Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

African American History Month

AAHM collections

Why do we have an African American History Month (AAHM)? I’ll bet you didn’t know it was started way back in 1926 by Charles Goodson.
A month for one group? The main criticism seems to be that other groups deserve just as much respect and time in the forefront. Okay. Good. This is actually one of the things I like about AAHM. It is positive. It focuses on contributions and progress. If it gets people of all groups to recognize and point out some good stuff, all the more power to them!
The group with the biggest grievance, in my mind, is what remains of Native Americans. They were displaced, introduced to killing diseases, lied to, and forgotten. Yes, many Irish were brought to this country as indentured servants and were relegated to slums and vilified. Jewish Americans were here from the start and contributed a lot. Muslim Americans face terrifying discrimination now. We owe all these people a debt that will never be repaid.

But the fact remains that, other than Native Americans, African Americans have been treated more shabbily than any other group in the USA. Devoting 8.3% of the year to shining a light on that is really a small price to pay.

Frederick Douglass was born a slave in February 1818. When he was twelve, his owner’s wife taught him the alphabet and rudimentary reading. He continued to teach himself to read. In the next few years, he risked his life by teaching others. He escaped slavery in 1838. The rest of his long life, he spoke and wrote eloquently about his life and about slavery.

It is because of the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln that AAHM is February.
And the real point is that African Americans have made so many tremendous contributions to the building of America that those contributions can’t be separated from those of others. Hopefully, everyone knows now about Benjamin Banneker, the surveyor who set out the borders of the District of Columbia. And about Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the American Revolution. Many of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are known to every school child.

From my point of view, the really great thing about AAHM is that it often spurs publishers to premiere some wonderful books. The official designation comes from the Library of Congress, so this makes sense. To say there is a wealth of information on their website is a huge understatement. ( ) A quick search of Amazon reveals hundreds of new books in this area.

So, if you need something to read, or even to celebrate, consider celebrating our past.

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I Hate Picture Books Review

I Hate Picture BooksI Hate Picture Books
Written and illustrated by Timothy Young

Oh, the horrors of having picture books around your house! A nameless boy, surrounded by picture books, has a big problem with taking the books too literally. When he reads about a kid with a purple crayon, he draws on the wall and incurs his mother’s wrath. When he reads about the wild things, he’s angry his bedroom remains ordinary. He notes that teddy bears don’t talk and cows don’t type. Caterpillars don’t eat salami or cheese and pigeons don’t drive buses. He learns that it’s really not a good idea to eat green ham. He’s about to throw out all his picture books when he learns to control and appreciate his imagination. Young’s cartoon-like illustrations convey a vast amount of emotion and should draw kids in. Hopefully, some will learn to appreciate the books.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., March 2013 release
Picture book, Reading and imagination.
E-book, 32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4387-2

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How the Oysters Saved the Bay Review

How the Oysters Saved the BayHow the Oyster Saved the Bay
Written and illustrated by Jeff Dombeck

In a fun and colorful way, Dombeck conveys the message that ecological conservation can be as simple as helping the oysters. Two oysters, named Chester and Meredith, see that the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble and decide to clean the water. The only way the underwater grasses (submerged aquatic vegetation) will get enough light to grow is if the water is clear enough. The grasses are needed for hiding places and as food. Chester and Meredith enlist the help of all the oysters in the Bay. The illustrations are realistic and accurate as well as vibrant. He depicts numerous kinds of fish, birds, and animals. As the oysters clean the water, young children learn a lot about ecosystems and the Bay.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., March 2013 release
Picture book, Outdoors and nature.
E-book, 38 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4283-7


Wanderings – Good News and Bad News

This is an incredibly personal post, so unless you want to hear about my life, you can skip this one.

One of the great things about having a blog is that you can neglect it and no one notices. Of course, that’s also one of the bad things about it.

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly busy, which is also both good and bad. It gives me lots of material, but I have no time to write it down coherently.

I did write one entry that was, in fact, another rant – this one about grammar. I really want to keep this blog as positive as possible, so I filed that one away. It included some of my pet peeves, such as the confusion of similar words (it’s and its plus there, they’re, and their) and other misuses of the apostrophe. (One does NOT form a plural with ‘s.)

I may have mentioned before that I currently coordinate registration for our local (MD/DE/WV) region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Our 20th anniversary conference is scheduled for March 23, and the registrations are coming in hot and heavy. Our faculty is super fantastic. Details at: Good news, it’s going to be great. Bad news, lots of headaches.

I’m following the challenges leading up to the conference as posted on the region’s blog: I’m involved with the 12 X 12 picture book challenge of Julie Hedlund. I’m attempting to dust off a middle grade novel that’s been in the drawer and needs a serious re-write. I submitted a picture book for critique at the March conference. Good news, I’m getting a lot done. Bad news, it’s overwhelming.

After the March conference, Sue Peters and I will be assuming duties as Co-Regional Advisors, which means we’re already hard at work planning our fall conference for September. So many details!

In the meantime, my husband and I spent a few days in sunny Florida. He was there to cover two conferences in his own area, journalism related to housing.  Between conferences, we spent a few days just soaking up the warmth in Naples. Lunch with friends and a trip to the Naples Botanical Gardens were the highlights. I rarely listen to audio books other than during trips, but I bought an audio version of In Cold Blood for on the plane. I’m still working on it, but I’m fascinated by Capote’s style. Nonfiction novel, indeed. In Cold Blood

I will be posting some more reviews soon. I also review for a friend’s website, so she gets first crack at those reviews. Darcy Pattison ( has excellent sites geared toward grade levels. (,, etc.) So, check out Darcy’s projects and stay tuned for more reviews from yours truly both on her sites and here.

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