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Hot on the heels of that WSJ article comes yet more children’s book bashing:

First, in a startling contrast to Gurdon is this article on the lack of deep, serious works of “literary fiction” from Book Expo America. YA doesn’t get a specific mention–the author simply lumps all “children’s books” together by writing:

I have nothing against children’s books, but when all of them seem to participate in a contest of garishness for the most outrageous combination of colors, the esthetic model that is being set up is accountable for the bad taste of generations.

Maybe this journalist (Daniela Hurezanu) and Gurdon should compare notes. Then everyone could bounce happily from bright sunny skies to doom and gloom. And don’t get me started on Hurezanu’s condescending label of “mommy bloggers…”

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More Harry Potter?

You know you’re famous when the media covers your announcement of an upcoming announcement…

In the space of a day both the LA Times and Washington Post picked up on JK Rowling’s mysterious new website. The only clue–”Pottermore“–promises a return to wizard-y ness. Apparently it’s not a book, so we’re left with plenty of speculation. Maybe it’s an online version of the Harry Potter encyclopedia she’s rumored to be writing.

Whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t take up too much of her time, because I can’t wait for a real book from Rowling. Something with brand-new characters and a daringly different genre. Historical fiction, perhaps, or poetry.

In the meantime, I’m running out of ideas for what Pottermore could be. We already have a theme park, the YouTube musical, real-live Quidditch teams, video games and even a ballet (I gleefully await the announcement of a Harry Potter opera. The ensuing effect on the popularity of classical music should be spectacular). My only guesses for Pottermore are

-an interactive choose-your-own adventure game (follow Malfoy into the Room of Requirement or spy on Hagrid’s newest killer pet?)

-role-playing murder mystery a la Clue (Winky in the Transfiguration classroom with a hefty cookbook!)

Other ideas?

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YA Wars, Continued

Monster book picture: 7 Gadgets

In the five days since Meghan Cox Gurdon published her WSJ piece on young adult literature, the Internet has fairly exploded with responses. Gurdon’s article (a thinly-disguised opinion piece) can basically be summed up as: YA fiction is coming to eat your children because

a) It’s a lot darker than it used to be, vastly dominated by lurid tales of violence, self-harm and sexual depravity

b) thus, by “normaliz[ing]” such behavior, your teens will start to emulate them

Plenty of people have picked out the article’s faults (see the growing list of responses at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy). Among the first to respond were authors like Laurie Halse Anderson blogging about how YA literally saves lives.

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From left to right: Francisco X. Stork, Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, Deva Fagan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Holly Black and moderator Roger Sutton

A panel of six authors spoke at the Cambridge Public Library on Thursday about diversity in YA fiction. The event was moderated by Roger Sutton, Editor-in-Chief of the Horn Book, who noted the strange irony that this diversity panel had five fantasy writers (Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Deva Fagan, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon) and only one who wrote realistic fiction (Francisco X. Stork).

Fantasy is certainly the “it” genre right now, and Sutton had a stunning statistic to back it up: one-third of all current hardcover book published for youth are fantasy/speculative fiction—and many of them series fantasy. (more…)

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(This is a joint post by Jen and Lisa).

Tucked in the basement, the conference room was nevertheless filled to capacity for children’s book writer and illustrator Kevin Henkes’ visit to the Cambridge Public Library last week. Part storytime, part talk, Henkes read from his latest book, Little White Rabbit, and explained his writing process using a previous picture book, My Garden, as a guide. The kids in the audience (ranging from preschool to late elementary school age) were rapt with attention, and quiet except to cheer when Henkes read that in My Garden, “carrots would be invisible because I don’t like carrots!”

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Happy National Wildlife Week!

Image courtesy of greengrassdesign

Today’s the start of an annual event sponsored by the National Wildlife Fund, celebrating everything from grasshoppers to humpback whales. You can check out their website for lesson plans and fun facts (I’m quite partial to the mallards page. Did you know that females do all the quacking and male ducks are silent unless fighting another male?), and we’ll be blogging about relevant books later this week. In the meantime…

The March/April issue of The Horn Book Magazine has a great article on the Scientists in the Field series. These stories of real-life scientists at work—stalking elephants, exploring bat caves, sitting in a pit with 18,000 snakes—are the cream of the crop in outdoor adventure meets fun science book.

Anyone interested in weird extinct lifeforms should read about the walking cacti, aka hallucigenia (real name, honest). I don’t know of any children’s books on hallucigenia, but I can’t say enough about Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway. The anachronistic art alone should grab your attention: (more…)

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It was lovely to see Shaun Tan’s “The Lost Thing” win Best Animated Short at the Oscars last night, and “Toy Story 3,” as predicted, won Best Animated Feature.

“Our film is about a creature that nobody pays any attention to,” said Tan during his acceptance speech. “So this is wonderfully ironic.”

Except, of course, that it’s not ironic at all. Short films are notoriously hard to find in theaters,* and anything animated gets shoved into a Second Class box. Consider “Toy Story 3″: it’s the second Pixar film (after last year’s “Up”) to get a Best Picture nomination, but despite much admiration for what’s been called best movie of the year, it never stood a chance. As Time Magazine writes,

Academy members, most of whom make their living in live-action film, surely admire the work of the Pixar studio, but they don’t understand how it works. Maybe they think director Lee Unkrich and his team are some cute alien species: toys that make toy movies.

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This is amazing-like turning an entire city into a cross between a library and a treasure hunt.

If you see a children’s book lying around a coffee shop, a restaurant or similar public place over the next few weeks, don’t worry about finding its owner.

It was left there intentionally by fans of children’s literature who want you to read it and pass it to another book lover – sort of a literary chain letter.

-The Bellingham Herald

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I am the Teller of Tales,
Gaze into the fire with me,
For I know of the Badger Lords,
And their mountain, by the sea.
‘Tis a fearsome warrior,
Full of fate and destiny,
Who followed dreams, along strange paths,
Unknown to such as we.
This Badger Lord was fearless,
As all who followed him knew,
And the haremaid he befriended,
Why, she was as young as you!
But no less bold or courageous,
Full of valour and strong of heart,
Aye, young ‘uns like you, good and true,
May stand to take their part.
So here is my story, may it bring
Some smiles, and a tear or so,
It happened, once upon a time,
Far away, and long ago.
Outside the night wind keens and wails,
come listen to me, the Teller of Tales.

-”Teller of Tales,” from Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques

(more…)

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Booksellers were caught short this week when Clare Vanderpool won the most prestigious award in American children’s literature, the Newbery Medal. Her funny and affecting first novel has been out since September, but while it had sold well in Kansas—the home of both the author and her fictional heroine, Abilene—the book had yet to build a national following. The Newbery imprimatur means that it will win readers now, and justly so, for despite some narrative quirks, “Moon Over Manifest” is a charmer…

-The Wall Street Journal

One of the best things about the Newbery is that it has the potential to introduce readers to new authors: I know I can’t wait to read Vanderpool’s novel. But despite reserving it at the library a mere 24 hours after the award announcement, I found myself in 15th place on the waiting list. Maybe it’s time to hit the bookstore…

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