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 A String of Bright Lights: Great Blogs about Children's and Young Adult Literature
by Pooja Makhijani

Pooja Makhijani is the editor of Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, an anthology of essays that explores the complex ways in which race shapes American lives and families. Her first picture book, Mama's Saris, will hit bookshelves in April 2007. She maintains a frequently-updated online bibliography of South Asian literature for children and young adults.

For the past two years, I've been thinking about launching a blog. I've done the requisite preparation—created a Blogger account, found a template I like, planned out my first five posts (a welcome message; an ode to one of my favorite books, The House at Pooh Corner; a biographical profile of Dhan Gopal Mukerji, the only South Asian American to have won the Newbery Medal; a list of multicultural resources on the web; and a poem to celebrate Poetry Friday.)

So, why has it taken me so long to get this venture off the ground?

Because I can't think of a cool name for my blog.

Monica Edinger, teacher extraordinaire and a proud new blogger at educating alice, understands my difficulty; her first post, The Naming of Blogs (With Apologies to T.S. Eliot), tells us that a "blog needs a name that is particular,/A name that's peculiar, and more dignified./Else how can it keep all its links copasetic,/As well as handle the comments and cherish the tags?"

So as I continue to contemplate a witty and memorable name for my nonexistent blog, I ask you to celebrate the end of the year by joining me on a quick tour of the children's and young adult literature blogosphere. Not only do these ten blogs I selected have very awesome names, they also offer web surfers personal views, lively interviews, and reviews of oft under-reviewed books. In addition, all of these blogs are either devoted to or regularly post about multicultural literature, covering a wide range of topics, including books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia.

A Fuse #8 Production. Elizabeth Bird, Senior Librarian at New York Public Library's Donnell Central Children's Room, posts a review a day--even on Saturdays and Sundays. "Fuse," as she's known to her fans, often laments about the lack of middle-grade novels that star protagonists-of-color. She takes special care to review books that do feature such characters on her blog. And yes, Fuse is as lively and charming in person as she is online.

Chicken Spaghetti. Although Susan Thomson's blog offers readers her favorite recipe for chicken spaghetti, this chock-full-of-links blog sends up a wide variety of news and reviews, covering topics from graphic novels to children's movies. Chicken Spaghetti also has a massive blogroll (a list of links to other blogs), so it's a wonderful site from which to start exploring. (Full disclosure: I've guest-blogged on Chicken Spaghetti several times, most recently to recommend Diwali reads.)

Mitali's Fire Escape. Mitali Perkins, author of a host of books including the forthcoming middle-grade novel, Rickshaw Girl, invites readers onto her virtual fire escape to chat about "life between cultures." Perkins not only highlights multicultural books, but weighs in on cross-cultural issues in children's and teen pop culture.

cynsations. cynsations was one of the first literature blogs to which I became addicted. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog features "interviews, reading recommendations, publishing information, literacy advocacy, writer resources, and breaking news in children's and young adult literature." Her blog is a daily-updated extension of her incredible web site and regularly features insightful and entertaining interviews with both established and emerging writers and illustrators. Unfortunately, for better (for her) or worse (for us), Ms. Leitich Smith doesn't enable comments on her blog.

Big A little a. No one can round up reviews like Kelly Herold. Each week, she links to any children's literature reviews featured in a host of print publications, including Toronto's Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, and The Seattle Times. It's a great snapshot of the books which are being reviewed and which aren't. Herald is also the editor and web mistress of The Edge of the Forest, a monthly online journal devoted to children's literature.

Chasing Ray. Colleen Mondor, best known in the blogosphere as young adult literature columnist for the brilliant book blog Bookslut, also posts reviews of an eclectic selection of young adult books on her own blog, Chasing Ray. She covers a broad range of reads--from young adult books that go under noticed by the mainstream media to books for "grown ups" that she deems suitable for younger readers. If Mondor recommends a book, I usually put it on my list.

Finding Wonderland. This group blog is run by members of a West Coast writing group who meet online to support each others' writing and share their love of young adult literature. Each of the five contributors has their individual interests, and "TadMack" regularly muses on race and children's and young adult literature.

Blue Rose Girls. Another group blog, this site features posts by some of my favorite authors and illustrators: Grace Lin, Linda S. Wingerter, Libby Koponen. I visit early and often. Both Lin and her editor, Alvina Ling of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, candidly write about the issues facing multicultural authors and multicultural publishing.

Tockla's World of Children's Literature. U.K-based children's literature specialist, Laura Atkins, worked at Children's Book Press in San Francisco and was an editor at New York-based Lee & Low Books. Both houses specialize in multicultural picture books. Now pursuing her doctorate at the University of Newcastle, Atkins' research focuses on how the editorial process has affected books written by non-white authors in the United Kingdom since the 1970s. Her blog is full of gems, from posts on representations of mixed-race children in books to posts on increasing diversity within the children's publishing world. (From 2003-2005, Atkins was a contributing editor to PaperTigers; she is currently a consultant.)

American Indians in Children's Literature. Okay, although Debbie Reese's blog has a straightforward and descriptive name, this list would be incomplete if I didn't mention this not-to-be-missed blog. Reese is a Pueblo Indian and an advocate of "multiculturalism-done-right." She critically examines ways in which American Indian characters have evolved over time. In addition, she questions whether old stereotypes are being shattered and/or new ones are being created and how such cultural material affects children.

These are just a few of the blogs I visit daily (other must-reads include Book Moot, A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, Wands and Worlds) and I am discovering new blogs all the time. The children's literature blogosphere is ever-growing and becoming a influential force in the world of children's and young adult literature. Most recently, Kelly Herold and Anne Boles Levy of Book Buds Kidlit Reviews co-founded a new award for excellence in children's and young adult literature--an award bestowed by bloggers. The 2006 Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards (the "Cybils," for short) will feature awards in eight categories. "[In] keeping with the democratic and unpredictable nature of the blogosphere, anybody can nominate a book, so long as it was published in 2006 in English," according to the Cybils' press release. Shortlisted titles will be announced on January 1; winners will be announced in early-February.

*Sigh* Back to brainstorming... I've promised myself that I would dive into the blogosphere the minute I thought of a snazzy blog name. Maybe 2007 will be the year?

posted: November 2006

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