Monday, February 09, 2009

See, Definitions Are Important!

School Library Journal's article on where to shelve The Graveyard Book ignores the real issues and instead tries to stir up controversy.

The stirred-up controversy: because The Graveyard Book starts with the murder of Bod's family, fearful librarians shelve the book in YA to protect the children. Think of the children!

Remember, a few posts back, I mentioned how important it is to discuss how we define terms?

As Roger Sutton also points out, there are two questions to ask:

What age/grade is the book for?

Where do books for that age/grade get shelved in your library?

SLJ notes that The Graveyard Book is reviewed by SLJ as Grades 5 to 8. Roger adds that The Horn Book reviewed it as Grades 6 up.

So the next question is, logically, where do you put a book for these ages?

Guess what -- Young Adult can start at 12 in some libraries. I'm on the NJLA YA Section; Garden State Teen Book Award list has a list for Grades 6 to 8, reflecting that, in New Jersey at least, many YA librarians serve Grade 6 up.

Logic shows that for some libraries, YA is the right place. And it's for valid reasons. And this isn't the only book where libraries make this judgment call; any book reviewed Grades 5 to 8 raise this question, with the library using a variety of factors to decide, if the book straddles library age ranges, where does it go?

So, as my final question.... since SLJ infers that a murder in a book means that librarians will place a book in YA, no matter what, what other books for children include murders?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, even when abridged, has a murder.

I seem to recall another book that begins with parents being murdered; oh, yeah, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

So, what ones can you think of? Double points for any book that is considered a classic!

So, what other children's books contain a murder?


Jennie said...

Off the top of my head:

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Assassin by Lady Grace Cavendish

Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

All of which are in the children's section at my library (which runs through grade 7-ish.)

If you look at the plot structure of Graveyard Book--highly episodic with some things tying together at the end, it's definitely children's.

Jennie said...

PS-- Criss Cross and Hattie Big Sky are both in the YA section at my library.

Meanwhile, my local library (not the one I work in) keeps their J/YA break much lower. It has Last Apprentice crosslisted in J and YA. Bindi Babes and Millicent Min are in YA, but Graveyard Book is in J.

diane said...

Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, The Pendragon series, and MANY others. Not all Newbery winners are sweet little tales either.

diane said...

The Twilight series isn't in the elementary half of our K-12 library, but I know some of the 5th and 6th grade students are reading it - purchased for them by their parents.

Narnia books, LOTR all have battles and death.

Liz B said...

The library I used to work with had YA as 7th up, so the "5th to 8th" books fell right in the middle. Their rule of thumb was the age of the main character -- if it was 10/11, it went J, if it was 12/13, they went YA. They have G' Book in YA; I'm assuming because Bod is a teenager by the end of the book.

holly cupala said...

The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Westing Game, Peppermints in the Parlor... What is a middle grade novel without at least one orphan, preferably made so by violent means? And they say YA is the gritty category. :)

tanita✿davis said...

I am neither a librarian nor a MG specialist, but I am a sissy -- the first chapter of The Graveyard Book freaked me RIGHT out. It might have been different if I'd been reading it, instead of hearing it being read aloud -- by Neil Gaiman.

But thinking about your question, I don't find that I was running to hide this from the children. Bod grew on me and I would love to squeeze his little insubstantial ghostly cheeks. The problem -- which maybe isn't a real problem, but maybe just a confusion -- is that people tend to think of "Children's Books" as if they alone are an indisputable single genre. The Graveyard Book is arguably a mystery/suspense book, and so the death is perfectly reasonable. And, if you're a kid who prefers folk tales or country stories or comedies or something else - there's other books for your librarian to recommend.

I was a sissy kid, too, and it would have taken me an age to pluck up the courage to read something with the word "graveyard" in the title. But I'm darned if I would support that book not being there for when I finally got the courage to want it. It is a good book, and someone would merely need to put on their big-girl panties and read it to know this.

Anonymous said...

Roller Skates, a 1930s Newbery winner, has a COMPLETELY GRATUITOUS AND HORRIFYING murder.

When I was a kid, the only books on the YA shelf at my local library (it was one small shelf) were books with explicit sex scenes. (And I think everyone knew why they were there, and wouldn't go near that shelf; too embarrassing.) That was, maybe, the early 90s. Categories are fluid. Lois Duncan books are full of murders and attempted murders, and they were all in the children's section.

Anonymous said...

Well, I would point out that The Underneath, a Newbery Honor book, that many people thought was THE front runner for the big prize is also amazingly violent and bleak and depressing. (and a splendid book, might I add.) But it's "only" about animals, right? Would we be seeing the same outcry if The Underneath had won or are we prepared for THAT kind of scariness and violence in our children's books? (you know, Where The Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, etc.)

Also, Liz, can I ask you to take the word sissy out of this post? In this context, it has negatively gendered connotations I don't think are necessary for the point you are making.

Liz B said...

Angie, wasn't my intent to be negative, thanks for making me aware of how it read! It's done.

I totally forgot about the murder in Roller Skates, and that was one of my favorite books as a kid.

Ms. Yingling said...

By middle school, students are ASKING for books with murder. I'm far more squeamish about it than they are (and let's hope that Shan's Lord Loss is never shelved in children's!). Maybe I can get them to read Roller Skates BECAUSE of the murder. I'll give it a try!

Mary Lee said...

How about James and the Giant Peach?

Anonymous said...

Treasure Island. Two deaths in the beginning that starts off the adventure.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for taking out sissy. I appreciate it! :)