Showing posts from 2009

The Hunger Games

Well, I heard Suzanne Collins' newest series was good, and the first book did not disappoint in the least. Katniss is a fierce heroine. When her father died, her mother emotionally abandoned the family to Katniss' care. As the eldest daughter, Katniss took it upon herself to feed the family by poaching in the woods with her friend Gale. All of this experience causes her to radically underestimate her ability to survive. When her younger sister, Primrose, is selected for the Hunger Games, Katniss doesn't hesitate to take her place. The Hunger Games are the ultimate in creepiness, a reality tv show created when "tributes" of children ages 12-18, one girl and one boy from each of the outlying areas, are forced into the wilderness and kill each other off one by one. All for the entertainment of the wealthy people in the Capitol. Katniss is ruthless in defense of her own survival, but she also becomes attached to the young girl Rue and to her fellow competitor

Echo, A Great and Terrible Beauty

All my blogging energy was going to writing book reviews for awhile. That may happen again, as the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books periodically needs me to pitch in and write reviews, especially of new fantasy titles. The handful of fantasy titles that I reviewed AND that have stayed with me this year include: Roar by Clayton, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Ryan, and Watersmeet by Abbott. Graceling by Cashore was not one I reviewed, but was splendid (thanks KQ!). I recommend them all. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libby Bray Historical fiction and fantasy in one? Bray tackles this odd combination and makes it work in a plot that revolves around Gemma, whose mother's unexpected death in India sends her back to a London boarding school. But death is not the end, and Gemma sees her mother again in the "realms," spirit worlds where Gemma must learn to travel. I only read the first of the trilogy, but Bray wraps this installment up neatly while leav

Who does own the story?

Welch, Wendy. "Who Owns the Story?" Storytelling, Self, Society, 5:1-22, 2009. Welch asks the big question (above) systematically, using both legal and ethnographic arguments. But she doesn't answer it, and ultimately what she provides is a broad exploration of the facets of the question and ways of answering. This is a strong candidate as a text for the storytelling course precisely because it presents a range of answers. At the same time, I admit to a sense of disappointment as a scholar: she touches on individual/personal ownership, cultural ownership, authenticity (and claims to authenticity), the idea of "respect" and its limits, and even sacred stories, but she doesn't ultimately get beyond a postmodern issues of representation. She tackles them in concrete, not critical theory, terms, and that's a big plus, but her conclusion about "thoughtful people of integrity on all sides of this issue" is just shy of relativism. I wished for

The Letter-Box as intermediate space between child/adults/readers/writers

Phillips, Michelle H. "Along the 'Paragraphic Wires': Child-Adult Mediation in St. Nicholas Magazine" in Children's Literature vol. 37, p. 84-109. Great article for thinking about how a magazine positions child readers, in a top-down way, as active participants. Phillips argues that St. Nicholas readers had much free play in their interactions with the magazine through a series of close readings of the Letter-Box section. Brilliantly conceived and well argued, this is a piece that can substantiate the claim that child readers were granted some specific kinds of agency. Of special note: -Phillps argues that children themselves write "with amusement about other children" engaginging in "a process of disidentification with childhood." (p. 105) -about Dodge.. "...unlike so many of the editors of other children's periodicals, for Dodge the role of an editor is not coincident with that of an author, parent, or other adult authority

my mothers' voices coming out of my mouth Roger posted about what Zena Sutherland used to quote Ursula Nordstrom as having said about kids loving to be read the phone book if it means they get attention. Which I now realize I learned from Betsy Hearne, who was Zena's protege, and which I know I have repeated. This idea has been handed down to me and, apparently, to Roger, who had the clarity to credit it back and back to its earlier attributions. I just heard it and repeated it, but now I see that my intellectual mothers' voices are emanating from my own lips. It's odd to discover online evidence that you are actually living what you teach, participating in an oral tradition, part of a lineage of stories...

other holiday reads

Nation by Terry Pratchett Nation is a surprise. From a fantasy writer come fantasy masquerading as historical fiction. Despite the many clues that this is a made-up world, there's still something real seeming about the set up, so much so that Pratchett added a disclaimer in the back. The premises are multiple, as is to be expected from any Pratchett romp. But this is a more serious romp than most. The question Pratchett poses is: what if, on the cusp of your initiation into manhood, your entire nation of people, your tribe, were obliterated by a tidal wave? A secondary character is a girl from England who is nearly the only one from a shipwreck to survive. In fact, the ship was washed onto the boy's island, helping to decimate his people's land. As if that weren't enough spoilers... the boy does eventually reconstitute something of his people's rituals, as refugees from other, smaller islands make their way to his island. The girl helps, and poisons some r

Toward an early history of teacher/librarian interactions, cooperation, and professional tensions

When I'm ready to revise Chpt 3 of the dissertation, these sources will provide the educational history background for that lit review: -History of Education in America by Pulliam -The American School, 1642 to 1933 by Spring -Education in a Free Society by Ripa -Pillars of the Republic by Kaestle -How Teachers Taught by Curan I have a conundrum regarding this article-to-be: who is the audience? Is it vindicating or villifying to write about teacher-librarian conflict in the past? I do think it's a worthy antidote to histories that gloss over such professional tensions over jurisdiction, definition, identity, etc. L&CR seems wrong because it's not about cultural records, it's about professional culture. This makes me think Library History might be the venue, but that raises issues that Boyd raised and I haven't yet addressed: how do these early tensions connect to the broader story of the joint section of the NEA and ALA that emerged in 1896? My data is ba

Histories that give context for understanding evolution in children's literature

Here's a brief list of histories that are useful for possible lit review on this topic: The Metaphysical Club by Menand Talks about the influence of Agassiz in America The Post-Darwinian Controversies by Moore Details the various controversies, details being the key word. While the exploration of philosophical divergences could be useful, this focuses more on scholarly differences than on the kind of popular reception that would have influenced children's publishing. Victorian Science in Contect, ed. by Lightman Excellent collection of essays, among them the intro by Lightman and the chapter by Barbara Gates (who elsewhere wrote about Arabella Buckely's affiliations with Lyell and Darwin). Wild Things ed by Dobrin and Kidd On ecocriticism in children's lit. Most promising essay is "'He Made Us Very Much Like the Flowers': Human/Nature in Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Children's Literature" by Maude Hines. Second most promising is "

Out with the old, in with the new

Today on my NPR most emailed podcast, I heard of a guy who did all 121 possible merit badges in order to become an Eagle Scout. For comparison's sake, regular Eagle Scouts need 21 or so. Now that's overachievement. I think back with nausea on the fights in my home-of-origin around my brother's forced march to becoming an Eagle Scout, forced by my father the devout scoutmaster. All my brother wanted was a chance to be a garden variety underachiever, but no such luck in my house. But he had to get those 21 merit badges to satisfy the ego of the father who raised him. Such are fathers and sons around the globe. Not every father and not every son, but enough to create a spiderweb of displaced dreams. I think of the Liz Phair song about flying into Chicago at night. If I were able to look down from a plane on a globe lighted only by the fathers who have pressured their sons to achieve what they did not in thei