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February 2006
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April 2006

Weekend Reading 3/17/06

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Kiss someone Irish, drink some tea (or green beer), and enjoy these links.

  • Editor Cheryl Klein's "recommended reading" list notes children's books that new editors should know. (via Bartography)
  • The venerable New York Times dips its toe into the blogging waters with The Pour, Eric Asimov's wine blog, and restaurant critic Frank Bruni's Diner's Journal. Welcome, fellows. The sites look great!
  • The Guardian remembers the late science-fiction author Octavia Butler.
  • Catch up with a September interview of the author of Heavy Words, Lightly Thrown on WNYC radio's Leonard Lopate Show. The book concerns the origins of nursery rhymes. Rawther naughty, they are.
  • Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee becomes an Australian citizen. Story at The Age.
  • Consider trekking on the Hot Tamale Trail through the Mississippi Delta on April 22nd, courtesy of the Southern Foodways Alliance at Ole Miss.
  • The Associated Press, via CNN, reports on what sounds like a lovely memorial service for the  playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
  • When you're tired o' reading, dance! Check out WFUV 90.7 FM at Fordham University and its Celtic Sounds pages (listed on the left on the station's home page). Great Irish music resources here.

Lindgren to Paterson to Tinker to Evers to Chance

Sweden's Astrid Lindgren memorial award (lotsa de casha, as Madonna might say) has gone to the American author Katherine Paterson, perhaps best known for Bridge to Terabithia. From the award's web site:

This award in Astrid Lindgren's name will give children’s and youth literature the place it deserves in the world. The prize can attract new, gifted story-tellers, authors and illustrators and encourage them to create good literature.

The prize is also a signal to institutions and organisations around the world that good children’s and youth literature is worth millions. And our children are worth more than millions.

Good children’s literature gives the child a place in the world, and the world a place in the child.

Thank you to Big A little a for the news alert.

Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature

Mark your calendars. The Rabbit Hill Festival of children's literature takes place March 30-April 1 at the Westport (Connecticut) Public Library and nearby venues.  Illustration is this year's focus, and some big names from that world are scheduled to appear, talk, draw, and schmooze. And sign books. Expect to see Cari Best, Bryan Collier, Bruce Degen, Kathy Jakobsen, Loren Long, and Melissa Sweet.

Named in honor of the author-illustrator Robert Lawson, the Rabbit Hill Festival also will also feature  a lecture on Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand, which Lawson illustrated. (Both Leaf and Lawson were residents of Westport. Lawson's home and studio were referred to as Rabbit Hill, which was also the name of his 1944 classic book. )

Another highlight should be the tour of Weston Woods Studios, which has turned so many wonderful picture books into wonderful animated films. The facility is now situated in Norwalk, Conn., a very short bus ride from Westport. (For a good article on Weston Woods' founder, Mort Schindel, see School Library Journal.)

All the events, except for a dinner with the illustrators, are free and open to the public, but you must register. (You can still go to the dinner; you just have to pay.)  Go to for all the details. I've attended in years past, and this is a fun and impressive literary celebration.

Naomi Wolf on the Gossip Girls, et alia

Naomi Wolf's article "Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things" (New York Times Book Review, 3/12/06) is getting some airplay. In that piece, Wolf considers the Gossip Girl, A-List, and Clique series of books for teenaged girls. After mentioning last year's controversial Rainbow Party, which did not sell well despite all the media talk, Wolf writes,

But teenagers, or their parents, do buy the bad-girls books — the "Clique," "Gossip Girl" and "A-List" series have all sold more than a million copies. And while the tacky sex scenes in them are annoying, they aren't really the problem. The problem is a value system in which meanness rules, parents check out, conformity is everything and stressed-out adult values are presumed to be meaningful to teenagers. The books have a kitsch quality — they package corruption with a cute overlay.

Since we're in a Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent mode around here, I can't comment on the "bad-girls books," which I have not read. Other bloggers are on the scene, though, and I share a few links here to some cyber-chat: Sarah Weinman at GalleyCat, Roger Sutton at Read Roger, Australia's Read Alert,  Gail Gauthier at Original Content, Kelly Herold at Big A little a, and Tasha Saecker at Kids Lit.

Weekend Reading

Some links from hither and yonder.

Science Book Fare

The National Science Teachers Association maintains an excellent web site, full of resources. Each year the group recognizes outstanding children's trade books about science, and I've found great reading through those lists. The 2006 winners (for books published in 2005) are now posted at the site; be sure to read the previous years' prizes, too. The first one we're going to look for is Cave Sleuths, by Laurie Lindrop.

Book Banning Season

With the American Library Association's announcement of last year's most-challenged books, book-banning season has begun, or rather, continues.  #1 on the ALA list is It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris.   

One of the latest children's works to be challenged is And Tango Makes Three, a  picture book about two male penguins who hatch an egg together at the Central Park Zoo. Written by Peter Parnell, a playwright, and Justin Richardson, a psychiatrist, the book, based on  real chin-strap penguins, is a good starting point for talking to children about both adoption and  families with two daddies—not to mention egg hatchery,  zoos, and penguins. Cute pictures, sweet family, lots of citations as a worthy read.

The  Associated Press (via MSNBC) reports that  Missouri's Rolling Hills Consolidated Library recently moved And Tango Makes Three to the non-fiction section because of parental complaints. The library director said that way the book would not "blindside" readers. I'm assuming that the AP means that Tango is  going to adult non-fiction. Correction 3/11: The library director moved it to children's non-fiction, she told American Libraries Online. 

During the spring of last year, the picture book  King & King, in which two princes marry, was making news.  The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a resolution that asked libraries to  move gay-themed children's books to the adult section, citing parental complaint about King & King. Citing the same reasons about the same book, a proposed resolution in the  Louisiana legislature attempted to do the same (but failed to pass).  A U.S. representative carried around the picture book while promoting a bill for parent advisory boards for school-library purchases. (King & King was the example of what not to buy.)

King & King did not belong on a talking-point list for legislators. And Tango Makes Three does not deserve to be a pawn in the culture wars, either. Libraries have a system for complaint within the library itself, and many have parent sections in the children's area where the books on divorce, illness, grief, gay parents/siblings/penguins, and so on, can be placed. Anyone trying to banish Tango's adorable waddling birdies to some high, unreachable shelf is missing out on a heartwarming story.

Update 3/9: Here they go again in Oklahoma. Same legislator involved as last year.  More information here. Thank you to Read Roger, the blog of The Horn Book's editor, for the heads up.

Update 3/11: The Rolling Hills  library director did confirm to American Libraries Online that her shelf moving of Tango was in response to parental complaint.

The bottom line, [library director Barbara] Read said, is that Tango will remain accessible so “the book can say to kids in nonnuclear families that they—the kids—are okay regardless of how we feel about their parents’ life choices.”

I still say that we haven't heard the last of book challenging in Missouri.