That is the question

The Newbery Medal has been awarded once again. This year, it was given to Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins, 2008), a deliciously creepy book about a boy brought up by ghosts after his parents' murder. (Clearly this is not a bedtime tale for the young or faint-hearted.)

The book meets the specified criteria used by the Newbery Committee in order to identify the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year."

This year's winners

It was exciting to be in the audience at the press conference at the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association where this year's "Youth Media Awards" were announced.

How writers write

Lately I've been spending lots of time in my car. This week while driving around I was fortunate enough to hear two children's authors talk about their craft and what writing means to them. I love to discover how authors write, what inspires them, and how hard they work at their craft.

Pages

"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan