The comeback kids

We have two winners to announce this afternoon, then we’ll call it quits for the day here at OOM.

Winner #1: The comeback kids from PS 135 in Queens.

Team yellow won by a nose this afternoon in the Scholastic Summer Challenge live game show, eking out the victory over team purple, despite having ZERO points after round one. Congrats Danisabel and Delroy!

Winner #2: Sarah from The Reading Zone.

Sarah was chosen as the winner of our “Read 4 or More” book giveaway. She gets a bundle of four books to read this summer!

Author Jon Scieszka on the On Our Minds “hot seat”

Jon Scieszka, the first ever National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, on the On Our Minds “hot seat.” Think he looked nervous? 😉

Jon is at Scholastic today to help kick us off the Scholastic Summer Challenge reading campaign with a game show broadcast live on the Web.

OOM Summer Challenge: “Read 4 or More” book giveaway

One more day until the Scholastic Summer Challenge live game show webcast launch extravaganza!

If you’re planning on tuning in on April 30th at 1:00pm (EST), here’s where you go: If you’re a teacher, get your webcast classroom guide here.

And if you’re a reader and like free stuff, well, you’re in the right place. Leave a comment telling us you at least one book on your summer reading list and you will qualify for a giveaway of an OOM-pack of books! That’s four young adult, middle grade OR beginning reader books. The deadline is 3:00pm (EST) on Thursday. We’ll announce a winner once the Summer Challenge site is live!

I’ll get the ball rolling…I am finally ready to read Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace. Can I do it? Will I do it? I guess I have four months to find out.

What about you? What are you reading this summer?

Caring classroom donates books to flood-damaged school

I got a package delivered to me at work last week from Waverly Elementary School in Martinsville, Ind.

One of the classrooms at the school had recently been chosen as a winner of the “Care Where You Are” Sweepstakes, a contest run by Scholastic Book Clubs and open to any classroom that participates in the ClassroomsCare program. The 200 winning classrooms were given 500 books each to donate to charities in their communities.

The students at Waverly, and their teacher Laura Caudill, decided to give their books to South Elementary School, which was apparently damaged during floods in June 2008.

The package I received from this amazing class went above and beyond. It was filled with “thank you” letters to the folks in Book Clubs, newspaper clippings and this awesome video slideshow documenting their donation. I wanted to share it with our readers.

Way to go, Waverly!


Battle of the Bloggers!

Today, we had our second run through for “Summer Challenge LIVE!” our spine-tingling (get it?) kids game show that’s kicking off the Scholastic Summer Challenge on April 30. As we’ve mentioned before, New York City kids will compete in our ultimate reading game show, right here in the Scholastic auditorium. Classrooms around the world will be participating via live webcast and help the kid contestants win by answering online questions, responding to live web polls and more!

But all this awesomeness doesn’t happen overnight, so Tyler and I got to substitute for next week’s contestants for a trial run. The results may not have mattered, but you better believe the competition was fierce:

As much as we love our rehearsal host, the real thing will be hosted by famed children’s book author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka – so be sure to watch the game show webcast LIVE at on April 30th @ 1p.m.

But there’s another battle royale a-brewing: check out School Library Journal’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books – 16 books compete, only one can win – kind of like The Hunger Games, my pick to win. Here’s an rundown of the contenders, High School Musical-style:

Word up…one more week

It’s rumored that this weekend it will be a balmy 85 degrees in New York City…which puts me in the perfect frame of mind for the Scholastic Summer Challenge.

After countless meetings, emails and phone calls, this baby is launching on Thursday, April 30th with a kids’ game show held right here at our auditorium and webcast to the world! I can’t wait to see the four teams of book-loving fifth graders go head-to-head answering kids’ book trivia. (The excitement and camaraderie around books reminds me of Harry, Carrie and Garp a few years ago.)

The best part, imho, is our guest host, Jon Scieszka, author and the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. I think he’s going to be hilarious. Here’s the second best part:

Preserving the “mystery” in reading

My first day of work at Scholastic was a little over two years ago — about four months before we released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at midnight on July 21, 2007.

I’m not sure an hour went by at work during those months without hearing a mention of Potter or wizards or magic or Hogwarts. It consumed our work days. It also consumed us here as fans. Like millions of others around the world, we buzzed about what Harry’s fate might be.

Will he live or will he die?

One of the most amazing things to see during that time was how fans united to keep the ending a secret, even after the release of the book, so everyone could experience it on his or her own. There was an understanding that this was something special — that discovering the answer to that question was something that wouldn’t be the same if you read it in the newspaper, or on a fan site, or a friend let it slip. The mystery had to preserved for everyone.

These are the thoughts that came back to me when I read a fascinating and hilarious essay in this month’s Wired magazine by J.J. Abrams, co-creator of the TV show Lost. It was about “the magic of mystery” and how in the digital age, when answers to almost any question are just a mouse click away, we often forget about how satisfying it is to let the answers to mysteries unfold on their own.

Abrams wrote:

“Perhaps that’s why mystery, now more than ever, has special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and consider—or, at the very least, slow down and discover. It’s a challenge to get there yourself, on its terms, not yours.”

He got me thinking about what makes books special — what makes reading them so different from reading a tweet, or a Google search result, or an e-mail.

It took me two weeks to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after it was released. For two weeks, I avoided reading the reviews and news stories on the book. I could easily have read them and learned of Harry’s fate — something I’d been dying to know for months.

But like almost everyone else, I wanted to experience the mystery of wondering how it will end, and I wanted the story to unfold for me on my own terms — on J.K. Rowling’s terms. And just like for almost everyone else, I discovered it on my own, on a Sunday afternoon at home.