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By happy coincidence (or perhaps calculated intention), the KidLitCon hotel is literally across the street for the Seattle Public Library. So naturally I had to check out their children’s room.

It’s big and sunny, and this is the first thing I saw:

What a brilliant theme for a book display! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Frederick and Beowulf on the same shelf before (could Frederick take Grendel? Discuss). There were a bunch more books I couldn’t fit into the picture, including Sarah, Plain and Tall. I wonder if they ever get problems with graffiti—I was awfully tempted to fill in the white space with INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE.

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Off to KidLitCon

I leave today for KidLitCon 2011 in Seattle, a conference for bloggers of children’s and YA lit. By this time last year we hadn’t even started the blog, so this will be quite the experience for me. I’m looking forward to the panels and visiting Seattle, and above all, meeting like-minded enthusiasts. Needless to say, I’ll be blogging the conference highlights. Perhaps, as a challenge, I’ll try to summarize the events without ever using the word “blog…”

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For anyone who’s counting, the eighth and last Harry Potter movie comes out in exactly a week…but I’m much more excited about the other upcoming children’s book adaptations:

The Hunger Games (March 2012) seems slated to fill the vacuum left by the Harry Potter movie franchise. For proof of the strong fanbase, just check out this plate of culinary art.

War Horse (December 2011): the trailer looks good—almost too good. The epic grandness practically screams “look at me! I’m an Oscar contender!” At least they seem to have abandoned the book’s horse-as-narrator structure: there’s no way that would have worked well on screen.

From the War Horse trailer. (Subtext: please, sir, I'd like some Oscars).

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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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