Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Cybil's Eve!

Taking a break from Banned Book Week for a day, I have to remind everyone that the Cybils nominations start tomorrow. Woot! And double woot! This is the 5th year for the kidlitosphere's beloved homegrown book awards.

October 1st - 15th, anyone can nominate a book in any category. Teachers, librarians, kids, parents, if you loved it, shout it out! Then the first-round judges swing into action, reading like crazy folks, and winnow the giant piles down to a few finalists for each category. Those lists are released January 1st, and that's when the second-round judges clock in, taking the next month to intensively read and debate every single book on their category's shortlist until one is declared the winner. All winners are announced on Valentine's Day.

I've judged for the past three years, and I can tell you it's a lot of work, but so worth it! If you want to check out the judges for this year (and, of course, their blogs!), stop in and have a gander at the panels. Congratulations to everyone who made the cut!

Also on the Cybils website, along the sidebar: finalists and winners from the last few years, a fine resource for anyone who wants to find marvelous books. If you want to show your support for the bestest little award on the internet, get shopping at the CafePress store.

But most importantly of all . . . what are you going to nominate?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Links and Stuff

It's Banned Books Week again, which means links are cropping up like daisies in spring.
  • HuffPo recently posted a slideshow of 15 (count 'em) movies that were made from books that have been banned or challenged. Some of them are not so much of a surprise (Harry Potter, Brokeback Mountain) and some were new to me (Gone with the Wind?)
  • The Goddess of YA Literature gives us some tips about knowing thine enemy.
  • 100 Scope Notes shares a Mental_Floss quiz about why certain books have been banned. It's a few years old (hence question 9), but it still might surprise you.
  • The librarian response to book banning is to explain that it's each individual parent's responsibility for what their own child reads. We don't hear much from the parent end of it, but author Aprilynne Pike shares just that in a guest post over at Eve's Fan Garden. Awesometastic, Madame Pike.
  • Stop on by the comic strip The New Adventures of Queen Victoria for their 2010 Banned Books tribute, which started last Saturday. My personal favorite is Monday's. Bwaha.
  • Last but not least: a video! It's from last year (hence the hinky dates) but this much awesome does not expire. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Right Book, Wrong Time

I have a confession to make. I didn't like "The Goonies."

The first time I ever saw it, I was twenty and went with a friend to a Free Campus Movie Nite. She was well-nigh swooning at the thought of seeing this marvelous movie from her childhood, assuring me that I would love it. I was surrounded by people who were all in a fever of joy at the thought of this apparently defining moment in their cinematic experience, and let me tell you, it's quite something to see a frat boy enraptured by non-Hobbitized Sean Astin. Me? I kept waiting for the marvelousness to start.

When it ended, she turned to me and said, "Well? Wasn't it great?"

"Um. It was okay." I watched her face fall and quickly added, "I would have loved it when I was ten! Seriously!"

I said that mostly to keep her from trying to explain to me how awesome it was. But the more I consume stories, especially stories written for a different demographic than my own, the more that thought has come back to me. "Oh man, I would have loved this when I was (insert age here)."

For instance--and if you need to pretend you never knew me after reading this, I understand--if Twilight had come out when I was fourteen, I would have eaten it up, sparkly vampire and all. Oh, I might have recognized the flaws. But I would have loved it so hard. I would have written fanfiction and worn "Edward" t-shirts and had passionate, hour-long discussions about whether he was right not to have vamped Bella the first time she asked for it. (And yes, if you noticed, I would have been Team Edward. What can I say?)

But I wasn't fourteen, I was twenty-five, and I read Twilight with an "Okay, well, I guess I see the appeal but I'm not really feelin' it." (My withering disdain for Bella Swan didn't really get off the ground until New Moon, with the empty pages after Edward dumped her. Good god, girl. The first month I understand, maybe. Somewhere before the fourth, you should go get a makeover and jump the hot werewolf.)

There's a feeling that Art is great or not-great on its own merits--that the people who love it or hate it, depending on the opinion of the learned elite, are totally wrong-headed. But that leaves out the other half of the equation, the reader, and all they bring to the book. It's a particular consideration for those of us who love kid's and teen books. We're not the target audience, so when we review a book, we have to think about two things: 1) What did I think of it? 2) What would a kid think of it?

This is not saying that all children's or YA lit has a sell-by date, or even that the sell-by date is the same for everybody. I'm still nutty about Harry Potter, and I know there are people older than me who know every word, backward and forward, of Twilight. Clearly it's still saying something to somebody. But I'm not the same person I was at fourteen (thank God!), so it makes sense to me that a book could simply miss its target. The trick is in understanding when that target might have been in my life, and using that knowledge when I write about it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Banned Book Week Ahoy

Banned Book Week is coming up again (huzzah?), which means that book banning is in the news. Banned Books Week happens one week a year, but that doesn't mean the banners and challengers and nay-sayers and finger-wavers go away for the other 51. Y'all, I puzzled over this deeply last year before realizing that when Banned Book Week is nigh, the reporters notice news of book banning more. Face, meet palm.

This week's book-banning news/reason for crawling under your bed and sobbing gently over the future of America comes to us from Missouri, where a university professor (I know. I know!) has decried the curriculum of his local school district. Under attack: sex ed (natch), and required reading, specifically the high school's, which asks students to read the Vonnegut anti-war classic Slaughterhouse-Five, Sarah Ockler's beautiful and sensitive Twenty-Boy Summer, and Laurie Halse Anderson's yes-yes-yes-it's-really-that-good Speak.

But you know what burns my butter? And that of a lot of other people? This quote:
In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography.

One such book is called "Speak." . . . As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.

Jeebus Christmas.

Some more facts about this prof: his children do not go to the school under attack. So apparently he's prompted by his deep sense of . . . community welfare? Or something? He was also a speaker at a recent seminar called "Reclaiming Missouri for Christ."

I am religious. Some of you know this, some of you don't. (Now you do.) It's very dismaying to see an entire group of people painted with the Crayyyy-zee Brush because some isolated members choose to use religion as a club. Y'know what? Most of us want to live our lives and love our neighbors, not batter them into a fine paste that can then be reshaped in our own image. There's only One who gets to do that, and trust me, Scroggins, you ain't Him.

Something fascinating and new this year is the amount of religious response to this book banning. Like this, from Paul, who writes his post as a dialogue between himself and Christ. This is the final line:
“Paul (I love it when Jesus calls me by my name), I got crucified by a mob. Mobs come from fear. And fear happens when you don’t trust people to think for themselves… For the love of God, give your kids the freaking books.”
Thanks to David Lubar for that link, which almost made me cry at work.

Laurie Halse Anderson's post on the challenge to Speak has some great links by which you can respond to Scroggins, the school board, and the news media in Republic, Missouri.

Author Shannon Hale, blogging from bedrest (the woman is expecting twins any day now and still blogs! Hard-core, Hale. Hard. Core.) had this to say:
"The purpose of literature is not to represent perfect characters, an ideal world, where everyone acts kindly and appropriately. There's no benefit to reading that story, there's no learning, no questioning, no growing for the reader. I want to share just one more thing about the power and importance of great books, and why we need them free and available in libraries."
She then quotes from another blogger, which I will make you click through and read because double-quoting is kinda weird. Shannon Hale, you are awesome.

The blogosphere's afire over this one, naturally, and bless her heart, Reclusive Bibliophile has compiled a list of all the posts. There's also a Twitter hashtag, #SpeakLoudly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

File This Under "Holy Cow"

Congratulations to Jane Yolen, whose 300th book will published later this year. Yes, 300th. That's 3 with two little zeroes after it.

As I say, holy cow.

In highly classy fashion, Yolen tells us that it's not about the numbers, but about the readers.
What I can really recount, though, are the stories I get back from readers. The little boy in a burn unit who read "How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?" until he did, too. The autistic boy who now goes to bed without elaborate coaching because of "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?."
And many more. I'm gettin' a little verklempt here, people. Go request Elsie's Bird, that special number 300. Let's hope she hits 400 too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A List You Might Need

ALSC has pre-pulled these needles from the haystack for us: books about Islam for kids. I'm saddened but not shocked to see the dearth of fiction, especially in chapter-book and novel-length. Sigh.

Have you read anything you'd add to this list?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Lee Wind and the Great Debate

Hop on over to Hunger Mountain, kiddies, and watch our own Lee Wind weigh in on "GLBTQ Teen Coming Out Stories: Move Beyond Them, or Keep ‘Em Coming?"

For me, I love GLBTQ books that show kids who are homosexual and that's their life. The coming out to the major players in their life is accomplished, and now they're dealing with other Life Stuff, just like any other kid. They're a gay kid or a lesbian, but they're not The Gay Kid or The Lesbian, like that's the sum total of their existence. For gay or lesbian kids reading about themselves, it's good to know that they are not their sexuality. For straight friends and family, that's also good to know that their friend/brother/sister is still their friend/brother/sister even with this new aspect of their identity.

On the other hand, as Lee says, a lot of places and people aren't so accepting as we would like, and for a lot of kids, understanding their sexuality and coming out are a major source of angst and even fear. They need books that show these experiences honestly, with all the bumps and bruises but the reassurance that's it's better to be yourself than to live a lie.

So . . . what do you think? Do we still need coming out novels on our shelves or should we focus on books with kids who happen to be gay?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Yessssssssss! / Noooooooooooo!

Fuse #8 pointed me at these two little tidbits of kidlit movie news:

1. They're making a movie of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life! I love Wendy Mass's every sterling word, and it's a mystery to me why she doesn't get more critical love. Whatevs, I'll get to see this movie and if they don't completely turd it up, hopefully it will drive more kids to the M sections of my library. Yessssssssssss!

2. Remember the Mr. Popper's Penguins movie? Jim Carrey is going to be Mr. Popper. You heard that. Jim Carrey = Mr. Popper. Say it with me, kiddies: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

One of these days, I will make a book display called, "The Book is Always Better, or Yes I Know the Movie Sucked, That Was Not the Book's Fault." Today, however, I will tenderly cradle poor Mr. Popper and his penguins in my arms.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Reading Roundup August 2010

By the Numbers
Teen: 21
Tween: 11
Children: 16

Swapped: 2
Purchased: 1
Library: 40

Teen: Thaw by Monica Roe
I simply couldn't put this book down, even when I wanted to kick Dane right in the goolies.
Tween: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This book confused the bejesus out of me, and yet, I kept reading. There's time travel, and unlikely friendships, and growth and Madeleine L'Engle and . . . and  . . . okay, just read it already, willya?
Children: Wild Things by Clay Carmichael
A book about the unlikely families that we cobble together because the pieces don't fit anywhere else. Too bad the cover belonged on a different book.

Because I Want To Awards
Highest Ratio of Tears to Pages: Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Most Highly Anticipated: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Twistiest Book Unfortunately Spoiled by the OCLC Summary (AKA, What Were You Thinking, Guys?!): White Cat by Holly Black
So Happy This Character Got Her Own Book: Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga
McGowan, You Are One Sick Dude: The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan
So Far Over the Top It's Receding Beyond the Horizon: Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware by M.T. Anderson
Can't Wait to Recommend This to a 10-Year-Old: NERDS by Michael Buckley