third places, monitored spaces

While the tenure papers may not be done (I've thought they were twice, and more revisions came back each time), I have moved on to refreshing my research brain.  Refreshment, in this case, has involved travel to public libraries.  So far, I've been to about 10 different public libraries in the general region (east to Indianapolis, north to Chicago, west to Bloomington-Normal, and south to Tuscola) big and small, rural and urban, and it has made for a fascinating set of informal conversations.

The first goal of my trips has just been to look, with fresh eyes, at public libraries as spaces.  I go into buildings and explore websites, seeing how physical and virtual spaces relate to each other and to me, a stranger on the road just stopping by.  Several times, because of professional connections, I have quickly become *not* a stranger on the road, but in fact a colleague.  That happened in Forrest, IL, and even moreso in Tuscola where I know the soon-to-be-former director from GSLIS.

As I walked into buildings and walked around or sat down with my laptop, I quickly began thinking of all the times that students have brought up the idea of public libraries as a "third place" in people's lives.  So I looked at Ray Oldenburg's book The Great Good Place.  He defines the third place (first=home, second=work) as having certain characteristics, among them (from Chpt. 2, “The Character of Third Places”): 

  • —Existing on neutral ground
  • The third place is a leveler
  • Conversation is the main activity
  • Accessibility and accommodation (long hours)
  • The regulars
  • A low profile
  • The mood is playful
  • A home away from home

Frankly, each of these points is a bit problematic when it comes to public libraries as places.  A level "everyone" can borrow books (if they live in the appropriate taxing district), and perhaps the meeting rooms are neutral ground, but hours are limited and what comes and goes from these spaces is typically monitored closely, whether visually or with RFID and automatic alarms.  And hours are limited, especially for public libraries facing budget issues.  While children's departments encourage conversation and playfulness, they also have regulations about unattended children to keep the place from becoming "a home away from home."  And the tension between conversation and silence is still a real issue in public library spaces for adults; those who can't be quiet are sometimes asked to leave.  The Carnegie-era facades of many libraries, with their steps and columns, are not only non-ADA-compliant, they also bespeak anything but a "low profile."

But the true lure of the third place, as Oldenberg sees it, is the people, the "regulars," who go there for the joy of bumping in to casual friends.  To know whether this aspect is true for public library spaces, you would really have to be a regular yourself, or spend enough time there to know for sure that there are groups of regulars who look forward to meeting each other.

Very quickly, in the buildings I saw, I also noticed common patterns of sight lines.  Most places I sat, especially near to technology or media collections that were not books, I was easily visible by one or more library staff members.  When you talk with librarians about buildings, one of the quickest subjects to come up tends to be what's visible and the wacky things that can happen in spaces that are not visible:  between shelves, behind stacks, in hidden pockets of the library.  Apocolyptic tales abound, usually involving food and/or sex, and I have my own tale of the toilet that backed up in the basement due to a pair of gym shorts. (Perhaps a member of the public who really disliked gym class?  We'll never know.)

All this is to say that, in my wanderings thusfar, I have to ask whether the "third place" is ever really the right metaphor for a library.  In fact, the sight lines, protection of collections, and enforcement of quiet bring to mind Foucault's idea of the Panopticon (from Discipline and Punish).  This is not to say that public libraries are prisons, and you could insert here any number of testimonials from prisoners that books and libraries saved their souls.  It's more to say that public monitoring is significant function of the public library, related directly to collection preservation and protection.

But how do these things matter?  It came up yesterday--in a fantastic conversation with fellow faculty and a doc student--that the big, theoretical political economy folks would say that small and local public spaces don't count as long as the larger worlds of the U.S. economy and policies regarding issues like intellectual property continue to erode previously public spaces.  I pointed out that the opposite of "privatization" might be "publicization," and that we hardly ever talk about the ways that is happening (or has happened, historically).  Yes, power is concentrated in governments and corporations (not always in that order), but there are places and spaces where the public still operates as a functional concept in everyday life.  Public libraries are among them.

So I'm designing a research project that will be an oral history of changes in public libraries.  Depending on what librarians tell me, I expect to hear stories of economic, technological, and social transitions, and I'm eager to hear it all.


Tenure paper prep is in progress, so this is going to be brief:

Note that the YouMedia spaces are taken as the model.  This reinforces my sense that the innovations getting broad attention are aimed at teens, not younger children.

girl culture and the cute and the cool

In Cinderella Ate my Daughter, Peggy Orenstein explores a wide range of questions related to contemporary girlhood, from the marketing of the Disney Princess product line to the how biological differences between male and female brains are used to justify it.   Orenstein has done her homework, but the book is a personal exploration of her motherhood choices rather than a scholarly work.  I don't have a daughter, but the thought-provoking questions that Orenstein raises about the world of gender and the marketing of all things pink to girls are certainly important.  What stays with me most is her analysis of the Disney actress trajectory, from self-declared virgin to marketable sex symbol.  As she writes:  "...self-respect has become a marketing gimmick, a way for female pop stars to bide their time before serving up their sexuality as a product for public consumption." (p. 124)  It may be true that, just like we overestimate young people's technical abilities on a regular basis, we also overestimate their abilities to resist pervasive marketing.

A few choice quotes and moments:

"Toy choice turns out to be one of the largest differences between the sexes over the entire life span, bigger than anything except the preference (among most of us) for the other sex as romantic partners.  [...] That blinds us to the larger truth of how deeply those inborn biases are reinforced by a child's environment." (p. 63-64)

"The changes kids go through are so quick, so intense, and you are so bloody exhausted when they're happening.  It feels as though you'll never forget, but you always do." (p. 95)
(Hence the importance of aunts, uncles, and friends who can help parents remember the stories and experiences.)

Orenstein notes that Daniel Cook established that the word "toddler" is not a psychological phase but instead a marketing term invented in the 1930s. (p. 36)
She also describes the relative lack of female muppets as the "fur ceiling" (p. 40), a phrase that just cracks me up.
She mentions "the inflexible stage" that four-year-olds tend to go through (p. 61).

The Cute and the Cool by Gary Cross is another sweeping childhood studies history of all things child-related, with special focus on products and marketing, but this book is taking a solidly scholarly approach.  He explores the marketing of child images, to adults and children, and explores the ways that what started as "cute" or nostalgia for all child-related things transforms into "cool" in movies like Gremlins.


When the feminist revolution of the 1960s and 1970s removed that burden [of being an image of purity] from women, it was shifted to the child. (p. 6)

While we long to protect the young, sometimes we also fear them when they do not fit our image of innocence. (p. 9)

We see childhood as timeless, yet we shower the young with fads and innovation. (p. 13)

[During the 20th century...]  The child's 'secret garden' of innocence was increasingly filled with the images and values of an emerging consumer culture. (p. 15)

What had been the cute, ultimately controlled by parents, became the cool--the opposite of the cuddly and delightful. (p. 17)  [Cross says this started among boys in the 1930s with "dark science fiction stories"]

Interesting for Sarah Park...  Traditional adoption was of older children, who could work.
"A major change occurred when adoptive parents began to seek newborns.  The demand for infants rose from 19 to 21 percent of adoptions during the 1930s and 48 percent in 1950, 68 percent in 1960, and 98 precent by the end of the 1970s.  Increasingly couples wanted a baby who was 'cute and cuddly,' not an older child who might have been emotionally damaged by an orphanage or foster home." [...]  "This shift reveals the influence of psychological expertise but also the changing purpose of children in adult lives." (p. 30)

Pages 40-42 deal with child care instruction guides for parents, admonishing them not to "cuddle" and "indulge" too much.

"The original meaning of the 'cute' person was interchangeable with 'cunning,' a corruption of 'can,' meaning clever and crafty." (p. 43)

"Wondrous innocence and consumerism shared a common appeal--saying yes to desire. [...]  Is it any surprise that wonder so often prevailed over protection, delight over development?" (p. 81)

"In effect, adults like Disney invented the role of the wondrous child and expected real children to play it in the nostalgic setting of Main Street." (p. 115)

Other things to explore:
Paula Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful; American Youth in the 1920s

Int'l Ch's Media & Culture

Back in spring, I read some chapters from...
The International Handbook of Children's Media and Culture, Eds. Drotner and Livingstone.  Sage, 2008.

"Harlequin Meets the SIMS:  A History of Interactive Narrative Media for Children and Youth from Earily Flap Books to Contemporary Multimedia" by Jacqueline Reid-Walsh (71-86)

"Children and Media:  A Cultural Studies Approach" by David Buckingham

The whole text is a combination of media theory and media effects research, with a special focus on non-US settings in later chapters.

Some quotes and ideas:

"...adults are wholly dependent upon children to secure the continuation of life..." (p. 9)

Geertz's definition of "culture"
"...system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which people communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life."

Other things to look up:

Ellen Seiter in Toys, Games, and Media

Journal of Children and Media

"Hamlet on the Holodeck" by Murray (1997)--differentiates between agency (move a chess piece, many possible options) and activity (spin a die, prescribed).

Media studies situates children as vulnerable or competent, which emphasis on investigation into effects.
     This contrasts strongly with the artistic and aesthetic tradition in children's literature (p. 10)


Kristin Cashore has captured intelligent female fantasy readers with her books Graceling, Fire, and now Bitterblue, where we pick up with the beleaguered daughter of Ashen as she is growing into being queen.  I hesitate to assert these themes, but if Graceling is about learning about loving connection despite fear and Fire is about discerning the different flavors of love and admiration that "monstrous" attraction can evoke, then Bitterblue is about learning to compassionately encompass a kingdom.  In other words, Bitterblue is about power.

And those who are captivated by court drama will enjoy this immensely, although the romantic flair that characterized Graceling and Fire is significantly toned-down here.  Bitterblue is struggling to reclaim her kingdom--and even to understand it--since the 35-year reign of her father King Leck.  Leck's grace was the ability to fog others' minds, take them over, and force them to do his bidding without their understanding that it was, in fact, his bidding.  The scars of his sadistic acts linger, both in the people and animals subject to his abuse as well as in those who were forced to do his bidding.  It takes many pages of complications before Bitterblue understands that her current advisors, who were her father's men, are not only complicit in a series of complex cover-ups--from literacy to finances--but are doing so in great part because of how Leck twisted them.  All four men were promising young healers, and all were forced to become torturers.

As Bitterblue finds her way, there's this glorious passage of what I think of as her vision of an encompassing compassion, which will allow her to become the just ruler she strives to be.  The passage starts with her "raw and crying with grief":

Then something began to change in the room.  None of the feelings changed, but Bitterblue encompassed them somehow.  She was larger than the feelings, she held the feelings in an embrace, and murmured kindnesses to them and comforted them.  She was the room. The room was alive, the gold of the walls glowed with life, the scarlet and gold starts of the ceiling were real.  She was bitgger than the room; she was the corridor and the sitting room and Helda's rooms.  Helda was there, tired and worried and feelings some arthritis in her knitting hands, and Bitterblue embraced her., Bitterblue comforted her too, and eased the pain in her hands.  And grew.  She was the outer corridors [...]. She was the offices and the tower and she embraced all the men who were broken and frightened and alone. [...]  And to embrace her friends among them, feel the complications of their feelings for each other [...].  

She saw herself, tiny, fallen, crying and broken on the bridge.  She could feel every person in the castle, every person in the city.  she could hold every on eof them in her arms; comfort every one.  
She was enormous, and electric with feeling, and wise.  She reached down 
to the tiny person on the bridge and embraced that girl's broken heart. (p. 512-513)

Recovery from 35 years of trauma will not come easily to the kingdom.  As Bitterblue says:  "My kingdom's challenge is to balance knowing with healing." (p. 537) Which is the way with any recovery from horror.

I did have a few critiques of the book.  The relationship with Saf is much flatter than Cashore's other romantic forays in previous books, and perhaps that is indicative of the focus here on coming into power as a leader rather than coming to know oneself.  Still, Saf can be downright annoying, and there's something odd about the ways that Bitterblue can see the flaws in her own kingdom increasingly clearly while remaining enamored of "bad boy" Saf, whose friends are a real boon but whose own contributions to her coming into power are neutral or mildly detracting.  I suppose you could argue that Saf is there to show Bitterblue's rounded strength, the strength not to fall in love with a scalawag and a thief while, nonetheless, making love to him.  And, let's face it, if he really does resemble Prince Po, then that is strength indeed.

Overall, this is another outstanding book, and fans of the first two will deeply appreciate all the strands that come together from those narratives here (though I wouldn't recommend reading it separately).  By the end, we see Katsa and Fire in the same room with Bitterblue, who is poised to rule a kingdom in a new world of peaceful neighbors recently revealed.  A powerful trio of women indeed.

One other great quote:
"Every configuration of people is an entirely new universe unto itself." (p. 375)

Plus, blog bonus:  Share it maybe!


I am celebrating this:

I am also celebrating that my cat is okay, that my spouse is a rockstar, that my friends are awesome, that I have new glasses and comfy, sassy shoes.  Life is short and full of injuries of all kinds.  Some days, we just sweat it out.  My wish is that everybody, at some point, gets to work hard and be rewarded for it.

I'm also in the middle of Bitterblue by Cashore.  More to come!

p.s. my cat:

links list

I've read Sarah Dessen's beach-perfect summer high school book Along for the Ride and I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (#6) right now.  I read the travel memoir Wild by Cheryl Strayed while traveling (I was on planes, she was on the Pacific Crest Trail, but hey).  But reviews will have to wait... I lag behind in everything but the coming tenure papers, which I work on daily now that the biggest chunk of summer travel is done.  In the meantime, here are some intriguing links.

Will there be a new Fraggle Rock movie?  Time will tell...

Plus, Reading Rainbow is coming back, er, sort of!  Reading Rainbow is looking to the iPad as a new platform for relaunch.

Are American kids spoiled?  If so, why?

What will happen if Facebook courts the under-13 market? 

Scatological Scholarship: why are farts so funny, at least to kids?

Obama's haircut

Children's books represent, but so do people, and this photo captures an amazing moment when a young boy asked President Obama "if the President's haircut felt like his own."  Obama responded by letting the boy feel his head for himself.

reading becomes us

In what Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby term "experience-taking," it turns out that reading about characters can actually influence us to become more like them.  The effects actually seem to persist and even influence some real-world behavior.  There are as many questions raised as answered by these findings, but it's intriguing to consider.

So we become what we read.  Sounds an awful lot like the old adage "you are what you eat." (If so, I am comprised of much more kale than you might suspect just looking at me.)

More fun links on this phenomenon:

summer reading plans

Summer reading plans fall into two categories:  

1) children's literature and resources, in preparation for teaching LIS403 in the fall

2) media studies history:  sources that tie together communications and children's reading, in the present and historically

The rest of this post will be lists of texts, so perhaps less interesting than book reviews.

Media Studies/History:
possible journals...

Skim current media studies by MacArthur and Kaiser:

Best Apps for Kids: thinking about aesthetic comparisons and connections to children's literature

Children's Literature (this is most of the required texts list, with resources to come):


Selznick, Brian.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Scholastic, 2007.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-1602521124.
Raschka, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. Schwartz & Wade, 2011. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0375858611.

Stead, Philip C. A Sick Day for Amos McGee; illus. by Erin Stead. Roaring Brook, 2010. Hardcover. ISBN 978-1596434028.
Harrington, Janice N. The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County; illus. by Shelley Jackson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0374312510.

Bunting, Eve. Smoky Night; illus. by David Diaz. Sandpiper, 1999. Paperback. ISBN 978-0152018849.

Cowley, Joy. Chameleon, Chameleon; illus. by Nic Bishop. Scholastic, 2005. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0439666534.

Wiesner, David. Tuesday. Sandpiper, 1997. Paperback. ISBN 978-0395870822.
Willems, Mo.  Knuffle Bunny.  Walker Books, 2005.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-1844280599.

Sendak, Maurice.  Where the Wild Things Are; written and illus. by Maurice Sendak.  HarperCollins, 1988.  Paperback. ISBN 978-0064431781.
Dr.Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)The Cat in the Hat.  Random House, 1957.  Hardcover.  ISBN 978-0545014571.
Milne, A.A. Winnie the Pooh; illus. by Ernest H. Shepard.  Puffin, 1992.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0140361216.
White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web; illus. by Garth WilliamsHarperCollins, 2004. Paperback. ISBN 978-0064400558.

Sierra, Judy.  Silly and Sillier: Read-Aloud Tales from Around the World; illus. by Valeri Gorbachev. Knopf, 2002.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0375806094. 
Townsend, Michael. Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders.  Dial, 2010.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0803733084.
Riordan, Rick. The Red Pyramid. Hyperion, 2011.  Paperback. ISBN 978-1423113454.

Pilkey, Dav.  Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets; written and illus. by Dav Pilkey. Scholastic, 1999.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0590634274.
Venezia, Mike.  Andy Warhol; written and illus. by Mike Venezia.  Children’s Press, 1997.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0516260754. 
English, Karen. Nikki and Deja: Birthday Blues; illus. by Laura Freeman.  Sandpiper, 2010.  Paperback. ISBN 978-0547248936.
Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane; illus. by Bruce Degen. Scholastic, 1996. Paperback. ISBN 978-0590446877.

Keene, Carolyn. The Secret of the Old Clock. Grosset & Dunlap, 1987. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0448095707.

Dowell, Frances O’Roark. The Kind of Friends We Used to Be.  Atheneum, 2010. Paperback.  978-1416997795.
Woodson, Jacqueline.  After Tupac and D Foster.  Speak, 2010.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0142413999. 
Gantos, Jack.  Dead End in Norvelt.  Yearling, 2012.  Paperback. ISBN 978-0440870043.

Hardinge, Frances.  The Lost Conspiracy.  HarperCollins, 2009.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0060880415.

Okorafor, Nnedi.  Akata Witch. Viking, 2011. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0670011964.

Tan, Shaun.  The Arrival.  Arthur A. Levine, 2007. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0439895293.

Garza, Xavier.  Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller.  Cinco Puntos, 2011. Paperback. ISBN  978-1933693989.
Hiaasen, Carl. Flush. Yearling, 2010. Paperback. ISBN 978-0375861253.

Gaiman, Neil.  Coraline; illus. by Dave McKean. HarperFestival, 2008.  Paperback. ISBN 978-0061649691.
Horowitz, Anthony. Stormbreaker (Alex Rider). Puffin, 2006.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0142406113.
Rex, Adam. True Meaning of Smek Day. Hyperion, 2009. Paperback. ISBN 978-0786849017.
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Roxie and the Hooligans; illus. by Alexandra Boiger. Atheneum, 2007. Paperback. ISBN 978-1416902447.


Smith, Jeff.  Bone. V. 1.: Out from Boneville.  Scholastic, 2005.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0439706407.

Holm, Jennifer & Holm, Matthew. Babymouse: Queen of the World.  Random House, 2005.  Paperback. ISBN 978-0375832291.

Varon, Sara. Robot Dreams. First Second, 2007.  Paperback. ISBN 978-1596431089.


Hoberman, Mary Ann.  You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together; illus. by Michael Emberley. Little, Brown, 2004. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0316146111.

Janeczko, Paul B & Lewis, J. Patrick.  Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku; illus. by Tricia Tusa. Little, Brown, 2006.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0316607315.

Sidman, Joyce. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems; illus. by Beckie Prange. Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0618135479.

Prelutsky, Jack. I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus; illus. by Jackie Urbanovic. Greenwillow, 2012. Hardcover. ISBN  978-0062014573.

Curtis, Christopher Paul.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963. Yearling, 1997. Paperback.  ISBN 978-0440414124.

Lai, Thanhha.  Inside Out and Back Again. HaperCollins, 2011. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0061962783.

Yelchin, Eugene. Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Henry Holt, 2011.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0805092165.


O’Connell, Caitlin & Jackson, Donna M.  The Elephant Scientist; illus. by Timothy Rodwell.  Houghton Mifflin, 2011.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0547053448.

Murphy, Jim. The Great Fire. Scholastic Paperback, 2006.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0439203074.

Nelson, Kadir.  Heart and Soul:  The Story of America and African Americans.  Balzer + Bray, 2011.  Hardcover.  ISBN 978-0061730740


Sternberg, Julie.  Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie; illus. by Matthew Cordell. Amulet, 2011. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0810984240.

Greene, Stephanie. Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade; illus. by Stephanie Sisson.  Puffin, 2011. Paperback. ISBN 978-0142418277.
Willems, Mo.  We Are in a Book.  Hyperion, 2010.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-1423133087.
Sturm, James, Arnold Andrew & Frederick-Frost Alexis.  Adventures in Cartooning.  First Second, 2009.  Paperback. ISBN 978-1596433694.

Lin, Grace.  Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!  LB Kids, 2011.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0316024532.

Lobel, Arnold.  Frog and Toad Are Friends. HarperCollins, 1979.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0064440202.


Richardson, Justin & Parnell, Peter.  And Tango Makes Three.  Simon & Schuster, 2005.  Hardcover. ISBN 978-0689878459.

Harrison, Lisi.  The CliqueLittle Brown, 2004.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0316701297.

Madaras, Lynda et al.  What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Boys: Revised Edition. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2007.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-1557047656


McCloud, Scott.  Understanding Comics.  Harper, 1994.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0060976255.

Bang, Molly.  Picture This.  Chronicle, 2000.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-1587170300.


Presence, as opposed to distance.  This time of year, even presence of mind is scarce.

In the Presence of Each Other:  A Pedagogy of Storytelling by Johanna Kuyvenhoven
presents a study of a classroom with a storytelling teacher.  The definition of "presence" shows up late in the book, but offers much to think about:

"The pedagogy of storytelling entails its medium of presence.  The medium is the sounds of words, the faces and gestures of one another, and the warm contact of each other's bodies in physical place." (187)

Which leads me to wonder about what removing one element might mean.  When does presence become distance?  What about time, being simultaneous, but at a distance?  What about removing the sounds of words?  What about telling stories back-to-back?

There's an interesting diagram that illustrates Kuyvenhoven's model:

memories of dissertation writing

Looking back to my notes on the dissertation process, I stumbled across this little gem to describe how the experience felt:

"like trying to get my arms around an elephant made of jello."

Back in 2005, that was indeed how it felt, on a daily basis.  Changing research directions and embracing new ideas doesn't feel quite the same, but a real commitment to learning probably always leads to, at some point, encountering a jello elephant.

kates of the world, contrast!

I am a nerd.  This comes as no surprise to any of you who know me.  My undergrad alma mater, New College of Florida, has just been name the nerdiest school of all:
I am so very proud.  In addition, my very own GSLIS is flying its discreet, professional, and amiably top achieving nerd flag:

While searching for my blog, What Kate Reads, I came to have typed the terms "what kate" and google filled in the rest with "what kate wore."  That is not my blog.  Kate Middleton is not a nerd.  But, if you're reading this blog, you might get a kick out of the What Kate Wore blog by means of extreme contrast:

And kudos to Merinda Hensley whose thought-provoking talk on the ridiculously idealistic framework of comprehensive information literacy made for a great Grad College program today:

toward teaching children's literature, again

It has been a few years since I taught our "children's literature and resources" course, and a lot has changed.  For one, we now have frequently taught courses in nonfiction, fantasy, and media as well as young adult literature and history of children's literature.  While I know the books I'll be teaching (list is being formatted, but I'll post it here when it's done), I'm still developing approaches.

If I go with teaching book reviewing, then there will need to be some prep for that.  The text by Horning, From Cover to Cover, is terrific, and it's from 1997.  Here's a post from a blogger describing how it has been helpful despite changes over time in the children's book world:

Many syllabi teach book reviewing, as I have done in the past, but book trailer creation has a similar thought process behind it, only with different creative media.

I've been interested to see the range of approaches out there in terms of syllabi as well:

And this is a resource I'll share in class for the "Controversy" week:

story as a problem

When I teach storytelling, I talk about and assign readings about the power of story, importance of story, and its positive uses.  But there are negatives as well, as this TED talk illustrates:

Chimamanda Adichie presents the danger of a single story that masks the many myriad stories behind it.  The problem with stereotypes, she argues, "is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete."  It's good to wind up my spring storytelling classes with this reminder.  Thanks to N. in LIS409LEA for advocating for this story.

teaching and multiracial experience

A post of notes in list form...

From the book The Multiracial Experience:  Racial Borders as the New Frontier edited by Maria P. Root

"Challenging Race and Racism:  A Framework for Educators" by Ronald David Glass and Kendra R. Wallace (pp. 341-358)
from a section on the limits and possibilities of exploring racism through multicultural education
1) cultural difference, based on essentialist constructions of identity
2) cultural competence, viewing diversity as a resource
3) cultural emancipation, with a commitment to economic justice and success
and they outline five core values (which I find a big wiggly in definition...):
community, mutual respect, truth seeking, compassionate responsibility, justice

from the book How Learning Works:  Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching
by Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norma.

What is Learning (p. 3, I'm paraphrasing)
1. a process, not a product
2. involves change
3. not done to students, but something students do

The seven principles, p 4-7

  • Students' prior knowledge can help or hinder learning
  • How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know
  • Students' motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn
  • To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned
  • Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students' learning
  • Students' current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning
  • To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning

working where criticism is praise

I may have just stumbled across the best resource for academics ever.  Built by academics for other academics.  The one piece of advice I noted in a recent thread I read was to "avoid toxic threads."  Academics are good at arguing their points, and relatively bad at thinking at the meta-level about where they want the conversation to go.

I've read The Chronicle, but definitely hadn't even notice the forums before.  I found this by searching for some input in the tenure process.

The particular thread I read was about encouragement, specifically, where do you get yours in a work culture where criticism is praise?  The whole thread is worth reading:,88480.0.html

Also came across these in my search:

in search of new questions

Slowly, the old falls away, and the new comes into view.  In this case, the view is one that I actually had in undergrad.  I proposed to do my undergrad thesis on schools, by which I really mean the emerging area of childhood studies.  The timing would have been perfect, back in 1995, but I didn't know it, and neither did my sociology professor.  Besides, I had a lot of other things to do in the last 20 or so years.

Today, I'm posting about what I might read next, in a scholarly vein.  This isn't all of what I have on my shelf for summer.  In fact, I'm not even going to duplicate that shelf (except perhaps in a picture) and, instead, I'm listing Stuff I'm Finding Interesting...

A Journal:

Several books requested:

And delving into media studies

New Media & Society, The Information Society
The International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics
Communication, Culture & Critique

Plus an essay (thank you CT!):

And one answer:

across the universe vs. glow

Two books with one sci-fi premise, long-distance human travel to colonize potentially inhabitable planets, present two very different narratives...

Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a comparatively leisurely and internal journey through the experience of Amy, a teenage girl whom we meet as she is being cryogenically frozen.  So that she can be revived, along with her parents, to colonize a new planet.  In about 300 years.  And, of course, it takes awhile before she is revived, and the contemplations of her conscious-yet-static mind occupy many chapters before the reanimated action begins.  One interesting strength of this book is that the chapters vary in perspective, and sometimes it takes a minute to figure out what's going on because of that, especially during the part when she is still frozen.  Once Amy is thawed, the book becomes a combination dystopian fantasy and mystery.   Amy meets Elder, who will become the ship's leader in the future.  She also meets Eldest, the current leader, and is horrified at the freedoms that have been stripped away and the extreme complacency of the people living on the ship.  The only sane people seem to live in the mental ward of the hospital.  Meanwhile, Amy's thawing presents a whodunnit mystery; she was left to thaw and die, but was saved by Elder, and now someone is continuing to try to kill key strategic personnel who are in stasis.  Overall, I'd recommend this book, and I hope the series will be as compelling as this first installment, but I would say that this novel works best for readers who are willing to travel through a fairly long stretch of internal narration before the story really gets moving.

On the other hand, if you crave pulse-pounding adventure, then Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan might be a better choice for your go-to travel-across-the-universe-to-terraform-another-planet adventure.  Two ships are making their way toward the planet they hope to call home.  The New Horizon is far ahead of the ship our protagonists occupy, the Empyrean.  Waverly is our central narrator, but a close second, in chapters that shift perspective, is her boyfriend Kieran.  Life is going well for the two oldest of this generation of young people born on the Empyrean, until one day, with no warning, they are attacked.  By the New Horizon.  And Waverly and all the other girls are whisked away to this marauding ship where, they quickly learn, no one has been able to have children since the ships were launched, years ago.  Worse yet, their charismatic leader, Anne Mather, is using her position as pastor and captain to try to keep the ship's people, and even the kidnapped girls themselves, from understanding what really happened.  For awhile, we don't even know if the Empyrean made it.  And, although they are not impregnated against their wills, the girls who are sexually mature are all subjected to forced ovum donation surgical procedures.  Soon, many middle-aged women on the ship are pregnant with babies created from these stolen eggs.  Meanwhile, the boys discover that the only adults left alive are dying or near dead from radiation poisoning due to a reactor meltdown in the engines.  Kieran does his best to be the leader that they need, but his rival Seth is ruthless and blames him for the loss of their parents' lives.  Sound heart-pounding enough yet?  I found myself ripping through this one, and I eagerly await the sequel.  From the religious/nonreligious issues to the questions about reproduction and freedom, this book is replete with issues that will appeal to (and make great discussion fodder for) teen readers.

so many books, so few blog posts...

I've read a lot these past few months and posted hardly at all, so this will be an inelegant pile-up of mini-reviews...

Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
If I'd only posted this back in December when I read it, then I'd have beat the Coretta Scott King award by predicting that this was going to win.  This is an entirely African-American-centric retelling of American history, from the perpective of an elderly woman.  It's a fascinating and moving tale of how African Americans have contributed to the history of the United States, and it's illustrated with gorgeous paintings.  Definitely worth reading as a supplement and/or corrective to your average history textbook.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Gantos finally won the Newbery!  This is a small-town charmer of a book, with a misfit hyperactive boy protagonist who learns less about how to fit and more about how to not fit comfortably.  Personally, I still like some of his other books better.  But it's a good old fashioned read with much hilarity, and I'm glad Gantos won.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Gripping futuristic dystopia about a society where you have to choose your faction affiliation at the age of 16.  But even then, it's not guaranteed.  The factions each have their prescribed characteristics, and studying and thinking about these brings me the exact same pleasure as those old Meyers-Briggs personality tests or the enneagram ideas.  Categories and prescribed behavior aside, the badass protagonist Beatrice makes this all worthwhile.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Like it!  This was a Blue Ribbon, and I expected to love it, but actually it was just a fine read.  The protagonist is intelligent and yet convincingly ignorant about her own origins and the multiple worlds she inhabits.  Initially set in Prague, Karou is an art student who fills her sketchbook with the secret world that no one in the human world can know is real.  She borrows wishes from that world sometimes, wishes that have made her hair grow blue.  But who she really is appears to be complicated by fearsome secrets.

At an appointed date, the computer spits our your match.  And that's it, you're mated for life.  Cassia is mated to her neighbor Xander, and all is well until she puts the data card into the reader and sees another face flicker past, another boy she knows.  Curiosity leads her into more conversations, and it's difficult to tell if the all-controlling society is actually willing her to betray her betrothed or if there's some massive glitch in the system, perhaps even a secret rebellion of some kind.

What We Keep is Not Always What Will Stay
Angie talks to a statue in the basement of the church, Saint Felix, who has been de-sainted at some point in the recent past.  She needs to talk, because her mom and stepfather Ben are at odds.  But suddenly the statue is gone, and in its place is a homeless guy, also named Felix, who opens Angie's eyes to the

The Fault in Our Stars
John Greene does it again, only possibly better than ever this time.  This is what happens when brainy kids get cancer... they feel it, but they also overthink it.  Most compelling here are the characters, who are real kids in pain and suffering trying to find ways to accept their circumstances and live life anyhow.

Girl of Fire and Thorns
This one starts with the marriage and being whisked away in a caravan, where this royal princess discovers that she can fight.  And she needs to fight, because the prince to whom she has been married has not yet told the kingdom the news.

Anya's Ghost
Finding a ghost in a well and taking her finger bone home seems like such a good idea, at first.  This graphic novel makes fantastically creepy use of illustrations to depict what happens when a new friendship goes wrong fast.

Also read two memoirs...

Blood, Bones, and Butter
Raw, tough, a little heartbreaking, makes becoming a chef look like such hard work.

No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage, Then I Tried to Make It Better
Lovely, exactingly honest, and takes the kind of true look at life that is so refreshing to read.

more representation problems

Folks in children's literature have been struggling for awhile now with how people of different races are represented (although white people haven't been the topic as much as they should be) and who should get to represent whom.  But a couple of recent articles suggest that there are such basic issues with who is represented at all that the various lit-theory inspired arguments may, in fact, be jumping the gun.

Check out this article about a study-in-progress finding only one Latino character in a decade of transitional chapter books.

But also note the title "Urban."  I read this expecting something else, which was more in line with this definition of "urban," with an emphasis on hip-hop and African American experience.   Which suggests that we still haven't achieved a multi-racial society that knows how to talk about race consistently.

apps and more

Just in case you missed it, last May School Library Journal started reviewing iPad/iPhone apps.  Here's the link to their introductory article about it:

Meanwhile, based on some of those reviews, I have just downloaded three classic children's books to my iPad:
Go Away Big Green Monster, The Monster at the End of this Book, and Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Of the three, Harold is the clear winner, with lots of "hidden" interactivity and the opportunity to fill in the gray lines with satisfying purple crayon.  That's what makes the story move forward, you "helping" Harold to draw his way through the adventure.  The "lite" version is free, but it's also very "lite" indeed, with all the interaction and none of the story.  It's worth the money to pay for the full version, where touching on a distant bird lets you zoom in to see a mother bird feeding her babies.  Touching

The Monster at the End of this Book is also surprisingly successful, especially when you get to break Grover's knots and smash down his brick wall with a mere touch of the finger.  The metaphor works mostly... except if you sit there long enough, Grover, who has been asking you not to turn the pages, will in fact say "oh, get on with it, turn the page."  Probably an important moment to differentiate the real world from fiction for your average young viewer.

Go Away Big Green Monster works a whole lot like the die-cut paper version, with added sound effects when various face-parts (eyes, nose, teeth, ears, squiggly purple hair...) appear at the touch of the finger.  And then disappear, as promised, also by the touch of a finger.  Definitely fun stuff for the preschool set.

And, as per that article, I'm looking into two more sources of reviews:
Commonsense Media and Children's Technology Review