News & information for the community of SLJ reviewers. 
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Finally! The SLJ reviewer website is up and running. It's chock-full of resources, like helpful guidelines on writing and reviewing, training videos, and an interactive forum to chat with other reviewers. Check it out!

The SLJ Reviewer Connection 
May 2015   |  Building a stronger community for reviewers

I am positively thrilled to announce that the SLJ reviewer website is live and ready for you. Here you'll find sections devoted to writing and crafting a review, with tips on style, grammar, and format; posts about the nitty-gritty details of evaluating various types of literature for children and teens; links to online articles and blog posts from our peers in the library world and publishing industry; and training videos—with more resources scheduled to be added over the next few months. 

In a few recent posts, Mahnaz discusses "The Eye-Opening World of Children's and YA Nonfiction," Shelley details her recent talk at a local chapter of REFORMA, and I give some tips about "Understanding Art in Picture Books." 

You'll be able to see most of the blog content by simply going to the site, but the real fun stuff is in the Forum. In that private, reviewers- and editors-only section, you can introduce yourself, chat about great books you're reading, and ask for peer support. Details below on how to register and get the most from the Forum.  

When you've had a chance to check it all out, we'd love to hear from you. What are we missing? What resources, information, support, links would you like to see on this site? And stay tuned for information on our next reviewer webcast...

Happy Reading (and Exploring!),
Kiera Parrott
Editor, SLJ reviews

Using the Forum on SLJ Reviewer Central

To get the most out of the new reviewer site, be sure to register for the forum. You'll be asked to select a username and enter your email address. 

You'll then be emailed a password. Use your username and password to log in. 

When you log in for the first time, you'll probably want to go into your profile and choose a new password.

To do this, click on your username at the very top-right corner and select Edit My Profile. 

Scroll down to where it says New Password. You'll have to enter your new password twice. Make sure you choose something you'll remember. 

Once you're in your profile, you can also upload a photo or avatar. 

Now you have full access to all of the content on SLJ Reviewer Central, including the forums. You'll see that so far there are four main categories: Introduce Yourself, Revew Advice, Book Chatter, and Books Seeking Reviewers.
You'll also see that all of them are preceded by the word private. That simply indicates that anyone not signed in cannot see those forums. But if you are signed in, you are welcome and encouraged to read them, respond, and add your own topics. 

In Introduce Yourself, you can do just that and meet some of the other reviewers. Review Advice is a peer-to-peer forum for reviewers seeking advice and support from one another. Book Chatter is a free-flowing book discussion forum. And Books Seeking Reviewers is the place where the editors can put out open calls for reviewers on particular titles. 

Play around, introduce yourself, and let us know if you have any questions. Have fun!

Our First Webcast!

If you missed our first webcast or were unable to attend it live, it's now archived on the Training Videos section of the new website and on YouTube for the whole wide world to enjoy.

You'll notice that we had a few technical difficulties (the proper slides weren't always showing and were rather tiny). But we've since worked out most of the bugs and will be doing follow-up webcasts in the next few months. 

As this one was a basic primer on general reviewing, we'd like to dig in deeper into evaluating specific kinds of literature—like picture books, graphic novels, nonfiction, and YA. Have an idea for a webcast? Let us know.

Web Reads:

Our friend Travis Jonker, blogger behind "100 Scope Notes," has a super fun new game that will challenge both your kid lit and social media savvy.  "And You Shall Know Me By My Twitter Bio" asks readers to guess the famous author simply by clues in their Twitter profile. How many did you guess correctly?

If you love Sarah Dessen, work with teens, or were a teen girl at some point, Shelley recommends this very personal and affecting blog post by Sarah Dessen

What We're Reading...

Luann: It seems like I've been at it for a while, but I am deep into M.T. Anderson's Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. What a book!

Kiera: I'm reading Icebreaker by Lian Tanner, which comes out in August. What I'm loving is that it's a high-octane dystopian adventure with some really dark themes...but for middle graders. We see tons of these sorts of titles in the YA space, but so rarely for readers in the upper elementary range. It's incredibly engaging so far and richly described. 

Mahnaz: By chance, I happened to come across Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky's Toys Meet Snow, a stellar picture book featuring characters that this author-illustrator team first introduced in a series of chapter books. I spent a truly enchanting Sunday afternoon diving into these chapter books—Toys Go Out, Toy Dance Party, and Toys Come Home—which detail the adventures of the aptly named StingRay, a plush sting ray; Lumphy the stuffed buffalo; and Plastic the rubber ball. What do I love most about the toy books? Beyond the excellent wordplay and the hilarious tone, what really makes these titles special is that they aren’t afraid to confront the darkness. There are some bittersweet moments, which refreshingly Jenkins doesn’t temper; she covers death and loss, and even existentialism, never talking down or patronizing her young readers.

Shelley: I read Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez (Carolrhoda, Sept. 2015) about a young Mexican American young woman who falls in love with a young African American young man in 1937 Texas. Sexual and physical abuse, racism, and family loyalty are just some of the things keeping them apart. Readers know from the get-go that the largest U.S. school disaster to-date is looming, and the impending doom is heartrending. The Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berry (Harlequin Teen, June 2015) was a nice contrast. Pagan Jones is Hollywood teen star in 1961 who has fallen from grace ever since she accidentally killed her family while drunk. Released early from juvie by a mysterious studio exec, she’s recruited to star in a movie filming in Berlin, right before the Wall is erected. I felt like I was in the middle of a fun Hollywood caper with fast-talking actors and nefarious double agents. It had some heft, too, as Pagan deals with the grief and guilt of her role in her family’s death.

I was raised in moist New England so never thought much about rainmakers. I certainly never took the idea of them seriously. After reading Larry Dane Brimmer’s The Rain Wizard (Calkins Creek, Sept. 2015), which examines the life and work of the legendary, and seemingly successful, rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield (who some say was responsible for the 1916 San Diego floods), I’m no longer sure what to think. Was it quackery? Tomfoolery? The book is absolutely fascinating—about the man, the myth, and that period in our history—a time when we started to believe that  anything was possible.   
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