• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

The Cybils shortlists…

have started to roll in. No, not from my panel (middle grade/young adult nonfiction) just yet — we have a new deadline of Saturday. But here are the earlybirds:

2007 Fiction Picture Books Finalists

2007 Poetry Finalists

2007 Middle Grade Fiction Finalists

2007 Science Fiction & Fantasy Finalists

Not too contemporary, I hope

My father sent me this article from last weekend’s Telegraph, from which this excerpt:

Paddington Bear is to face his most terrifying adventure yet; a police interrogation over his immigration status.

A new Paddington novel, released to mark the 50th anniversary of his debut, is to be published next June.

Famously, the young bear was a stowaway on a ship from Peru; and, lacking the appropriate identity papers, he is arrested and interviewed by the police about his right to stay in England.

Michael Bond’s Paddington books have sold more than 30 million copies in 30 languages since the marmalade-loving ursine first appeared in A Bear Called Paddington, half a century ago. However, this will be the first new novel since Paddington Takes The Test in 1979.

It is understood that Mr Bond, now 83, was reluctant to write a new novel without first settling on a storyline that updated the Paddington oeuvre into a strong contemporary setting.

Canadians in particular might be forgiven for being rather pessimistic about the prospect of Paddington in a strong contemporary setting, which lately has come to mean fatal Tasering at the airport.

Safe travels, Paddington.

List of Cybils nominees for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

Nominations for the 2007 Cybils awards closed last Wednesday (don’t say I didn’t warn you). So here’s the list of nominated titles in the Middle Grade/Young Adult nonfiction category. All of the Amazon.com and BookSense links Cybils-affiliated and provide a small commission to the Cybils to help pay for (modest) prizes.

1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange
National Geographic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Across the Wide Ocean: The Why, How, and Where of Navigation for Humans and Animals at Sea by Karen Romano Young
Harper Collins (Greenwillow)
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60’s by Laban Carrick Hill
Little, Brown Young Readers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make It Bad by Mark Gonyea
Henry Holt and Co.
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, compiled by Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Philomel
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Astrobiology (from the Cool Science series) by Fred Bortz
Lerner
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Black and White Airmen: Their True History by John Fleischman
Houghton Mifflin
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
HarperCollins
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
HarperCollins
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered!: Unscrambling the Clues by Lowell Dingus, Rodolfo A. Coria, and Luis M. Chiappe
Twenty-First Century Books
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Face to Face with Grizzlies (from the Face to Face with Animals series) by Joel Sartore
National Geographic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

From Slave to Superstar of the Wild West: The Awesome Story of Jim Beckwourth by Tom DeMund
Legends of the West Publishing
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
Delacorte
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Halloween Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie Old
Albert Whitman
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle
Calkins Creek (Boyd Mills)
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Let’s Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking by Deanna Staffo
Lobster Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Marie Curie (volume 4 in the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull
Viking Juvenile
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail by Danica McKellar
Hudson Street Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog by Becky Hall
Albert Whitman & Company
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism by Ann Bausum
National Geographic Children’s Books
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

My Feet Aren’t Ugly by Debra Beck
Beaufort Books
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Ox, House, Stick: The Story of Our Alphabet by Don Robb
Charlesbridge
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! by Adrian Dingle, with illustrations by Simon Dasher
Kingfisher
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials by Sneed B. Collard
Darby Creek Publishers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Real Benedict Arnold by Jim Murphy
Clarion (Houghton Mifflin)
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Red: The Next Generation of American Writers — Teenage Girls — On What Fires Up Their Lives Today edited by Amy Goldwasser
Hudson Street Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor and Christos Nicola
Kar-Ben Publishing
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Sneeze! by Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel
Charlesbridge
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter by Katherine Kirkpatrick
Holiday House
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Social Climber’s Guide to High School: A tongue-in-cheek handbook by Robyn Schneider
Simon Pulse
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Superfood or Superthreat: The Issue of Genetically Engineered Food by Kathlyn Gay
Enslow Publishers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Titanic: An Interactive History Adventure by Bob Temple
Capstone Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin
Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Ultimate Interactive Atlas of the World by Elaine Jackson et al.
Scholastic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimmer
Calkins Creek (Boyd Mills
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Whale Scientists: Solving the Mystery of Whale Strandings by Fran Hodgkins
Houghton Mifflin
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

What’s Eating You?: Parasites — The Inside Story by Nicola Davies
Candlewick
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman
Clarion
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Wildly Romantic: The English Romantic Poets: The Mad, the Bad, and the Dangerous by Catherine M. Andronik
Henry Holt
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World
by Marc Aronson and John W. Glenn
National Geographic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music that Changed the World by Bob Spitz
Little, Brown Young Readers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

You Can Write a Story: A Story-Writing Recipe for Kids by Lisa Bullard
Two-Can Publishing, Inc.
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The rest of the nominees in the other categories are here. Happy reading!

One more day

to submit your Cybils nominations for your favorite children’s books of 2007. You can nominate one title in each category, including Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction. And then you have the rest of the day free to truss the turkey and pie the pumpkin…

Figuring out if Cybils-nominated titles are child-friendly

Over at the Cybils blog, Cybils co-founder Kelly Herold wrote a post earlier this week, “Who Put the Kid in Kid-friendly?“:

When [Cybils co-founder] Anne and I led a panel session on the Cybils at the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference this [past] weekend in Chicago, one theme in particular kept popping up during discussions: How do we decide if a book is child-friendly or not?

This is an important question for the ninety panelists and judges evaluating the hundreds of children’s and YA books nominated this year. One of our main goals is to find quality books children will love. In other words, we’re looking for well written, intelligent, and kid-friendly titles.

But how do we — a group of 88 adults and 2 [3?] teens — decide what is child friendly? What are our criteria? Will we know child-friendly when we see it?

Tell us what you think. How does an adult reader recognize a child-friendly book? What are your tell-tale signs of a fun and compelling read? Feel free to answer in the comments or on your own blog.

One of the reasons I was eager to participate in the Cybils again this year is that my kids had so much fun with all of the poetry books that arrived last year. With yet another package slip from Canada Post in the mailbox requiring a trip to the post office to pick up a brown box or padded envelope, the kids started squealing, “It’s just like Christmas!”

My simple answer for how I recognize a child-friendly book is that my kids enjoy that particular book. And I don’t expect all three kids — a ten-year-old girl who prefers historical fiction and stories about horses, an eight-and-a-half-year-old boy who likes best Asterix and how-to manuals, and an almost seven-year-old who enjoys stories about horses, pioneers, and how-to manuals — to enjoy the same books, either. One out of three is good enough for me, provided that that one child thinks the world of that one book.

Last year, the easiest way to find which books the kids really liked was to search their beds. The books they didn’t like — that didn’t catch the kids’ interests or left them cold — stayed in the designated “Cybils piles” in the living room. The books the kids enjoyed were discovered in their respective beds, under pillows and stuffed animals and on top of quilts, and with bookmarks (sometimes just torn slips of paper) between the pages.

This year, with middle grade and young adult nonfiction on my plate, it won’t be quite as easy for me to read all the books with my children, since some titles will certainly be too advanced in language or emotion (or both) for them, at least for the boys whose combined age is 15; often, I’ll use one book on a subject for Laura and something simpler, usually a picture book, for the boys. From all the review’s I’ve read of Grief Girl, Erin Vincent’s memoir about her adolescence following the death of her parents in a traffic accident more than 20 years ago when she was 14, it seems the sort of book I would gladly give Laura in a few years, but not now at age 10.

But even with some books meant for older readers, the kids in general and Davy (not quite seven) in particular have made their way by looking at the pictures and reading, or having me read aloud, the captions. And after all the books we’ve read together, I have a pretty good idea what their thoughts and tastes will be in a few years, which books will be worth keeping, and even adding to our home school studies. As home schoolers, too, we have the luxury of adding any books that arrive to our late autumn/early winter curriculum, or just to our afternoon and bedtime readalouds. We can set aside for the moment Farmer Boy or our study of Lewis & Clark, to spend a few afternoons and evenings reading about trash, dinosaur eggs, and James Beckwourth.

One thing I found interesting last year was how some of the titles that tried too hard to appeal, and be appealing, to kids — whether they are “educational” (a definite concern in this particular category, where a lot of the titles are purchased by libraries rather than individuals and many tend to be the kind of book children use “just for reports”) or simply (and sometimes scatalogically) underestimate children’s senses of humor and sophistication and awareness of what’s clever were among those that did not make it to kids’ favorites lists. Which is why, last year, Adam Rex’s Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich — a true Halloween delight, by the way, which you still have time to order from your favorite bookseller or via interlibrary loan — made a considerably larger impression on the assembled Farm School children than, say, Hey There, Stink Bug!

* * *

By the way, speaking of children and nonfiction, don’t miss author Marc Aronson‘s current post, “I Want to Be a Historian” at his blog Nonfiction Matters on the subject, or the conversation to which he refers over at Alison Morris‘s ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog, with her latest post, “Who’s Borrowing? Who’s Buying?”.

Time to nominate your favorite children’s books of the year

over at the Cybils. The nomination period began on Monday (October 1st), and runs through Wednesday, November 21st.

You can nominate your favorite children’s books published in 2007 in the following eight categories:

Poetry
Nonfiction Picture Books
Fiction Picture Books
Middle Grade and Young Adult Nonfiction
Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Fantasy/Science Fiction
Graphic Novels

Just click on the appropriate category link above and leave your nomination in the comments. Just remember, please: nominate only one book in each category, and make sure the title hasn’t already been listed.

Gearing up for the Cybils

As I wrote last week, the Cybils are back, the Cybils are back!

I’m delighted to be on the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction committee, wrangled and organized by Jen Robinson, on the nominating panel along with

Mindy at Proper Noun Dot Net
Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti
KT Horning at Worth the Trip
Vivian at HipWriterMama

Following up later will be the Judging Panel, comprised of

Tracy Chrenka at Talking in the Library
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Camille Powell at Book Moot
Alice Herold at Big A little a
Jennie Rothschild at Biblio File

As a reminder about how wonderful this category is, last year’s winner was

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman

and the rest of the short list included

Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman
Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life by Alan Wolf
Isaac Newton by Kathleen Krull (from her Giants of Science series)

For information on all of the other categories, including poetry (which has a fond place in my heart, and where I see Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader and Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children are holding down the fort!) and interviews with various participants, head over to the Cybils blog.

Nominations in all categories open on Monday, October 1st, so put your thinking caps on. The categories include picture books (fiction), picture books (nonfiction), poetry, middle grade & young adult nonfiction, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, graphic novels, and fantasy & science fiction.

A final note: I usually include links from Amazon.com when I write about books, not because I think that’s where you should buy your books, but because their listings seem to be the most comprehensive of the ones online, more so than the wonderful Powells which continues to be a dandy place to buy books in the US and the terrific Chinaberry which is thorough but highly selective (not a bad thing at all), and more so even than Amazon.ca, whose website is a shadow of its American self. Amazon.com’s “Search Inside this Book” feature is pretty nifty, too, especially for those of us living in the back of beyond, far from any bookstores, independent, big box/chain or otherwise. Well, as long as we’re not limping along with dial-up service.