Scholastic Kids Press Corps offers kid-friendly news on Gulf recovery efforts

Just over four months ago, the BP operated rig Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 people and dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, causing unprecedented damage to marine ecosystems. Today, the oil has stopped spewing, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps has been hard at work reporting on Gulf recovery efforts from the front-lines, and their stories can be found in a new special report. As always, the Scholastic Kids Press Corps presents news for kids, by kids, and we hope parents and teachers will find the Gulf Recovery Special Report to be a useful resource in talking to kids about the oil spill. Kids, parents, and teachers can see the recovery efforts through the eyes of the Kid Reporters as they report on how the Gulf wetlands have been affected, the tar balls that are dotting the beaches, the experts who are helping affected wildlife, as well as interviews with kids who are making a difference in their own communities. And lots, lots more.

In addition, Scholastic Book Clubs has released an “insta-book” titled Oil Spill: Disaster in the Gulf to help kids understand the events surrounding the oil spill and the road to recovery. The “insta-book,” published in just two months by the editors of Scholastic Book Clubs, details many aspects of the oil spill, from the initial blowout to the environmental damage that followed. The book also helps kids understand why this event is significant and explains what oil is used for and where it comes from. The book is now available through Scholastic Book Clubs September Lucky/Arrow flyers and in retail book stores.

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps Special Report will continue to be updated with the most recent information about recovery efforts, and if you know a kid who would make a great Kid Reporter, applications for the 2010-2011 Scholastic Kids Press Corps are now being accepted.

Previously On Our Minds:
* Haiti special report for kids, by kids
* Scholastic Kids Press Corps: now accepting applications!
* Keep Cool this Summer with the Scholastic Kids Press Corps


Mockingjay media: A roundup of coverage

Hey, remember this time last week, when none of us had read Mockingjay yet? We were still fresh-faced and innocent, debating theories about what would happen, and clueless about whether Katniss would lead the rebellion against the Capitol.

And now…most of the OOM team has finished reading it (ahem, Tyler), and we’re finally able to read some of the media coverage that started building up last week! (We wanted to avoid spoilers, you see. So even when a review said it didn’t contain any, I didn’t trust it. I’m *that* possessive about my Hunger Games trilogy.)

So here are some of the reviews, reactions, and analyses that we found spot-on, smart, and beautifully written. Enjoy!

  • Publishers Weekly (a starred review!): “a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every level.”
  • Kirkus (another starred review!): “…this is exactly the book its fans have been hoping for.”
  • USA Today: “Hope emerges from despair. Even in a dystopian future, there’s a better future.”
  • Los Angeles Times: “Unfolding in Collins’ engaging, intelligent prose and assembled into chapters that end with didn’t-see-that-coming cliffhangers, this finale is every bit the pressure cooker of its forebears.”
  • Entertainment Weekly: “Fans will be happy to hear that Mockingjay is every bit as complex and imaginative as Hunger Games and Catching Fire.”
  • The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy blog: “The Hunger Games series–like most quality books–has been about much more than simply uncovering some central secret. It’s been about characters, cliffhangers, and a cautionary message about entertainment and obedience”
  • The Christian Science Monitor: “In Katniss, Collins has crafted a heroine so fierce and tenacious that this reader will follow her anywhere.”

On Thursday, The Scholastic Store hosted an event with Suzanne Collins, and of course, we OOMers ran downstairs to get our copies stamped. (That’s my book Suzanne is stamping in the photo – twice!) It was one of those really special days here at work — everywhere I turned, I ran into someone wearing a Mockingjay pin or carrying their copy of the book. It was a constant, bright reminder that there’s a massive community of readers (like those of us who “Read Every Day.”) who love books and fight hard to ensure access to them for all.

So how was your Mockingjay experience, readers? I know there are some insightful reviews up from book bloggers, and some deep discussions happening on various forums. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

—Previously On Our Minds:
* It’s the FANS that made the Hunger Games experience truly special
* Suzanne Collins reads excerpt from Mockingjay
* 5 Questions with Suzanne Collins

Time is running out…Have you donated a book to K.I.D.S. yet? It’s easy!

We’ve got a simple way for books to get into the hands of kids who need them: become a fan of our Facebook page by clicking “Like” and we’ll donate a book on your behalf to Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) — but hurry, you only have until September 1!

As of this moment, we’re at 31,816 fans – which means 31,816 books will be delivered to kids through K.I.D.S. That’s amazing! If you’re already a fan, we can’t thank you enough and hope that you’ll share this great campaign with all of your Facebook friends so that we can get even more books to kids.

If you’re not yet a fan, what are you waiting for? Amazing discussions about books, literacy, education, libraries, and more are happening every day with our community of parents, authors, teachers, professionals, students, and book lovers. And as we prepare to celebrate our 90th anniversary, the Facebook page (and this blog!) will be your go-to resources for some incredible things we have planned. You can become a fan just by clicking the “Like” button on the Facebook box at the right side of this blog post.

How many more “likes” can we get until time runs out on September 1? If you help us out, the sky’s the limit!

—Previously On Our Minds:
* Scholastic Facebook fans help donate 30,000 books to K.I.D.S. with more on the way!
* Scholastic donates one book on behalf of each new Facebook fan
* Baton Rouge mayor declares today “Read and Rise: Stop Illiteracy Day”

Baton Rouge Mayor declares today “Read and Rise: Stop Illiteracy Day”

Today’s guest post from Teryl in Scholastic Book Fairs highlights a wonderful event in New Orleans and we just had to share this with all OOM readers…

Sunday, August 29, marks the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. Five years later, Scholastic remains a committed partner to helping rebuild Southern Louisiana schools.

One of the many ways we continue to help is through a partnership with Clear Channel Radio, which today is hosting the second annual READ AND RISE Radiothon to promote literacy and encourage listeners to make donations so that thousands of students throughout the greater New Orleans area each receive a $5 book certificate to the Scholastic Read and Rise Book Fairs this fall. At the fair, kids will get to use their certificate towards a book of their choosing; and we know that when kids choose books they want to read for fun, they are more likely to keep reading, become lifelong readers and read every day.

In addition, to support this important effort, the Mayor of Baton Rouge has officially declared today, August 26, 2010, “Read and Rise: Stop Illiteracy Day” in Baton Rouge. And we couldn’t be more proud!

You can listen to the radiothon, featuring interviews with local educators and literacy mentors, who will share personal stories about the impact reading has had on their lives and careers. For more information about the READ AND RISE Radiothon, or to help put new books in the hands of kids by sponsoring a school or making a donation, click here. The Read and Rise program is an important part of Scholastic Book Fairs’ mission to help inspire a lifelong love for reading in all kids.

Previously On Our Minds:
* Teaching kids to be the curators of their learning
* Katrina…she just won’t quit
* On all of our minds: Hurricane Gustav

All aboard – it’s another stop on The 39 Clues blog tour!

At the risk of sounding like Chandler Bing, could it be a bigger week for books? In just a few short days, the 10th and final book in the bestselling multimedia adventure series The 39 Clues will hit stores, and to celebrate, we’ve got some exclusive info for you. But first, let’s recap what we already know, shall we?

  • The 39 Clues Webcast: A LIVE WEBCAST with all seven authors of The 39 Clues is being held on August 31 at 4:00pm ET. You can find out more here! Plus, if you have a burning question about the Cahills, the authors just must answer it for you. Stop on by and submit it.
  • The 39 Clues on TV: The Cahills have hit the small screen with a nationwide television commercial campaign, airing now! You can watch it here.
  • The 39 Clues in Entertainment Weekly: All seven authors sat down for a round-robin interview last week. Check it out here!

Now, how about what we don’t yet know about The 39 Clues – and specifically, about Linda Sue Park, author of Book #9, Storm Warning?

We snagged an interview between Linda Sue Park and librarian Kathleen Gocksch from Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack, New York, where the series is “wildly popular.” Kathleen got firsthand info from the author about how it felt to contribute to the groundbreaking series, her advice for young readers, her own writing process and journey, and much more. Check it out!

Kathleen Gocksch: The 39 Clues is wildly popular in my school library in Commack, New York. My students are 3rd through 5th graders, aged 8-10. What advice would you give to them if they are thinking of a career as a writer?
Linda Sue Park: READ a lot. Read all different kinds of books, fiction in every genre, nonfiction, poetry. You might think you don’t like a certain kind of story, but here’s my rule: I’ll read ANYTHING as long as it’s good!

Write a lot. Experiment with different kinds of writing. If you like to write fantasy, try your hand at a sports story. If you keep a private journal, start a ‘swap’ journal: You write something, give it to a friend, he or she writes something—either a response to your entry, a continuation, or something of their own—and gives it back to you. And everyone who writes should try poetry—it’s the best way to learn to make every word count.

Get yourself attached to a losing sports team. Not a winning one. (I grew up a fan of the Chicago Cubs….) When you’re a fan of a losing team, you experience a continual cycle of hope and disappointment – hope and heartbreak. That’s what life as a writer is like, so you can start practicing now!

KG: How did you decide to write children’s books? Did you think of yourself as a ‘children’s book author’ or did it just happen?
LSP: In hindsight, my subconscious must have known that I wanted to write children’s books, because I have always loved reading them, even as (or maybe especially as) an adult. But my first children’s book (Seesaw Girl, published in 1999) ‘just happened’—I didn’t know what kind of story it was when I started it. It was only when I was finished that I realized I had written a middle-grade novel.

KG: What was it like to write the ninth book of the series after five other authors had put their stamp on the storyline? Was this experience more difficult than creating your own story from scratch?
LSP: In some ways it was easier in that many of the decisions had already been made for me, i.e., the main characters and their quest. But I also felt a lot of pressure because the preceding books had built up such a tremendous fan base! I didn’t want to let them down and I was anxious about making book 9 as thrilling as the others were.

KG: I noticed that there is a theme of female empowerment in Storm Warning. For example, the Madrigals are descended from a female and they take their mother’s name. Can you explain why you decided to include such strong female characters in your book?
LSP: Action-adventure stories are often dominated by males—authors, characters, readers. I knew that The 39 Clues has many girl readers and, like Jude Watson in Books 4 and 6, I wanted to give them female heroes to emulate. I also think it does the boys a lot of good to read about strong females!

KG: How has being a first-generation American influenced your writing? I read that your parents made the somewhat unusual decision to have an English-only household. Are you more observant of people’s behavior, habits, and cultural environment as a result? Does this sensitivity impact your writing?
LSP: I’ve always been interested in language and culture, and perhaps this is because of growing up with the kind of awareness unique to young people who are raised in ‘two cultures.’ I like your use of ‘sensitivity,’ as I’ve always thought of it as nosiness! I am endlessly curious about how other people live, and writing for me is a way to explore the world.

KG: Are there any similarities between your children and Amy and Dan in The 39 Clues series? In Storm Warning, Amy and Dan come to appreciate the strengths that come with each others’ very different personalities. Does that come from your own family life?
LSP: My characters are always influenced by people I know, including my family. But it’s hard for me to point out specific characteristics, in part because I often can’t remember where things come from—they’re just floating around in my mind. More importantly, every character I write about—even the ‘bad guys’—have something of ME in them. The only way I can make a character realistic is to draw from my own experiences and emotions.

KG: Do you have a separate space just for writing? What’s your routine?
LSP: I have a study where I do most of the work on my novels using a computer. For a picture book or poetry, I might sit somewhere else with paper and pen. When I’m working on fiction, I try to write at least two pages every day. Then I start the next day by revising and editing the previous day’s pages. Sometimes that means I end up throwing away the whole two pages! But that’s okay—as Thomas Edison said, it means I’m finding out what doesn’t work.

KG: I’ve noticed that you have a great online presence through your blog, website and Facebook account. How difficult and time-consuming is it to maintain these online outlets, write, and have a personal/family life?
LSP: Keeping up with all the changes in the online world is impossible for me. I decided to have a blog as long as it wouldn’t be a source of stress: I blog when I feel like it, which means very irregularly. Not the best use of a blog, but it’s my compromise. As for my Facebook fan page, my niece maintains it for me!

It’s never easy for anyone to balance work and family life, but I know how fortunate I am in having a family who has always supported me. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I don’t know who said that, but it’s true for me. I never forget that I am one of the luckiest people on the planet: Every day I get to do work that I love. I even get to call reading great books part of my ‘work’!

What do you think, OOMers? Are you getting pumped for the conclusion to The 39 Clues?

Previously On Our Minds:
* Access granted! 39 days until the final book in The 39 Clues
* Attention: Storm Warning is here
* The 39 Clues books 9 and 10 covers revealed!

You vote: Should I bring an e-book or physical book on my vacation?

On Friday night, I’ll be off to my week-long vacation overseas. While I will miss the OOM team terribly, I’m SO excited about having a chance to relax and to catch up on some reading. The only problem? I’m not sure if I should bring my e-reader or a few books. All I know is that I want to read!

The simple answer would be – bring the e-reader! I could bring a ridiculous amount of books and it wouldn’t weigh more than my flip-flops. It might even motivate me to read more, right?

Coincidentally, today’s Wall Street Journal’s piece “The ABCs of E-Reading” cites that in a survey of e-reader owners, 42% said they read more now than they did with print books. But the survey also showed that 55% of users read the same amount as before, and 2% actually read less.

What about me? I wasn’t an early adopter of e-books, but now I’m fairly obsessed with mine. Last week, I showed up sans e-reader for once at the gym and someone (whom I’ve never talked to) actually made a comment about its absence!

It’s true that I’m reading on my e-reader in all of my spare moments. But I have to say…I read about the same, and frankly, not as well! It’s hard to get into a book when I read it in short spurts (i.e. subway rides). I’m often stranded when the power runs out. I book-hop a lot on the reader so it takes longer to finish one book. And I always get distracted when I use it to browse and shop for new books. So, now it’s obvious I should bring a physical book on my trip, right? I don’t know!

Physical books could really weigh me down with all the traveling I’ve got planned – and I’m already bringing three HUGE tour books. I also can’t decide which book(s) to bring. Not to mention, what if I finish the book before the end of my trip? Then what will I read on my flight back?

So the only way out of this one is to ask YOU. OOM readers: What reading “device” should I take on my vacation? Vote between the physical book and e-reader, then I’ll take whichever gets the most recommendations. After my trip, I’ll recap my experience. You can assume that I’ll mostly be in cities, with the occasional boat ride.

The funny thing is I just got an email in my inbox with a link to The New York Times article “Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime.” Hmm, this could be a sign…

Flickr image licensed by via Creative Commons.

Previously On Our Minds:
* Reading in 3D
* I read a 150-year-old novel on my iPhone
* As readers, will ebooks change us?

It’s the FANS that made the Hunger Games experience truly special

A little more than two years ago, our colleague (and blogger-on-maternity-leave) Jen wrote a post raving about an upcoming YA title Scholastic was about to release called Hunger Games.

She was the first member of the OOM team to read it — and obviously not the last.

Over the last two years, we’ve written literally dozens of posts on Suzanne Collins’ now-iconic trilogy — Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. We’ve been to book signings, interviewed the author, given away ARCs, revealed covers and trailers, and had a ton of fun along the way.
But the most thrilling part of it all has been seeing how a true community of fans has blossomed around Katniss’ story. It’s the FANS that have taken this series to a whole ‘nother level, and have made it much more than a set of three books.
It’s about the amazing fan art so many people have created.
It’s about the unofficial book trailers some talented book-lovers have made.
It’s about people who turn the story into a homemade Hunger Games comic.
It’s about the people who host Hunger Games cake decorating contests.
It’s about a library hosting an art and fan fiction contest to engage the kids in their community.

It’s about the endless stream of tweets we have been following religiously for months. (Yes, “Mockingjay” was a trending topic in the U.S. yesterday!)

It’s about fans going out of their way to NOT spoil the ending of Mockingjay for those of us (like me!) who haven’t finished reading it yet.
THANKS to all of you for making it so awesome!
We’re wondering, what were your favorite Hunger Games blog posts, art, videos, fan fiction, contests, photos, or anything else out there on the Web that got you excited about the series?
We want to see it all!

(Photo credit: Flickr photo by rniche)