Monday, January 23, 2012

Youth Media Awards Yay!

Anyone who was at the RI Mock Newbery with me knows that I am thrilled Okay for Now didn't win anything. Yay! I think Gary Schmidt is a masterful writer, and it's true, as people said at Mock, that he can sweep you off your feet and through a madcap series of events, leaving you breathless, disheveled, and romanced. But then there's that morning after feeling, when you wonder if it's really right [spoiler alert] to rehabilitate a chronically abusive character and strike the strongest female character with cancer. I mean, cancer! He could have given her laryngitist!

I have a lot of love for Gary Schmidt and Okay for Now. If I didn't, I wouldn't be so passionate about it not winning. I have no doubt Schmidt has a Newbery winner in him, and I sincerely hope that he wins later in his career for a book in which he does not kill off (or almost kill off) the spunky young female!

I'm also happy to see a wordless book win the Caldecott and thrilled that Xavier Garza is getting the recognition he deserves.

Well, I'm thrilled, and I also feel a little like my favorite indie band just got signed by a major label ... but my better angel reminds me that children besides the one in my library deserve to have access to books about luchadors. Because they are awesome.

Oh, and Roger must be patting himself on the back about this one.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Richard Peck labors for 40 years and produces a mouse

I just stole the funniest line from Peck's Horn Book acceptance speech for my blog post. But it's not the best line! There are many good lines in his speech. In it he explains that the best way to talk to young people these days is through a book. He seems to say that we can't reach them directly, because they're far away from us, checking their phones and their friends' hairstyles. They live in a different world than adults do. This seems quite true to me.

It was the perfect thing to read (because I agreed with it so wholeheartedly) after fuming about the Nazaryan piece I mention below. (Oh. I think my heart rate just spiked again. Anyway.) However, the speech is not without controversial statements. I also encourage you to read it because of what Peck has to say about attacks from the "family values right" and the "multicultural left." And his comments on Stuart Little's oddness remind me of the time I read the original Curious George to a kindergarten, forgetting about the monkey's pipe-smoking habit ...

Friday, January 6, 2012

In which I attack the attack on Walter Dean Meyers

I love a good polemic, and this one is delightfully hair-curling, so I hope everyone will pop over and read Alexander Nazaryan explain why Walter Dean Myers will FAIL as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Of course, I'm a librarian, so maybe my reaction to this opinion piece just shows that it's a good thing I'm not a literature teacher, but I completely disagree with Nazaryan. I mean, I hardly know where to start.

I also don't know much about what the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature is supposed to do exactly, but the title suggests to me that they are supposed to promote young people's literature. And Homer is not young's people's literature.

Also, you can't read Homer all day long. I want my students to become readers, which means to me that reading will be part of their lives in many ways. I want them to read for pleasure as well as enlightenment, and I want them to be able to read the millions of forms and news stories and emails that will fill their lives. And I don't think you have to put down one kind of reading in order to promote another.

Finally, I doubt very much that Walter Dean Myer's mission, as ambassador, is to promote his own literature. I expect he will promote reading and literature in general to many children, and I would argue that he will succeed in an area that Nazaryan and I will undoubtedly fail: in convincing minority kids that reading isn't just for white people. Or old men. Or nerds. Or plucky suburban school girls with adorable quirks who like to read books about butter churns and sleigh rides.

Anyway, the article doesn't even offer an intelligent critique of Dean's writing. It's just an excuse for Nazaryan to talk about his own awesomeness. Way to go, dude. Seriously. He got kids to read and relate to the classics. But why put down other kinds of reading and writing? What I dread much more than the thought that kids will stop reading Homer is that they will assume that all the important books in the world were written hundreds of years ago by dead white men.

* Edited to add: I just went over to the article and posted a comment, and Sarah Flowers, the President of YALSA comments, too! Let the jousting begin!