Librarian and recent Printz-committee member Liz Burns has a good piece on ARCs (advance reading copies) at her blog on Foreword Magazine’s site. Check it out.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
[I wrote this forever ago, but somehow it never got posted.]
If you don't listen to the Public Radio program RadioLab I can't quite say that you're wasting your life, but I can say that I'm worried for you. I think it's easily one of the most interesting and creative examples of radio journalism anywhere.
One of its hosts is renowned science journalist Robert Krulwich, who last summer gave the commencement address at Caltech. If you write about science, I think it's well worth a listen.
Monday, February 23, 2009
As he does so well, Roger Sutton touched off a good debate on his blog last week with a post called “Why aren't they called adults' books?” Don’t be confused by the title. The heart of the debate is blogging and authors, and the comments are where it’s at. No, not mine, though I obviously feel strongly about the subject. What bothers me are two things: First, the anonymous comments. Why bother? I don’t see the point in anonymous commenting. If you’re going to say something interesting, by all means, get credit for it. More importantly, I am troubled by the characterization of author blogs as self-centered, boring busy-work foisted on authors by publishers. I will say right off, that I absolutely respect authors’ decisions not to blog. There are good reasons not to. It’s not for everyone, and if it distracts you from your work, then don’t do it. But it seems like some commenters are rejecting author blogging for the wrong reason: perceived uselessness. Yes, there are dull and useless author blogs that aren’t much more than posts about what the author had for breakfast. Big deal. Don’t read them. That’s the beautiful thing about the Internet. It’s relatively easy to filter the junk and it costs nearly nothing to do so. (You could say the same thing about books: any given person probably thinks the vast majority of books are uninteresting, but we don’t reject book reading on that basis.) Before you reject blogging as a waste of time, you need read some of its better practitioners and judge for yourself whether the world of children’s book writing isn’t well served by their existence.
It might have been possible in decades past for books to succeed without the long-term advocacy of their authors (and in rare cases, it still is), but I don’t think we should take for granted that the end of those days is entirely lamentable. I think a book culture that fosters more engagement between authors and readers (particular young readers, an inherently mutable readership) is probably a healthy one, and I’m pretty sure that authors stand to benefit eventually from their status as key role players in the promotion of their books. This is not an easy time to be an author in some ways—but then again, it’s not an easy time to be [fill in the blank] in the book industry. But the online community that has sprung up around books for children is a good thing and a huge bright spot for the future. Of this, I am confident.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I love books for kids, and I love sports. Some of the first books I loved as a kid we books about sports. I vividly remember reading my father’s Chip Hilton books at my grandparents’ house in Omaha, and In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson was a favorite. As an editor, I love sports books in different way. Sports are a dream for book publishers, providing a constant stream of drama and an ever-expanding cast of characters. And the audience is primed for it. Obviously, sports are a big deal in pop culture, but we also expect and respect writing about sports, for all ages. Thinking about this subject today, though, I’m wondering whether we’re pushing enough, whether we’re giving the children’s book audience everything they’d be interested in. Or are we all crowding the easy roads?
On the fiction side, I have enormous admiration for authors like Chris Crutcher who put sports in their contemporary teen social contexts—they realize that the game isn’t confined to the playing field. I think books like these are an important complement to books that focus on the conventional on-field sporting drama itself (i.e., Matt Christopher, etc.).
Where’s the nonfiction analogy for young readers, though? If sports biography is the Matt Christopher of sports nonfiction for kids, where’s the Chris Crutcher? Where is the sports nonfiction for young readers that takes an unpredictable, provocative POV?
This is not a rhetorical question. I don’t feel like I know the category well enough to generalize about it confidently. I do know, though, that the more I read about college sports recruiting (something you know I do a lot of, if you’ve seen my Twitter feed), the more I think the social implications of sports are a huge deal for young people. Another example is this NY Times Magazine article about the basketball player Shane Battier. Even if you’re not a sports fan, it’s still worth wading through the basketball arcana to get at the story of teenage Shane Battier. And Battier is a good example of the different perspective I’m talking about. Only a publisher with a freakishly large traditional sports bio series is likely to devote a book to him, but his story could be enormously interesting to young readers, if told well.
Are there nonfiction books that address this?
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Chris Monroe’s Monkey with a Tool Belt is a nominee for a Minnesota Book Award! Congratulations, Chris.
Congratulations are also in order for Carolrhoda illustrator Stephen Gammell and longtime Carolrhoda author/illustrator Nancy Carlson, whose work is also on the list.