Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 22
Children's Literacy Round-Up: July 27

Friday Afternoon Visits: July 24 (Controversy Edition)

Here are a few links from around the Kidlitosphere, for your reading pleasure. Today's installment is filled with controversy and thought-provoking discussion (rather surprising for a late-July Friday, but there you have it).

Controversy update #1: Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 has some great links and commentary in response to the recent SLJ article by Diantha McBride that proposed changing some protagonists of children's and young adult titles from girls to boys. I especially liked (and had already flagged myself) J. L. Bell's response at Oz and Ends. He said: "McBride's complaint is based on a false premise: that we're drastically undersupplied with books about boys." But Betsy suggests that there are an awful lot of books out there with pink covers, turning off YA male readers.

July23Liar Controversy update #2: Justine Larbalestier set off a true firestorm with a recent post in which she discussed the white model selected for the cover of her new book, Liar (which features a black teen). I mean, does that look like a girl who "is black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short"? Yeah, not so much. Justine said that she believes that this happened because of a pervasive belief in publishing that "black covers don’t sell." Bloomsbury responded at PW, saying that the fact that the narrator of the book is compulsive liar led them to use the cover image to create ambiguity around the character's race. As Colleen Mondor says: "This has to be the lamest and yet most predictable response I have ever come across from a publisher." Lots of other people have had similar responses, Colleen has a compilation of many.

Parallel musings on an interesting topic: the pervasive connectedness that most of us have these days (Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, etc.), and whether or not that poses a problem:

  • Sara Zarr (author of Story of a Girl and Sweethearts) said: "We tend to see our Internet/technology addiction as a bad habit, I think, something about which we say, “I really should cut down…” Or we joke about it or Tweet about it. But it’s kind of a giant problem. We already know from research that the way our brain pathways work changes depending on what mental habits we’re in. If you’re like me and feel like you’ve developed ADD since web 2.0, you probably have."
  • New Blackberry Pearl owner Kathy from Library Stew said: "Do I REALLY need to be connected 24 hours a day/7 days a week, even while at the beach??.. I have found that I do tend to spend too much time checking Facebook/Twitter/chatting online at night when I used to use that time to read, but then again using my phone to keep up with e-mail and things while sitting at football practice has been a great thing."
  • I've been struggling with this a bit lately, too. For a while I had a Twitter newscrawler that popped up with new tweets whenever I was in Firefox. I had to turn that off - I felt it giving me ADD, just as Sara described. I have a Treo, and I love being able to read and file email and keep up with my Google Reader while I'm out and about. I'll never have dead time while waiting in line somewhere, or sitting through a dull presentation, again. But I'm trying (with little success so far) to spend a bit less time on the computer when I'm at home. I'd like to do better at giving other things my full attention.

Literacy and Reading News reports that 1200 teachers have sent a letter to Scholastic saying "Don’t Use Us to Market Toys, Make-up, and Brands to Children in School". Brian Scott says that the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood "sent the letter, signed exclusively by teachers, after a review of Scholastic's 2008 elementary and middle school Book Club flyers found that one-third of the items for sale were either not books, like the M&M Kart Racing Wii videogame, or were books packaged with other products, such as lip gloss and jewelry."

Susan Beth Pfeffer (author of my beloved Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone) shares her response to discovering (via Google alert) an illegal download of one of her titles. While she's not concerned that this will have any drastic affect on her own retirement, she says: "I really don't know how writers starting out now and writers who are just on the verge of starting out are going to survive this kind of theft in years to come... The people who are stealing my works may well just be kids; they don't understand that what they're doing is as morally wrong as stealing my wallet." This worries me, too.

Colleen Mondor has part 4 of her What a Girl Wants series at Chasing Ray, this time asking authors what subject areas in young adult fiction might be more important for teens than for adults. She asks: "just what sort of subjects do teen girls need to address in their reading that they can not simply find in adult titles. In other words, I asked the group why do we need YA titles for girls in particular and what those books could/should include." 

On a lighter note, Sarah Mulhern from The Reading Zone shares her appreciation for pitcher Mark Buehrle's perfect game yesterday for the White Sox (only the 18th in MLB history). She explains that she understood and appreciated the magnitude of Buehrle's achievement because of what she'd learned from reading Alan Gratz's The Brooklyn Nine. She says: "Isn’t that exactly what we want our students to do? Read, build schema, and then go out to read and learn more?" It's a nice real-world illustration of one of the many, many benefits with which reading repays the devoted book-lover. 

Melissa from Book Nut is working on a list of 100 top middle grade titles. Her preliminary list looks pretty good - just reading it stresses me out a bit, because I wish that I had time to go re-read (or read for the first time) many of the books. I should warn Melissa, based on my own experience with the Cool Girls list, that suggestions will keep coming in, and it will be very difficult to get the list back down to 100.

Book-blogger-appreciation-week Pam Coughlan posts at Mother Reader about the upcoming Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and suggests that people "nominate favorite KidLitosphere blogs for awards. Of course, you can nominate other non-KidLit/YA blogs, since there are plenty of categories in which to do so, but my point here is that the KidLitosphere needs to REPRESENT!" I have followed Pam's suggestion (would I argue with a direct request from MotherReader? In caps? I think not!).

Smuggler_YA_final In related news, Angieville reports that the bloggers at The Book Smugglers "have just kicked off their Young Adult Appreciation Month, which runs from July 19 through August 15th... They've even extended an open invitation to anyone interested to send them a link to a post on YA lit or a review you've written of a YA book and they'll post links to them all on August 15th--the last day of the celebrations."

And a few quick hits:

  • Librarian Betsy Bird shares a lovely anecdote about why she has "the best job in the western hemisphere".
  • Greg Pincus has a useful post at The Happy Accident about the 11 types of Twitter followers. I've already found this list helpful, as I manage my Twitter account (assessing "do I need to follow this person back?", etc.)
  • Cheryl Rainfield found a site offering Curious George loungewear for adults.
  • Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub has a couple of questions, for which she's seeking input from librarians. Can anyone help her out?
  • Congratulations to Kristin Cashore. Graceling just won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature. Kristin's response is here.
  • Funny story about a Twilight fan at my favorite non-kidlit blog, Not Always Right. (This was the only blog that I read regularly during a recent vacation - I love it).

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