Thursday, June 26, 2008

ALA

I'm leaving for ALA and not bringing the laptop. I may regret it; but I felt as if I was toting so much stuff, and I have my iPod touch for email. And twitter; so keep a look on the sidebar for quick updates.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Guy Romance

Carlie is being uncharacteristically quiet in the self promotion department, so it's up to me to be all "lookee here! lookee here!"

Carlie has an article, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: Guy-centric YA romance, in the June 2008 Readers' Advisor New, a quarterly newsletter from Libraries Unlimited. Go here to sign up for the newsletter.

It's a great list, with titles for older and younger teens, and includes GLBT romance. Yay!

Buffy Quote of the Week

Angel: "I thought we had . . . you know."
Buffy: "A date? So did I. But who am I kidding? Dates are things normal girls have. Girls who have time to think about nail polish and facials and stuff. You know what I think about? Ambush tactics. Beheading. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of."
Ep: Halloween

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pact, Plot, Privacy

I continue to be fascinated by how the Gloucester High School pregnancy story is treated in the media.

Now the mayor of Gloucester is saying "she is concerned about protecting the privacy of the girls involved, as well as wanting to make sure everyone representing the city is working with the same level of information." (Gloucester Daily Times.) Perhaps that should have been a concern, oh, let's say a week ago? Perhaps this should have been the response sooner? OK, I get that the town was surprised and unprepared to handle the attention this brought to them; but still.

And meanwhile, the source of the "p" word and all its implications doesn't quite remember where he heard about the plot pact:* the local paper.

I still question about the judgment of Time magazine running these "facts." And you gotta love their current headline on this: Gloucester Pregnancy Plot Thickens. Changing one loaded term (pact) to another one (plot.) (Interesting to note: per this second Time article, Sullivan wasn't the only adult sharing information about minors that IMHO is private.)

Teen pregnancy is a serious issue; especially when teens believe that it is a viable, sound, desirable option, pact or no pact. The seriousness and complexity of this issue is lost and minimized by using words like "pact," "plot", and blaming pro-adoption movies.

After I post this, I could find out that the pregnant teens all just agreed to appear on Oprah. But in today's fifteen-minutes-of-fame world, I am a bit impressed that so far not one of these teens, or their families, have agreed to speak with the press or to appear on a TV show.

*Edited to correct plot to pact. Sorry! But it does illustrate how loaded the word "plot" is - and how Time Magazine seems to be saying that the Plot involves everyone else when, you know, they are a PART of the story now, not just reporting it. So, plot includes them.

Day of the Scarab


Day of the Scarab: The Oracle Prophecies by Catherine Fisher. Library copy. 2006. Sequel to The Sphere of Secrets.

The Plot: The conclusion of the Oracle Prophecies. Yes, best read in order. A world with gods, where those in control stopped believing. But it turns out the gods and the myths are real; and a handful of people, including a young priestess, a scribe, and a thief, are chosen by the god to fix things.

The road trip of the last book ends, bringing everyone back together. But the political power remains with Argelin, and Mirany, Seth, and the others must both work against Argelin yet also protect their country from invaders.

The Good: I really despise bad fantasy. Because they take all that is good with fantasy and twist it. It's like cheap chocolate, or a cupcake that tastes like sawdust. But then, when you have the real thing....ah, joy.

There is a prophetic poem. Which in bad fantasy is the kiss of death; but here, is worth repeating in whole. Because it works very well. Because this is a GREAT fantasy.

The first gate of skulls
The second gate of ashes
The third gate of the devouring hunger
The fourth gate of the crooked sword
The fifth gate of the triple faced dog
The sixth gate of the punishments
The seventh gate of the crocodile
The eighth gate of the balanced scales
The ninth gate of the reborn sun


The gates? Why the gates of the Underworld. As these books show over and over: being chosen by the gods is not an easy path, and not a blessing.

Some more quotes I like:
"Be careful among the mortals, Bright One. They will steal your innocence away."
"But they are my dream, and my adventures, lady."

It's a bit weird writing up something for a third book; on the one hand, if you've read the other 2, you are breathless and eager to read this one. On the other hand, if you haven't, what I want to say is this: Here is a brilliantly plotted fantasy, tightly told, over three volumes. It is worth your investment to go, read the first, and continue thru all three. This final book has a wonderful conclusion.; it addresses the main issues raised in the trilogy (restoration of the Oracle, threats of rebellion, the preservation of religions) yet does not answer every question.

OK, now that I've addressed those who haven't read the books, the rest of this is for those who have.

True confessions: I love, love, love Argelin and Hermia, the villains of the work. That this couple is drawn in such a nuanced fashion, that some sympathy exists, that they are shown in full tragedy, is brilliant writing. And, having watched Rome on DVD, I totally picture James Purefoy as Argelin.

While there is a firm conclusion, am I hoping too much when I say, I would love another book set in this world?

Mirany in the Underworld? Girlfriend finally gets some adventure! Go girl, especially after the boys left her behind last time. I have to say, Mirany sitting at home bothered me in the last book, even tho she had her hands full with intrigue.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'd Like "Facts" For $100, Alex

So this week's "ohmygod teens today" story involves the Teenage Pregnancy Pact in Gloucester, Mass., as reported in Time Magazine: Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High.

The damaging quotes about the girls: "All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head. "

I'm writing about it here because I find the story disturbing; especially in regards to how teenage girls are viewed, treated, and written about. And the use of the word "pact" and how that affects the story and how the girls -- and the boys/men involved -- are portrayed and viewed.

So here are my questions:

Why did the high school principal believe it was OK to speak about his students? Isn't there some sort of confidentiality when it comes to minors?

Why are the boys/men involved being left off the hook? Yep, I know there is the "manipulative girls, the boys were used" angle, which is why the story of a pact is so juicy, but even if true, the boys/men invovled have a responsibility for their own actions.

Per the Gloucester news report linked to above, about the ages of the fathers-to-be: "Yesterday, police Detective Kenneth Ryan said the department generally only investigates statutory rape cases if a victim has come forward with a complaint and at this point, no high school students or members of their families had done so."

Yet, in other news sources, the town mayor is quoted as saying: "We're at the very early stages of wrestling with the complexities of this problem," she said. "But we also have to think about the boys. "Some of these boys could have their lives changed. They could be in serious, serious trouble, even if it was consensual sex, because of their age – not from what the city could do but from what the girls' families could do," she said.

So there you have it; while the police chief offers a common sense reply (we need a report of a crime to investigate), the mayor's quote seems to indicate that the boys need to be protected from the consequences of their own actions.

What about thinking of the girls? Like, for example, not opening minors up to the ridicule of an article in a national newsmagazine? It's going to be rather easy for the entire school and town to know who the pregnant girls are.

If, of course, the pact as put forth in press story after story is true. And it may not be. As a recent Gloucester Daily Times report shows, their is some doubt on both the pact and the nature of the pact. A local resident says, "her daughter knew some of the girls involved and suggested that any "pact" between them had been made after they were pregnant and was to stay in school and raise the babies together."

According to the Time Magazine, the girls and their families "declined to be interviewed." Which means there is no confirmation from those involved. (Hence my question about the facts.)

Why report the pact as a "fact", if not one of the girls involved confirmed it?

Because the story is just so good -- and plays to all the media's buttons.

Kids influenced by news (Jamie Lynn Spears) and movies like Juno (where, BTW, Juno gives up the baby, so how is that an influence to teens who are going to keep their babies, supposedly?)

Kids looking for love who don't get it at home and the role of parents.

Peer influence v family influence

Kids who need/don't need better sex education/ teaching abstinence/ birth control (really, this is the best part -- the story can be used to spin for any of these issues, and for any position you have on these issues.)

Slutty girls. (I hate that word myself, but there are tons of articles out there about girls today, how they dress, sex, etc. And look how so far the boys -- even the 20something guy -- are viewed as the recieving end of female manipulation.)

Money -- whether its is funding for schools and programs, or welfare.

And, since I have my doubts about the whole "pact", I liked this editorial from the Gloucester Daily Times, tracking the use of the word "pact" as it relates to the story.

Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor passed away at age 92; here is the New York Times link, and the one at the LA Times. Her illustrations were in the books I read as a kid. I cannot look at any other edition of A Child's Garden of Verses without thinking first, those pictures are not right.

In reading her obituaries, I'm becoming intrigued with the woman herself.* But there are things that hint at some (to me) interesting things, and I want to read more about her.**

I am most fascinated not by her "simple" life but by the "living in the past" aspect. Having just done some dental work where the entire time I thought, "thank you, God, for having me be born in a time when this can be done without pain and without losing the tooth," and never having liked outhouses while camping, as much as I like different past periods in time I've never wanted to actually recreate them or live in them.

Yet this quote about her work -- "I’m a commercial artist, and I’ve done my books because I needed to earn my living" -- tells me she didn't overly romanticize things. It's common sense; it's not saying, oohh, if you're an artist it is the art, etc.

Anyway, I am now intrigued by her life and by her lifestyle. And have more books on my TBR pile. And sadly know I can never have a simple lifestyle myself, as I'll always need to have enough rooms for all my books, and enough money for books and bookshelves.

*Yeah, I know, being too nosey about a person's life, etc. etc.
** Add it to my long list of post-Printz reading.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Whales on Stilts


Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson. Series: M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales. Library Copy. 2005.

The Plot: The Thrilling Tale of Katie Mulligan (you remember her from the Horror Hollow Books), Jasper Dash (Boy Technonaut) and Lily Gefelty as they encounter Whales -- on -- Stilts. (I'm saying that in my Pigs In Space voice.)

The Good: It's not just that I grew up reading series books; I grew up reading series books from every decade. Mary Rose at Boarding School (still cannot find much online about them). The Outdoor Girls of Deepdale and their (god help me I'm telling the truth) Camping and Tramping Club. The Happy Hollisters. So reading these books, that are tribute to those series, is great. It's tribute and love song, yet laughing at the same time, mocking with love.

Will kids today like them? Well, I don't think kids who are readers have changed. They still delight in the box of books at a grandparent's house, the dusty books found at a garage sale. And so, yes, they will like these books, also.

Plus, even if they don't get the homage to those earlier books? This is still a funny, adventurous tale. Kids who want humor? Give them this.

To begin with: "On Career Day Lily visited her dad's work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation." Could there be a better opening line? Or summation of a plot?

Lily herself is quietly observant: "Lily believed that the world was a wonderful and magical place. She believed that if watched carefully enough, you could find miracles anywhere."

She has two friends, Katie and Jasper. In a quasi reality show aspect, Katie is also the star of a series of children's books, and it's a bit meta in that the books are slightly fiction but Katie also does indeed live off Route 666 and encounters haunted happenings. I'm sure the Winchester boys will be visiting any time now. And Katie will kick their asses. (Yes, I'm in denial about Dean. So?)

Jasper, meanwhile, has stepped right out of those old series books I adore. He goes around saying things like, "Dash it all, chums, this sounds a mighty pickle." He is very proud of his photocopy machine, which involves a mule on a treadmill. Jasper speaks as if he's from the 20s, with a view of the future that is 80 years old.

But, as I said, you don't need to know that Katie is RL Stine come to life or Jasper a throwback to the 20s/30s to enjoy the humor. Dad works in an abandoned warehouse on edge of town. With a receptionist. That, my friends, is the type of humor I adore. An abandoned warehouse where the father doesn't realize something is up, is just plain crazy; add in a receptionist for the evil people? And chums, it is brilliant.

There is a sequel, which I haven't read yet; and a third book!

Links:
Via NPR, hear MT Anderson read the first chapter.
Cynsations (Cynthia Leitich Smith) -- interview with the author
The Toothbrush Mystery

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Policy!

So I've decided to charge you every time you want to quote this blog.

It'll be a sliding scale -- $12.50 for the first 5 to 25 words. And if I don't like what you say, you cannot quote me at all.

KIDDING.

But this is apparently what the Associated Press has decided to do. More info at Boing Boing (link from Big A little a).

More information is at The Washington Post, for those who may think "oh it's just some bloggers getting upset it's not a real issue." (link from Melissa Wiley).

King Of Shadows


King of Shadows by Susan Cooper. Personal copy. Read for the Scholar's Blog Book Discussion. This discussion took place in February of 2007; I'm going thru old books that I enjoyed but didn't post about when I read.

The Plot: Present-day Nat is a teenager and actor who is in a staging of one of Shakespeare's Plays. Then, boom! Time slip happens and he's back in the day, meeting the real Bard.

The Good: I love time slip novels. I love Shakespeare.

Nat meets Shakespeare and they bond. Nat's father is dead; and Nat sees Shakespeare as a quasi father figure.

OK, true confession time: when I read the Nat/Shakespeare relationship, I thought, "hm. gay." There was something about the intensity of Nat's feelings towards Shakespeare that just seemed -- well, not as a son to a father. Or a friend to a friend. And I thought, OK, that's just my reading, I've read too much slash fanfiction. But then I saw that Roger thought the same thing!

Tho, part of my reading may also be because of Susan Cooper and Hume Cronyn. I think this, in a way, is her love story to him; with SC's feelings about HC projected onto Nat's feelings for WS.

Anyway, I also liked this book because of the theatre! angle, a world that Cooper knows. The present day theatre, trying to recreate the Shakespeare plays; and then the world of Shakespeare, putting them on for the first time.

Arby's word convey the heart of this book: "Nothing is more important than the company; nothing is more important than the play." Is it the people or the play that is more important?

Final worlds: I was really, really frustrated by the non-explanation for the timeslip. It turns out that Babbage/ Burbage sends Nat back in time to save WS; but it never explains how B/B manages to learn the secrets of a long life/ time travel.

Edited to add: Date changed from Monday to Tuesday to qualify for Charlotte's Library Timeslip Tuesday.

timeslip tuesday

It's Timeslip Tuesday at Charlotte's Library.

Timeslip = travels thru time.

Perhaps at this point you've noticed my poor planning?

Ahem.

So I'm going to pull a timeslip myself. And change the date on the King of Shadows review. Cause I'm that kind of person.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I've seen some of these underworld child-bride deals -- and they never end well. Maybe once." -- Anya, Ep: Once More, With Feeling

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Huh. So that's the way you see things?

Monica Edinger highlighted Frank Cottrell Boyce's comments on YA contained in a recent Guardian book review. Monica has a conversation going on at her blog, but as my comment became longer and longer I realized I needed to post on it here, also.

To quote in pertinent part from FCB:

If I have one quibble, it is that I think it should be sitting proudly on the shelf next to these books, rather than being hidden away in the "young adult" ghetto. There's been a lot of fury among authors recently about the proposal to "age-band" children's books, but in a way they're too late. The real disaster has already happened. It's called "young adult" fiction. It used to be the case that you moved on from children's fiction to adult fiction, from The Owl Service, maybe, to Catcher in the Rye. There were, of course, some adult authors who were more fashionable with teenage readers than others - Salinger, Vonnegut, Maya Angelou. But these were chosen by teenagers themselves from the vast world of books. Some time ago, someone saw that trend and turned it into a demographic. Fortunes were made but something crucial was lost. We have already ghettoised teenagers' tastes in music, in clothes and - God forgive us - in food. Can't we at least let them share our reading? Is there anything more depressing than the sight of a "young adult" bookshelf in the corner of the shop. It's the literary equivalent of the "kids' menu" - something that says "please don't bother the grown-ups". If To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, that's where it would be placed, among the chicken nuggets.

This is not just a question of taste. It seems to me that the real purpose of stories and reading is to take you out of yourself and put you somewhere else. Anything that is made to be sold to a particular demographic, however, will always end up reflecting the superficial concerns of that demographic. I've lived through an era in which demographic-fixation murdered popular cinema and replaced a vibrant art form with a kind of digital holding-pen for teenage boys. I think we're in danger of doing the same to fiction. The best young adult fiction - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, A Swift Pure Cry, Noughts and Crosses and so on - strolls out of its category. I've no doubt at all that The Knife of Never Letting Go will do the same. Don't let the demographic exclude you.

Part of me doesn't want to comment at all, from the sense that I'm fast beginning to wonder just what the hell is going on over in the UK with books and reading. Do people really tell teens they cannot read adult books? Is YA Lit really being used as restrictive box to keep teens away from adult materials?

In my experiences, YA Lit offers us more choices, not less. That, at its heart, is my view towards books and reading: what expands our world rather than limits it?

Age banding (along with the implicit using of banding for censoring -- no kisses before 13! No divorce before 11! No death before 9! No GLBT ever!) is voiced in terms of limiting choices, not opening up a world. Yet, FCB uses language that says the existence of YA lit is itself limiting. And for that, I have to disagree; and the only thing I can really point to is my own experiences as a reader, and what I observe with others, and it's all in the US, so FCB may be entirely right for the UK. I don't know.

FCB recalls teenagers going from children's lit to adult lit, and worries that today's teens are being kept from that adult lit. He also seems to be saying that good YA books are really adult books with a bad label.

As a lifelong reader, my choices have always been varied. At ten I was reading adult fiction; but I was also reading children's lit. It was never an either/or; and there was never a "don't read this," either at home, in a bookstore, or in a library. So yes, I did read adult lit as a teen; but I see today's teens doing likewise, reading a bit from here, a bit from there.

As for what YA lit has become.... I look at what we have now and get angry and jealous that I didn't have the reading choices as a teen that teens have today. I recall looking at adult shelves to try to find something that was teen friendly -- so some of my adult book reading was not a choice, but a default. I would have loved to have the books that are available today; and I hope that these books don't go away.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

YPulse Mashup: Are You Going?

Where will you be on July 14?

Alas, since I live in NJ and have already spent my personal professional conference/travel budget,* I cannot attend the YPulse National Mashup Publishing Preconference. Click thru; it's amazing, isn't it?

But, for those of you who live closer to San Francisco, Anastasia at YPulse has this to share:**

"Finally, for you or any of your readers who can make it out to San Francisco, we are offering a special $100 rate for librarians. All you have to is register for the Ypulse Books pre-conference only (the rate doesn't apply to the entire Mashup event), and enter the code "BookDeal" -- that's it! Our conferences are extremely interactive, so the more YA librarians who attend, the more your voices will end up being an integral part of the discussion. Hope to see you there!"

A hundred dollars is a spectacular rate; if it weren't for the airfare/hotel issue, I'd be telling work I need some vacation days.

So, who is going? Who will report back?

*ALA, ALA Midwinter, YA Lit Symposium, Kidlit Bloggers Conference

** Anastasia left this on my post about age banding, where I did a mini rant about how children's and YA librarians should look for forums outside the library world to speak up. Just as we need to look outside in terms of presenting/writing, it's also good to attend non-library events in order to get fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oh Noes They Don't Read "Good Books" For Fun

Oz and Ends does a great job of analyzing the data of the latest report on kids and reading. Take a look at: Oz and Ends: Is Our Children Reading?

My fave part is at the end: "Most telling, "82% of parents responded that they wished their children read more for fun." That's the wish or anxiety that the alarmed media reports are tweaking. But if we assume that 82% of parents includes the 24% who themselves read often for pleasure, that still leaves 58%, or well over half, of all parents wishing that their children would read more avidly than they do themselves."

Ah...the read as I say, not as I do approach.

2 YA reviews

of Impossible by Nancy Werlin and How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier.

They were both terrific. 2008 has been such a great year for YA. Happy sigh.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Jezebel: Fine Lines

This week, Jezebel's Fine Lines feature is A Wrinkle in Time.

One quick tangent: what I love about reading, and what makes readers advisory so very challenging, is the ultimately complex and contradictory reading choices of people. For example, as I mentioned last week, I love the author Norma Klein. But I also love Madeleine L'Engle, and the teens in both those books who live in New York live very different types of lives. Very different families. Yet both authors and both books rock. My moral: be careful about judging readers by their reading choices.

Topic! Jezebel manages to put the entire L'Engle reading experience in one beautiful, I'd wish I'd written it paragraph:

If I had my way, none of us would have to read this review at all. Instead, we'd join hands, hear a great dark thunderclap, and be whisked off to a rambling house in the country, where we'd view odd things bubbling in a lab with a stone floor, then eat limburger-and-cream-cheese sandwiches while swinging our legs at the kitchen table. We'd sidestep for a moment onto a planet inhabited by gentle gray creatures with dents for eyes, then be inserted into some mitochondria. We battle for the soul of Madoc /Maddox, and eat small crayfish with our lesbian kind-of aunt who insisted on calling us our full name (Polyhymnia). We'd hop on a freighter and solve a mystery, then go to boarding school in Switzerland. We would make a brief detour on the Upper West Side by way of Portugal, and be concerned with cell regeneration in starfish. We'd be smacked on the ass by a dolphin. Most important, whatever happened, we'd know we could get through it—because we are creatures that can love.

If you are a L'Engle reader, right now you're trying hard not to cry. How many of her books do you recognize in that paragraph? And doesn't it suck beyond the telling that there will be no more L'Engle books?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Printz; Publishers

And now the final bit from the policies & procedures of the Printz Award, all wording taken verbatim from the YALSA site.

Relationship with Publishers
Committee members should not solicit publishers for free personal copies of books. If members are offered or receive unsolicited copies of books from publisher(s), they may be accepted.

Committee members should not solicit publishers for favors, invitations, etc. If members receive these, however, they will use their own judgment in accepting. Publishers understand that such acceptance in no way influences members' actions or selections.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Age Banding in the UK

I meant to blog about age banding a few days ago when I first saw it mentioned at Publishers Weekly. In a nutshell, publishers and parents in the UK apparently have said, "hey, it would be so cool if all books had labels saying "this is for kids aged x."" Authors, librarians, and booksellers have responded with a loud "hell, no" (Well, to be fair, some authors are saying it's good.*)

Fuse posted about it today, with some more links on reactions to it. One of the many things the authors are saying are saying is "booksellers have the knowledge without age banding thank you very much." Fuse's comment to this is "Sure sure. Or, y'know, maybe you could ask someone with an actual degree in children's literature like a, gee I dunno, librarian? Come on, Phil. We need all the shout-outs we can get."

Going just a wee bit wanky, I'd amend Fuse's comment a bit. Oh, I agree that the librarians are great at matching books to readers, and it's sad that many of the comments arising from this issue are of the "librarians didn't let me read a book" variety.

But what makes librarian's great isn't a degree in children's literature. Cause I don't have that (tho sometimes I really like the idea of getting a PhD in children's literature. Know a good program?)

Like most librarians, what I have is a Masters of Library and Information Sciences, which included two relevant classes: Materials for Children and Materials for Young Adults. See, I think the thing with librarians isn't so much that they know children's lit ... it's that they are the matchmaker, matching the book and the child, and that is what is unique about librarians.

Or, rather, should be unique about librarians. Sometimes, I wonder.

I've posted before (here and at Pop) about how, to my sorrow, books seem to be "so last year" when libraries talk. It's all about, well, things that aren't books. So libraries outsource selection and cataloging. It's about programming. It's about becoming a community center. Books? Oh, they will disappear soon. People buy what they want at Amazon. How many libraries really support readers advisory?

Yet, people are crying out for readers advisory and to talk about books. Look at the popularity of GoodReads, Shelfari, LibraryThing. Any of those could have been -- should have been -- library ideas. Because people still want books, and want to talk about books, and want suggestions on what to read next. Most front line library staff know this, as do those of us librarians who went into librarianship because of books. The most popular programs I go to at library conferences and workshops are about books.

Do we need shout-outs, like Fuse said?

Absolutely.

But we also need to "shout out" ourselves, about our unique ability to be book matchmakers; more so than bookstores, in that we have old books and new books, popular books and niche books, and so have a bigger selection of books for people to read. We need to keep up with what books are out there -- by reading reviews, both professional and informal; by reading books that are readers guides. We -- not an age on a book -- are the best help to someone who is looking for the right book for a child. And we need to let more people know that.

To show just how much we fail at letting people outside the library world know what we do, take a look at Ypulse's great book preconference (aka where I would go if I won the lottery tomorrow.) Yes, an amazing line up...but where are the YA librarians, talking about readers advisory and handselling books and booktalks and letting people know about how librarians figure into publishing? We have something to offer!

Back to the topic of age banding:

To start, no, the proposed UK system is not the same as what some publishers do here in the US (the smallish for ages 8 to 12 on the back of a book). The proposal is for the following categories: 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+/teen.

Using an "age band" for a book is deceptive. It appears to be helpful -- to match the book to the reader. But it's as deceptive as talking about "boy books" and "girl books." Books are much more than a book for a particular age or gender. Readers have more subtle and complex needs than that. And yes, labelling books can create a backlash, with kids refusing to read because something is too babyish. I've also seen, again and again, parents and teachers view books as no more than a "checklist" item to prove a child's genius and maturity, so there will be some who say "I have an 7 year old but I want the 13 year old books because my child is gifted."

The truth is there is no one book that is a match for every 8 year old. And adults who want that simple match are fooling themselves; books are not school uniforms or clothes. Each 8 year old is different; and to get that book for that child, you either need to do a lot of reading yourselves or to find a professional who has done that reading to help match book to child.

* My interpretation of Rosoff's defense of age banding is she sees it as a way not to censor but rather to assist adults who know nothing about children's books who want to buy something for a child. I agree, that is a problem; but I disagree that the solution is to label books in the way proposed, and would argue that it would cause more problems than it solves.

Cross posted at Pop.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Gray Horses


Gray Horses by Hope Larson. Graphic Novel. 2006. Oni Press. My copy. Publisher rates it Teenage 13+.

The Plot: Noemie leaves her native France to study abroad.

The Good: This graphic novel looks at the experiences of a French exchange student in America; the art and text is deceptively simple. Noemie struggles with loneliness, fitting in, finding friends; and is also having odd dreams about horses.

Page one starts with text in French and English; (the publisher has a five page excerpt). The graphics are white and black, against splashes of peach, and often its solely the artwork conveying Noemie's experiences.

While there are books about Americans studying abroad, I was intrigued to see here the flip approach. Noemie ponders, "Even the machines here speak another language." But the story is broader than simply someone from another country experiencing America. Going to college can be a strange new land for anyone, even when the language isn't different.

Noemie dreams of horses...and what do the dreams have to do with her everyday life? Daily life is meeting a new friend Anna, seeing a strange boy. And it intertwines, with a picture found under her wallpaper being the photo she sees a girl in her dream hide.

This is a great book; a quiet look at friendship, of longing, of being away from home, of the layers we find in our life, and of love.

I first read this book when it was nominated for the Cybils graphic novel long list in 2006. It's a book that demands to be reread. While there are different ways to think about graphic novels, one of the questions I ask myself is, could it have been told just as well in just text? Does it matter that some of the story is told in pictures? How important is the art? This is one of those books that would not have been the same without the art.

Links:

Salon review. (with sample art)
Publisher website with 5 page preview

Monday, June 02, 2008

Jezebel talks Norma Klein

Whenever I hear someone my age say, "they didn't have teen books like that back when I was a teen," I point to the most amazing Norma Klein.

Sadly out of print; go over to Jezebel to see just how awesome Klein's books are. I almost want to hunt down each and every one of those books on ebay right this moment. Except where would I put them? Sigh.

What's also interesting is that Klein had smart girls who had sex and -- wait for it -- didn't get punished for it. The books were set in that post-birth control pre-AIDS world of the 70s/early 80s; as Jezebel says, it's a world where "What if all we had to fear were the hearts we'd break or the hearts we'd take?"

Speaking of that era -- I'm really looking forward to Swingtown.

Back to Klein.

You may also know her thanks to the fictionalized Sunshine, best young Mom dying of cancer break your heart book ever, and the made for TV movies and TV show; or this Valerie Bertinelli movie based on one of her books (but I think they set the movie in California? Instead of NYC?)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My new bookshelves from L.L. Bean.
The windows in my house are low, so it was a challenge to find something to fit under them. These are a perfect fit; the top is exactly at my window sill.

The shelves themselves are lower than average height; most of my hardcover books don't fit spine-out. Still, they look great, they fit perfectly, and yay, all those books are off the floor.
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