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 rogue pirates along the way. Although they are attracted to each other, they do not wind up together, not even for a stolen kiss, which was interesting, refreshing, and disappointing all at once.

Fireweed: A Political Autobiography by Gerda Lerner
Thanks to D.C. for loaning this one to me. This is a powerful book by the woman who, in some ways, founded the study of women's history. I was most taken by the chapters on her childhood, as she struggled to survive in WWII Vienna as a wealthy Jewish child who was often mistaken for an "Aryan" child. Her early attempts to be political are both moving and heartbreaking.

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 basically 1882-1898 and from the Reading of the Young reports. So this might require more primary source work as well.

It's certainly not going to be for an audience of children's librarians directly, but rather for folks interested in how reformist and, later, Progressive Era professionals defined their work in relation to children's reading. Who should guide the reading of children, teachers, librarians, parents, or others? That's a question that persists, and it suggests that this might be a worthy article if I can just figure out the appopriate scope and venue.

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 "'Foundation-Stones': Natural History for Children in St. Nicholas Magazine" by Kaye Adkins

Charles Darwin and Darwin's Origin of Species, both by Janet Browne

I read the second in total, and appreciated what a smooth writer Browne is. She's also a formidable and respected Darwin scholar.

Before Scopes by Israel
Explores religion in Tennessee from 1870-1925, situating Scopes in historical context.

Disseminating Darwinism ed. by Numbers and Stenhouse
p. 129 Describes how the evolution controversy heated up only when the theory was applied to humankind.

Darwinism Comes to America by Numbers
Another respected Darwin scholar. Chpt 3 covers 1860s to 1920s.

Evolution: The History of an Idea
by Peter J. Bowler
Whew, almost lost this one! I have copies of chpts 6 (reception of Darwin's theory) and 8 (evolution, society, and culture, 1875-1925) but somehow hadn't gotten the title page. All's well now, and time to put this into refworks...

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. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7706158

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 their own youth, it would surely be awash with light.

So, out with the old, in with the new. I have blogged less than half of what I've read in the last six months. I have great personal reasons, but reasons can have the ring of excuses almost as soon as they are set into sentences. So out with the old, the overachieving blogger of 2007 and early 2008 who blogged nearly everything she read. In with the new, the blogger who blogs where, how, and if she feels like it. Dear readers, no merit badges will be issued for consistent blogging in 2009.

May you, may I, may all sons and fathers have a new year of ease.