PaperTigers Interview / Children's Writing Update
Children's Literacy Round-Up: July 20

Sunday Afternoon Visits: July 20

BrillanteI spent a lot of time thinking this week about the time that I spend on my blog, and ways to somehow regain a bit of balance in my life. One thing that's clear is that these Sunday visits posts, much as I enjoy them, are very time-consuming. It's not just the time to write the post -- it's the 1000+ posts a week that I have to skim through to find the few that I mention here (which does not mean that it's hard to decide -- the right posts actually jump off the page for me -- but I still have to find them). This afternoon I could have finished my review of No Cream Puffs and probably finished reading The Diamond of Darkhold, but instead I read and linked to blog posts. And yet, as with everything else, I love knowing what's going on in the Kidlitosphere, and being part of all of the great discussions that people are having. Still, I may need to scale my blogroll back a bit... Anyway, this week there is plenty to share with you. And I think that I'll take next weekend off.

  • This morning I was honored to learn that Andrea and Mark from Just One More Book! had awarded me a Brillante Weblog Premio - 2008 award. I'm in excellent company, too, with the other six recipients. Just One More Book! is one of my short-list blogs, because I find Andrea and Mark philosophically in tune with what I believe about children's books and reading. It's great to know that they feel the same way.
  • Librarian Mom Els Kushner takes on a particular result from a recent Scholastic survey (the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report): "89% of kids say their favorite books are the ones they picked out themselves." She adds "now many of the people reading this already believe in the importance of free book choice for kids. And of course—as is also documented in the Scholastic report—parents can help their children find and choose good and enjoyable books. But it’s just been something that’s struck me over and over, how important it is for kids to find their own reading paths."
  • Carlie Webber (Librarilly Blonde) links to and discusses a disturbing post from the parenting blog Babble. The blog entry in question is Where Oh Where is Superfudge by Rachel Shukert. And the gist of Shukert's post is that "Kids' books aren't what they used to be". She recaps several thirty-year-old books about "average kids with real-world problems" and suggests that "the Young Adult section has become ... downright aristocratic." The author's confusion over the difference between middle grade and YA aside, the sad thing is that Shukert, who clearly wants kids to read diverse and relevant books, has NO IDEA that hundreds of such books exist, and are being published today (in some cases, as one commenter noted, by the same authors for whom Shukert waxes nostalgic - they are writing NEW books). Anyway, do check out both Carlie's post and the original article and the comments therein. See also Liz B's post on this subject at Tea Cozy, in which she asks readers to help compile a "List of YA/middle grade books, written in the past few years, that do not have Rich Kids as the main character". There's quite an impressive diversity of literature listed in the comments.
  • Speaking of class in young adult literature, TadMack takes on the subject at Finding Wonderland. She was inspired both by Carlie's post above and by some remarks at Read Roger, saying "I just feel strongly that name-dropping and normalizing affluence in YA literature creates the wrong idea about young adult literature as a genre and gets far more attention somehow than novels pertaining to lives more ordinary."
  • And speaking of rants on topics like class in YA literature, Colleen Mondor reminds us "starting Monday I declare the entire children/YA portion of the litblogosphere to enjoy a week of posting loud and long about those things that have been driving them crazy in the publishing world." She lists a few hot-button issues that have recently arisen. Lots of people -- too many to link -- have already written about a recent Margo Rabb article about the stigma that many people attach to writing YA. Personally, the issue that bugs me the most right now is this "children's books aren't what they used to be" post (described above). But I'll defer my thoughts to a separate post.
  • Via Cheryl Rainfield, Paddington Bear is going to be used in the British Airways children's travel program. Cheryl also takes on the question of whether or not blog reviews can influence people to buy books, and gives her own data points to say that they can. As for my own data point, I have a whole slew of people who commented on my review of Allegra Goodman's The Other Side of the Island to say that they want it, and intend to get their hands on it when it's available. And I recently purchased Found, Little Brother, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, among others, as a direct result of blog reviews.
  • Congratulations to Open Book for the recent successes of their Book Buddies program (by which volunteers become reading buddies to young kids). Erin has the details at Read All About It! Coolest part? The program is apparently inspiring some of the volunteers to want to become teachers.
  • For those who are curious, Anastasia Suen has started a Kidlitosphere FAQ, in which she explains what the Kidlitosphere is, and links to some key resources.
  • Trevor Cairney reviews the "Your Baby Can Read" program at Literacy, Families and Learning. He gives the program a detailed assessment, and appears to have approached it with an open mind, but concludes that he wouldn't introduce it to his own children. He says "Instead of using this program I would encourage my children from birth by stimulating their language (singing to them, reading with them, asking questions etc) and learning (exploration, invention, creative play etc)."
  • Nancy Sondel recently sent me the announcement for the Pacific Coast Children's Writers workshop. She says that it will be a "small, quality, international seminar in north Santa Cruz county (CA) Aug 15-17, for writers of literary youth novels". If you are looking for a workshop like this, check out the website for details. 
  • Laurie Halse Anderson shares some "cold hard facts about the writing life." This post is must-read stuff for aspiring authors.
  • At Becky's Book Reviews, Becky makes a plea for "more authenticity and less stereotyping" in fiction (especially in the portrayals of both Christianity and body size). She talks eloquently about the ways that we find ourselves in literature, and the ways that we use literature to "see the world through new eyes".
  • Walter Minkel writes about a recent USA Today report on how having a video on in the background shortens the attention span of children when they're playing. Walter is concerned that this "means that children’s attention spans are broken up, and kids are engaging in less, and more fragmented, imaginative play. I’m concerned that as kids grow older and become more and more fixated on screens - in particular, the Net and video games - they use less and less of their imaginations and let their brains fall under the direction of Web designers and game designers."

Hope that you're all having a great day!