Friday, October 29, 2010

She likes us! She really likes us! (She, on the other hand . . .)

(I guess we will see if that reference is as lost as Joan Rivers' joke about Elizabeth Taylor and the microwave.) Jules has a nice review of A Family of Readers over at 7-Imp.

In other blog news there was a Twitter-tempest last night over a blogger's review of Laurel Snyder's completely amiable middle-grade novel Penny Dreadful. Book blogger Noël De Vries was loving the book until she came to a reference to lesbian moms which implied they were "normal." De Vries wrote "The only problem is, being a lesbian is not normal. It's not something that "just happens" to people, like being poor or brave. In fact, when you look through Biblical glasses, homosexuality is, well, an abomination."

Ohhhh-kay. I suppose if you are looking at at homosexuality from a Biblical perspective (albeit a very particular fundamentalist one), De Vries' assertion makes its own kind of sense, but she then veers into a decidedly irrational corollary: "Characters like Willa and Jenny [the moms] with their happy little family, show elementary-age readers that Christian beliefs are hateful and silly. Add these characters to the full-blown assault of politically-correct propaganda that is molding America's children." So if an author depicts characters whose behavior you label abhorrent, then he or she is making you out as the hateful one? Note to Noēl: not everything is about you, dear.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

To Have and to Hold

With my colleagues at JLG and SLJ, I'm working on an upcoming presentation on collection development, specifically, how school and public libraries should balance their print and digital collections. While the medium--it's a Power Point webinar--is new to me, my part of the message very much blows the old horn for fine books for boys and girls, that is, I'm to speak about the importance of printed books. (P.S. Thank God. P.P.S. What is this Power Point?)

One thing I want to talk about is how much a particular book, as a physical object, can mean to a reader, perhaps especially to a young reader. You want to own it (or check the same copy out of the library over and over again), you want to stare at the cover, you want to show it off or carefully hide it, depending. Like a lot of kids my age (in my cohort, to use the lingo of the Power Point era), I felt that way about my Tolkien books--what's doing it for the kids these days? I need some good examples--indeed, I need to know if this bibliophilic passion still goes on, or if kids, those who read, are happy enough with the digital download of Dune.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NBA Finalists

We've posted our reviews of the finalists for the National Book Award, young people's literature category, and I see that our little sister has done the same thing. Compare 'n contrast!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No, I should eat less ice cream

Someone is not clear on the concept of recreational reading. From "Reading in the Digital Age by the Numbers," PW 10/4/2010: "75: Percentage of 9-17-year-olds who know they should read more for fun."

Movie premiere

Don't forgot, tonight marks the premiere of  Library of the Early Mind, a documentary about children's books in contemporary culture (at least, that is what I think it is about, but I haven't seen it). The film starts at 5:30 in Askwith Hall at Harvard, and the screening will be followed by a panel discussion and book-signing/reception with some of the film's interviewees including Lois Lowry, Lesléa Newman, Jerry Pinkney and me. Admission is free.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Notes

The latest issue of Notes is out, with five questions for Rosemary Wells about Max and Ruby (they should do a live-action remake with Bobby and Sally Draper, no?) and reviews of new picture books, nonfiction, chapter books and YA fantasy. Damn, what isn't published in a series these days?

Off to New York to see some shows, walk in the bamboo forest and spy on our little sister for a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Parents and picture books

I'm late to the discussion re the New York Times article about picture books but enough people have now asked me for my thoughts that here they are. Fewer picture books are being published because a) the profit margin on them is not as good as it is for novels and b) fewer people are buying them because i. they are expensive and ii. there are currently fewer young children than there were in eras when picture books boomed. While we would normally expect the numbers of picture books to increase as the population again tends younger (as it is), Cassandra here is having a little trouble reading the future because of the new variable of electronic publishing getting better, cheaper, and reaching younger.

As far as parents pushing kids out of picture books goes, that is neither new nor news. As Robin Smith and Dean Schneider told us in "Unlucky Arithmetic," "throw out the picture books" is one of thirteen time-tested ways to raise a non-reader. When I was a children's librarian, which was probably before the Times reporter was even born, I was regularly told by parents that such-and-such book for Junior was "too easy." People who think reading is supposed to be difficult most often--surprise!--don't like to read themselves and, in a perfect world, would have their interference met by a friendly but firm "you don't know what you are talking about."

And, as many in the blogosphere have been pointing out, anecdotal evidence of bookstore behavior is not going to give us the complete picture. It was the wise Jane Botham of the Milwaukee Public Library who told me that the book to buy in the bookstore was the one the child had already checked out of the library over and over again. Start there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

November/December 2010 stars

The following books will receive starred reviews in the November/December issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Me and You by Anthony Browne (Farrar)

Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel (Knopf)

Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam)

Forge [Seeds of America] by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum)

The 10 p.m. Question by Kate De Goldi (Candlewick)

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle; illus. by Patrick Arrasmith (Holt)

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic)

The Legend of the King [Squire’s Tales] by Gerald Morris (Houghton)

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (Disney-Hyperion)

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor (Houghton)

Nic Bishop Lizards by Nic Bishop (Scholastic Nonfiction)

The Odyssey adapted by Gareth Hinds (Candlewick)

Built to Last by David Macaulay (Houghton)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Excuse our dust

while we mess around with ad placement on Read Roger. You might think Google's Ad Sense would have more sense than to run ads for vanity press publishers on a blog that will only mock the same. But I think it is run by robots and in any case our sales force will be handling the ads once we get the layout worked out. Comments welcome.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I Speak, You Shut Up

Following last Saturday's colloquium at Simmons, I had an interesting dinner conversation with Megan Whalen Turner and Virginia Duncan about the Speak debate of a few weeks ago and the more recent challenge to The Hunger Games at a New Hampshire school. Both cases have me in "yes . . . but" overload.

Yes, the op-ed objection to Speak was stupid and uninformed, and I'm glad lots of people said so. But the #speakloudly hashtag campaign on Twitter felt more like a parade of people swanning about in their virtue than anything else: "My name is Roger and I #speakloudly against censorship." Oh, good for meSpeak had not--in the situation being discussed--been censored or even challenged. I will spare you my usual tirade against the ALA's willful and sneaky conflation of challenged and censored books but neither was the case here. This was one idiot in the local paper mouthing off about a book he hadn't read. If this is what gets Twitter going, it's not going to go far.

The Hunger Games challenge is more serious. In this case, a mother had gone to the school board because her eleven-year-old daughter was being required to read Collins' novel in a seventh-grade class. This is a true challenge, and if the school board does remove the book from the curriculum I could be persuaded to call it censorship, if not as egregious as a decision to remove the book entirely from the school's library. But still I think, The Hunger Games? Required reading? For an eleven-year-old? Whether to make a book required reading or not is a professional judgment on the teacher's part, but must that judgment go unquestioned? In this case, I'm questioning it.

I wish the concerned parent had talked to the teacher rather than the school board. But I also wish schools and libraries would mean what they say when they ask parents to get involved. If the only possible solution to a parent's objection to a required book is to remove that child from the classroom, the wrong discussion is going on. If the school board meeting was the first time the teacher heard someone say The Hunger Games? Required reading? For an eleven-year-old? then the right discussion never happened.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

More flogging

Not the fun kind . . . maybe the other fun kind?

Wednesday evening Martha and I will be speaking and signing A Family of Readers at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. 7:00 PM. Do come!

And on Friday, to my complete terror, I will be speaking at an event sponsored by the Beatrix Potter Society. (Terror, because too many cozies and BBC serials have led me to believe that meetings of  literary societies always end in murder.) I will be speaking on the topic of "Beatrix, Bertha, and Me," an invitation to hubris and murder if ever there was one. Thank God Lolly, who really does know her Beatrix and Bertha, will be there. Betsy Bray, the North American Liaison of the Society, has invited me to invite you. The talk is being held at the Cambridge Public Library main building (my first visit since their reopening) at 10:00 AM; if you would like to attend email Betsy: braybetsy at gmail dot com.

Monday, October 04, 2010


While we ran a little long and no one could ever find a cab, I would have to say that our first Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards at Simmons and the next day's first Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium went  swimmingly. Here are a few photos:

Nonfiction winner Betsy Partridge channeling Miss Brodie

Laurel Croza and Matt James, picture book winners
Hmm, fiction winner Rebecca Stead seems more amused than her editor, Wendy Lamb

That's my grandson you're autographing for, Peter, so cheer up!

Lost In Translation, sans scotch
Picture-book royalty, Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham
Next year's BGHB chair Jen Brabander with Raina Telgemeier and her husband Dave Roman. That smile was totally worth it, Raina!
You can't see much of it here, but Megan Whalen Turner won the prize for Best Dress
Judge Gregory Maguire presents the picture books

Judges Julie Just and Martha Parravano tell all