Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dear America? Why Not Dear World?

What did I see over at Kirby Larson's blog?

A Dear America relaunch, with Larson as one of the first authors! The Publishers Weekly article about the relaunch provides more information: "The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson, author of Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky; a 50,000-copy first printing is on order for this new title centering on a 13-year-old living in 1941 Seattle on the eve of the U.S.'s entrance into WWII. Also due in September are two reissues: Newbery Honor author Kathryn Lasky's A Journey to the New World, one of the original Dear America launch titles; and The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory. A third reissue, Ellen Emerson White's Voyage on the Great Titanic, will follow in November."

That will be the Plimoth book, the Jamestown book, and Ellen Emerson White! Sweet! Maybe they will also do her brother/sister Vietnam books!

I know when these came out, some adults were bothered that kids would think they were real autobiographies, and a handful of kids felt betrayed that they weren't. I say, eye roll. I grew up with the heavily fictionalized, shelved in biography Childhood of Famous American series and guess what? Give kids credit; and the kids who did feel betrayed, well, those are the same kids who also got upset that Santa/The Tooth Fairy/etc. were made up.

I love the Dear America books, the use of resources at the back of the books, the "what happened" at the end that could be devastating in its historical accuracy. I haven't yet recovered from So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, An Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847.

My only quibble.

Did you know there was also a Dear Canada imprint? And a United Kingdom/ Great Britain My Story imprint, and while I couldn't find these on the Scholastic US website, some are available in the US: The Hunger: An Irish Girl's Diary, 1845-1847 (My Story).

You know, we Americans (including children) are not so "USA" centric as people think. No, really. Books telling the story of Canada's history? The history of England? Would be read. No, really.

So please, Scholastic -- as you reissue and bring out new Dear America books?

Think bigger. Think beyond our borders. Include stories about the history of other countries -- and perspectives on historical events that are not American.

Think Dear World.


So sorry for forgetting My Australian Story! Thanks to Judith Ridge at Misrule for letting me know.

Then I did what I should have earlier, and checked out Wikipedia for the other "Dear..." books. New Zealand! India! I want them all now.

Please, Scholastic -- DEAR WORLD!!


In addition to the comments -- Compulsive Reader also says, "go Dear World!"

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Celia said...

Ack! I was definitely one of the kids that thought these were -- if not real diaries -- then at least based on real people and only slightly fictionalized. I don't know if the word "betrayed" is right, but maybe "let down" but the book not being real.

After all, if every time an adult deceived you as a kid meant betrayal, you'd have issues. It would have been nice if had been more clear, like stamped with "Historical Fiction" somewhere on it, because they were definitely worthwhile reading.

Having an international version would be even better. After all, I've learned so much about American history through nontraditional sources (books, movies). I've always found that if I've learned about an event through a nontraditional source and then had to learn it for a class it was much easier to do. (The Little Princess's retelling of the Ramayana made it easier for me to learn the myth years later for a college course.)

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...
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The Compulsive Reader said...

I loved these books as well! I guess I always knew that they weren't real girls, but I imagined they were. I am so glad to see that they are coming back!

Cynthia: I remember those as well! I was bitterly disappointed when they went out of print. I own Saba: Under the Hyena's Foot, and Isabel: Taking Wing, and I remember yearning for the others. I would love to find copies of those some day; they were wonderful, and a bit more diverse, though not as numerous.

tanita✿davis said...

Seriously: DEAR WORLD would be awesome.

Rebecca Herman said...

I loved these books, I still own every single one and I have the My Story/Dear Canada books too. The UK series actually started as a series about the UK (so England, Ireland, Scotland) but they've recently expanded it to international settings. There are books about ancient Egypt, Pompeii, the French Revolution, and World War II in France.

But I am still super excited to see Dear America return as it was my favorite series.

Jennie said...

Yes! on both counts--

I'm glad they're reprinting them, because they're still crazy popular at my library

And YES we need a Dear World. Their Royal Diaries off shoot is super popular here not just because it's about princesses and queens, but because it's about other places.

Peaceful Reader said...

Hattie Big Sky is one of my favorite books so I'm glad to see Kirby Larsen is kicking off this new, up-dated series. Dear World would be so new and global!

Colleen said...

My son will love these and I third the notion of "Dear World".

Lauren said...

Aye Aye to Dear World!

I loved the American and Royal Diaries in elementary school! I never quite realized that they would wane in popularity, but if they aren't printing more, I guess it makes sense.

Betsy said...

That would be great. The Dear Canada series here (in Canada) is very popular with readers, and is written by some great authors, including Jean Little, Sarah Ellis and Karleen Bradford.

Liz B said...

So it looks like we have a lot of Team Dear World. And that they are already doing something like that in the UK.

Oh, Scholastic...

Rebecca Herman said...

There's also a series in France called Mon Histoire (My History/My Story) that started out publishing books mainly set in France but they also have books set in other places. I bought them for my "diary series" collection (I own all the UK/Canada/Australia/New Zealand diaries too, but I can actually read those) and I really wish I could read French looking at them.

Here's an example of one:

Rebecca Herman said...

Also if you are interested in the My Story series published in the UK here is a site you can order from with free shipping:

the price therefore works out to about the same as an American book. I have ordered many books from there and they are very reliable.

Monica Edinger said...

I was one who was bothered by the original covers as they did not have the author names on them and the very first ones had a tiny line at the back indicating that they were fiction. I did have kids getting upset when they learned they were fiction (and these weren't necessarily kids who got similarly upset about tooth fairies or Santa) and wrote quite a lot about them and this problem. I love the Lasky Mayflower book; it is superbly done (and I know as it is a topic I've been teaching and writing about for a long time) and am glad to see it being reissued with her name on the cover. (Funny, after seeing the Scholastic preview, I started a blog post on this topic too and will post it when I have time to finish it.)

Liz B said...

Celia & Monica, sorry if I was a wee bit snarky. But I just remember reading, as a kid, nonfiction books with heavily fictionalized dialogue and the process of realizing it wasn't "all true." So let's hopefully keep the cute ribbon bookmarks AND add the author names prominently on the spine and cover! Monica, i look forward to your post.

Cynthia, I love those books, also!

Compulsive Reader, I also linked to your post. I love the dear world idea of not just being in other countries, but other mindsets. For example: books set in 19th century europe that don't end in migration to the USA.

tanita, jennie, peaceful reader, colleen, let's see what scholastic does. fingers crossed.

Rebecca, that the UK books have begun incorporating other countries makes me hope the US books will do likewise. & there are french ones? and i also found dear india. wow..i wonder how many coutries there are already.

lauren, some titles were always more popular than others. I have great hopes for a new popularity for these books, especially since they have such amazing authors.

betsy, jean little? sigh. on the one hand, I love how scholastic reflects the authors and history of the various countries they publish in .. but, at least here in the us, i think having non-us authors/subjects would be great.

MissA said...

Go Dear World! They all sound amazing; Dear India, Australia, New Zealand, UK, My canada, etc. I would be super curious to see how many similar imprints of the series there are.

I LOVEd Girls of Many Lands, Royal Diaries and Dear America. I enjoyed learning about new cultures, visitng foregin countries and seeing a different time period. For the longest time I wanted to be in Elizabeth Tudor's court. Until I read about how unsanitary it was. lol.

When I first read a Dear America I thought it was true, and I was a bit saddened that it wasn't, but I got over it. I devoured the series (Ellen Emerson's book? Where Have All the flowers Gone? One of my all-time favorites. I never read her brother's. or any of the guy ones. I must rectify that).

I think Scholastic could make a lot of money by making this series international, by having a Dear World. They could help raise the depressingly low stats about Americans and their lack of knowledge about history and geography.

Thanks for this post :)

Jeannine Atkins said...

I also love Dear World. And love: "I say, eye roll," as another who grew up on the Childhood of Famous American series and feel it did me way more good than harm. Thank you.