Showing posts from 2011

what to read in 2012

The best books of 2011 of course!  It's a great time of year to place hold requests, add things to to-read lists, and generally revel in the book awards spectacular.  Of course, BCCB Blue Ribbons and Newbery/Caldcott/Printz/CorettaScottKing/Notables/etc. aren't out yet, but some of the big lists are already available: Horn Book Fanfare SLJ's Best Books of 2011 So far, from the above two lists, I've added these novels to my to-read list: Chime by Billingsley (who is an accomplished author), Dead End in Norvelt (I love Jack Gantos' work!), and new sci-fi Glow by Ryan.  I'm also very excited to see picture books Heart and Soul, Spirals in Nature, and Press Here. SLJ's list includes a section I'll be perusing heavily for my own reading, the  Best Adult Books 4 Teens , and of these I'm especially interested in: Ready Player One (sounds surreal), The Language of Flowers (fiction about foster children), The Magician King (fantasy), The Night Ci

all the Tiffany Aching books

I promised myself some real fantasy escape time this holiday season, and I got it with the help of Terry Pratchett and his 4-book series that starts with The Wee Free Men.  Tiffany Aching is our heroine who becomes the witch of the chalk after a series of adventures that have her defeat enemies ranging from the fairy queen to winter himself.  Her last battle is with with a long dead sorcerer whose hatred for witches seethes out in vile stench across the ages.  Pratchett is at his best when he's most inventive, and pairing of the peculiarly verbally intelligent Tiffany Aching with her hilarious little blue defenders, the Nac Mac Feegle--whose curses are as blue as their tattoos--is highly inventive and leavened with humor throughout.  Don't tell the Feegles they're hilarious, though, or they're liable to drink and fight you to death.  Although they're easily defeated by the Pursing of the Lips and the Tapping of the Feet, at least if you're their kelda. Persona

race and fandoms This is an editorial, and so of course hard to read out of context, but you get a good intro to article in this issue as well as a broad swath of a lot of cultural studies theory that is just now being productively mobilized to get at issues of race in fantasy media contexts.  There are some gaps; you get a sense that "Racefail '09" involved a lot of people, but it's hard to tell exactly what motivated them or what they did; then again, cultural events that are an "imbroglio" is by definition tough to do.  Still the cases of whitewashing are interesting specifics to visit, and the range from Avatar the Last Airbender to World of Warcraft makes this a fine touchstone piece. JM, thanks for the heads up!

when I'm not reading, I notice that it's fall

I started taking pictures on trips and of special events, as people do, but then awhile back noticed that I could create desktop art for myself from my walks and adventures.  Here's some of what I found outside yesterday at my house, just me and my camera: The one of pine needles shows where the squirrels are stashing stuff for winter.  It takes a lot to get through winter, and it's certainly a perennial midwestern metaphor.

national book award

Loving the diversity of this honored group of authors! I've just requested Inside Out and Back Again by Lai, the young people's winner, from the library.  That plus a few recent YA novel to come.

a handful of young adult novels

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler  It's 1996, and when Emma gets a computer, something weird happens.  Within her AOL account she finds a strange place called Facebook.  In it, there's a page showing that she is fifteen years older and in trouble.  So, along with her neighbor and lifelong friend Josh, she starts to change the future, to write a better ending for herself. And things really begin to change.  She and Josh have been estranged ever since he tried to kiss her a few months back, and of course that changes dramatically.  Josh is perfectly happy with his future, but when Emma changes hers it impacts his as well and causes renewed tensions in their relationship.  Somehow, Asher and Mackler manage to stay on the relatively light side of how decisions today impact one's fate tomorrow, and it makes for a fun and engaging read. Although marketed to young adults, this is a book best suited for my generation, for people who came of age in the 90s or so

explicit instruction in the culture of power

Professor Emeritus Chip Bruce wrote/compilled the following graduate student survival guide awhile back, in 2008, but it's relevant again thanks to another engaging discussion at the Reading Around Race group today (Thanks to Sharon Irish for pointing Chip's blog post out to me!): The discussion centered around two articles that I selected as early works of two major scholars on race and education, Lisa Delpit and Beverly Daniels Tatum.  Delpit in particular pointed out in her 1988 article in the Harvard Educational Review that there's a real need for direct instruction in how to engage with academic institutions as a student and attain the highest levels of success.  As she put it:   "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that   culture makes acquiring power easier."  When issues of race are at hand, it's worth remembering that stu

The First R

The First R:  How Children Learn Race and Racism by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin Ausdale and Feagin together do a nuanced job of analyzing interactions among young children related to racial identity, showing that children as young as three years old see how racism operates in their worlds.  They show how these children learn to avoid the topic of race around adults, just as adult avoid the topic around them.  And yet young children are willing and able to engage in discussions of race among themselves, as long as they are outside of the earshot of adult authorities.  They find that white children will be insistent about regulating how black children define themselves, looking at an example of an African-American girl who chose to represent her skin color with both brown and pink paint, which was met with vocal protest from several White girls.  The African-American girl, however, was painting an image of both sides of her hands, and so defied the typical self-representation

CCB Brownbag Recap: Fantasy and Race

On Thursday 11/3, I gave a Brown Bag presentation on Fantasy and Race.  This interest stems from at least two directions.  One of those is the relative lack of authors of color writing fantasy literature for youth as well as character of color represented as more than tokens in fantasy and sci fi.  A big shout-out is in order here to the ways that former students have called that syllabus out for these big gaps. So I used the word "represented" above, and it the idea of "representation" that was key to my talk yesterday.  I take it as a given that youth advocates, librarians among them, want youth to know that they belong in all things literature, literacy, and library-related.  One way to assure this is to be sure that racially and ethnically diverse authors and characters are represented in library collections and if you're reading my blog at all you probably ascribe this notion as a fundamentally good idea in library services.  Of course there are limits of

this sure looks interesting...

reading in the thick of race

Our reading group, which I help to facilitative every other Friday, is called Reading Around Race.  The "around" here means mobility as opposed to stasis.  But, really, we don't go around any of it, we go through it all, as together as we can be given our different positions in society, life paths, and roles within the university that brings us together. This week, we read Honma's article "Trippin' Over the Color Line," which is a resounding critique of LIS as a discipline that doesn't acknowledge its own whiteness.  While I can pick at his conflation the academic side of LIS with the ALA (that demonstrate to me that his knowledge of the field is partial, though he is as well-informed critic as any field might hope to have), basically, his argument that silence around whiteness causes trouble in library and information science education and professional work is sound.  I think of the hundreds of local projects that contradict the overall characteri

in the thick of fall

Radway's article, read but not blogged.  Readings on whiteness, including all of Jensen's book, read but not blogged.  Ranma 1/2 and other texts for the fantasy class, read but not blogged.  I'm tempted to say, YOU try being a children's librarian-untenured professor-researcher-faculty member-storyteller-reading group leader-spouse-mom to an ailing cat...  But then I see this quote, and I realize:  Why explain? "Life is short, even for those who live a long time, and we must live for the few who know and appreciate us, who judge and absolve us, and for whom we have the same affection and indulgence. The rest I look upon as a mere crowd, lively or sad, loyal or corrupt, from whom there is nothing to be expected but fleeting emotions, either pleasant or unpleasant, which leave no trace behind them. We ought to hate very rarely, as it is too fatiguing; remain indifferent to a great deal, forgive often and never forget." - Sarah Bernhardt I'll be

cross-dressing in children's literature

This is a case of, despite having drafted a really serviceable paper in about 2004-2005 and having gotten positive feedback from a major journal on the draft, I'm just wanting to set this project aside.  And so I turn in two books related to it: The Queer Child by Stockton and Ways of Being Male ed. by Stephens (chapter by Flanagan).  I already turned in (but xeroxed the last chapter of) Out of the Closet by Flanagan, which was the main text that the editors referred me to in considering my paper. So, when I get back to this project (I won't say "if," but it's obviously implied by the relentless rigors of my schedule), here's what I want to do:  a listing paper.  Not English scholarship, but LIS.  An analytic approach that nonetheless really scopes out what has happened in the field in the last however many years.  I'm still very interested in the main premise of the paper:  that children's cross-dressing in children's literature is often accom

the everyday life turn

I remember talking in college about "The Linguistic Turn" in academic perspectives that had occurred some 30 years before we got to academia.  These articles/chapters all make me think that perhaps there has since been an "Everyday Life Turn" of equal importance (as Sheringham, below, argues).  From the everyday information behavior of children and tweens to the everyday significance of racial micro-aggressions (more coming soon, as I prep for the second Reading Around Race group), it seems to me that there's something to this argument that the everyday has become at least a major rhetorical part of the direction of research in many disparate fields. First, here's an example of the kind of "everyday life" research that I often read, related to children and libraries: "Leisure and Work in Library and Community Programs for Very Young Children" by Roz Stooke and Pamela J. McKenzie ( Library Trends  57: 4, Spring 2009) After observin

Article Amassment

This post is the first of what I hope will be a regular feature, a quick look through my recent Article Amassment.  Be they print journals or citations emailed me by colleagues, Article Amassment is all about fast skimming/reading a bunch of articles related to some aspect of youth services librarianship and blogging them here.  I expect entries to be more like abstracts or even annotations than summaries, with my own slant, of course.  So here goes, my first ever Article Amassment: Large, Andrew, et al.  "Developing a Visual Taxonomy:  Children's Views on Aesthetics"  JASIST 60(9): 2009, pp. 1808-1822. Bring together visualization and usability testing/design, with seven 6th grade young people as collaborators.  Includes children's prototype drawings of taxonomies, and uses them to suggest six aesthetic characteristics that should characterize such browsing interfaces for children, including "maplike metaphor."  They come up with six aesthetic


Lauren Oliver's Delirium follows the months before Lean is scheduled to be cured of deleria , the disease of love.  Everyone goes through it, and society is seemingly peaceful and calm as a result.  No falling in love means no insanity, no wars, no troublesome partner squabbles.  At eighteen, everyone is surgically operated on to remove the part of their brain that can love and matched with a suitable heterosexual partner for life.  And assigned a number of children to have.  But sometimes it goes wrong, as it did with Lena's mother, on whom the operation was not successful.  Despite four tries, they never did cure her of love.  As a result, Lena grew up first in a household full of love and games, and then, after her mother was said to have committed suicide, in her aunt's cold household, their whole family shamed by the blemish of her mother's failure. Very slowly (sometimes a bit too slowly for the pace of the story) Lena begins to understand that the world of s

job hunting advice

Personally, I like to read websites or blogs about a sequence of events.  With a beginning, middle, and end.  Oh, that sounds a bit like narrative, doesn't it!  Funny how story creeps up as a defining element of all that I'm into even when I don't think it's the main point. So this blog, 1/08/job-hunt-index/ , is all about a particular person's job hunt in librarianship, but written in ways that so many folks will recognize.  I personally know several people, most of them recent former students, who are finding the same stories of successes and pitfalls.  It's out of season for our semester cycle, but well worth reading if you'll be job hunting as a librarian or information professional of any sort in the next year.

just listen

Sarah Dessen has a steady hand at writing emotionally involving YA books with female protagonists.  Her stories are usually about coming of age in one way or another, and this story is about Annabel Greene, whose two sisters have been in so much trouble lately (one nearly dying from anorexia) that she has stuffed her own problems deep out of sight.  Problems like the fact that she was raped by her best friend's boyfriend last summer, and her best friend Sophie dumped her over it because she blamed Annabel for being a "slut."  Now school has started, but Annabel still hasn't told a soul what really happened, and endures Sophie's stream of verbal abuse in silence and alone.  Until, one day, she starts to really talk to the guy who also sits alone at lunch.  Their friendship blossoms into romance, but then screeches to a halt when Annabel goes into total shut-down mode and can't tell him why she's so upset.  It's many things, but the main one is that Soph

Author Shel Silverstein and persona Uncle Shelby

Joseph T. Thomas Jr. has finally written the article I've been curious to read for ages.  Though it is certainly part celebrity gossip, Thomas' "A Speculative Account (with Notes) of the Development and Initial Deployment of Shel Silverstein's Persona, Uncle Shelby, with Special Care to Articulate the Relationship of Said Persona to the Question of Shel's Ambiguous Audience(s)" finally makes a coherent connection between Silverstein's work for Playboy magazine and his writing for children.  Thomas focuses extensively on the satirical (and very funny) book Uncle Shelby's ABZs, which is a spoof on alphabet books, where the joke is on the absent gullible child who would follow instructions like, for instance, giving daddy a haircut while he sleeps on the couch or eating the paper in the book because it claims to be made of candy.  But any present reader who would persist with the book and not simply abandon it in complete puzzlement would be a child sop

collaboration, diversity, and metaphors of reading (in LIS)

Just finished reading two articles from JELIS and one from Library Trends: 1) "Finding that Special Someone:  Interdisciplinary Collaboration in an Academic Context" by Gunawardena, Weber, and (my wonderful colleague and ALISE Youth Services co-chair with me this year) Denise Agosto.  This exploration and literature review of models of collaboration is a good thought piece, with real highlights in the two tables.  The material here comes from several disciplines, and these authors synthesize it well.  The first table compares three kinds of connections along a spectrum:  coordination, cooperation, and collaboration, looking at how issues like authority and rewards vary along this spectrum.  True collaboration requires deep sharing, of authority and rewards, in mutually beneficial actions.  Table two lists types of research:  multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and trans-disciplinary, having to do with how the methods and perspectives of two or more di

pomegranates and letting go

Mother Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and The Secret Life of Bees) and daughter Ann Kidd Taylor team up in Traveling with Pomegranates.  It's odd to imagine a travel memoir about women's spirituality (and representations of women in spiritual traditions) being something that could come from two authors' viewpoints in alternating chapters, but it works beautifully.  Though occasionally I was distracted by imagining the editing to make it so, most of the time I was immersed in their two complementary journeys.  Sue is transitioning into an acceptance of old age as she turns 50, and Ann is transitioning into adulthood in her 20s. As they travel to Greece and France and in their home lives as well, both are delving deep into what makes them who they are.  After college and breaking up with her fiance, Ann is discovering the triadic symbolism of Athena, Joan of Arc, and Mary as the iconic women who inspire her to be true to herself.  Sue is lookin

last of the summer memoirs

I'm sure these won't be the last memoirs I read, but they are for this summer, because school is starting!  With a fresh year before me, I'm planning to be back at semi-weekly meetings for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books .  It's the first time back in several years, and I'm looking forward to being once again immersed in rowdy and highly informed (and opinionated!) conversations with my colleagues in academia and children's librarianship.  I first came to the Bulletin in 1997, so those review meetings at the big long tables are sort of like family dinners to me, with people who have become my dear friends as well as aunts I'm fond of and a new crop of cousins every year.  So all this is to say that, after the last of the summer memoirs, I expect I'll be back to full-on children's and young adult lit for many months to come.  The memoir I'm Proud of You:  My Friendship with Mr. Rogers by Tim Madigan , Mr. Rogers makes a poin

social work and authenticity

I read pretty widely, and, unless I'm honed in on investigating a research project, my tastes are free range.  Like the best chickens, my reading brain will at least peck at whatever looks tasty.  So a PBS special on "The Gifts of Imperfection" led me to Brene Brown's work (her blog is called Ordinary Courage ), interesting in part because she has a Ph.D. in social work.  And, since I'm teaching a new class called Youth Services Community Engagement this fall and drawing on some social work research, it seemed right to pursue the threads a little further.  So I found the textbook, Contemporary Human Behavior Theory (2nd ed) that holds a summary of Brown's research work.   Which is based on interview after interview with women (though recently men have factored in as well) and is formalized as Shame Resilience Theory. The theory goes a little something like this:  depending on your place in life, your social support, and a host of other internal and external

vacation reading

I don't know why I actively avoided reading Bossypants by Tina Fey for so long.  Maybe, like your average high-school-aged person, I shrank away because it just seemed too popular.  But it's a memoir!  And it's funny!  And Mean Girls remains one of my favorite ever movies (for whatever that does or doesn't reveal about my twisted mind).  So I read it, and it was worth it.  It's not the best organized memoir ever, but Fey's musings on growing up weird in summer theater programs are totally worth it.  (I've always wanted to do everything, usual at once, and so I read this wistfully wishing that I had been a summer theater program kid.  It's like my periodic longing to have been born Joni Mitchell instead of, well, you know, me with moderate guitar-playing abilities.)  And so are her feminist observations on the impossibilities of women's fashion, totally worth it.  I laughed out loud at her impeccable use of the word "asshat" and, frankly, h

reading plans for fall 2011

Summer isn't over, but it's drawing to a close.  School starts 8/22, in about 3 weeks.  And I've knocked out articles and book chapters and focused my scholarly reading on primary and secondary historical sources for a long time now, related to each of those projects.  Today I send off the last article for awhile (on evolution).  Then there's one more article-in-progress (accepted!) that needs minor edits this fall (on the historical uses of evaluation in public library children's services).  I have a next project in mind (on race and children's publishing in the mid 1940s) that's on the list for spring. But for this coming fall, I'm planning to read articles on race, racism, and whiteness from a variety of perspectives.  Some will be assigned for my new Youth Services Community Engagement class.  Others will be from K.L.'s stack that she gave me in spring.  Still more will come from the emerging reading/research group on Critical Race Theory/Criti

visualizing evolution, done!

Or at least done for now.  At the SHARP conference in D.C. last week, I presented on a panel I created with two wonderful colleagues, Loretta Gaffney and Debra Mitts Smith (don't miss her book Picturing the Wolf in Children's' Literature from Routledge), about the "struggle for survival" of controversial books in children's literature.  Loretta talked about sex, Debra talked about predators, and I presented on "The Art of Evolution:  Images of Geological Time in Science Books for Children, 1921-1956.  I'll most likely upload the powerpoint to my website soon. The 1921 date is important because that's when the first Newbery medal was awarded to a rather hulking book (not as long as some of Rowling's, but still) called The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon.  Here's how he visualized human evolution: The text reads:  “The ascent of man.  The world was millions of years old when a creature appeared which was to be our ances