Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Haven't Read Children of the New Forest?

Fuse 8 has a good game going.

September/October 08 Horn Book Magazine

Our September special issue on School is out, and you can view selected articles on our website. Make sure to try the quiz by Monica Edinger and Roxanne Hsu Feldman--it's harder than it looks.

I'm leaving tomorrow for Sedona to marry the other one off; I'll be sure to steer clear of the legendary cougar in the canyon. With any luck, her tired, grizzled mate will be sucked up by one of these. See you next week.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Maureen McCormick won't be seeing Tropic Thunder because she doesn't like the plotline involving an actor's bid for an Oscar by playing "Simple Jack," a--as Tropic Thunder calls it--"retard.":

I want to add my two cents to the opinions on whether it's offensive to the mentally challenged. I know Ben Stiller has said that he's making fun of actors, not people with disabilities. Still, the movie is geared toward a younger crowd and I fear a lot of those teenagers and college students will leave the theater thinking “retard” is an okay word to use.


Where to start? First, go see the movie if you want to have an opinion of it. Second, don't patronize "the younger crowd" (sounds like something Alice would say!) by assuming that they view movies as life manuals. Were big sisters the world over corrupted by how mean you could be to Jan? The assumption that "they" won't "get it" underestimates young people, prompts an impulse to control what they see/hear/read, and infantilizes the rest of us. It's a power trip.

The controversy about this movie reminds me of the worst-titled children's book ever, Someone Called Me a Retard Today . . . and My Heart Felt Sad. While it's difficult to argue with the book's theme--name-calling is hurtful--it missed the point that "retard" is an insult thrown around promiscuously, so much so that the term "mentally retarded" is no longer used to describe those individuals who actually have mental disabilities, a point excellently made by YouTube's Retarded Policeman and his brother.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

If the substitution is that simple, there's something wrong with the sentence.

Another one from the Guardian, about a little furor surrounding Jacqueline Wilson's latest, My Sister Jodie:

"The word 'twat' was used in context. It was meant to be a nasty word on purpose, because this is a nasty character," said a spokesperson for Random House. "However, Jacqueline doesn't want to offend her readers or her readers' parents, so when the book comes to be reprinted the word will be replaced with twit."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fightin' Words or the Simple Truth?

The Guardian's Derek Draper on Meghan McCain's new picture book:

It's easy for us Brits to assume that such sentimental spin will backfire but, having lived in the US for three years, I can assure you that Americans are made of gooier stuff.

Is Passion Old-Fashioned?

Over on the PUBYAC listserv, Jan Hanson of the Longview Public Library in Washington is looking for it: "A HS teacher called and is asking for ideas of books that illustrate a teen with passion, as in "a passion for dancing" or a "passion for football."

I love this query; it's requests like these that make us think about what books for kids do and don't do. Off the top of my head I think of that Joan Bauer book about a girl with a passion for shoe-selling, Hope Was Here Rules of the Road, and several of Chris Crutcher's early books feature teens with a passion for various sports. Oh, and that extremely high-minded but badly dated Madeleine L'Engle book about a fledgling actress, The Joys of Love. What else? Generalizing wildly, too often it seems that intense interest in something that isn't another person is viewed in YA books as dysfunctional or simply as a way to i. d. a character; i.e. "Jane loves music," but do we ever see her practice?

P.S. I put Harriet the Spy in the tags because she's the most passionate person I know in children's books, plus I've just started listening to Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost, an adult mystery that begins, anyway, with a very Harriet-like third-grader.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How Green Are Its Pocketses

PW's Rick Simonson has some uncomfortable questions for Chelsea Green, the publisher who is wrapping itself in virtue and giving Amazon first dibs on its new Obama book at the same time. Fuse #8 has been hosting a serendipitous discussion on the propensity of book blogs to link to you-know who.

I'm so old I remember when Amazon was cool.

I love them

Semicolons, that is. I am less taken with apostrophe-s, but that's what Chicago tells us to do, along with B.C.E., usage of which just makes me feel old if still A.D. (.)

Apropos of nothing, I have drops in my eyes from an opthamology exam this morning and am thinking about an incredibly lame Betty Cavanna novel where the heroine's sweet but plain best friend finally gets a date only because the guy who's askin' has just been to the eye doctor and can't see clearly. Hilarious, right?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Listen to the Children When They Are Holding Sharp Sticks!

The listservs are ablaze this morning with talk about a children's knitting club being banned from the library. I'm guessing the ban will be lifted by the end of the day; meanwhile, I sure wish I could knit--it would be great to make myself useful while watching the synchronized diving, and, since we're currently reviewing Christmas and other winter holiday books, I'm lusting for a nice black cashmere scarf. (Um, is cashmere knit?)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Listen to the children!

Maybe Sherry Jones, whose The Jewel of Medina was cancelled by Ballantine for fear of Muslim terrorist rage, was just working with the wrong division of Random House. The copyright page of each fall 08 Random House ARC I've received states "Random House Children's Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Notes, August 08

We've just emailed the latest issue of Notes from the Horn Book, which this month covers new books about school, nature study and space; some good recent chapter books, and five writers' (and an editor's) own summer reading choices. Sign up now!

And, especially for teachers, this issue provides a link to TeachingBooks.net that gives free access to Notes-related content (curricular connections, author videos, etc.) on their site. Lemme know how this works out for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Moore being Moore"

I wish I had thought of this earlier, but we published a far more perceptive account of ACM and her little ways than did that upstart New Yorker. Read Barbara Bader's take here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Breaking Dawn Breakdown

Gail Gauthier is interesting on the new Stephenie Meyer (which I haven't read yet as I am only halfway through New Moon).

Friday, August 08, 2008

Yikes

Liz B. pointed me toward this PW essay on the thin line between reader's advisory work and putting limitations on library access for kids. It gives me the willies.

Is it right for me to discourage a kid’s reading choice? No. But is it right for me to give a kid a book that I think is probably not appropriate? At the risk of sounding censorship alarms, or being seen as an “uncool” librarian, my answer is again, No. I just don’t feel comfortable giving a sixth-grader one of these books—all popular titles that, in my library, are shelved “over there” in the teen area, through the door and around the corner from the children’s room.

I don't see how these positions (not discouraging a reading choice and not giving a kid an inappropriate book) are reconcilable. I recognize that the author recognizes that the question is a difficult one, and I agree that some books are too mature for some kids. But I think she errs on the side of caution where I would rather give the kid what she asks for (an eleven-year-old wanting Twilight is an example she cites), hold my breath, and hope for the best. What we don't know from the essay is how easily kids are allowed to dodge the librarian's best intentions entirely and simply go to the YA or adult books by themselves. That would have been my own strategy as a sixth-grader, particularly if I had had a previous encounter with a librarian that made me feel snooped upon or deflected. While I hate librarians who don't move out from behind the desk, there's a little too much leading patrons by the hand going on here.

What the essay does not take up--and what so few arguments for restricting access do--is what she thinks is going to happen if a child reads a book he or she "is not ready for." Really, what? Sexual thoughts, anxiety, nightmares? Maybe, but by no means necessarily--and, while I hate to quote Dick Cheney, so what? Kids have sexual thoughts, anxieties and nightmares anyway. Normal, healthy kids. And as Liz points out, what's more likely is that a kid simply will breeze past what she doesn't understand: "Deenie had masturbation? As a kid, I had no idea."

Just how old IS Ellie Berger?

As quoted in the Wall Street Journal:

"There has been a real revolution" in books that "have more kid appeal," especially when it comes to boys, says Ellie Berger, who oversees Scholastic's trade division. "It's a shift away from the drier books we all grew up with."


And I would love to know whose ass this statistic was pulled out of:

Last year, U.S. publishers released 261 new works of juvenile fiction aimed at boys, more than twice the number put out in 2003, according to Bowker's Books in Print database. There were 20 nonfiction entries for boys, compared with just four in 2003.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Winnie lives

In my new fascination with readers-as-fans, I've been visiting fanfiction.net, where readers become writers, choosing their own adventures for Harry, Hermione, and Bella (is that name an hommage to Mr. Lugosi?). While the site has more than 350,000 Harry Potter stories and 32,000 Twilights, who would have thought that Tuck Everlasting would have 182?

Here's a taste:

"Fuck that Amy, Give me the bottle." Beatrice had just downed her third shot that night and was reaching for the entire bottle of Jack Daniels as her drunk friends looked on, laughing their heads off. Her alcoholism had just begun that past month. It was two twenty am and she was already high, getting drunker by the second.

She was a victim of unrequited love.

She had fallen into a downward spiral of depression, and only one man could pull her out.

-

Winifred Foster went to work every morning, no matter how hungover she was from the previous night. 7:00am at the local diner, close to where the spring used to be. She was now 107 years old. But to her 'friends' and colleagues, she was 17 year old Beatrice Allen, new to the town of Treegap since a year ago, when she had grown tired of Tokyo. Winnie had dyed her naturally chocolate hair black, and bought some hazel contact lenses to hide her vibrant green-blue eyes. She did this in fear that somebody should recognize her, over time. She kept a low profile, and traveled around a lot, blown off lots of replaceable friends, but she did this because she could not risk the secret of Tuck Everlasting.

The spring had survived, she was still the rightful owner of the wood, she refused to sell it. Even if she had wished to, no buyers would be able to track her down. So many years of aliases, and fake IDs. Her actual identity was a mystery to anyone who wanted to find out. She only faintly remembered the 'Man in The Yellow Suit' now, but he was still there, taunting her somehow. Maybe it was her remorse, for not being there when her mother died, for faking her death and leaving everyone behind. It wasn't her fault she had begun getting older and not a thing had changed. She had no choice but to run. She had a new life to expect then. Now? After nearly one hundred years, and still no Tucks. She had no idea what to expect.

And as she poured some water for a kind gentleman in his booth, she wondered if she could make it another day, in her meaningless existence. She contemplated drinking herself into alcohol poisoning; but 'of course', she thought with a bitter laugh she would never die.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Fans and readers

We didn't receive a review copy of Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, so you won't find any spoilers here. What I've been finding fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way are the vox populi debates over at Amazon.com, particularly a discussion thread attempting to start a RETURN THIS BOOK campaign in protest of Meyer's "betrayal" of her readers: "I agree totally. I saw about 20 returned copies at Target tonight. Returning them is the right thing to do. Burn them and she will still have the money. Don't let that happen." And these are fans talking.

I'm interested in the ethical propriety of returning a book because you didn't like it. Can't imagine doing that myself--the reader is paying for consuming the intellectual content, not just for the physical item. I'm equally interested in the whole question of the difference between readers and fans, if there is one. One distinction the Meyer debates seem to bring to the fore is the way fans personalize the object of their affection--the ones who hate Breaking Dawn feel that Meyer has betrayed them and must suffer; the ones who like the book feel they need to be "loyal" to the author: "You do realize Stephenie Meyer reads these don't you? How disgustingly mean can you get? Stephenie Meyer wrote this for us, the twilighters. Her fans."

What makes people behave this way? I'm aware, of course, that the Amazon posters are probably a distinct subgroup of Meyer's readers, or do her books inspire this kind of Ayn Randy cultishness?

Making connections

between the July-August issue of the Horn Book Magazine and the wild reaches of the world wide web, Rachel Smith offers the latest Web Watch.

Friday, August 01, 2008

So which is it?

Two books reviewed in the forthcoming issue of the Horn Book Guide:

From Bearport, Meish Goldish's Deadly Praying Mantis

From Lerner, Sandra Markle's Praying Mantises: Hungry Insect Heroes

Nothing* p.o.'d the late Zena Sutherland more than a nonfiction children's book ascribing virtue or venality to animals.

*Except maybe simultaneous translation in dialogue, as in "'Hola, Juan!' exclaimed the pretty teacher to the new brown-eyed and chubby-cheeked boy, 'Hello.'"