Monday, October 16, 2017

New in Children's Lit: The Kid Lit Exchange Network

Read Review and Share with Kid Lit Exchange

Readers, today I want to introduce you to a network of readers that I am so proud to be a part of. Kid Lit Exchange launched over the summer and when I read about Kate's mission to put more children's lit into the hands of reviewers I was instantly on board. Members of the KLE network work to spread the love of kid lit by reviewing upcoming & recently released titles and the readers who are part of the network are so enthusiastic about children's literature that it makes my heart happy. Kate works so, so hard to make this network run smoothly (and simultaneously is a devoted mother, caretaker, wife, dog mom, and enthusiastic librarian) and I am so grateful for her brilliant ideas. When I launched the DBC, Kate and I had some long talks about how to integrate these new ventures into our already-busy lives, and she has been a wonderful source of wisdom and sanity for me throughout the process of building the DBC. I am so excited to have her and Laura here today to give you the full overview of the KLE!

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With over 140 members and growing, Kid Lit Exchange is a powerful network of librarians, teachers and parents getting the word out about great books for kids of all ages. The idea is simple: educators and parents share books with each other and give honest reviews on social media to help promote a love of reading.

Join us in a conversation with Kid Lit Exchange founder Kate Olson and Kid Lit Exchange Leadership Team member Laura Gardner - both school librarians and avid readers of kid lit!

Laura: Let’s start simple: How does Kid Lit Exchange work?

Kate: Okay! Here is the simplified version of the process: a book is shared with me from an author, publisher or another reviewer. I post it on our Instagram account (@kidlitexchange) showing the book cover and summary and sharing the genre. Reviewers in our network then request it on that post, and then the magic begins! The book is added to our gigantic Google Sheets database by our wonderful database team, and the book is then shipped to the first reviewer. The reviewer reads it, writes an honest and constructive review of at least 100 words and posts that review on Instagram and Goodreads (and maybe also their blog, Facebook, Amazon, etc). Then they look in the database for the next reviewer and mail it on. And repeat! This has gotten a LOT bigger now, with 5 additional book shippers added!

Laura: How did you come up with the idea for Kid Lit Exchange?

Kate: Honestly, this was one of those “pondering while making a snack for my daughter” ideas that was brought about after I requested to join a middle grade book/ARC sharing group on Twitter and was told there was no room available…….I had no idea what to do next, and was a little let down since I had so many ARCs of my own to share, so I decided to start my own that had no member limits! I also wanted it to include ALL of KidLit, since I am PK-12 school librarian and read widely in all of these age groups and genres. In addition, I wanted to help reviewers and readers who don’t have access on their own to galleys. (ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy, or galley -  a version of a book that is provided to reviewers prior to publication date. These copies can not be sold or added to library collections, so are perfect for sharing with additional reviewers to get more coverage for a book.)

Laura: I love how Kid Lit Exchange reviewers aren’t just librarians and classroom teachers. Can you share more about why you decided to open this up to parents, as well?

Kate: If you think about who has purchasing power for children’s book, I would rank them from librarian with MOST, and then parents! Teachers definitely have power, but not necessarily funds. Parents are the ones who actually buy books for their homes and are the gatekeepers for home libraries. What better profile, then, for book reviewers of this genre? In addition, some of our reviewers aren’t even parents, but are adults who are avid readers of YA titles. So many adults read and buy YA! Their voices matter too.

Laura: What are your goals with Kid Lit Exchange?

Kate: That’s a big question! And a question that I’m honestly still trying to answer myself. My original goal was to get ARCs into the hands of readers who normally aren’t able to get access to them AND get more reviews for kidlit titles. However, the goal is definitely expanding now! I would love for Kid Lit Exchange to become a go-to source for publishers and authors as they seek to gain honest and constructive reviews for their forthcoming titles as well as a platform for reviewers to share their reviews. We plan to feature a review for each title on our website to help reviewers gain exposure as well.

Laura: Kid Lit Exchange has only existed since early July 2017 and it’s already grown so rapidly with over 130 reviewers and 200+ reviews (and growing by the minute) ; what’s that been like?

Kate: It has been CRAZY! Crazy good, but pretty overwhelming! It started as a casual little thing and then totally blew up. I have definitely learned a lot of lessons about working with a force of volunteers (people are VERY quick to sign up, but not always very excited about follow-through) and that delegation is imperative for growth. Thanks to Madeleine from Top Shelf Text for reminding me of that! If I let it, running KLE could quickly become a full-time job…..but of course it can’t be since I already have one of those! Oh, and KLE is an unpaid hobby that actually COSTS me a ton of money. I do it because I am passionate about the project, but can not let it overwhelm my life. That’s where the leadership team comes in to help!

Laura: Well I for one love reviewing for Kid Lit Exchange; it’s a fun way to get early access to new books, meet fabulous IG reading friends and spread the word about awesome books for kids! Thank you so much for starting it!

Kate Olson is a PK-12 librarian in a small rural school district in Wisconsin, as well as a reviewer for School Library Journal and founder of Kid Lit Exchange. She lives on the top of a giant hill in the middle of nowhere with her husband, 3 feisty children, and dogs named Max and Booker. She can be found on her blog The Loud Library Lady and on Instagram as @theloudlibrarylady and Twitter as @theloud_library.

Laura Gardner, a National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, is Teacher Librarian at a large middle school in Massachusetts and reviews books for School Library Journal and Kid Lit Exchange. She lives near the coast of Massachusetts with her husband and two kids. Laura was awarded the School Library Journal (SLJ) School Librarian of the Year Co-finalist Award in 2016. She is on Twitter and Instagram as @LibrarianMsG.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reader Recommendations with Lisa Snead

Hey, readers!

Today I have another round of Reader Recommendations for you from a fellow bookworm. Lisa also inhabits the bookstagram world as @imlisaann and blogs over at Lisa Ann Reads. I'm really excited about her picks today because I haven't read a single one of them yet!

Lisa, tell us a little about yourself!

I'm an Austin, Texas transplant from the East Coast, Red Sox fan, disability rights attorney, wannabe yogi, and enthusiastic dog mom. I can almost always be found with a book in my hand. My go-to books are usually LitFic, WWII fiction, or narrative non-fiction, though I'll read almost anything. Bonus points for well-done magical realism.

Our bookish tastes totally align. Tell us some of your favorites!

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I love this book because every time I read it I find something new. There's the obvious appeal for sci-fi fans since the book follows children training for a galactic battle against an alien species coming to take over earth. Even outside of this, however, the book raises important questions of what it means to harm one person to save the many, the necessity (or not) of telling the truth to those impacted by it, and even what it means to be a child growing up in a time of war. I love that this book is being taught in the local high school curriculum here. While Ender's Game is full of buggers and blasters, don't let the word "aliens" turn you off. I'm not usually an alien fan and very picky about sci-fi, but Ender's Game is a book with cross-genre and cross-gender appeal--the aliens are just the tool to set the stage for the larger questions Card is raising. (If you absolutely love sci-fi, the rest of the series is worth a read, particularly Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead, but otherwise, I'd just stick to Ender's Game).

The March Trilogy by John Lewis

Before you judge me, this trilogy is literally the only graphic novels I can remember reading since the days of reading Archie and Jughead while waiting for my mom to finish paying for groceries. Representative John Lewis is perhaps best known for his leadership during the Civil Rights Movement, including marching with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama. March is the story of his early life and his life in the movement, culminating in that march. Interspersed within the flashback of his life are scenes from the inauguration of President Obama. Y'all--I never thought a comic book could make me cry, but here we are. I'm tearing up again just thinking about it. The novels are inspiring and more easily accessible than his actual autobiography--Walking With the Wind (which I also recommend). They're also sobering to read as current events seem more and more to remind me that this work isn't done. These are best savored--it would be easy to speed through them, but I found I got the most out of them when I made a point to read them slowly over several days.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

This recently-published memoir recounts Alexie's memories of his mother and the larger impact she had on him, his family, and the reservation where Alexie grew up. The memoir is told as an amalgam of essays and poems, with parts of the poems sung as First Nation chants. I highly recommend the audiobook--there are times Alexie is chuckling while reading, others where he can barely speak through tears. He also sings the chants he's interwoven into the poetry. This book made me laugh, tear up, and get angry at the treatment of First Nation peoples in this country.

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Not to brag too much but I have a pretty uncanny ability to predict twists in TV shows and books--it kind of annoys my boyfriend. With that said, I completely missed the twist in this book the first time I read it. The story follows a social worker as she recovers from an assault and becomes entangled with trying to discover how one of her clients became homeless, all within a world where The Great Gatsby is not a work of fiction, but rather historical fact. I couldn't put this book down and still pick it up at least once a year for a re-read. (Significant trigger warning for sexual assault.)

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Thank you Lisa for sharing these great reads with us! I've bumped at least one of these titles onto my must-read-soon list!

See any favorites above? Have a recommendation for Lisa based on these picks? Let us know!