awesome School Library Journal article series!

If you know me well, you know I love series books.  Love them.  The series of my heart will always be the Baby-Sitters Club; the joke about them I tell is that I can’t do algebra, but I can tell you every member’s full name.  (Kristin Amanda Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Lynn Kishi, Anastasia Elizabeth McGill, Dawn Read Schaefer, Mallory Pike, Jessica Davis Ramsey, Shannon Kilbourne, Logan Bruno, Abigail Stevenson!)  But I was also obsessed with Animorphs and fond of a variety of of other series, ranging from the Sleepover Friends to Nancy Drew (Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes or GTFO).  As an adult, my fondness for series books (especially series books marketed to girls) has continued; I still reread BSC books, and I wrote a proposal for a girls’ series books bibliography for one of my library-school classes.

The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel: Kristy's Great Idea

Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels still sold at the bookshop. The originals? Not so much.

Well, School Library Journal has a great series of articles about series books–and more importantly, what should be done with them as they age.  So far, Endagered Series has covered the Boxcar Children, the Hardy Boys, the American Girl franchise, and–oh, the pain–the Baby-Sitters Club.  Travis Jonker lays out what the books are about, the pros and cons to keeping them around, and his own solutions.  With shelf space at a premium, “what shall we do with these books that were popular a decade (or longer!) ago?” is an important question to ask.  Tough, perhaps, since these books span the 20th century and thus could be part of any working librarian’s childhood, but absolutely necessary.

One thing I find interesting about the series is that while the author talks about the Baby-Sitters Club, the spinoff series don’t come up.  Obviously, they don’t need to delineate BSC versus Super Specials, Mysteries, Super Mysteries, etc.  But the Baby-Sitters Little Sister books (and the Kids in Ms. Coleman’s Class series, which was a short-lived spinoff of the Karen books) seem like they might be their own beast, and the same with the California Diaries.  They’re for slightly different ages than the original BSC books–Little Sister skews younger, and California Diaries, older.

…But I am coming at this from the POV of someone who still has dozens of BSC books to her name.  This level of specificity is pretty nitpicky to me–and the Little Sister and California Diaries books (the latter especially) seem like prime weeding opportunities, since they are vestigial series.

Another fascinating aspect to this series is the variety of comments in reply to each article.  Some librarians have the same problems with the series featured; others see them fly off the shelves.  Tastes vary so much from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, and school to school!  It’s incredible.

At the bookstore, I saw similar issues.  We tried to keep a few older series on the shelves, but most people who came in just weren’t interested in the Baby-Sitters Club, Animorphs, and whatever else we’d ordered in a fit of nostalgia.  (It doesn’t help that the new Animorphs covers are off-puttingly ugly, in my humble opinion.  But there’s also the argument that Animorphs is a series that is quintessentially 90s–that the worldview is such that it must be set in the 90s–and that must seem like ancient history to a kid who wasn’t alive for Hurricane Katrina.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that the series wavered significantly in quality.)

I Survived series: Hurricane Katrina, 2005

No joke: I once booktalked I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 to a seven-year-old kid and realized halfway through that I was talking to someone who had no firsthand knowledge of it. Look, my math isn’t great.

Some series books did sell well, though!  And those tended to be much newer, which isn’t surprising.  I Survived by Lauren Tarshis was incredibly popular.  So were the various diary books–you know, every hardcover Diary of a Wimpy Kid competitor.  You can easily tell them at a bookstore, because they’re inevitably the exact same shape and size, and with few exceptions (The Popularity Papers, which actually have been released in trade paperback, comes to mind), they’re only printed in hardcover.

As far as “classics” went, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books sold pretty well.  The Magic Treehouse books were incredibly popular (and while they might not seem that old, since they’re an ongoing series, the first one was published over twenty years ago!).  Goosebumps had a significant revival over the two years when I worked there, and I expect that’s likely to increase with the release of the new movie.  The Boxcar Children actually were pretty popular, but they were often books booksellers and parents were recommending to kids, rather than books kids picked up on their own.

And, because ours was a store in Minnesota, there was always demand for the Betsy-Tacy books.  Those were generally requested by parents and grandparents who had grown up with the series, but we definitely had children who liked them, too.  We kept the full Betsy-Tacy series on hand, though only the first few books were classified as being for “young readers” in our system.  The others were shelved in the general fiction section, which was confusing for customers.  (Similarly confusing: Only Redwall was shelved in our children’s department.  On more than one occasion, I had to lead a confused child and parent over to our Scifi/Fantasy section for every other Redwall book.  It was annoying, too, because the mass-market paperbacks stocked in Scifi/Fantasy looked way less child-friendly, especially when surrounded by completely kid-inappropriate books.)

Anyway, you should definitely check out those articles.  And you should expect more content from me!  I’m going to the ALA Midwinter conference at the end of this month, which is Kind of a Big Deal in the library world (and for everyone else, it’s where the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, among many others, are announced!).  And in February, the greatest semester ever starts: I’m taking Young Adult Materials and Storytelling.  Expect to see some deets about those.  (I just devoured The Outsiders and Forever… for YA lit, and now I’m forcing myself through The Chocolate War.  Wish me luck!)

So how are you doing, internet?  And what book series do you think Endangered Series should cover?  (Animorphs better make an appearance, is all I’m saying.)

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not the first, never the only, and definitely not the last.

One of the first assignments for my kidlit class* is to bring in copies of a favourite picture book and chapter book from childhood.  I take designations like “favourite” very seriously (too seriously), so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  And my thoughts have wobbled around from actual books to nostalgia to thoughts on the relative validity of ebooks as a mode of enjoyment.  So while my hair is drying, let’s chat for a while.

*Let’s just get down to brass tacks: There’s no way I’m writing out “children’s lit” all semester.  Kidlit it is.

Back Home by Michelle Magorian

My copy isn’t nearly this nice looking anymore, lol–but this is the cover I have, so obviously, it’s the best one.

A favourite chapter book is easy.  I’m bringing Michelle Magorian’s Back Home, about a World War II evacuee’s return to England after living nearly half her life in America, in great part because I have my copy here in my apartment.  My Aunt Rachel and Uncle Tom gave me my copy when I was in the third grade, and now, nearly twenty years later, my copy is in well-loved tatters.  In retrospect, it’s a dark novel for an eight-year-old–subjects covered include infidelity, suicide, natural death, depression, corporal punishment, conformity, the dissolution of a marriage, and the word “ass”–but I utterly adored it.  Rusty Dickinson, our artistic, athletic heroine, is a true survivor whose rebellion against an environment hellbent on cutting her down to size has always been incredibly appealing to me.  I’ve read it over and over, and every time, I find more to appreciate in it.

A picture book is harder.  All the beloved choices of my childhood live six hours away from me, these days.  Several of them are out of print; many of them aren’t available through the library system up here.  (For whatever reason, the rest of the world doesn’t look upon stories like Florence and Eric Take the Cake and Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies with the same nostalgic reverence I do.  Their loss.)  Eventually I decided that, since I can’t have one of my actual books anyway, maybe I should buy a used copy of something I’ve never owned and bring that.  And that’s how I decided to go with Trinka Hakes Noble’s Apple Tree Christmas.

Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble

The cover illustration is nice, even if it doesn’t inspire much nostalgia. I’m looking forward to my copy coming in the mail.

It’s another obscure one (though hopefully you’re familiar with Noble’s The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash), and up til this year, I’d never seen a copy in person.  You see, when I was a little girl, I had cassette upon cassette of books taped off library recordings, and I’d listen to them over and over.  I vividly remember sitting in my childhood bedroom (purple and wood walls, mottled dark pinky-purple carpeting, a bed spread with hearts and Sesame Street characters on the quilt) with my parents and their creakity old turntable; I’m just old enough that some of my tapes came from books on record.  Among my collection of books on tape were

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day
  • Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Saturday
  • The Cat Ate My Gymsuit
  • The Chocolate Touch
  • The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash
  • Jimmy’s Boa Bounces Back
  • Apple Tree Christmas

I want to say I had The Tenth Good Thing About Barney as well, because I know that story absurdly well but don’t feel anything at all for the illustrations in the book. And there were surely plenty more titles beyond those.  I had music, as well, Marlo Thomas and Judy Garland and the original cast recording of Annie Get Your Gun and children’s songs and stories I can describe to you but not name.  A dramatic retelling of Mary Had a Little Lamb about just how they met, for instance.  And something about a sad little zebra, the details of which have fled, but the feelings–of loneliness, mostly–of which have lingered into my adulthood.

I suppose if I looked, I could find these cassettes in my mother’s basement, buried away with the detritus of three childhoods and two moves.  I could convert them to mp3 and glory in the voices that brought these stories to life for me.  Someday, I’d like to.  But thus far, I haven’t, and unless I do, I’ll never be able to experience these books in a way that feels like my childhood.  The illustrations for Apple Tree Christmas are pretty but foreign to me.  Ray Cruz’s Alexander is expressive, but he doesn’t look quite the way I pictured him–and the black serif text doesn’t get across the voice I hear in my head when I think of the words “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, and now there’s gum in my hair.”

And I’ve been thinking that perhaps that’s why wailing and gnashing of teeth over ebooks seems silly to me.  Books weren’t the first medium for story; they’ve never been the only medium; they won’t be the last.  No book in the world will tell to you “Little Red Riding Hood” as my mother told it to me, with the wolf locking Grandma in the closet and the hunter chasing the wolf away.  (I was baffled and disgusted as a child to find that other children were told pernicious lies about the grandmother being swallowed up by the wolf, and the wolf’s stomach being filled up with stones.  What a horrible thing to do to an animal, even if it wasn’t an innocent one!)  Even if you found a story with the right text, you’d miss my mother’s voice, and the expressions of her face and hands.  Even if you had my cassette tapes and a boombox, you wouldn’t have my little twin bed to lay on, or my glittery white ceiling, which sparkled like stars at night when only my Christmas lights were on, to look at.  Stories are experiences, and books are only one way to experience them.

At the same time, I think I can understand the fears and uncertainties hiding behind comments like “I read books, not Nooks” and “But people will miss the feeling of paper!”  Change is frightening, and seeing your preferred medium derided as a thing of the past can hurt, especially if you’ve been told similar things about yourself.  (Not everyone who’s anti-ereader is old, but I can tell you from field experience that a lot of them are.)  But it doesn’t do any good to be a jerk to other people about it.

Anyway, that’s the news here.  Getting ready for school, distracting myself from the looming specter of an interview in the short term.  I’ll let you know how it goes, internets.

exciting plans!

I keep saying to myself, “You should make a post about X, it’d be long and satisfying and blah blah blah,” but this weekend, I’ve been kind of busy with work.  I’m closing at the bookshop tonight, so I am not really up for writing a long, long post.  But I do want to tell you all that I’ve been making bookplans for class, and I’m excited!

See, one of the assignments is to present on a genre we aren’t focusing on in class and, as part of said presentation, booktalk 5 books.  Mine’s humor/satire, and I had all my books picked out save one.  But last night I found one that I think should be just perfect with the rest of them.  So, without further ado, please allow me to give you a sneak peek at my humor/satire presentation!

  • The De-Textbook, Cracked.com (9780452298200) – A compilation of wittily written trivia about the lessons your teachers might have forgotten in class.
  • How About Never, Is Never Good for You? My Life in Cartoons, Bob Mankoff (9780805095906) – A memoir by the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, who also happens to be the coiner of the title phrase.
  • How to Be Black, Baratunde R. Thurston (9780062003218) – Part memoir, part discourse on being black in America, all funny.
  • I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs, Francesco Marciuliano (9781452119038) – What began as a series of funny pictures on the internet is now a series of poetry books from the point of view of one’s pets.
  • Sex Criminals, vol. 1, Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky (9781607069461) – Orgasms that literally stop time become a bittersweet metaphor for the ways sex can isolate a person even when they’re about as close to someone else as it’s possible to get…and in case that sounds too serious, keep in mind that there are armed bank robberies and fleshlight tasers in there as well.

Now that I’m looking at the list, I might have to swap out Ces’ book (much as it pains me to say it–Ces Marciuliano’s one of my favourite humorists, though I’m a bigger fan of Medium-Large than his poetry books) for something written by a woman.  I don’t really like the idea that I didn’t pick anything specifically written from a female perspective, and I don’t want to switch any of the other titles, lol.  I guess it might not be as settled as I thought–but this is my first full rough draft, and in the coming weeks, I’m gonna draft up the badassest book talk you could possibly imagine for these.

cost-benefit analyses, or why i am not pursuing an education focus after all

That’s right, I’m back to studying to be a youth services librarian, ideally focusing in on working with children.  I want to discuss my reasons why, because I know I sounded very certain about becoming a school librarian last Christmas, but I’ve had time and reason to change my mind.

I’ve known since February or March that I probably didn’t want to be a school librarian after all, and plenty of other people have heard me vent my spleen on the subject since then.  But I want to write down my reasons, so I can share them with others if ever I need to do so.  It’s not that I ~just couldn’t handle it~.  It’s a number of things that made the prospect of school librarianship significantly less

Schools give me bad memories.

This is one of the biggest reasons I decided to change back to youth services.  From around middle school onwards, I kind of hated school.  I was often bored by my classes, and if I wasn’t, I struggled.  (That’s the difference between language arts and math for me, lol.)  Either way, the result was often a lackadaisical approach to homework, especially the homework I thought was “stupid”–the busywork.  I disliked many of my teachers, and sometimes felt bullied or disliked by them.  My classmates would tease me frequently, most frustratingly over things I couldn’t control, like my vocal tic.  (As an aside, I recently had a kid come into work who had what I presume was a vocal tic similar to mine.  I couldn’t tell you for sure–perhaps it was more intense than mine was–because I could never hear mine as I talked.  But it was eerie and a little distressing; while I’ve met people with stutters, I’d never met anyone who breathed in the middle of words like I used to before then.)

I thought that focusing on elementary school, rather than middle or high school, would keep me from feeling weird about it being a school.  But even an elementary school kind of wigged me out.  I just plain don’t enjoy spending time with teachers in a professional capacity, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life going someplace that reminds me of some of the schools I attended.

I don’t want to be That Teacher.

Tied in with the above is the fact that I just plain don’t like myself within the context of a school.  Am I a mean bully to kids?  Not necessarily.  Could I become one?  I don’t want to think the answer is yes, but I’m not entirely confident the answer is no.  What if I become that person who brushes off children’s feelings, or snipes at them, or turns a blind eye when they hurt each other?  I don’t want to be, but within the environment, I’d be worried it could happen.

Librarians aren’t immune to that horrible combination of burnout and douchebaggery, after all.  The head librarian in my high school wasn’t well-liked by anyone, and for whatever reason, I don’t think she liked me in particular.  She reduced me to tears on at least two occasions; the one I remember most clearly was when, during a seventh-period study hall, she found me doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.  Other students paid the ten cents to photocopy that, she said, and I was being selfish for writing on it instead of showing basic courtesy to library property.  Et cetera, et cetera.  There was no posted policy, I’d never seen anyone photocopying the newspaper before, and half the time someone had already started the crossword puzzle–on the newspaper!–when I got to it.  I was embarrassed and angry that she was reading me the riot act when I hadn’t known I was doing something wrong.  She was a paper tiger of a woman, the kind of person who throws her weight around in the only place she can, and I think that’s a horrible thing to be.

(I hasten to add that the other two librarians were great people, and one of them had previously worked at my elementary school, so I was always terribly fond of her.  But wow, the head librarian was terrible.  Her ratings on Ratemyteacher are around 30%.  By now, she’s retired, no doubt, and good riddance to her.)

People have said to me, you could be the change schools need.  But I don’t think I have the personal wherewithal for that.  I don’t think I want to be the change schools need.  And I think that’s all right.

The serendipity factor.

I work with children often in my job as a bookseller.  I spend a lot of time in the children’s department, I’m nominally in charge of our teen section, and my coworkers often bring customers to me if they’ve asked hard-to-answer questions about kidlit or YA.  And I love my interactions with kids at work.

What was missing from a lot of the teaching I observed is that delicious moment of serendipity, the strange and wonderful chance discussions one gets into with children.  A little girl comes up to me in search of a good book; within a minute, we’re exclaiming together over how much we both loved Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again, and I’m pressing a copy of Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira into her hands.  The kid who comes to storytime every single week hugs me before she leaves and says thank-you.  I have the freedom at work to let my small customers dictate what we talk about, which books I show them, and what they (and I!) get out of their visit to the bookshop.

Teachers do an unquestionably important job, managing classrooms full of (often overflowing with) children and striving to teach them the things they need to know to succeed in college, work, and life.  But there’s a structure to that, and that structure simply doesn’t appeal to me.  I love to interact with children in a more relaxed way.  I love the informality of what I do now, and I think that I get a lot more out of my work when my job is “figure out what Kid X needs and provide it, often on one-on-one terms”.

The classes.

Oh, God, the classes.

There were very good things about our classes.  The readings were often insightful, and the in-school observations we did were incredibly valuable.  But when we actually met for class?  While we sometimes had wonderful guest speakers, our class meetings didn’t always feel as relevant or useful.  In fact, it often felt like being back in high school.

The professors were scatterbrained.  The syllabi and the calendars didn’t match.  The expectation often felt like one was supposed to accept readings unquestioned rather than discuss the potential biases or problems with a text.  Discussions felt slow, shallow, and sometimes completely irrelevant.

I hated taking the classes, and I hated paying to take them.  I got perfectly good grades to show for my efforts, but the thought of taking any more education classes makes me want to stab myself in the face.

So what about a PhD?

Right now, my plan is not to pursue a PhD when I’m finished with my MLIS.  That might change.  It’s something I’ve considered, on and off, since last summer, when my favourite professor in the LIS department told me she thought I could accomplish a PhD.  That’s one of the highest compliments I’ve ever gotten, and I still can’t entirely believe it.  Aren’t I supposed to be the student who slacks off constantly?  The one who’s bright but barely scrapes by when it comes to grades?

(That’s one of the most miraculous things about getting my MLIS: the fact that I can, and do, complete my work and generally manage to present myself as a competent student.  I don’t know if it’s that I’m finally old enough to take school seriously, or if it’s the fact that my mental illnesses are no longer going completely untreated, or that I’m finally studying something I love with my whole heart.  Maybe it’s all those things.  Anyway, it’s amazing to me, and it makes me so happy and proud of myself.  Look, everyone, I can do school in a way that was completely beyond me back when I was twelve!  It’s crazy.)

The first time I went to graduate school, I went straight after college.  On the one hand, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.  It changed not only my life, but the lives of other people around me, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I had while I lived in New York City.  On the other hand, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for graduate school or certain what I wanted to get out of the experience, and I think that’s a lot of why it didn’t work out.  I knew I loved studying music, but I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t love writing papers on the subject.

I don’t want to have that experience again.  I’m going to finish my MLIS degree, and then I’m going to get a job.  And if, in a year or two, I still like the idea of doing a PhD and looking at professorship?  Then I’ll go for it.  But for now, I’m going to be a librarian.  And if I may say so, I think I’m going to be a damn good one.

(Sorry if this is kind of serious-business.  Next post is gonna be a lot more upbeat, don’t worry!  I already know what it is.)

books i’m going to read next >:|

My Readers Advisory class is often very fun, but holy shit, does it take me a long time to read these books.  While I could power through my summer reading for Social Justice in Children’s/YA Lit last year and still have time for extracurricular literature, that’s not the case these days.  Books for grown-ups, especially books for grown-ups in genres I don’t like, take so much longer for me to slog through.  Stupid secondary world fantasy, ruining all my fun.  Lol.

Anyway, I want to keep a list of books I want to read when I finally have free time for reading again.  I might add to this list and edit it as time goes on.

  1. The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon – Before I realized just how much reading I was going to have for this class, I planned to spend my summer starting in on a new project: reading every Newbery winner in order.  This is the first one, and I’m partway through it.  I’m bound and determined to finish it before fall, at least, even if I can’t get the other ones done.
  2. The Merciless by Danielle Vega – You’ve already heard me talk about how excited I am about this book!  It’s the one with the exorcism and the conservative Christianity.  I am going to read the hell out of it the minute I have a chance.
  3. Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction – The title is silly, and the premise of this graphic novel is mildly embarrassing to explain, lol: what if someone’s superpower was orgasms that stopped time?  And what if they used that power to go rob banks?  But the word I’ve heard is that it’s actually a really well-written comic with a lot of heart, and I am interested in checking it out for myself.
  4. Every book I had recommended by a classmate – We had an assignment where we received a description of our classmates’ reading interests, and then we found books to recommend them in return.  I had a lot of fun doing it, but I wasn’t prepared to get my sheet back full of books I really and truly wanted to read.  (What can I say?  Sometimes, I’m a pessimist.  Also, I get so goddamn picky with books.)  But basically every title Classmate suggested sounded right up my alley, and I want all of them.  Unfortunately, “all of them” is gonna take a while.  I might make a post about her recommendations later, because then I’ll have an electronic copy of them, and also, I think you guys might be interested in the recs as well!  Some of them were books I could definitely see passing directly on to Mum if I enjoyed them.  😀
  5. Belle by Paula Byrne – Remember that movie I went to see?  This is the book on the same subject.  I’ve read a couple pages so far, and it’s not exactly astounding writing, but I don’t mind that–I just want to learn more about Dido Lindsey and her place in 18th-century society.

That’s the list so far, but God knows, I’ll find plenty more to add before the summer is through.  I love books so much, you guys; sometimes I feel like they just find their own way toward me and cry out plaintively for attention, lol.

i promise i haven’t forgotten about this blog

I’ve just been…well, busy.  And sometimes sad, and sometimes tired.  I’ll be putting more content up in the coming weeks, though; as part of the class I’m taking this summer, I have to post reviews on a book blog, and since I already have one…why not put them here?  Superhandy, supersweet.

I was planning to do a project this summer called “read every Newbery winner in order and write about them,” but unfortunately, I’m probably not going to have time to devote to it because of said class.  Or maybe I’ll just end up posting a Newbery review every month or so instead of every week, like I’d hoped.

Anyway, the class I’m taking is called Reader’s Advisory, and it’s basically What I Do For Minimum Wage: The Class.  When a librarian does Reader’s Advisory, she listens to what a patron likes about books and suggests new ones for them to read.  This is something I do constantly at work, mostly for children, and I think I’m pretty good at it.  I have coworkers who will grab me from the cash registers to ask me to help somebody find a birthday present for an eight-year-old boy or whoever, and that makes me feel really accomplished!  I give impromptu book talks nearly every day I’m at work, and honestly, I think I’m better at the casual kind than the formal ones I have to do in classes!  The latter make me nervous, lol.

I hope that doesn’t sound like bragging, saying that I’m good at this kind of thing.  I just think it’s one of my strengths, and it’s something I like to do.  But what I’m good at is Reader’s Advisory for children and teens (because those are the books I read!), and this class focuses on Reader’s Advisory for adults.  So I’m going to learn a lot from it, and I’m going to read a lot of books I might not have read otherwise.

And in case you’re curious, here are the books I’ll be reading for the class this summer!  They’re split up by genre and in reading order.  Get set to see some reviews of them in the future!

Literary fiction
Perfect – Rachel Joyce

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
The Heist – Janet Evanovich/Lee Goldberg
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

Historical fiction
The Lighthouse Road – Peter Geye
I Shall Be Near to You – Erin Lindsay McCabe

Fantasy
The Emperor’s Blades – Brian Staveley
Kabu-Kabu – Nnedi Okorafor

Science fiction
Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

Graphic novels
Boxers – Gene Luen Yang
Saints – Gene Luen Yang
The Harlem Hellfighters – Max Brooks
Goddamn This War! – Jacques Tardi

Romance/Women’s fiction
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – Jenny Colgan
Romancing the Duke – Tessa Dare (and I’ll be doing a presentation on this one!)

Young Adult
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick
All the Truth That’s in Me – Julie Gardner Berry

Non-fiction
The Good Nurse – Charles Graeber
Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields – Wendy Lower

Humor/Satire
Two additional books written in the past 5 years – I haven’t picked these yet, but I’ll have to do a book talk of three more in addition, and I def. want to include How to be Black by Baratunde R. Thurston (highly recommended if you haven’t read it–it’s a very funny and has a lot of memoir elements in addition to looking at race in America).

My “real” reviews of these books will be on my Goodreads profile; what I will post on my blog will be the kinds of reviews one writes for library patrons.  These focus more on plot and audience rather than the reviewer’s opinions.  My posts for this class will all be tagged with “7630,” too, because I’m hoping I’ll find the energy to post about non-school bookthings, too.

Let’s see…anything else to tell you guys?  Well, I did have a panic attack in class last night, which was superembarrassing.  Two of the optional books (options I did not pick, obviously!  lol) heavily feature aliens, and since this blog is mostly read by my immediate family, I can confidently say that we all know how well I deal with aliens.  After class, I got permission to leave the room when people present on those books–score.  No more academic panic attacks for Miss Amy, I’ll tell you what.  Other than that, I think it’s going to be a nice class, and I’m looking forward to learning things!

what we talk about when we talk about anne frank

I’ve had two days of class so far, and I am just in love with the course I’m taking!  I mean, I was pretty much destined to love taking a class called Social Justice in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, but I want to reiterate how great it is.  If nothing else, it’s really exciting to have somewhere in real life to talk about books.  😀  (I would join a book club, but I feel like mostly book clubs don’t read the kinds of books I’d like to.  And anyway, school is like a really expensive book club in itself, lol.)

One of the projects we’re doing this summer is creating presentations for the books we’re reading.  Everyone in the class is covering two of the texts, and I’m the first one going!  So next Wednesday, I’ll be doing a 15-minute presentation on the diary of Anne Frank–and later in the semester, I’ll be presenting on Laurence Yep’s The Traitor.  I picked Anne Frank because I’ve always been interested in Holocaust literature and The Traitor because it’s set in the Old West ca. 1885.  

I’m a little nervous, because I really want to make a splash with my presentation–after all, I’m the first to go, and I think I’m the only one the professor doesn’t know from a previous class.  So my work will really speak for me here.  Luckily, I do have the week to do it, and my roommate assures me that I create good presentations.  🙂

These are the topics I’ll be covering:

  • Historical/social/political/cultural context of the texts – Obviously, I’ll talk about the Holocaust.  I plan also to point out the long (long, long, long) history of anti-Semitism in Europe.
  • Authors’/illustrators’ biographies – Luckily, Anne covers some of this in the book.  😀  But I’ll talk about the Franks’ lives before they went into hiding, the fact that Margot Frank also kept a diary that has been lost to history, and Otto Frank’s life afterwards.  I’ll also mention the fact that both Anne and her father did some editing of the diary.
  • Reception of the text (reviews, awards, criticisms) – Did you know that some people claimed that Anne’s diary was a forgery?  Spoiler alert, a lot of them were Holocaust deniers and probably weren’t very pleasant people.  I’ll talk about that as well as the text’s continuing popularity (including adaptations), use in schools, scholarly articles, etc.
  • Censorship and access issues – Anne Frank’s diary has been challenged in schools as recently as this year.  People generally want to censor the book because the unexpurgated version includes some fairly frank (if you’ll pardon the word choice) discussions of periods, breasts, and sexuality.
  • Programming ideas – There are obvious choices here, such as “children and the Holocaust,” “life in dangerous times,” and “famous Jewish people.”  But there are also options like “diaries, fact and fiction” and “teen memoirs and autobiographies.”  I’m still thinking about additional ideas for ways to incorporate Anne Frank into library materials, but I really like the idea of pairing her with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Pregnancy Project

That’s what I’ve got so far!  In addition to finishing rereading it, I’m reading Tofu Quilt and Jane Adams: Champion for Democracy.