What some of us at Scholastic read this summer

In case we haven’t made it abundantly clear already: We do a LOT of reading here at Scholastic.

Yes, tons of it happens during the work day — manuscripts, presentations, proposals, reports, blogs, press releases and much, much more… But we read like crazy in our free time too. We probably wouldn’t enjoy working at Scholastic much if if we didn’t.

(In Corporate Communications, we actually keep a running tab of what we’ve read. Geeky, I know… Check out this pic I took of one of our running lists.)

With summer behind us, we thought it would be fun to share with you our favorite reads from Summer ’09 — and we asked some of our friends from around the company to contribute too.

In the comments, tell us what YOU read this summer!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s a story of a teenage boy trying to break free from cultural expectations and forge his own path in life. More than that though, it’s hilarious and touching. It teaches us about a culture very few of us see, but it also describes many of the highs and lows of teenage life that most all of us can relate to.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown, an incredible first-person narrative about the girlfriend of a school shooter in the months after the shooting. Powerful and poignant, with an amazing, fresh voice.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m not usually a big reader of short stories but Lahiri’s prose is so beautiful, I couldn’t put this one down and often found myself re-reading passages a second and third time to fully savor them. Interpreter of Maladies is an unflinchingly honest look at life, love, death, family, loss, and everything else that makes us human. Plus: it won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Fiction Writing in 2000.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – This was a simple and simply devastating book that stayed with me for days and days and days. It’s a collection of short stories about people in a small town in Maine whose lives and stories intertwine the way they tend to do.

David “Dock” Dockterman (Tom Snyder Productions and “Dock Spot” blogger):
I’ll go with The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-minded America is Tearing Us Apart, by Bill Bishop. The book is a meticulously researched history and explanation of the creation of like-minded island communities across the country. At a time when tolerance for diversity and the dissolution of barriers seems the inevitable norm (at least to some), we find ourselves in increasingly polarized political debates. Why?

Karen Van Rossem (Library):
I just finished That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. I’m a big fan of Richard Russo’s Empire Falls and his short story collection The Whore’s Child. In this new novel, That Old Cape Magic, Russo revisits his familiar themes of marriage, family and life in academia. I love how Russo seamlessly entwines humor and pain, hitting all of the notes that blend in daily life.

Mark Seidenfeld (Legal department):
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. An incredible story based on a little known event during WWII. Heartbreaking, but beautifully written and completely engrossing.

Andrea Pinkney (Trade Publishing):
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is an exquisitely rendered novel about Minli, a courageous girl with a dream — to change her family’s fate. Minli is inspired by the folktales her father tells her, one of them about the Old Man and the Moon, who she sets out to find in the hopes that he can help her family go from their ramshackle existence to a more abundant way of life. The novel is a multi-layered fantasy filled with Chinese folklore and enchantment. Adding to the book’s beauty are the author’s own spot illustrations, which open each chapter.

Jessica Watson (Library):
The most gripping book I read this summer was Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. It is the story of a totalitarian society that sends a class of 42 high school students to an island ghost town where the population has been sent in preparation for this battle. They must kill each other until one remains. Think of your entire English class from high school being sent away on a field trip where only one of you can make it home.

Your turn!

Previously On Our Minds:

*Right around the corner… Summer!
*Taking a cue from the kids
*A reminder that books matter



Our guest blogger today is Cheryl Klein, a senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic). After Cheryl moved to New York, she landed her dream job as Arthur Levine’s editorial assistant. She also worked as the continuity editor on the last three Harry Potter books. On Sept. 30 at noon ET, Cheryl will be hosting a live Twitter chat (#YESchat) with Sara Lewis Holmes, the author of Operation Yes. But, I’ll let Cheryl tell you how this unique relationship began (cue dream-like blur)

Cheryl Klein as illustrated by Dan Santat,
artist on Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally)

In February of 2008, for the very first time, I acquired a manuscript from a blog.

I was pretty familiar with blogs by that point in time; I’d been writing cheerfully for three years on my own personal site, http://chavelaque.blogspot.com, and because many writers were interested in reading an editor’s thoughts on writing and the industry, I’d gotten to know a number of them through the comments. When a literary agent named Tina Wexler sent me a manuscript about a sixth-grade class on an Air Force base in North Carolina, she noted that the author had an active blog and website, and I thought, “Oh, that’s nice. She’s part of the conversation”—because to me the great pleasure of blogs is the conversation, the opportunity to talk about a subject for a bit and hear what other people think, and to listen to their stories in turn.

But I didn’t think much more about it until a week or so later, when I decided to read the author’s novel down in the Scholastic library, and fell instantly in love with it. The manuscript was bursting with smart, funny characters; brilliant little details (there’s a librarian who swears using children’s-book titles—“Frog and Toad!”, she shouts once); a timely storyline; and rich thematic concerns. The author not only painted a terrific portrait of the lives and psychology of military kids during the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she explored the definition and uses of community in the world those kids created together in their classroom, led by their charismatic teacher Ms. Loupe. The manuscript made me think; it made me laugh. And just as the kids in the book learn to say “Yes” to the theatre exercises Ms. Loupe sets for them, I knew I wanted to say “Yes” to this book.

So I came back to my office and sat down at my computer to Google the author’s name: Sara Lewis Holmes. The first results took me to her website and blog, Read * Write * Believe, where I read through a few weeks’ worth of entries. Sara wrote about her passion for great children’s and YA novels, many of which were my favorites as well. She wrote poems for Poetry Friday that were full of beauty and fire. She analyzed the creative process with humor and truth, and she talked about her experience as a military mom, so she clearly had insider knowledge of the world she described in her novel. A good blog, like a good diary, reveals its creator’s true mind, and I liked the way Sara thought and wrote. More to the point, without our ever exchanging a word, I liked her, and I felt we would work well together thanks to our shared tastes and interests. When we chatted on the phone a few days later, I learned that she had been reading my blog for quite some time, so she was equally excited about working with me, and that mutual liking and respect was a great beginning to our author-editor relationship.

Based on my enthusiasm for her book, her blog, and Sara herself, I bought the manuscript in a two-book deal soon after that—an event Sara announced on her blog. We then set to work shaping and polishing the book that would become Operation Yes. Hints of this process trickled through to our blogs, of course: I noted that I enjoyed editing Sara’s book so much I even did it on my birthday, and I explained the process of writing its flap copy in a post here. When Sara wrote posts like “It’s All in the Manuscript” soon after receiving an editorial letter, I knew she was thinking hard and working away on the book, even when we weren’t in frequent contact. She highlighted her second-round edits, line-edits, and the copyediting process in later posts, culminating in this one, where she celebrates the arrival of the hardbound book in her hands.

Operation Yes officially debuted earlier this month, and it has received a starred review from Booklist and much love from Sara’s and my fellow bloggers, including The Reading Zone, the Old Coot, and Finding Wonderland. Over the last few months, our conversation has expanded from blogs to Twitter, where we both tweet away about our daily work activities, great kids’ books links, and random interests. As a result of this, we’re going to have a Twitter chat about the book, our writing and editing processes, our favorite Southern foods, and sundry other topics tomorrow (September 30) at noon EST, live on Twitter.com. To be part of it, follow our Twitter feeds @saralewisholmes and @chavelaque; the discussion will be marked with the hashtag #YESchat. If you can’t tune in then, you can read the transcript at one of our blogs soon after—and please join in the conversation yourself.

Previously On Our Minds:

* Scholastic Hearts Book Bloggers
* A reminder that books matter
* What kind of books do boys like?

5 Questions with Anne Lee: Book Fairs

Remember those days at school when you’d take a trip to buy some books without leaving your school? Chances are you visited a Scholastic Book Fair! The good news is that Scholastic continues to hold Book Fairs at schools throughout the country and the world. And if you’re still a fan today, check out the new Scholastic Book Fairs fan page on Facebook and catch all Fairs related tweets on its new Twitter account.

To tell you more about what’s new at Fairs and how books are selected, Anne Lee, Scholastic Book Fairs Vice President of Sales Planning and Business Development, is going to share with you some behind-the-scenes tidbits.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYGjnBgC%5D

Previously On Our Minds:

* What were your favorite books from school?
* Beyond the Book
* Back to School with 5 Questions: Reading Tips

Beyond the Book

When you have passion for something, you want to engage in everything having to do with that something, whether it’s a a TV show, movie, or book. And around here…especially if it’s a book.

I’ve stumbled across a couple of fun web sites to sustain your latest or favorite book obsession. The first one is Google Lit Trips (this requires you to download Google Earth if you haven’t already). With GLT you can map out the journey described in a book. Imagine following Kerouac on the road, or tracing Heathcliff’s path across the moor. The site is designed for classroom use, but if you want to mark the way in Make Way for Ducklings, go for it!

The other site is all about characters. Character Scrapbook on Scholastic.com let’s you pick a book and then using context clues, physical descriptions, and any other textual hints, it creates a rendering of your favorite character. I can’t wait to see if Peeta is as handsome as I think he is.

Once you map out the where of your book and the who of your book, what’s next? This is a little extreme, but how about, oh, a literary tattoo? Now I’m not suggesting that anyone do this, but really, what better way to show your passion for Nabakov?

SCHL Earnings – First Quarter, FY 2010

We announced our first-quarter earnings for fiscal year 2010 this morning, and the year is off to a solid start, with a 14% rise in revenue to $315.6 million for the quarter.

The news reflects higher sales of educational technology like READ 180 and System 44 to schools, and of children’s books in retail channels (thanks in part to the new paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the launch of the fifth title in The 39 Clues® series, and the bestselling The Hunger Games).

Here’s a sampling of the media coverage on the announcement:

From Reuters: Stronger results reflected higher sales of educational technology to schools and of children’s books in retail channels during the quarter, the company said in a statement.

From Publishers Weekly: Scholastic Has Strong First Quarter…Chairman Dick Robinson said the results keep the publisher on track to achieve “significantly higher” earnings for the full year.

Visit Google News for more.

Me? A mentor?

So, I’m going to be mentoring some 7th-graders at a school in Brooklyn this year, and I have to say it’s got me a little nervous…

Before I explain, let’s back up for a sec:

Scholastic did something special last week for a new charter school in one of the grittier sections of Brooklyn. This school, The Eagle Academy for Young Men, (you might have read my post about it before) had done some remarkable things in its first year last year, and it’s mission of making literacy central to every child’s education was very much in line with our goals at Scholastic.

We made a book donation to the school’s nearly-bare school library, and a group of employees (me included) committed to helping implement a new literacy mentoring program for the 7th-graders at the school. What we’re doing is starting the first-ever “Scholastic R.E.A.L.” program in a New York City school. “Scholastic R.E.A.L.” is a brand new program from Scholastic that gives schools the tools they need to create a mentoring program that inspires children to make reading a part of their lives forever.

Check out this story that aired on Friday on WABC here in New York about our program:So what’s happening is this: Once a month, I’ll be visiting a 7th-grade classroom at Eagle Academy, reading to the students from various books, talking to them about school, life, or whatever else comes up, giving the kids books to take home, and trying to show the boys at the school that “real life men read.”

Yeah, I know. It’s a lot of pressure. That’s what’s got me nervous.

Aren’t 7th grade boys a tough crowd? Are they going to listen to me? Are their eyes just going to glaze over when I start asking them about what books they’re reading? Are they going to boo me right out of the building when I try to read to them?

Deep down I know it’s going to go fine — and between the tools and tips the program provides and the support of my coworkers, I’ll have plenty of ideas.

But still… Me inspire someone? I hope I can.

I’ll let you know how my first visit goes in a few weeks

Previously On Our Minds:

*Thoughts on teaching global awareness
*What kinds of books do boys like?

Reading Roundup from San Antonio

Rosie Castro, mother of Mayor Julián Castro, receives a basket filled with children’s books for the Mayor’s baby. She is pictured here with Scholastic family members Nelson Hitchcock, SVP Corporate Marketing, and Becky Barrera, Literacy Ambassador.

What do the city of San Antonio and Scholastic have in common? A love for reading! (That wasn’t too vague to guess was it? I have so much faith in OOM readers!)

I do have a special announcement to make. Today, the city of San Antonio honored Scholastic with its 2009 Literacy Organization of the Year Award. We feel very fortunate to have received this award, recognizing our dedication and work to raising the literacy rate in San Antonio.

Remember when we announced our partnership with the San Antonio Public Library, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, local community groups and local leaders to gets kids excited about reading and to help families create literacy-rich environments at home? Well, a lot has happened since then! We’ve donated more than 30,000 books to children throughout the city and we’ve made 10,000 new friends through caravan events.

This past year in San Antonio, we established the literacy campaign Leer da Poder (Reading Empowers) to raise awareness about how important it is to foster a child’s love for reading at a young age. A major part of Leer da Poder is the Lee y seras (Read and You Will Be) program that provides tips and resources to parents and caregivers on making reading a part of everyday moments.

For those of you who live in San Antonio, you may have seen (or visited!) one of our Lee y seras caravans that brings family reading workshops, literacy games and early childhood activities to communities throughout the city. The caravan will be making more visits to local libraries, schools and organizations this fall. So be sure to stop by, and say hi, because we couldn’t have made such strides without the engaged community of San Antonio.

Previously On Our Minds:

* Learning about Hispanic Heritage Month
* Empowering readers in San Antonio
* chameleon kids