As Monica explains, there's this whole campaign to save print book reviews. Colleen has blogged about it, also.
Gawker weighs in with the deliciously titled, Why Johnny Can't Read: Is Campaign to Save Book Reviewing Just About Saving The Status Quo?
Yes, I know Gawker's description is Gawker, daily Manhattan media news and gossip. But it is so much more. Such as, did you know that Ice Cream Sundaes Are Yummy?
Monday, April 30, 2007
As Monica explains, there's this whole campaign to save print book reviews. Colleen has blogged about it, also.
Head on over to the online version of The Horn Book for Fuse #8's article, Field Notes: Blogging the Kidlitosphere, which includes a list of blogs at Kid Lit Bloggers To Watch.
Edited to Add: And a big Welcome to The Horn Book readers!
And yet more news about non-blogger reviewers. The New York Times Sunday Book Review section has an article about blurbing: Literary Misblurbing: Genius!
Since the NYT omitted that section with my weekend delivery, I found out about the article via galleycat.
I guess I'm very cynical (yes, I'm Gen X!) because part of my reaction was "that's something new? Hasn't misblurbing been happening, like, forever?"
So, my varied & sundry questions:
Blogger review blurbs. What do you think? I've seen blurbs on author websites; and at both Kane/Miller and Lee & Low. Where have you seen your blog blurbed? And when do you think the first blogger blurb will appear on a book?
Saturday, April 28, 2007
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. Library copy.
Zombies. They attack. They almost win. Now, a decade later, an oral history has been assembled, from the doctor who treated "Patient Zero" (the first documented Zombie) to the American soldier who fought at the Battle of Yonkers, from the feral child who survived on her own to the South African who invented the notorious plan that ensured human survival at the cost of millions of lives.
The Good: Zombies!!
What else? Since the war is over and the survivors are being interviewed, we know that people lived. But how? At what cost? And how exactly do you survive when a zombie attacks?
Part of what I liked is how both the "back story" of those with knowledge is told, along with the suburban mom who didn't realize the threat until the Zombies came thru the living room window. As with other oral histories, the book moves from narrator to narrator.
Would you survive? According to the official web site, I have about a 35 percent chance of survival. The website keeps up to the "real" attitude of the book by including podcasts of those "interviewed" for the book.
This isn't a zombie gore-fest; it's rather a fear-fest, and I guarantee you by the end of the book, you'll be contemplating a home renovation to include steel doors, shatterproof glass, and disappearing stairs.
Who would like this? It's for fans of horror, science fiction, adventure, and survival fiction.
Brooks is the author of The Zombie Survival Guide. Which, according to the book jacket, "formed the core of the world's civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War."
It was published last year, making it one of the Best Books Read in 2007.
The review at Rock and Roll Librarian.
The Zombie Survival Guide Website.
Movie info (it's been optioned for a film; I think a miniseries on HBO or Showtime would be best.)
Remember my Jamestown obsession?
The Jamestown Colony has a ton of information and resources; including the full text of Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. School Library Journal has all the specifics about who is involved in the site, how long it will be available, etc.
Here is a cool contest related to Anthony Horowitz's latest book, Nightrise. In addition to a signed copy, you can win an author visit to your school.
This contest is just for residents of the UK and the Republic of Ireland; and it ends May 11.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
And here is the proof: Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has a nursery rhyme parody dedicated to me!
Thank you very much!
Yes, I considered waiting to post about this until tomorrow and to make it my Poetry Friday post. But that would be cheating.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Miss Erin presents the Shakespeare Challenge! It looks cool and I especially like that the goal can be individual; how many plays do you want to read? It's been so long since I've read any of the plays that I almost want to start from scratch.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Lectitans' Question of the Week: How much can we know about the author herself based on the content of the book? If you answer, please go over to her site and leave a link.
I think this question applies to any artist: writer, artist, actor, etc. How much of themselves is in their work? If we see an actor portray the perfect guy over and over and over again, we begin to believe that of the actor, even if in Real Life it's not true.
How much can we know? Everything and nothing. I often assume things about authors when I read certain books; and every now and then that assumption has proved true when I've read an interview or other essay about the author and the book. And other times, I find out I'm wrong; very very wrong.
Of course it's best -- and easily said -- that the book stand alone, independent of anything we "know" about the author. But that's easier said than done; what I try to do is be aware that I am making those types of assumptions and try not to hold them too close. Because the problem with the assumptions isn't that they are made; the problem is when actions are taken based on those assumptions -- or actions are taken based on those assumptions being proven false. Because when proven false, the reader may feel "betrayed."
But I don't think there is anything wrong with assumptions, in part because it's human nature and we do it with everything. The important thing is knowing you're doing it.
It's also true that you can tell a lot about a reader based on their review; in the recent discussions in the blogosphere about reviews, a few thru out the comments that this is more true of blog reviews than print reviews. I have to disagree with that; as I've read non blogger reviews that tell a lot about the reviewer.
The Benjamin Franklin Award Finalists 2007; Wands and Worlds has the children's lit finalists, complete with handy Amazon links to find out more info about the book.
And now once again I'm using my own post to veer off on a tangent; the Amazon links issue. As anyone reading the blog knows, I link to Amazon both within reviews and on the sidebar and am an Amazon Affiliate. Why?
In no particular order:
-- cool techie stuff! You may hate it, but I really like the bit that zooms up and contains all the information on the book.
-- using the cover image. There is no definite law on whether or not use of a book or DVD cover is allowable under copyright; seriously, whatever page you link to in my comments saying it is OK is an interpretation of current copyright law. So, for my own peace of mind in not having to worry about it publisher by publisher, book by book, artist by artist, I figure if I'm an Amazon Associate I have the right to use the cover art on my site. This is the solution that works for me; you do the one that works for you. Apples, oranges, six of one, half a dozen of the other. Long time readers may remember how for a while I solved this dilemma by not using cover images at all.
-- my readers are grown-ups. No, seriously. I respect you all as intelligent people; you'll buy or borrow the book from wherever you want to.
-- Amazon does contain additional information about the book that I'm either unable or unwilling to include. Yep, so do other book sellers, to a point. What I couldn't include if I wanted to : the text of published reviews. In looking for published reviews, I like to check out multiple bookseller sites because no one site contains all the published reviews. And, of course, the original review source, if it's available online and is free. I also like that booksellers contain all the info like ISBNs that right now I don't want to include.
-- Why not make a few bucks? Basically, if someone clicks on one of those links and buys something, I make a few pennies. To date, having done this program for over a year, I have made less than fifty dollars. The money is not the reason I'm using the program; it's more for the reasons above. But is it nice when I do find out I've made a few dollars? Yes; it gives me an excuse to buy DVDs.
-- Well, you may ask, why not link to the library and promote that? Truthfully, I haven't looked into it at all. If you prefer to get your books from libraries, I suggest using this Library LookUp Bookmarklet. Basically, if you're in Amazon (or any entity that includes the item ISBN in its URL), you click the bookmarklet and it brings you into your local library catalog to see whether or not your library has the item.
Different people use Amazon Affiliates for different reasons. And guess what? It's all cool; because, as I said, we are all intelligent people who are well aware of the issues about booksellers, mega sellers, independents and big business; marketing, advertising, and promoting; as well as looking at our time, how it is spent, and what we want out of it. I believe that of bloggers; and I believe that of blog readers.
The 13th Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Jen Robinson's Book Page.
Go, take a look, and discover new blogs; or find posts from old blogs that you missed because it was a busy week. Personally, I cannot do a Carnival in one sit down; it takes a few days to make my way thru. So I recommend taking your time as you read the posts!
Blog of the Day: Alex Richards
About the Blogger: Alex is a writer; her first book, Back Talk, will be available this summer. Like some of the other blogs I'm highlighting, I've only just begun reading hers so let's go to Alex's own "About Me"* section: she also dabbles in photography, film, theater, television; and makes no budget horror films.
About the Blog: Alex's blog is a chatty mix of what's happening in her life; one day, it's about a new film she saw, another about her bridal shower. She's got a great voice; when describing a dress that her mother bought her as a present, Alex writes that it made her look like "an Amish prostitute."
*I'm flirting with the idea of adding some type of About section here. Or perhaps putting it in my not really used wiki. Wow, even when I'm talking about someone else's blog I still make it all about me.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Gawker offers up an analysis of some non-blogger book reviews: Plot Summaries Rampant in the NYTBR: Are the Nice People Even Trying?
Friday, April 20, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Do you have a blog post from the past month that you loved?
Then share it with the world in the Children's Literature Blog Carnival. The only ticket you need is the blog post you want to share. The Carnival will be hosted by the lovely Jen Robinson; submit your post in this easy to use form; and because I am the most disorganized blogger ever, your submission is due by TOMORROW. Yes, you only have 24 hours to decide which blog post to submit.
Once Jen has all the submissions, you stays up past her bedtime putting them together into one post. To get a better idea of what a Carnival is all about, check out last month's Carnival at Midwestern Lodestar.
It's been a while since I blogged TV.
So here it is. Don't judge me. Or...judge me. But I don't care.
Blood Ties. Vampire detective, atoning for crimes? Been there, did that. I was so, so wrong.
Blood Ties is awesome. I missed the first few episodes, but basically, Vicky used to be a cop but isn't anymore so works as a private investigator; Mike is still a cop and was her partner (and it looks like they dated.) Vicky has met up with vampire Henry Fitzroy, graphic artist and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, and Henry helps out Vicky who is now busy doing supernatural investigations.
Why is this awesome? The flirty, very adult triangle between Vicky, Henry and Mike. Hot, hot, hot. Plus, it brings the funny (such as when Vicky tells Henry that Henry has the best break up stories. Of course he does! He's over 400 years old and a vampire.) I also love a show where a normal person stumbles into the world of demons and vampires. I found out this was based on books and am now reading them.
Flavor of Love: Charm School. How to describe.... the girls from Flavor of Love I and II, who often acted... how does one say it? Less than charming... are back. But the "fighting it out" for the love of Flav element has been removed; instead, can these spitting, fighting, cursing ladies pass "charm school" and win 50K? To be honest, this is like a bad drug. You read about it and say no thanks... but once someone locks you in a room and forces you to watch it, it takes hold. I cannot be the only Flavor of Love fan here!
Please... someone... tell me I'm not alone...
Since it's OK for me to post gossip, here is Gawker's report on the YA Author Prom. Guess what? YA authors write YA because of "unresolved high school issues." And apparently? There is a "YA AUTHOR SCANDALSHEET WEEKLY." And John Green is loved by all. But we knew that!
Meanwhile, also courtesy of Gawker, Blogs Can Bring Down The New York Times!
Edited to add: Hey Gawker shows up in the Brotherhood 2.0 video of prom! And before I start complaining about my lack of invite to "the social event of the Young Adult calendar," let me say -- I couldn't have made it anyway. But I will see you all at the Printz reception. And I'm still trying to track down that scandalsheet.....
And more hot! Prom! Gossip! the Longstockings look smashing and e.lockhart has more photos!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
And just blog about the gossip* and trivia.
Am I saying that? Nope; it's not bizarro world day at Tea Cozy. But, apparently, that's how some people think.
First I read Sillies at Fuse, and I take Fuse's Sillies comment and raise it with a yawn. Blogging is a technology; bloggers are people using that technology. Blogs, and the reviews you find, may be good, bad or indifferent. Some will be better than things you find in traditional media;*** others, not so much. Just as you will find some great stuff in traditional media; and sometimes, not so much.
Whether or not people blog about books they don't like is up to the personality of the blogger and time commitments; frankly, I still have books from November 2006 that I read, liked, and haven't had time to blog. Every now and then I toy with the idea of posting a review of a book I didn't like, and have decided I will once I'm thru my review backlog.**
Also? I read both traditional media reviews and blogs. Just like I eat both coffee ice cream and chocolate. You don't have to read only one! Each has a benefit! Why the fight? Silly. Yawn.
Then I read This is why I don't have a blogroll. Or friends. at Read Roger. And discovered that traditional media can review books, have interviews, have authors write articles for them, yet traditional media Professionals remain objective about reviews. For some reason (must be a bug in the blogging software?), bloggers cannot remain objective in their reviews.
Huh. Who knew. Oh, also? Apparently, I am cheap and the price of my soul is a chocolate chip cookie and a diet Coke, along with an ARC. But the Professionals don't have that problem.
*I'm not sure, but I think the definition of gossip may be "news before it appears in print media." But since no real examples were given of gossip as opposed to news, I can't be sure.
**I know, as if that's ever going to happen!! Books from six months ago are still waiting to be reviewed.
***By traditional media I mean "the non blogger." Those who are not self publishing. Those who get paid for it. Could be print, could be online. Those who are "Professionals."
Posted by Liz B at 5:56 PM
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Lectitans Question of the Weekend: "What is the recipe for good historical fiction? There are a lot of demands on historical fiction. It's got to be true to its period, while still telling an interesting story. That is, I imagine, a difficult balance for an author. How can an author achieve that balance successfully? Who are some authors that have done so? Is one period more suited to historical fiction than others?"
Leave your answer at Lectitans' blog; if you post the answer to your own blog (like me) go over and leave your link at her blog.
My answer: I'm one of those readers who read historical fiction for the history. So, I want to be able to trust the history the author includes; nothing annoys me more than an author saying "oh, I write fiction so you cannot rely on anything in my book!". Then label it fantasy (like Mimus); or have an explicit note at the end where you say what you tweaked or changed; or have it be alternate-history, again obvious (either thru a note or thru the subject matter.)
I adore notes at the end of historical fiction; to know what was real, what was not, and further reading. That's me. When does a fiction book "need" such a note? When on the cover it states it's based on a true story; to a lesser extent, if a "real person" is a main character or a "real historical event" is the primary point of the story. But, if it just happens to be the story of a kid living in the 13th century -- I still like a note, but it's not critical. One reason I like Ann Rinaldi is that while she does play fast and loose with the facts, she acknowledges that she does so in her notes at the end of her books.
Part of the reason I like historical fiction is I like history; and part of what I like about history is how people thought, lived, what they ate, what they wore, the details of everyday life; and how their world view was different. I think the what they ate/ wore/ said is "easy" for a writer; what is hard is the world view, especially when that viewpoint is radically different from today, particularly about issues such as gender roles, slavery, religion, and war. For many of these, what a reader actually gets is the present day viewpoint; the narrator of the book is almost a time traveler from the present.
I think any time period is possible; actually, I prefer the books about time periods that aren't over populated. Or stories that aren't overtold. One example: Jane Yolen's Girl In A Cage.
I prefer the books that don't take the traditional telling. For example, why do all books published in the US about the Irish potato famine end with the family moving to the US? Yes, that happened for some families; but if the children's books published in the US was the only source of information, a child would believe that no one was left in Ireland.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Austenland by Shannon Hale. Reviewed from ARC; copy from ALA Midwinter 2007. Publication date June 2007.
The Plot: Jane Hayes is in love with Mr. Darcy. Not just any Mr. Darcy; but the BBC Pride & Prejudice Colin Firth Mr. Darcy. Yes, we all know how that is. But it's just a fantasy; until her great-aunt gives her a very unique gift.
A trip to England. To Pembroke Park. Where you get to dress up and act as if it's Regency England (well, Regency England with modern plumbing). Jane goes determined to use this trip to conquer her Mr. Darcy fantasy; but will total immersion just make the fantasy more real?
The Good: Pembroke Park* is the Walt Disney World for fans. It's like paying to live in the reality show, Regency House Party.**
The thing is -- everyone is either an actor (or actress) playing a role, or someone paying money to live the ultimate fantasy. Who to trust? Who to believe? In this land of manners and make believe, Jane discovers who she really is.
OK, let's be blunt. If you own the DVD version of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, this book is for you. And if you loved the Bridget Jones movies, this book is for you. (Not to give too much away, but there is a scene where two men fight over Jane that is awesome. ) This book is a pure joy.
Oh, and if you're wondering how well Hale captures Austen's tone and voice in telling this story, here are the opening sentences: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her. There was no husband, but those weren't necessary anymore. There were boyfriends, and if they came and went in a regular stream of mutual dissatisfaction -- well, that was the way of things, wasn't it?"
*Don't try googling to find the "real" Pembroke Park. Doesn't exist. But I think it would be cool if the author or publisher put up a fake website for it!
** But not in a WestWorld way. Hm, doesn't seem like there are any new historical reality shows being filmed; if you know of one, let me know!
Bookshelves of Doom review.
The author's letter to Darcy, I mean, Colin Firth
The author's Austenland webpage with cool info
Finding Jane Austen in England (travel)
The romance of Jane Austen's England (travel)
Blog of the Day: Adventures in Daily Living
About the Blogger: Since Adventures is brand new to me (just found out about it yesterday), I'm going mainly by the info on the blog: Suzanne is married and she and her husband are parents to two children who they adopted less than a year ago; she is a college English teacher.
About the Blog: I was feeling guilty about how far from "of the Day" I was when Adventures joined in Poetry Friday yesterday; now, had I been better about "of the Day" I would have been way past the A's and then would have had to obsess about how to handle adding Adventures. Do I stray from alphabetical order? Anyway. Enough of me, let's go to the blog! And once again I go by what the blog says since this is a new to me blog: Suzanne blogs about children, adoption, books, pets, "and whatever else strikes my fancy." (I have to love a blog mission statement that includes the "and anything else I want to write about" clause.)
Friday, April 13, 2007
bToday instead of a review or a poem or a poet, I have a Poetry Blog: Princeton Public Library's Poetry Podcast Blog
I found out about PPL's Poetry Podcast at Library Garden. The Garden post goes into details about the origin of the blog and techie stuff. One of these days I will start podcasting, I promise.
Posts at the Poetry Podcast contain photos, podcasts, and poems.
I've fallen into a bad habit; looking for out of copyright poems so I don't have to worry about "is it legal" and so I can post the whole poem. Thanks to PPL for posting current poets, and showing that poetry isn't dead. I usually don't think about my posts until Friday; but I'm going to make the effort to contact a current poet for permission to post his/her whole poem.
I saw a blogger who did this (post with permission) within the past few months and cannot find the blog; whoever did this, congrats to you. Basically, the blogger wanted to use the poem so emailed the poet and got permission. So easy; so obvious; so something I didn't think of until I saw someone else do it. Edited to add: The brilliant blogger was Lisa at Passionately Curious; thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the reminder.
will be added later today
Liz in Ink has two poems by kids; not only that, they are kids she knows! Her kids. That's one way to get around copyright. (And the final line of the second poem cracks me up. I can just hear the surprise.)
Check It Out/ MsMac recommends Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku by Paul B. Janeczko and J. Patrick Lewis
The Miss Rumphius Effect shares an original poem
Laura Salas/ Wordy Girls highlights the poets Galway Kinnell and Josephine Dickinson
Susan Taylor Brown offers up Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing by William Stafford
Wordy Girls entertains us with Photo Poetry written by their readers
Charlotte's Library notes that Bugle Song by Tennyson would make a great picture book
Nancy / Journey Woman ignores Friday the 13th and has a bonus Moose poem as well as the Chinese Book of Songs
Gregory K/ Gotta Book continues his month long "original poem a day" with Diary of a Bad Week
Kelly Fineman analyzes The Oven Bird by Robert Frost
Anne / Book Buds tosses out Good Sports by Jack Prelutsky
Blog from a Windowsill springs Inch by Inch by David Mallet on us
MotherReader rocks our world with an original fib and suggestions for a book display
BiblioFile / Jennie mourns Kurt Vonnegut's death
Monica / Educating Alice reports on a Jabberwocky salon that includes a choral reading and art
Kelly / Big A little a celebrates a birthday by sharing her love of Ted Hughes, who is so her dead poet boyfriend (Happy Birthday, Kelly! Welcome to the land of Not Thirtysomething Any More)
Elaine / Blue Rose Girls overachieves again with The Joy of Writing by Wislawa Szymborska, sharing poetry (or poetry highlighting) blogs, original poems at Elaine's other blog (more on that in a second), and a photo of her workspace that is way too organized; and if that's not enough, at Elaine's other blog, Wild Rose Reader, she continues her monthlong poem a day with Original Poem Number 13. Her poems were inspired by photos at a wrung sponge.
Michele / Scholar's Blog is inspired by Doctor Who to post Dylan Thomas and Shakespeare
The Old Coot picks the Gashleycrumb Tinies
A wrung sponge / cloudscome links to Elaine / Wild Rose Reader's poems (see above) inspired by cloudcome's photos.
The Mombrarian posts about Tracey Campbell Pearson's visual interpretation of The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Please leave your name and URL to your post if you want to be included, and I'll add you later tonight!
A Year of Reading and I must have hit the send button at the same time: Year reviews Poetry 180 and 180 More by Billy Collins.
lectitans serves up some Latin (getting around copyright by using REALLY old stuff (Catullus) AND doing her own translation!)
and a new brave blogger: Adventures in Daily Living joins in with Grown Up by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my most favorite poets ever
A Fuse #8 Production -- cheers to Bartricks of the Overeducated by Susan Ramsey
Farm School must have weather like I'm having; she shares Rainy Robin by Frances Frost
Bri Meets Books shares Child in Red by Rainer Maria Rilke
(Bri, I couldn't figure out a direct link to the post). I figured it out: the direct link
and Original Content/ Gail sneaks in a poetry Friday post (thought if you didn't label it I wouldn't find it... ha ha, I'm too clever!)
and Miss Erin brings the Mist with Henry David Thoreau
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Speak now or forever hold your peace. (OK, not forever...) But right now there is a pretty cool convo going on at the YA Author's Cafe about Sex in YA books: YA Authors Cafe: Open Discussion: Let's Talk About Sex
To recap my own comments to that post:
-- we need a wide array of books about sex, including books without sex. I want books that support teen choices; and take those choices seriously. I want a wide range so when a kid asks, I have a number of books to offer, whatever it is they are asking for. And it's not my job to challenge their choice. It's my job to match the reader to the book.
-- while the YA Cafe is talking about what the reader is asking for, there are readers who read not to duplicate experience but just out of curiosity. There is nothing wrong with a teen who wants to read (or is not bothered by) sexual content; and there is nothing wrong with a teen who doesn't want that. Both should be respected.
-- in terms of Reader's Advisory, I 'd love more non-Christian publisher books that have the viewpoint of wait till marriage for sex.
-- in terms of Reader's Advisory, what I want to know is which of these is OK or not OK in terms of sexual content:
---- John and Mary hold hands. It's clear and explicit that there is no sex.
---- John and Mary disappear for a few hours. It's never said that they do have sex; it's never said that they don't. It's up to the reader to decide.
---- John and Mary have sex. And that's the entire description. So it happens; but it's not explicit.
---- John and Mary....page after page after page. Explicit.
So which of these is OK or not OK for the reader? Is it only the first two? Or is the third one OK? Is the last one OK if the two are married? These are the things I'd want to know in matching a reader to a book (and then I dream of a catalog that helps me match the reader and book.)
Poetry Friday will be here tomorrow, so just leave a comment to this post if you've posted anything poetry related.
Once I'm home from work, I'll start the round up; and at that point will revise this post to include my own PF post.
You all know the drill; and if you don't, if you're reading this and post anything poetry related -- a poem, a review of a book in verse, a review of a poetry book, your own original poem, a post that rhymes -- just leave a note in the comment. While I try to search for PF posts, it's way easier to have you leave a comment. And to label your post Poetry Friday.
Kurt Vonnegut passed away at age 84.
His ex-wife, Jane, wrote a fascinating book about their life called Angels Without Wings, about the circumstances that led the Vonneguts to adopt three of his sister's four children. In 1958, in less than two days, Vonnegut's brother in law died in a horrific train accident and his sister died of cancer. Jane's book changes all their names; even the NYT review of it doesn't mention who the writer husband is.
The TV movie adaptation, A Promise to Keep, changed the names some more, changed the year, and oh yeah, changed the ending. Susan Cooper wrote the teleplay for the TV movie. Yes, that Susan Cooper.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Why, what a coincidence. Here I am saying how blogs are great because they review older books, and Gina at AmoxCalli puts forth a request for guest bloggers in Classic Children's Literature.
Gina says that one thing she wants for her blog to do is "review and recommend some of those great children's books from the past. You know, books like Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Little Prince, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Oz books, etc. Any book you came across as a child or adult that made a profound impact, the ones that made you love kidlit. If you're interested in reviewing,", go add a comment to her post.
I just went and put in a request to review The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff; I have the ancient 1965 edition, but this newer cover from 2006 is hot.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Lectitans posed the question What does it mean to have a "thorough knowledge of children's literature"? and I've been thinking about it for several days. Other people have left their answers in the comments to the question or in their blogs.
It means to not think that your childhood reading was universal. No matter what type of reading you did, at best you read a fraction of the books out there. My friend Carlie says, "the plural of anecdotes is not evidence," and that has become my mantra, including drawing any conclusions from my own reading history and habits.
It means not relying on library school classes. Yes, the classes are valuable, no two ways about it. The value is in the titles read; the professional journals you are introduced to; the passionate discussions about books. Here's one thing about books; every reader has a different experience with a book. If you think your reading is the only one of value... or the only proper way to interpret a book... see above about the plural of anecdotes. If you hated a certain book or genre -- and others loved it -- as a library professional, you cannot let your hatred or dislike stand between that book / genre and the young readers you will be working with. A library school class will force you to read books you wouldn't have otherwise and to listen to the opinions of others. It is also extremely valuable to read the literary criticism and articles about children's literature; so you really "get" to the heart of what makes a book good. The problem with a library school class -- assuming that's all you need to "know" children's literature. It's just the start.
Read a lot of books. Read books that you wouldn't normally read. If you "never" read fantasy, try a few.
As a librarian, listen to what your patrons read -- and read the books they say they love. Readers Advisory works both ways.
Respect all readers... so be aware of that as you look at titles. Some first graders may be reading Harry Potter; others are not. If you only value the HP readers / reading experience, you are doing a disservice to the other readers; and guess what? They know it. And by not having the knowledge of great, fun books for the non HP'ers, the readers who aren't reading above grade level, you may risk turning them off reading forever. So as you read, and read about, books, try to think of the many types of readers out there.
Read professional reviews of current children's literature. Read blogs, too. Lurk at listservs. Read the award winning lists. (Note: I mean be aware of the winners and titles on lists; not to read each and every book.) In other words, build a general awareness of the books that are out there -- it is impossible for even the fastest reader to read everything. And frankly, a dislike of fantasy (which is OK!) shouldn't stop a librarian from being able to recommend titles to a fantasy lover. The "work around" not reading fantasy is staying up to date on what fantasy books are out there.
Add depth to your knowledge. Which means, look towards older books and try to gain the same knowledge and awareness of them as you do the current books. Blogs are helpful for this, because older titles are reviewed. But there are helpful books, also. I have every The Best in Children's Books (edited by Zena Sutherland) going back to 1966-1972. While some of the books are now out of print, others aren't; and you'd be surprised how many of these older books are either stumper titles or books that parents want to share with kids. (And it's kind of fun to skim these Best of ... books to see what "made it" as a classic that is still around, what sounds just like that "new" book that everyone says is so "original.)
OK, so maybe going too far back is a bit unrealistic with books being out of print; but you MUST have depth to your reading. I cringe when I hear of some of the books and authors that librarians "draw blanks" on books like Tom's Midnight Garden. A person should at least recognize the titles of these older classics. Children's books have been published for a long, long time; do not fall into the belief that the only good books are the newer books. Because it's easier to keep up on new books, or to read just older books, and to think being a reader at age 10 means you "know" the older titles, this depth of information is often overlooked. And yes, it's harder to acquire this depth because many of the print journals only review new books and some libraries discard the older reference works such as The Best in Children's Books (links above).
Links to people answering this question: Bri Meets Book; will add more as I find them.
Monday, April 09, 2007
LiveJournal syndication for Tea Cozy is here. Which means that if you're on LiveJournal, you can add this blog to your friends list and read it that way.
How did I do it?
Actually, I didn't. As is explained fully in this LiveJournal FAQ, paid and permanent LiveJournal members may create a LiveJournal syndication for anything that has a feed, including a blog.
Why would a member do this? So that they can add your blog to their friends list for easy reading.
This means that you may have this over at LiveJournal and not realize it. I'm not sure how you would find this out; but, if you want to be syndicated over at LiveJournal, you need to know a paid/permanent member and ask them. (For what it's worth, I have a free LJ account that I use to be able to comment with a name, LizzB, at LJ posts; since it's the free version I cannot create the syndication for your blog.)
Once you get this, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the LJ feed because people may comment on your posts over at LiveJournal.
So some recent comments from LJ you may have missed:
My post: YA Older? Younger? ...
coppervale / Apocatastasis said, "The fact that the details of BOOK THIEF and CURIOUS INCIDENT were excluded makes it seem a bit like details that didn't support the thesis were deliberately excluded...Just my first take." I responded, "I agree! Especially since the circumstances of the publishing history of both books are pretty well known."
My post: The Rules of Survival
zeisgeist / girl uninterrupted said, "I want to add: Nikki is so scary because she's a REALISTICALLY mentally ill mother. Often when you see "bad Mommies" in YA they are compilations of cliches. Nikki's craziness is unique and believable, which makes her cruelty even more disturbing. There's no need to suspend disbelief, because you know someone somewhere IS Nikki.I freaking loved this book. I want to see it win as many accolades as possible."
My post: Thora
zeisgeist / girl uninterrupted said, "I loved that show, but I don't remember Thora Birch from it at all. And OH MY GOD, what's up with the blonde anorexic version of the former adorable cutie? Jesus. I'm so sick of this bullshit."
Amy McAuley added, "Strangely, I did not remember AT ALL that I totally loved this show until Liz mentioned it. I, too, am perturbed by the blonde anorexic version of Thora. She's wasting way. And, if the Defamer story about her dad is accurate?! WTF?"
and my two cents worth: "Being a total pop culture junkie, part of my WTF reaction is how is it possible that I'm only just learning this? Day by Day was cool because the cast was just awesome -- pre Melrose Park Courteny Thorne Smith, pre Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus."
As I get comments on the LiveJournal syndication, I'll share them here.
A Girl, A Boy And A Monster Cat by Gail Gauthier, illustrated by Joe Cepeda. ARC supplied by author. Publication date June 2007.
The Plot. A girl. A boy. A monster cat.
OK, there's more than that, but I couldn't resist. As an aside, since the title reminds me of my blog name, I now have to refer to this book as Monster Cat.
Brandon's ideal afterschool activity? Watching TV. Hannah's ideal afterschool activity? Hunting dinosaurs (aka turkeys) in the backyard, sailing a pirate ship (tree in the backyard), saving the world from her monster cat (aka Buttercup.)
Hannah's mom babysits for Brandon after school three days a week. So Brandon gets dragged into Hannah's school games. With surprising and amusing results.
The Good: Gauthier brings the funny. The humor is often very dry; for example, when Brandon describes Hannah he says "Her games are like really bad TV shows. Only you can't turn the channel to something better because you're part of the show."
Brandon often likes Hannah's games, tho he won't always admit it. Especially since Hannah has the knack of pushing the game a wee bit too far. And of giving Brandon the worst part of the game. Often, the cat has a better role than Brandon.
Part of the humor is from Hannah herself; she is blunt, confident, and has no idea she may rub someone the wrong way. Upon meeting the new neighbor, Hannah asks "is your house haunted?" Brandon recognizes that the new neighbor does the equivalent of back away slowly from Hannah; Hannah herself has no idea that she's scared the neighbor.
Monster Cat is under 9o pages; and perfect for the "just finished easy readers, scared off by how long chapter books are now that everyone thinks they have to compete with Harry Potter" crowd. Brandon and Hannah are in third grade; and this will be a fun read for younger grades.
Monster Cat is the perfect book to show that reading is fun. In addition to the manageable overall length, the individual chapters are short, each one able to stand alone as a short story (there is an overall story arc, also); and Cepeda's illustrations are amusing. (Hey, I just realized he did the illustrations for one of my favorite picture books ever!)
What else? I like that this is one of those books that creates Drama from the everyday life of real kids. At it's heart, it's about two imaginative kids, their neighborhood, a cat, a dog.
More info on the origins of Monster Cat (first in a series) at Gail's website.
Gail's blog, Original Content.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
The people who read the February issue of School Library Journal read my article Curl Up With A Cup Of Tea And A Good Blog and also saw this photo. (Edited to add: New! Startling! Revelations about the photo shoot at the bottom of the post.)
When SLJ said they needed my photo for the article, my first thought was I'd ask my sister to take a few photos. I didn't realize they meant a REAL photo. Or a real photo shoot. As happens with these things, it turned out that it was a week I could not take a day off from work; and a weekend when my sister (Pixie) and her husband (her husband) were out of town on business so I was babysitting Cheetah and PeterParker in their house.
Which meant that the photo shoot took place at their house, not mine.
Things I learned during my mini session as a star: it takes a long, long time to set up lights. Even longer than you think.
Children insist on being involved in everything. Until they get bored and go do something else.
This one photo was the result of about 4 hours and hundreds of photos. I am not making that up. The photographer, Will Taylor, was great.
I adore Nicholas Mosse pottery. You can just see the top of one of his mugs.
Because it was at Pixie's house, I brought a bunch of ARCs and books with me, partly for the photo shoot, partly for the kids to look at it, partly in the hopes of getting some blog work done. Me being me, I made a list of the books I brought. The ones in bold are the ones you can see in the photo:
Tips On Having A Gay (Ex) Boyfriend by Carrie Jones
Good Girls by Laura Ruby
Pale Immortal by Anne Frasier (this is on the sofa)
Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami
The Fat Girl by Marilyn Sachs
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless by Ahmet Zappa
Mommy? by Sendak Yorkins & Reinhart (this is a fave with Cheetah & PeterParker)
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: A Pop Up Book by Stephen King (illus. by Alan Dingman, paper engineering by Kees Moerbeek) (another fave of the kids)
The Day of the Scarab by Catherine Fisher
Ancient Egypt: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Egypt's Past by Jill Rubalcaba (right by the laptop)
Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr (between Egypt and the tea cup.)
The Fetch by Chris Humphreys
River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Chloe Doe by Suzanne Phillips
Julia's Kitchen by Brenda A. Ferber
Beige by Cecil Castellucci
The Braid by Helen Frost
Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria by Kyra E Hicks, illus by Lee Edward Fodi
Kali and the Rat Snake by Zai Whitaker, illus by Srividya Natarajan (PeterParker is reading it. I cannot figure out which book Cheetah is looking at.)
Santa Knows by Cynthia & Greg Leitich Smith, illus by Steve Bjorkman
Poetry Speaks to Children
One White Wishing Stone by Doris K. Gayzagian, illus by Kristina Swarner
I also brought:
Knopf Delacorte Dell (Random House) Young Readers Group Spring 2007 Catalog
Random House Golden Books Young Readers Group Spring 2007 Catalog
Book Page November 2006
Kane/ Miller Spring 2007 Catalog
Chronicle Books Children's Spring/ Summer 2007
Book Page December 2006
I think Cheetah was looking at one of these catalogs.
Edited to add: Robin Brande asks, Liz, you're such a celeb! Great photo!Did you do your own hair/makeup/stunts? If so, all the more impressive!
Oh, go on. No, seriously, go on!
Hair: As soon as I knew I was getting the photo taken (and it was a short time frame) I called the salon and BEGGED for an appointment to get rid of the gray (I started going gray in my early 20s) and get my hair cut & styled. De Jensen was awesome & fit in me in.
Makeup: I am not a big make up person. I use it, but as with everything, I take a minimalist approach. I used a combo of Benefit (I adore Dr. Feelgood) & Bobbi Brown products.
Stunts: I did them all. This is when I learned how the models & celebs have stand ins for things like setting up the lights; I'm the one who sat there, instead of a stand in.
And have I mentioned? I'm one of those people who dread getting my picture taken!
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Whimsy is starting a new blog, Deliciously Clean Reads, and is looking for contributors to review books.
What I like about this brand new blog:
* It's about finding books to read and recommend, rather than finding books to keep away from people. It's a positive review source, not a negative review source.
* Whimsy acknowledges that different people have different definitions of what is clean; so she sets forth her criteria and a sample book list.
* It includes a lot of new books, but it's also looking at older titles.
* The sidebar links to a variety of booklists from many sources.
Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen, Jeanne d'Arc Umubyeyi. Translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford.
The Plot: A work of fiction about the Rwandan Genocide; based on what happened to the author's adopted daughter, who at age eight survived the Rwandan Genocide.
The Good: My immediate reaction to this book is best summed up: Horrible, horrible, horrible. Where to hide? Nowhere.
Jeanne is eight at the time of the genocide; the book begins with Jeanne at age six, and while at first I thought "this is slow, why," I soon realized that this served several purposes, including as a memorial to a way of life and an extended family that was brutally ended. When the slaughter starts we "know" Jeanne's family. And the loss and horror is much more than if the book had begun on the day the killings started, with the family members only names.
Eight. Think about that. You know an eight year old; protected, perhaps spoiled, watched, loved, supervised. Just like Jeanne. Think about the kids you know who are eight; and watching mother, sister, brother, murdered, yet somehow getting up, walking, searching, going on.
And that child not just living; not just surviving; but creating a full life for herself. Over a Thousand Hills contains short flash-forward chapters of Jeanne in Germany, now a teenager, with loved ones, mourning but also laughing. As the machetes fall, they serve to remind the reader, this one child makes it. Babies didn't survive; people killed their own nephews in the name of tribal purity; adults died; yet this child got up, walked, was buffeted around, lived.
As with Deogratias, this is a must read. It's a good compliment to Deogratias, since Over A Thousand Hills provides so much day to day detail on life, and more background information about what was happening. And, in all honesty? Deogratias is about how people are broken by events; Over A Thousand Hills shows a child who refuses to be broken.
Why is this a YA book? Why not adult, since the point of view of Jeanne's adoptive mother is included? Jeanne may be ages six to eight, but this isn't a child's book; it's not just the subject matter, and length, but it's also the words, the framework, the voice. Not a children's book. But there's something about how the story is framed by those short chapters in the present, of Jeanne as a teenager, that add to this feeling YA-ish.
One thing that is shown very well is "that moment"; the point in time when people realize that they can no longer cling to the pretense of normalcy. That life has changed. The nightmare is permanent. And, with Jeanne's parents, the moment when hope is lost.
And the details.... the father trying to hide with his children, yet knowing it is just a temporary respite. That was the worst; realizing that there was no place to hide, no place to run to. I am haunted by the image of the father, hiding in brush, with his daughter, and another child who he has somehow picked up, minutes after his wife and daughter have been killed; and the murderers getting closer; and this man paying for a few more hours of life for this small band of people. Handing over money and things of value, knowing that more people will come and that nothing will be left to buy these lives for another hour, and seriously -- they are surrounded. There is no where to go. No one to trust.
While it has nothing to do with the substance of the story, I also liked that the author is German and this book is a translation from German; that Jeanne's safe haven was Germany. Because sometimes YA and children's books are a little too American-centric; I know that part of the reason is that the true story is a child adopted by a German family, but seriously -- look at Sold, a great book where the child is saved by an American. Almost every book published in the US about emigration from a homeland to a "new life" has those people go to the US. I understand why this happens; but it's not entirely accurate. It's refreshing to read something so not US-centric, and that shows lives in other countries (not just Rwanda, but also Germany.)
The quote that stays with me: "Only at the very worst moment can you tell friend from foe." Jeanne lives because of friends and foes who for no known reason don't kill her. Her survival is random; but it's also due to the strength of spirit.
My review of Deogratias, including links about the Rwandan Genocide and the current atrocities in Darfur.
Talking with Hanna Jansen (PDF) (at author's site).
Left to Tell : Discovering God Amidst the Rwaandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza, an autobiography about a college student who survives physically by hiding in a small bathroom with many other women; and survives mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by faith, including coming to a place of forgiveness.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Read Roger has a post up, Dutch Trick or Treat about many things (books out of copyright, homeschooling, etc.) but the part I'm focusing on is the question of parents and old books and the content of some of those older books. You know, the type of thing that was OK to say 50 or 100 or 150 years ago, but now, would get you arrested. Or at least, unable to ever run for political office. I'm not talking the difference between PC and not PC; I'm talking factual errors, or beliefs that are either no longer held or have been long disproved. And yes, usually it is racist. Roger has a great illustrative quote.
At the library, and sometimes on the Internet, I've heard parents who either explicitly or implicitly state that older books are always better. (And that's parents across the board; not a homeschooling thing. An individual parent thing.) And often these same parents are the ones who want "clean" books (no sex, no swearing.) And it always leaves me puzzled as to why certain prejudices are OK to have in books if they are old. Or is it that the parents just don't remember the prejudices? Or is it really worse to read the word "hell" or "damn" but it's OK to have all Italians be one way, all Irish as drunks, etc?
Anyway, an interesting post. Based on the homeschooling blogs I read that speak highly of Charlotte Mason, the parents read and use many new(er) books, also. I'm not sure how they address older books that they would like to use that has objectionable material; I'm pretty sure I've seen a post or two that says yes, we're aware of it and balance it with other books / materials / use it as a teachable moment.
Posted by Liz B at 11:11 AM
More on the editing YA books (aka they need more! they change the book!) aspect of the WSJ article (see my initial post) at Finding Wonderland.
Finding Wonderland linked to this interesting post about at YPulse, Is YA Fiction Different From 'Good Books'?
Edited to add: John Burns at Runnerland asks, If it looks like a teen novel and sounds like a teen novel...
Heads up about the 2007 Day of Dialog for Publishers, Vendors, and Librarians sponsored by Library Journal.
It's Thursday, May 31, 2007 (AKA the day before BEA) at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center in New York City. It's free; but you do have to register. The schedule of events looks great, including "1:15–2:30 p.m.: YA Crossover. Many books speak to both adults and young adults, but how do editors and authors make the decision to pitch them to one audience or the other—or both?" Go here for more information.
I have to look at my work schedule & vacation days to see if I can attend or not, but I really want to go! On a BEA note, I will be attending that; will you?
Thanks to Trisha's comment on this post for letting us know about Day of Dialog 2007.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I've added a label cloud!
I admit I wasn't too comfortable playing with the html and I'm still trying to decide where on blog to have the cloud.
If you're interested, the code came from WebWeaver's World. I followed the directions exactly, and hey, it worked! There are some things you can change; for example, I set it to show only labels I have used at least 10 times, and also changed the maximum and minimum font sizes. The instructions are very clear.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Monday, April 02, 2007
So the latest article from the Wall Street Journal about YA lit is Teen Books Are Hot Sellers, But Formula Isn't Simple by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. (BTW, this name is awfully familiar but I'm not sure why.)
I found out about it from GalleyCat, and Andrew at Flux blogged about it. Full text is available at Media Info Center.
My reactions to the article:
- I find it very interesting that this article pegs YA at ages 12 to 16, while Jonathan Hunt's article from The Horn Book was about books at the older age bracket of YA. I think everyone is having a helluva time trying to define YA and I wonder what Trachtenberg would think of the three titles that Hunt highlighted. And it seems like all these people in various places are having the "what is YA" conversation.
- "determining whether a book should get a young-adult label is more art than science." True that, especially when we cannot even all agree on the age range that is meant by "young adult."
- Blogs are mentioned favorably in terms of being connected with teen readers.
- Potential YA editors told Larry Doyle how they would "'shape' his book for their readership." OK, here's my BIG question. The implication here is that YA books need more shaping than adult books; but isn't shaping what all editors do? Am I really supposed to believe that YA editors do more work on the manuscripts they edit, while adult editors do, what? Nothing? Most of the blogging authors I know are mostly YA/ children's, but I would really, really like to hear a "real live author" or "real live editor" respond to this. If you wish to do without using your name, email me at lizzy.burns @ gmail.com and I'll remove your name when I publish the ocmment.
-What is needed to "shape" the book included first person; increase the female quotient (huh? I guess all those "we need more books for boys" didn't make it to these YA editors); and "write chapters in which male and female narrators alternate." OK, this last part especially screams Nick and Norah to me.
- My guess is if the YA editors came back with more "we'll need to make changes to this" than the adult ones, it's because the book was indeed adult and not young adult. I'm further going on record as saying that when we eventually read this, the voice will be that of adult, not a teen.
- There is a mention a few times of "older readers", and appeal to older readers meaning don't publish it as YA. (Has Trachtenberg even heard of This is All?). I don't think they mean senior citizens; but I have a funny feeling they are talking either older teens or young twentysomethings, which, if this is true, is very interesting, as for a while I thought it looked like YA was being pushed into the older (16 to 24) age group. Seriously, read Jonathan's article at The Horn Book, then this, and I think you too will get confused.
- In mentioning how a book is published, Trachtenberg doesn't mention The Book Thief; and doesn't mention the Printz. In discussing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, it's omitted that this book was published as both YA and adult in the UK.
- I appreciate the real! live! people comments (teens, teacher, bookseller), but as my friend Carlie would say, the plural of anecdotes is not evidence. And unfortunately, these individual experiences are not balanced by, say, a representative of YALSA talking about YA reading around the country or YA reading from ages 12 to 18.
- End result? Larry Doyle's book was published under an adult imprint. And he remarks on the stigma of being a YA author; something brutally reinforced by Trachtenberg's ending, wherein Frank Portman mentions how people ask him when he's going to write a real book.
Neither Trachtenberg nor Doyle know as much about the current YA field as they could, but Trachtenberg tries to be fair about it.
The "what is YA anyway" fight continues.
The "are YA editors too controlling" fight begins (with a possible avoidance of said fight if this example is read to mean the book was never YA to begin with; Doyle's apparent unawareness of current YA titles, along with his statement that YA titles "wouldn't become classics", makes me think it was not a YA book. Yeah, I'm talking a bit in circles, but it makes sense to me. I wonder at how "old" the narrator of his book "reads.")
Andrew at Flux's reactions are here, including the interesting info about how an adult book sells for more than a YA book. He also delves more into the classics bit; per GalleyCat, Doyle says it's not that he disdains YA, it's that "I was wary of the prepackaged marketing of same, as a genre with specific conventions, then sold into a narrow channel of readership." Oh. Well that clears that up! Not.
Let me know if you've posted your thoughts on this, and I'll edit this & add links.
Edited to add:
TedMack at Finding Wonderland has posted thoughts on the article
Edited again to note:
Larry Doyle has commented here and at Andrew Karre's Flux Blog.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Are Kids' Books Boring? Martha Brockenbrough asks this question over at MSN Encarta. Martha also wonders, what makes a great kids' book? Rick Riordan and I both contribute answers. (Yeah, I just wanted to blog "Rick Riordan and I.")
Speaking of Rick; check out his book tour report at his blog; and this fab interview by Miss Erin.