Game time!

This Sunday many people will watch an exciting sport on television!

Okay, so obviously I’m not the biggest football fan in the world. I did used to pay attention– until our (Tyler’s and my) beloved Patriots lost last year in a painful defeat made only worse because we were surrounded by Giants fans. Not that I’m bitter.

Actually, I’m finally feeling excited about this year’s Super Bowl after seeing how much fun our Florida Kid Reporter Shelby Fallin had at Media Day. She observed:

Most of these players are over six feet tall. I had to tilt my head way back just to see a chin. When I shook hands, I realized that three of my fists could fit into the palm of one player’s hand.

The best thing about this young reporter is how despite all the attention she got (and she got a lot), the most important thing to her is getting the story.

Bad books are good for you

I love this great opinion piece by Ann Patchett in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. (It’s called The Triumph of the Readers, what’s not to love?)

In her essay, Ms. Patchett responds to the recent National Endowment for the Arts study which found a rise in adults reading literature, especially those in the 18-24 age bracket. Of course as a Scholastic employee I was tickled to see she gives Harry Potter much of the credit…but in an interesting way:

Some of these children were lucky enough to have their Potter novels banned by witch-hunting school boards and micro-managing ministers.

She writes about giving all readers– especially young ones– the power to choose what book they want to read for pleasure, and that even choosing bad books is good.

I’m all for reading bad books because I consider them to be a gateway drug. People who read bad books now may or may not read better books in the future. People who read nothing now will read nothing in the future.

She even goes so far as to admit that she couldn’t wait to read The Valley of the Dolls. But I will go one step further and say that bad books are not only a gateway drug, but sometimes a reader’s drug of choice. I say let’s celebrate the silly, escapist, feel-good fun of bad books.

Anyone want to ‘fess up to your guilty literary pleasure? I’ll start: My name is Jen and one of my favorite books of all time is If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon. And proud of it.

[If anyone chooses to read If Tomorrow Comes based upon my recommendation, please note that after the first couple of chapters you will wonder why I’m so nuts about this book, but keep reading. Things really pick up once Tracy Whitney gets out of women’s prison.]

Empowering readers in San Antonio

A quick report about an exciting event last Saturday in San Antonio:

Scholastic is lucky enough to be involved in a new, city-wide literacy campaign in San Antonio called “Leer da poder,” Spanish for “Reading Empowers,” which was created to combat high illiteracy rates (25 percent) in the city. To kick off the campaign, Scholastic, the San Antonio Public Library and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation hosted a “Reading Fiesta!” that included presentations from Latino authors, activities for kids, a Scholastic Book Fair and many other events that promote literacy. It was all about engaging families, and helping them learn ways to create literacy-rich environments for their kids.

Here’s a great article about the Reading Fiesta! in the San Antonio Express News.

Almost 3,000 people showed up for the event, and the public library seems to be well on its way to reaching its goal of boosting the number of cardholders from about 750,000 to 1 million in 2009.

Here’s a few photos from the event, including Clifford getting a bear hug from a little boy, and Stephanie Quintanilla, Miss US America, helping kids build books of their own.

Our Hunger is unabated

It’s no secret that we at On Our Minds have some nerd-like tendencies (a compliment in our book). But the geek-citement around here reached new levels when we heard about the second book installment of The Hunger Games called Catching Fire.

We heard about it in the hallways, but confirmed it with this Publisher’s Weekly story, which quotes editor David Levithan saying that the manuscript for Catching Fire is available in-house on a “need to read” basis only.

Dear David Levithan,

We. Need. To read it.

On Our Minds @ Scholastic

If you haven’t read the first book, well come on. And if you have, you must play the Tribute Trials game. (Our colleague Amanda currently holds the high score in the publicists’ pit with 94%.)

Only four more months until Book Expo

Kids heart Inkheart

The screen adaptation of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke was released this weekend. And as usual, our California Kid Reporter Mariam El Hasan got the jump!

Not only did our crackerjack reporter see the movie a week early, she got one-on-one interviews with the author, director Iain Softley and the film’s stars Brendan Fraser and Paul Bettany.

You can read Ms. Hasan’s story here, her review here, and all things Inkheart here.

Check out these pics from here meet ‘n greets. Lucky girl!

“Mean Barbara” and Other Critics

Today we’re giving the floor again to our friend and colleague Morgan Baden, internal communications wiz at Scholastic, who follows up on last week’s post and reports about how some teenage writers are silencing their inner critics. — Tyler

“The match snapped, then sizzled, and I woke up fast.”

That’s the haunting opening line to Judy Blundell’s National Book Award winner, What I Saw and How I Lied. Pretty addicting already, right? When Blundell began reading excerpts from her book to a captive crowd of over 300 at the Girls Write Now Annual Winter Pair Reading, though, I was too busy chuckling to pay attention.

That’s because Blundell kicked off the night with some opening remarks about her daughter’s three imaginary friends: Belle, Beauty, and Mean Barbara. And from what she told us, Mean Barbara certainly lived up to her name. The audience laughed along at Blundell’s memories of the genesis of Mean Barbara, but there were lessons in her anecdote: namely, that it’s important to silence one’s inner critic, and to trust whatever one pours out on page. Blundell admitted to learning that lesson herself when she published What I Saw and How I Lied using her real name, rather than the pen name she typically uses.

That theme was also echoed when the mentor and mentee pairs – 18 in all that night – each approached the podium and faced the audience. Stories and poems (and even, in one memorable case, magic tricks!) about what we’ve lost and gained, seen and heard, felt and feared, reached into the furthest corners of the amazingly beautiful venue at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The four-minute clips are all available on the Girls Write Now YouTube channel, so be sure to take a look!

In the few days since the reading, I’ve been thinking about Mean Barbara quite a bit, and trying to find the place within me where my own version of her exists, so I can extract her as cleanly as possible, and put her mean words to rest. But then I remember, there’s nothing clean about the writing process. It’s messy, hurtful, gorgeous, and heartbreaking all at once, when it’s done honestly. Luckily, it’s programs like Girls Write Now that help fledgling writers, like the mentees who spoke their truths on Saturday night, silence their own Mean Barbaras.

Huge thanks to Blundell for giving a name to the critics that try to silence us, for telling a story that will stick with us forever, and for recognizing the incredible (and incredibly necessary) work Girls Write Now does in providing a safe space for girl writers to grow. And as the mentees stepped off stage Saturday night, armed with their copy of What I Saw and How I Lied (thanks, Scholastic, for generously donating copies!), I hope Blundell took notice that each of them was standing a little taller, and walking a bit prouder.

**Photo credit: Denise Simon Photography.