Thursday, July 31, 2008

I just sent in my registration

What about you?

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the Portland Kidlit Conference!

Now, that's a good movie idea!

Best Week Ever has some great ideas about children's films that need to get made. All starring Johnny Depp. Here's a sample:

THE RUNAWAY BUNNY. Johnny Depp will play the runaway bunny, Helena Bonham Carter will play the mother, an alcoholic rabbit-brothel-owner who refuses to let her child run away.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A very happiest of birthdays

Dearest Liz,

Today we celebrate your birthday and honor all that is fabulous about you. Which is a lot. In addition to being one of the best kidlit bloggers around, you have style and smarts, which we like in a woman. Normally we wouldn't hijack your blog like this but Carlie said it was okay.

All our love,
Colby, Don, and Dean

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Welcome, Readers of Meg Cabot's Diary!

A big welcome to all visitors and readers from Meg Cabot's Diary! (Hmm.... that makes it sound like that episode of Brady Bunch when they sold Marcia's diary by accident and she was so embarrassed but it was OK because she met Davy Jones. No, not the Pirates of the Caribbean one, the Monkees one. Like, somewhere, someone stole Meg's diary and is reading it.)

And a big Thank You to Meg for her kind words about this blog!

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Favorite Books of 2007

Nothing prompts a favorite books of last year post like July.

Seriously, I was going thru some drafts of things that didn't get posted and found this. Better July than never, right? So I revised this a little so it wouldn't' say stuff like "As 2007 draws to a close."


2007 was a year of great books. And it must be a law; no matter how many books I read (over 200 in 2007), there are still so many books I haven't read yet really, really want to. To catch up on my reading would require an isolated cabin, no Internet (and severe blogging withdrawal!), and a personal chef. And even then…

Without further ado, here are some of my personal favorites and why I like them.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, 2007. Alexie's first book for teens mixes humor and tears as Junior leaves the Spokane Indian reservation for high school. A few miles in terms of geography; a million miles in terms of lives and expectations.

Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot, 2007. I love this mix of history and art, and how the story of one town is so rich and full. I googled my way through this book, wondering "is that real? Did that really happen?"

Beige by Cecil Castellucci, 2007. Dad's a punk rock musician; his daughter could care less about him and about music. Great story of a girl trying to figure out who she is, especially since she didn't realize she didn't know she didn't know.

Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess, 2007. A retelling of the Volsunga saga, set in the future. Bloody, violent, honest, heartless, breathtaking.

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb, 2007. Is there a cure for heartbreak? How do you go on when your mother dies?

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi, 2005. Daisy is a fantastic heroine. Combine Veronica Mars and Kiki Strike and set her in a Serenity-type Old West world. I want a sequel, and I want it NOW.

Dramarama by E. Lockhart, 2007. Drama loving teens go to theatre camp, fall in love and struggle with friendship and the realities of having talent and lacking talent. I kept on thinking, what if the lead character in Dramarama had been the daughter in Beige? Imagine if a punk rock Dad had a musical loving kid?

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande, 2007. A book about religion and faith and being strong; about questioning and being true to oneself.

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce, 2007. If I had a crush on a book, it would be this one. "Love is all we Desire. Will is all that we must Do." Flora Segunda reveals only a fraction, only a shadow, of a complex alternate world and society.

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex, 2006. Poetry for all ages; but especially for fans of classic horror movies. The Phantom of the Opera being driven crazy because of the songs that are stuck in his head? Classic.

Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake by Jennifer Allison, 2006. Gilda continues to be confident enough to wear wigs and costumes as she solves mysteries. Nothing gets in her way, not even ghosts.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, 2007. What can I say, Schlitz had me at "medieval." Poetry and prose tells the stories of everyone from beggar to knight's son. Plus, a map!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling, 2007. Team Rowling. That's all I'm saying.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, 1943. I’m as shocked as you at my love for this book, and for obnoxious, arrogant Johnny.

Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles, 2007. What hurts more than being bullied and abused? Realizing the bully has been just as hurt by life.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2006. Asteroid takes out the moon. I'm thinking of stocking up on staples and putting in a wood burning stove.

Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White, 2007. No one does dialogue and humor like White. The 700 plus pages are not enough; you finish wishing for 700 more.

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, 2007. I cannot afford to live in NYC; so instead, I read Naomi and Ely and pretend I'm cool and hip and young and know something about music.

New Policeman, The by Kate Thompson, 2007. I thought I was running out of time because of a move and a new job and writing deadlines; after reading this, I suspect it may be something else. A slow, dreamy Irish tale of time and gods and music.

Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell, 2007. Art saves lives. Also, sometimes it's a good thing to break up with friends.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, 2007. Grady McNair, born Angela; brave enough to come out as transgendered in the middle of the school year.

Professor's Daughter, The by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, 2007. A Victorian professor's daughter falls in love with one of her father's mummies. Favorite part? No explanation as to how or why the mummy is alive.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, 2007. Deanna has been "that girl" for longer than she'd like; the slut who had sex. At 13. And was caught by her father. Deanna struggles with the questions of whether she was victim or not; and whether she can move beyond that moment in her life.

Talented Clementine, The by Sara Pennypacker, 2007. Ah, Clementine, how I love thee. I didn't read the first book and I'm told it's even better than this one.

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher, 2007. Hannah leaves behind 13 cassette tapes; 13 reasons why she committed suicide. By the end, we know there is no reason why. Just the loss of a depressed, confused, hurting child.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. La Fevers, 2007. Picture the movie the Mummy; imagine the adventurer and the librarian had a daughter. That's Theodosia.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, 2007. This has everything from Shakespeare to baseball. A turn of the page brings laughter; and quiet pain at the desperation found in 1960s suburbia.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, 2006. Who doesn't love zombies? First thing I did in my new house was figure out what to do when the zombies attack here.

One thing you may notice; about half of these books haven't been reviewed in full on this blog. Guess what just got added to my to-do list?

Gray Wolves; Return to Yellowstone

Gray Wolves: Return to Yellowstone by Meish Goldish, consultant: Douglas W. Smith, PhD, Yellowstone Wolf Project Leader; series: America's Animal Comebacks. 2007. Review copy from publisher, Bearport Publishing. Review originally published at The Edge of the Forest.

Many kids love books about animals. But, in writing about animals (or any nonfiction topic) for kids, the question is always, what to include? What to highlight?

Gray Wolves: Return to Yellowstone focuses on the modern history of the wolf, how it became nearly extinct in the US, and the efforts to bring it back. I liked that Goldish included that yes, wolves kill other animals, but that their hunting is important more than for just themselves. He explains the role predators play in the ecosystem: "Scientists learned that the animals kill prey, such as elk and deer, that are old and sick. Hunting these weaker animals means that the healthier ones are left to breed and find food. So wolves actually help other groups of animals stay strong."

Other facts I did not know: each pack has a male alpha wolf and a female alpha wolf, and usually those are the only wolves in the pack to breed. The book tells us of the original transplanted wolves; I liked that the scientists used terms like "female wolf 9F" rather than giving them pet names, like Rosy or Fred. Because these are not pets—these are wild animals.

I also liked that Gray Wolves provided balance; yes, neighboring farmers were worried about loss of livestock. So a scheme was set up to pay farmers and ranchers for lost animals. While I'm sure the system may have its problems, it still shows readers that there are many sides to an argument, to consider those sides, and to reach a compromise.

Also good: Ends with quick facts about wolves, glossary, and further reading.

Photos: the wolf pups are cute. But the photos aren't all puppies and daisies: Wolves hunt animals, and the wolves are shown eating. Kids love this type of "eeewww" photo, and the text prepares them for the gruesome ones.

Wolf Trust (Scotland)

the Publisher provides a "look inside" the book

An interview with the author

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Either Fanfiction Or Books

Poor Nadia. Fifteen, and because of some connection or other, she gets to be the spokesperson of her generation: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? from The New York Times.

Ah, so much to discuss and to rant about! Go, read it, share your thoughts. In light of the program Carlie and I will give at the YA Lit Symposium, I was particularly drawn to what fanfiction reader/writer Nadia had to say.

But first, on the online v book situation; much like tv v book, I don't think it is an either/or, better/worse situation. I will say this: since I've begun to have trouble with my eyes, I have found it physically easier to read some things, like The New York Times, online instead of in print. Which makes me believe all the more that we cannot assume things about the content of online reading. Am I less of a reader because I read the New York Times only online? No.

And I see value in traditional books, and storytelling, and the enjoyment they can give. As always, I want my cake and to eat it to; I want balance. Books and computers; not exclusive. And there is no doubt that we will see some amazing storytelling in the years to come, due to the technology available for storytelling.

But back to Nadia. Here is the money quote from the article: Nadia said she wanted to major in English at college and someday hopes to be published. She does not see a problem with reading few books. “No one’s ever said you should read more books to get into college,” she said.

I am so, so, so, thankful that most of my knowitall stupid statements and beliefs I had at 15 were not shared in national newspapers to haunt me all my days. (Note to self: start shredding all high school journals and letters.) I picture Nadia in an English class in five years and someone throwing that up at her.

See, one of Nadia's joys in fanfiction. Which I understand. But fanfiction reading and writing meets different needs; and you cannot substitute one for the other, saying it's either reading fanfiction OR reading books. It's not sitting down and saying, hm, I will either read Catcher in the Rye or search out a Numb3rs/Veronica Mars crossover. And it's entirely possible to read and enjoy both.

Fanfiction existed before the Internet. So it's entirely possible Nadia would be writing it even without the computer. What she wouldn't have is the community that the Internet brings; something skipped over in the article.

Fanfiction is more than poor grammar and spelling. Perhaps all Nadia reads is bad fanfiction (Many of them have elliptical plots and are sprinkled with spelling and grammatical errors. One of her recent favorites was “My absolutely, perfect normal life ... ARE YOU CRAZY? NOT!,” a story based on the anime series “Beyblade.” In one scene the narrator, Aries, hitches a ride with some masked men and one of them pulls a knife on her. “Just then I notice (Like finally) something sharp right in front of me,” Aries writes. “I gladly took it just like that until something terrible happen ....”) But fanfiction has many beta (editing) communities that are online so that fanfiction can be extremely professional (and better copyedited than some books. (Hey, what book/tvshow/anime manga is Nadia's MarySue original story based on? Anyone?)

Nadia's dreams of moving from fanfiction to traditional publishing is not unfounded; look at Cassandra Clare (writing books) and Mere Smith (writing/producing TV shows). But good fanfic writers are, well, good writers. They pay attention to spelling, grammar, etc. And one way to become a good writer? Well, as the NYT article says, you learn by what you read. Nadia needs to seek out quality stuff to read -- both within fanfiction and within books.

OK, final point of the rant. Major fail on readers advisory to take Nadia's first "omygodlovedthisbook", a Holocaust memoir, and follow it up with a fantasy. No wonder she went back to fanfic.

Edited to add: In looking at some of the blog discussion about this article, I found To Read or Not to Read at I Could which does a great job with the readers advisory aspect.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Watch TV!

Via Jen Robinson I found this most excellent post at Read.Imagine.Talk, In Defense of TV. In which Jenny defends her household TV watching.

Needless to say, I totally agree with Jenny. There is nothing, N O T H I N G, wrong with watching TV. And one of these days I'll post more. In the meanwhile, all I'll add to Jenny's post is watching TV is no different than anything else -- moderation, balance, a part of life. If someone proudly tells me that they watch no TV*, I look at them no differently than if someone told me they read no books. They are missing out on some great stuff, and why is that so wonderful?

I'll add something else, and just from reading Jenny's post, and that is "background TV." So TV shortens attention span? I thought it was the computer and the Internet. Too many caffeine drinks. Regimented days with kids being given no time to play on their own. Sigh. It is so hard to keep track.

Love it or hate it, part of the modern world is multitasking and part of the world is working despite background noises. Most annoying people I've lived with in college or worked with in lo those many years since are the "silence" people, those who cannot concentrate on anything with background noise.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Boy Books, Girl Books

After reading all the "there are no books for boys with strong boy characters" and "there are no books for girls with strong girl characters" type of stuff, I just want to sit those people down and have them exchange reading lists.

In all honesty. like Carlie and others, I don't believe in "boy books" or "girl books." I'm sure to let out a groan when the main descriptor of a book is based on the gender of the intended reader.

Readers are complex people; and it's about fitting the book to the reader. Now, I'm not naive; and that's why I read books and articles by people like Michael Sullivan and Michael Smith and Jeff Wilhelm. I am open to adding to the "tricks" up my sleeve to connect books with kids. I believe we have to recognize the value in all reading choices, including newspapers, magazines, comic books, etc. And I believe we have to realize that in connecting a book to a reader, different things will work for different kids. So typically (but not always!) the long booktalk will work for girls; while typically (but not always!) the short one is better for boys.

But to turn all the research and good ideas by people like Sullivan, Smith and Wilhelm into "boys don't read books about girls" mindset is both simplistic and disrespectful to male and female readers.

Kirby Larson's Hattie Big Sky is a great example of this; when I met with the author and we talked about audience, she mentioned that young men were reading it as a western and loving it.
When I booktalk Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, boys laugh as hard as the girls. And want the book just as much.

Again, I'm not being naive. And I am not trying to force books on kids that aren't a right fit. I sure as heck am not saying that if we just describe the girliest girl book ever that all boys will want to read it, or that we can force someone who wants a pageturner to love a slow read. I am saying that "boy books" or "girl books" is too narrow. Really, do we think all boys are alike? Or all girls? No.

I love that we have websites like Guys Lit Wire and Guys Read. Part of the reason I like both sites is that too often, the adult does only think of the books they like when recommending books.... and we need reminders there are other books out there, and just because they aren't your taste, doesn't mean it isn't a good book. You, there! Yes, you! Stop making that face every time someone asks for fantasy. That -- the bias against certain types of books -- is as big a problem as anything else.

I also have to point out that those sites aren't locked into narrow definitions of boy books; Guys Read includes Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began (an amazing book) which...wait for it... has a FEMALE main character. One of the guys interviewed at Guys Lit Wire named The Awakening as a book he "really enjoyed" reading in high school.

Here, Dear Readers, is where I see the potential harm for too much labeling of girl/boy books. If a reader such as the one interviewed at Guys Lit Wire approached our desk, would we ever have recommended The Awakening? (Actually, would we ever recommend it, regardless of gender of the asker?) In talking about boy/girl books too much with readers who are at a point in their lives where peers mean everything, do we risk keeping a boy away from a book he would really love because we just called it a girl book?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Thanks to Sarah Rettger for pointing out an article in Newsweek about Anne of Green Gables.

Are you sitting down?

I love Anne. Love her, the book, all the books. I own every one of Lucy Maud Montgomery's journals.

And this quote by a so-called Anne scholar had me scream so loud my sister next door wanted to know what was wrong (and then offered ice cream.) Here it is in context, with me bolding the bit that pissed (and Sarah) off.

"That "Anne" has survived so long—and, with 50 million copies sold, so strong—is a small miracle considering the state of young-adult literature. It's rare to find a best seller with a strong heroine anymore, in large part because, although girls will read books about boys, boys won't go near a girl's book, no matter how cool she is. Even in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series, the strong, grounded Bella is willing to chuck it all for the love of her vampire boyfriend. "The literary smart girl is still showing up in literature, but she's often the sidekick," says Trinna Frever, an "Anne of Green Gables" scholar. "It is a reflection of a culture that's placing less value on intelligence, and also treating intelligence as a stigmatized quality." As smart as Anne is, you aren't likely to find her in a classroom, either. She has survived largely through mothers who pass the book on to their daughters."

Sarah has a list of smart heroines, and I'll just add, without links, the following smart girls in NYT bestsellers:

Cami in Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series
Liesl in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (not book smart, but I think she has Anne's tenacity)
Meggie in the Inkheart books
The sisters in the Penderwicks

OK, I'm going to stop trying to find past NYT Bestseller lists, but my point is just a cursory look at these lists show smart girls.

Trinna Frever may know Anne. And she may know what it is about Anne that we love. But she does not know today's books for children and teens.

Plus: Anne is a classic.
She doesn't NEED to be promoted by using it in a classroom! She is a joy to discover and read on one's own.


Other than that bit, it's actually a really good article about Anne. And I love the bit wondering why Anne isn't taught in college classrooms, like Tom Sawyer.

Happy Birthday, Anne!

Edited to add: Found a must read blog for other Anne lovers: Blogging Anne of Green Gables.

The latest in YA reviews

It's all about Madapple by Christina Meldrum, Identical by Ellen Hopkins and A New Dawn, edited by Ellen Hopkins. Reviews are posted at Librarilly Blonde.

Also, I've taken up a new gig, writing the "Books to Watch Out For" semi-regular feature for the YALSA blog. The books I've chronicled so far are Hero-Type by Barry Lyga, Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle and Kendra by the ever-fantastic Coe Booth. Those reviews are only available at the YALSA blog, so check them out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cover Me

More YA in the news! Over at PRINT Magazine, a look at Cover Girls by Rebecca Bengal-- YA covers during the past lo these many years. (Thanks to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for the link).

As a reader, old-old books fascinated me so those covers were a plus. But just old? Like ten, fifteen years ago (counting from when I was reading the book)? Often just made the book look boring-dated, rather than old-enticing.

I would link to Fuse's post at SLJ about covers except I cannot get to the SLJ site. Darn it.

First Margo Rabb's great article; and now this, another article that says, and I kid you not: "Publishers face a conundrum: The high literary value of the best of these books aside, how can they help a YA novel speak to the latest group of teen readers, across generations, cultural shifts, and trends".

Let me point it again, because it's so awesome: "the high literary value."

As you check out the photos with the PRINT article, ask yourself seriously, "would I have checked out the older books as a teen? Would I now? Would teens?" Covers are so, so important; both for kids wanting to read the book, but also for kids being seen reading the book. Which, also, the article points out!

One more thing. Bengal, like Rabb, talks to experts in the field. I know!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Painting Watercolors of Cats

Margo Rabb has in essay in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review, called "I'm YA, and I'm OK." It looks at the choice of "YA or adult" from an author's perspective. I quite enjoyed the article, and have a few reactions:

--I don't think authors always know their audience, to be honest. Do I find author intent interesting? Yes; but not controlling.

-- including James Patterson in the list is a joke. Seriously. Yes, I know Rabb had to do it, because he's such a big name and all, but ask any YA librarian worth their salt and they'll tell you 2 things: the belief that Patterson tried to "cash in" on the allegedly lucrative YA market (aka "wow look at how much money JKRowling makes"), plus it was always adults who were checking out the books (sometimes happy with the book, but also often angry that the book wasn't an adult book.)

-- Crossover from YA to Adult. Carlie did a presentation on this at the NJLA Conference in a room that was standing room only. Which shows that at least librarians are interested in letting adults know about the gems published as YA. (Carlie's email is on the sidebar, if you want to ask her about the presentation.) I got my Mom hooked on YA books by not telling her they were YA books, just that they were good books. I think libraries and bookstores need to shelve these books in multiple places; mix up the content of displays so that they include both adult and YA; and otherwise promote these books. The kidlitosphere does this, to a certain extent, but I'm sure we could do more.

-- I am amused that the "real literature" folks look down on YA, as, with few exceptions, I look down on what I see as pretensions of "real literature."

-- Rabb does not take on the "what is YA" question, and I'm glad about that, because that, my friends, is a question that could be answered in a book. Without getting too wordy about it, yes, I see a need for books that reflect teen lives, experiences, fears, hopes, wishes; and I'm glad that need is being met; and books, like people, are often too complex to warrant just one label.

-- Meg Rosoff is quite the character! Here's her money quote: "There isn’t an adult who’s going to trot into the children’s section to look for adult literature." True that! But -- and here, always, is my point -- they will to look for good literature.

Looking for good literature -- ah, there is the real question. And when there is a good book, what is done to match it with the most number of readers possible? I have to say that, despite it's problems, I think the current children's/YA/adult sections of a library/bookstore is the best answer for the general browsing public. As mentioned in other posts, I don't think books should be further broken down (here is our section for 5 year olds, here is our section for smart 5 year olds, here is our section for 13 year olds who think they are 20 but are really more like 8, etc.) And I cannot seriously advocate telling a 14 year old, hunt and peck thru the adult titles to find the ones you want. So what is my answer for putting books in the hands of people?

Multiple copies in multiple areas. Displays that include both YA and adult and children. Catalog and online descriptions and reviews that include that it's a crossover title. Booklists that include all titles. Staff that booktalk and recommend all titles. I hate to say this, but I still find library staff, who should know better, who believe that YA is for readers aged 10 to 13, and after that it's off to the adult shelves for them. So yes, workshops, programs like the one Carlie gave, articles. As with everything...not sitting back and complaining, but sitting back, complaining, and then acting.

EDITED TO ADD: DVD Bonus material to come! Margo Rabb promises to post at her blog some of the interviews, etc., that weren't included in the article. Yay! (And on a side note: see, this is how print and online media can work together.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Rich Kids Need Apply

I tend to have a love/hate relationship about books with rich kids. Done right, I like and feel sympathetic towards the rich main character, or treat the book as escapist; but done wrong, I turn into the "get a real problem!" type of reader with a side dose of "and imagine if that were your problem and you didn't have any money!" Yes, Holden Caulfield, I'm looking at you.

Carlie takes issue with a column that says all YA is about the rich folk nowadays (she also takes issue with the conflating of YA and middle grade, but that's another issue.)

I know we've done this before, but heck, let's do it again! (See here for our look at Class in YA books).

List of YA/middle grade books, written in the past few years, that do not have Rich Kids as the main character. Yes, I'll count struggling to stay in middle class as not being rich. Let's try to keep this contemporary, that is, not fantasy or historical fiction.

I'll start!

Beige by Cecil Castellucci

Clementine books by Sarah Pennypacker

Gilda Joyce books by Jennifer Allison

A Room on Lorelie Street by Mary Pearson

Rules of Survival by Werlin

The Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

That Girl Lucy Moon by Amy Timberlake

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Speaking of Coverage...

Wonderful article about children's literature in The New Yorker: The Lion and the Mouse The battle that reshaped children’s literature.

And a short essay in The New York Times: A Few of Life’s Nuggets, and a Children’s Book Is Formed.

Heard about the first via a listserv; then both from Fuse.

It's funny that these came out just as I posted about how there isn't enough coverage of children's lit in mainstream press. I'm happy to get that great New Yorker piece, but wouldn't it be great if there was more, more, more?

My birthday is this month; so I think I'll be treating myself to this. (Link fixed!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Article About Those Darn Bloggers

An interesting article and take on the "print v online" debate when it comes to reviewers or critics or whatever the heck you want to call yourself.

Is it curtains for critics? from The Observer; I saw it first at Justine Larbalestier's blog.

In terms of the print v online debate, it's almost sad that people still see a difference. Much online content fills different needs than print; but traditional print media has missed the boat, not realizing what their audience wants.

As I've pointed out before, there isn't a lot of print coverage of children's/YA books, so the blogosphere fills that vacuum.

When there is coverage, the print newspapers don't always know what they are talking about (a point also made by Justine).

After reading the Is it curtains for critics essay, I see another reason for the downfall of print media in this area. It's the attitude that, "I'm smarter than you, I know more than you, listen to me" -- when the basis of the "smarter" is only that they write for print, have been doing this for a long time, and get paid for what they do.

Nope, those factors don't mean that automatically, without thought, I defer to "print expertise." I read what you write and decide based on what you actually write, rather than who you are. (Again, a point also made by Justine -- you can see why I was so eager to read the actual article after reading her write up of it!)

Add to that, as is pointed out by a blogger in the article, the act of writing professionally for years can change one's own tastes to the point where the writer is actually out of step with their audience. And here's the thing -- I can see the professional critic saying "but that is good." But the audience is telling you -- "no, it's not." And that is why perhaps the print media may actually be right to dump their critics; the realization that the critics are out of touch with their audience.

Anyway, some choice quotage (sometimes from the author of the essay, others from interviews within the essay.)

"It appears that consumers no longer feel the need to obtain their opinions from on high: the authority of the critic, derived from their paid position on a newspaper, is diminished." The key clause of t his sentence is authority that is derived from being paid by the newspaper -- and this is where the traditional critics are being left behind, in that they still believe that is enough. No, it is not.

"If you really are good at it you figure out some way to get paid for it. At the risk of sounding elitist, everyone has an opinion, but not everyone has an informed opinion." Actually, I totally agree with this one! Where we would disagree, is that no, it's not so easy getting paid for this stuff. As I write this, and do some editing, I wish I had a real editor so that this would be tighter, and less "I, I, I". But I don't have that luxury. And, to repeat what is already stated, the definition of "informed" is not "being paid by the newspaper." The blogosphere has some stuff that is just crap; absolutely true.. After reading the umpteeth poorly written synopsis of a book with only the explanation of "I loved it"/"I hated it," I want an informed opinion by someone who knows how to write. But here's the thing -- there is also some great stuff in the blogosphere. And that badly written synopsis/loved it review? It can be found both online and in print.

One journalist muses, "I just don't want to hang around with company I don't value. Life's too short". Right back at you, baby! Except, um, YOURS may be the company I don't value.

More on "teh authority" the obedient audience should be silently listening to and agreeing with and following without question: "Spencer agrees. 'You're supplying a service, one with real authority behind it. There is always going to be a need for expert opinion.' Don't even mention the need for the democratisation of opinion to Brian Sewell. 'I do not believe in the democratisation of opinion. I believe in benign authority. And if we undermine the authority of critics then we shall descend into mayhem." The disagreement I have is both the implied definition of "expert" and of the need of a "benign authority" I should shut up and listen to. I find it amusing that the UK viewpoint is so wrapped up in "benign authority." I don't believe in this; I can respect the hell out of you, but not agree with you every time, and not put aside my own thoughts, beliefs, experience, and reactions to say "oh yes you are always right."

One person recognizes that print no longer equals better, but, alas, I cannot tell his tone: "And we have to accept that the printed word no longer has aristocratic supremacy".

An "expert" can be an amateur blogger; look into their background and they have read or viewed or attended the books, films, plays that the "experts" have. Important things I look at are the depth of knowledge of the person writing, be it blog or print; their knowledge of the subject area; and whether they write well. But, in all honesty, I have seen as many historical mistakes in print as I have online, so, no, the lack of deep knowledge of a subject area is not limited to one medium.

The eliminating of critics and reviews in print media is not a good thing; ideally, the competition of online content should be a wake-up call to traditional print media that they are not meeting the needs of their audience. That newspapers and magazines react by dumping those coverage areas is proof that they not only aren't meeting their audience needs; they don't fully understand their audience and what the audience wants and needs.

New Blog Alert

An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, with the following UK authors contributing to it:

Anne Cassidy
Charles Butler
Damian Harvey
John Dougherty
Katherine Langrish
Linda Strachan
Lucy Coats
Lynn Huggins Cooper
Marie-Louise Jensen
Nick Green
N. M. Browne
Penny Dolan
Sally Nicholls
Susan Price

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Direct Delivery of Services

Jenny Han of The Longstockings looks at Bookswim and asks a very good question: why pay for something the library gives us for free?

In true blogger fashion,* I ignored the question Jenny was asking and didn't even look further into Bookswim. Jenny does, with a few test searches to show that your local library collection is probably better than Bookswim.

To me, the heart of Jenny's great post is this:

I know people are all about the renting these days (prom dresses, movies, designer bags, groceries) but why fix something that isn't broken? The library works just fine and it's free. Are we so lazy that we need the books delivered to our doorstep?

In the comments, I responded how my love for things like Netflix is founded in convenience rather than laziness. Given a finite amount of time and a seemingly infinite number of things to do, having the option of checking one thing off the list while still getting great service is wonderful.** So what about you? Do you love/hate/never tried services like Bookswim and Netflix? Why? Go join in the conversation over at The Longstockings.

Personally, to back up to the library part -- I think for some of us, convenience does indeed trump free. Add to that, sometimes the service is better -- I've twice had lost DVDs with Netflix*** and they never gave me a trouble, as compared to the attitude some libraries give over lost / claimed returned items. Plus, no late fees! I can have the item as long or as short as I need! I can wait for the weekend to watch my movies, rather than in the 3 days libraries give me.

I think libraries are at a crossroads: are we more about community? Carlie has a great post about the books v community center issue; and personally, I fear that the more we say "hey we are a community center" the more responses we will get that are "cool then let's close the libraries and spend the money on community centers with small book collections."

Jenny's post reminds me of two things: the community does think of us first and foremost as being about the materials, even if some libraries and librarians don't. And if we give that identity up, someone else - like Bookswim - will step in. When that happens, those who cannot afford Bookswim, or who still like the place of the library,**** will lose something valuable.

So what can libraries do? Based on my own selfish desire for convenience, the idea of mailing books is a great idea. Some libraries have been doing it for decades. What about remote bookdrops?

Final word: while I enjoy "mail to me" service, with gas prices going up, economically it may be a good idea to start offering book services that go beyond the "drive to me" option.

Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.

*Blogger fashion -- using someone else's post to go off on my own tangents, rather than the questions they raise. C'mon, I do it, you do it -- admit it!

**I'm talking about Netflix; I haven't tried the other services like Bookswim.

*** Lost in the mail. Both items eventually turned up.

****I still love browsing books on shelves! But Netflix shows a electronic database can be browsable.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Buffy Quote of the Week

"What an ordeal. And you know the worst part? It stays with you forever. No matter what they tell you, none of that rust and blood and grime comes out. You can dry-clean till judgment day. You're living with those stains."
-- Cordelia, Ep: When She Was Bad

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

The Secret Life of the American Teenager is a new summer show at ABC Family that started last week. It's on Tuesday night, 8 p.m. The first episode can be watched on line.

Molly Ringwald plays the mother of teenage Amy; in the opening minutes of the first episode, as Mom reheats dinner for her daughter, Amy secretly takes a pregnancy test.

Amy is a band geek; the "good" daughter of the family; who had sex while at band camp, and, as she tells her friends, it wasn't like the movies, it wasn't very good, she's not even sure she really had sex... except the pregnancy test came out positive.

It's going to be interesting to see where this series goes; a show usually builds up to a big storyline such as a teen pregnancy. While Amy is the lead, so far, we've also found out that the school player, who has sex with as many girls as he can, was abused by his father and is in therapy, realizing that his behaviour is unhealthy but not quite able to stop himself. Then there is the Good Christian Girl (whose parents are John Schneider and Josie Bissett) with a brother with Downs Syndrome, who looks like she has a perfect life. Based on the character profiles (which contain some spoilers!) it looks like the parents will be part of the action, not just "yes dears" serving dinner (even tho so far, we've seen the parents only at dinnertime.)

It looks like this will be nice summer soap opera to watch; also, this is by Brenda Hampton (of 7th Heaven fame). I know! One of the things I loved/hated about the Camdens was that the family was insane, yet thought they were normal. I had to laugh at a moment in the first ep where Amy goes to a dance on a date (not the baby's father), her two friends show up, and Amy asks "are you stalking me?" Stalking friends and family is a classic Camden move. Also? These two girls have already decided that Amy's best plan of action is to get married.... which is also classic Camden.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Why I Love The Internets

Finding out other people love the same old, no one else heard of it movie.

Except my love is based on years old memories, having seen it when it first came out in the movie theatre.

I really have to add that to my Netflix queue...except, I've said that about so many movies and TV shows that I have no room on my Netflix queue. Damn you, Space:1999, for taking up so much space!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hey, That Review Sounds Familiar....

Stealing reviews isn't funny.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reports on blog and Amazon reviews being used by an ebay store. Click thru to get the full details, including links to discover the books in question.

Yes, it does include children's and teen books. I've seen at least one review by a book blogger I know. You really should head over and make sure your work hasn't been stolen.

UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks to Jennifer A Ray for keeping us up to date with this; it looks like eBay is slowly removing the stolen reviews. She shares in her blogs what she has been doing to get the reviews (hers and others) off eBay; take note, in case you're an affected reviewer.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The one where you get some YA reviews

of Airhead by Meg Cabot and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, both fantastic in their own ways. Reviews are posted at Librarilly Blonde.

I'm now back from ALA and wondering what to read first. I think I'll finish A New Dawn, then The Midnight Twins because Jacquelyn Mitchard can do no wrong, then maybe Anna Smudge, Professional Shrink. Ooh, and Hero-Type! Or maybe Octavian Nothing II!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008