Friday, January 28, 2011

Digital Book World 2011

From Monday to Wednesday this week, I was in New York attending the 2011 Digital Book World conference. Here's what the Sheraton's Metropolitan Ballroom looked like at Monday night's opening ceremonies cocktail hour:

The opening ceremonies also included some great 7x20x21 presentations (seven presenters each show 20 slides, and each slide can appear for no more than 21 seconds). One presenter was Sarah Wendell, who runs the website Smart Bitches Trashy Books:
Besides giving a presentation about her relationship with ebooks that was both funny and insightful, Sarah also blogged about her overall DBW experience. (She also made a DBW drinking game based on buzzwords that kept coming up.)

Tuesday and Wednesday were packed with panels and presentations on everything from metadata (a hot topic) to enhanced ebooks vs. apps to the evolving roles of agents and independent booksellers. If you weren't able to attend, never fear: Paul Biba of has posted great summaries of many of the panels. If you're at all interested in how the publishing industry is evolving to accommodate ebooks and other digital initiatives, definitely check them out!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Author Visits Via Skype

Today's blog post is by Christy Jordan-Fenton, author of Fatty Legs. Take it away, Christy!

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton prepares for a Skype classroom visit
Recently, we took part in a very unique classroom visit with Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art. What was so interesting about this visit is that we weren’t actually in the classroom at all. With a little help from Skype, we were able to talk with this parent/child book club right from home. Now, I am definitely not very tech savvy, and Margaret has barely mastered the art of email, so I was quite concerned that we would make a mess of the whole thing. But, to my surprise it was extremely easy. First we set up our Skype account for free video calling and then we added Christianne as a contact (if you can use Facebook you can do this). Next thing we knew, we were transported from way up here in Fort St John, BC, down to Vancouver, which is about an eighteen-hour drive.

The visit got me thinking what a wonderful tool Skype could be for remote schools, or ones without budgets to bring in authors. All it requires is a computer, an internet connection, a webcam (many laptops and netbooks come with built-in webcams now), a microphone, and a screen and projector (to be plugged into the computer)—system requirements are listed on the Skype site. The children can see the authors via the screen and hear them through the speakers. When it is time for a child to ask a question, they simply approach the microphone and webcam. Having the students each prepare a question beforehand makes things run more smoothly, as does having additional material. For example, Christianne prepared a crossword based on Fatty Legs that we were invited to help the children answer.

We really enjoyed our visit with Christianne’s Lyceum and can’t wait to Skype with a remote class in a community like Tuktoyaktuk, or maybe some place far, far away like Sydney, Australia. And, should we be invited for a physical visit to some distant place, I just might use Skype to read a bedtime story to my children. If you would be interested in knowing more about Skype school visits, please feel free to drop us a line at tworiverscowmama[at]yahoo[dot]ca.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meet a Book Blogger: Becoming Sarah

For the first Meet a Book Blogger post of 2011, let me introduce you to Sarah Christensen. Her blog, Becoming Sarah, features beautiful photographs, slice-of-life posts about parenthood, and reviews of children's books (including Chicken, Pig, Cow!). Here she is with her adorable daughter Charlotte:

1. When did you start book blogging, and what was your motivation?
My blog was always intended to keep family and friends up-to-date about our growing family. I began blogging about books a year ago when I discovered that many of the fellow mothers I had come to know as a first-time mom did not read to their infants or young children. Most of them said they couldn’t find books they enjoyed or that they didn’t know how to read to their children. My daughter, who was named after E.B. White’s famous spider, was five or six months old at the time and I had read to her every day of her life.  Reading has been an activity I have loved since the day my father sat me down and told me it was high time I learned; I cannot imagine my childhood without the magic of books. It occurred to me then that if I could encourage just one family to read more frequently with their children or try out new books they had not heard of... it would be worth all the trouble.

2. How often do you post?
I try to post regular blog updates several times a week, but I only post about books and reading four to six times a month.

3. Which kinds of books do you like to review?
Thus far, I have only reviewed children’s books. Since most of my readers have kids near my daughter’s age, I stick to books aimed towards young children. In 2011, I will also be discussing books related to food, crafts, parenting, and the like on different sections of my website.

4. Where do you get the books you review?
Because I host a regular story-time playgroup in my home, I always approach the publishers for review copies first. The children in the story-time range in age from infants to eight-year-olds. We read the review copies that publishers send so that I can get a good idea of how different ages respond to each book. If I cannot get a book from the publisher, then I approach authors or explore used book sales, garage sales, and book shops. In a pinch, I will go to the library. I love the library, but I try to steer clear of library books for review purposes because there are so many books floating around the playgroup that some are bound to get lost.

5. Where do you find out about new books?
I ask for suggestions from fellow parents and children’s librarians. Parents always know which books their children love best and which books do not drive them insane. Children’s librarians always know which books appeal to a variety of ages and which fit specific family preferences or needs. They also have access to hundreds of books, so they know which ones are duds.

6. Do you read other book blogs? If so, which are your favorites?
YES! I can’t pick a favorite, though. I read several publisher blogs, a few author blogs, and many MANY individual blogs. I usually tend towards food and children’s book blogs.

7. What’s one of your favorite books? How about the best book you’ve read in the past six months?
One of my favorite books is Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. The way to my heart is clearly through humor writing. The best book I’ve read in the past six months was probably Richard Louv’s The Last Child in the Woods. It isn’t the best-written book or the most entertaining book, but it completely revolutionized the way I think about children and their interaction with their environment. Sometimes the best book is the one that makes me reconsider my choices and perspectives.

8. What’s the most enjoyable part of book blogging? What’s the worst part? Do you blog about other topics too?
The most enjoyable part of book blogging is the feedback, hands-down. I love hearing from people who have just discovered the joy of reading with their children and I love picking up reader suggestions at the library. The worst part of book blogging is remembering to write the post! The rest of my blog is personal topics – parenting, gardening, marriage, home ownership, friendship, learning, and the like. Mostly parenting. And mostly tongue-in-cheek.

9. Do you have an ereader? If so, do you like it? If not, do you want one someday?
No, I do not have an e-reader and no, I do not want one. Part of the magic of reading is curling up on the couch, smelling the pages, bending the binding, hearing the rustle of paper. My husband and I try to make environmentally-friendly choices so I am certain that one day we will consider e-readers, but in the meantime I still love books.

10. What do you do when you’re not reading?
As a full-time mother, I spend a lot of time on the go with my daughter. We spend quite a bit of time hiking, taking nature walks, creating art on the kitchen floor (and the walls), gardening, visiting the library, having play-dates with friends, taking the train to visit her father for lunch, visiting places like the zoo, chasing the dog around the yard, and similar activities. Outside of motherhood and reading, I love the outdoors (my first date with my husband was rock-climbing) and I love the kitchen. My husband and I are both big fans of cooking, baking, and having family over for dinner. We do it as often as possible.

Thanks, Sarah! We look forward to many more adorable pictures of Charlotte enjoying books!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Accolades!

We're just two weeks into 2011 and already we're proud to announce more awards and recognition for our Fall 2010 books. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators!

Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
  • 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books Honor list

Illustrated by Martha Newbigging
  • 2011 Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ALA Midwinter Wrap-Up

We hit the convention center in San Diego for the mid-winter ALA. Many from colder climates across North America reveled in the warmth, the sunshine, and the stands of palm trees.

Our booth

While numbers were down (by 14% according to official reports), we met many enthusiastic librarians who offered genuine encouragement for the titles on display. It’s always inspiring and gratifying to meet librarians face-to-face, where we can get their direct feedback. There was particular interest in Africans Thought of It, along with other Africana titles. We had a steady flow of traffic throughout the convention schedule, which we attribute in part to our excellent location. We were able to connect with librarians who were not as familiar with Annick Press, which is the benefit of a conference which moves into different regions of the country.

Laverne Page from the Library of Congress poses with our Africa-themed books

Sadly, we encountered librarians and teachers who were struggling with budget cuts. One teacher told us that she hadn’t had a single dollar for book purchases in the last three years. We also heard about librarians who financed their own travel to the convention, some from great distances. We all know how short-sighted it is to make cuts to libraries and to book purchases, which impacts reading. We can only hope the economic picture improves soon, but fewer library staff, shorter hours, and reduced book buying will carry long-term consequences.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Accolades for Fall 2010 titles

I hope you all had a very relaxing holiday season. The end of the year sparked many "Best of 2010" lists, and we're very proud to see two of our Fall 2010 titles recognized as exceptional.

First, YALSA included Judie Oron's Cry of the Giraffe on its "Hidden Gems of 2010" list.

In addition, The Globe and Mail's Susan Perren selected Fatty Legs, by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton (with illustrations by Liz Amini-Holmes) for her "Top 10 Children's Books of 2010" list. Christy and Margaret are working on a sequel, scheduled for this fall... more on that as it develops!

If you know of any more great "Best of 2010" book lists, post a link in the comments!