Yes, I’m a grown-up, but I’ve never given up reading books for kids and teens. After all, why would I want to stop reading some of the most heartfelt, memorable – and just plain fun! -- books being written?
Fortunately, I’ve been able to put my passion for children’s literature to good use, writing a syndicated children’s book review column for Scripps Howard News Service for nearly a quarter century. Over the years, I’ve reviewed thousands of books for kids ages infant through teen. I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing some of the best children’s book creators working today, including Newbery Medalists Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Richard Peck and Christopher Paul Curtis and Caldecott Medalists Jon Klassen, David Macaulay, Chris Van Allsburg and Jerry Pinkney.
Over the years, I also reviewed children’s books for The Washington Post, often focusing on kids’ non-fiction. And my essay on “Roller Skates,” the 1937 Newbery Medal-winning novel by Ruth Sawyer, was included “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book,” edited by children’s book expert Anita Silvey. Published in 2009, the book contains essays from people as disparate as historian David McCullough to talk show host Jay Leno.
For a long time, my column and other writing about children’s books was a delightful sidelight to my main career as a newspaper reporter. In recent years, however, I changed careers and took on a new role as a children’s & teen librarian. It wasn’t an instant change; it took me more than five years to earn the master’s in library science required to be a librarian while still working as a newspaper reporter. Yet even my long-suffering family agrees it was worth it, as I landed a dream job in the public library just three blocks from our home.
My library is unique, as it is the only small, city-run library in Maryland. As a result I have incredible freedom in both creating and executing programs and in purchasing print books, digital resources and other materials for our children’s and teen collections. One of my favorite parts of the job, though, is giving and getting suggestions from kids and their grown-ups about great children’s books for every age and stage. This two-way literary conversation is invigorating, educational and constantly entertaining.
As a librarian, I’ve also gotten involved in local and national associations focused on children’s literature. I served on the American Library Association’s 2012 Sibert Medal Committee (our winner was “Balloons Over Broadway;” the award is given for the best non-fiction book of the year for kids ages birth through age 14). In 2009, I shared the American Library Association’s John Philip Immroth Memorial Award, given for furthering intellectual freedom, with a young library patron who suggested that we create a Banned Books Club for teens.
Locally, I’m a proud member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. I served two years as the Guild’s program co-chair, persuading such children’s book luminaries as author/illustrator Mo Willems and Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz to speak to our group of children’s authors and illustrators, reviewers and librarians.
In December 2013, Scripps Howard News Service closed down after 96 years in business and my syndicated column ended. But I wasn’t about to end my career as a children’s book reviewer, and so I decided to create this blog as a way to continue to share my expertise and excitement about books for kids and teens.
On the blog, I combine my two roles of book reviewer and children’s & teen public librarian. So here you’ll find both book reviews and interviews with children’s and teen authors and illustrators. I also draw on my day-to-day library experiences of guiding young readers – and their grown-ups! -- to the best books for children and teens. I’m hoping this effort of “reviewing in the real world” will result in a dynamic, lively blog that will be an Internet destination for anyone interested in raising readers with the best children’s and teen literature.
Thanks for checking it out – I hope you become a regular reader, and I welcome your comments and suggestions.