Browsing bookshelves is a favorite pastime of mine (and most authors I know). What avid reader doesn’t love going into a library or bookstore and walking out with something new to read, especially something put in my hands by a bookseller who says, “I know you’ll love this book.” So far, every bookseller I’ve met have been spot on in their recommendations and I so appreciate those who recommend my books to readers, too. It was a bookseller who first suggested Dav Pilkey’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS to a certain reluctant young reader in my household. When I discovered that Pilkey’s books featuring diapered crusaders were banned and difficult to find at area libraries, local booksellers kept my now-eager young reader up-to-date with the latest in the series.~ read more ~
Posts in category middle grade
Banned Books Month: Guest Post from Alison Ashley Formento: Keeping Banned Books in the Hands of the Readers
It was second grade, and Mrs. Origines had herded me, a wayward sheep, into a classroom alcove. In her kindly but implacable voice she said I must stop disrupting class and pay attention, and that I wouldn’t be able to leave until I agreed.
This eventually gets around to banned books. Trust me.
Looking back, it seems I was a boy with focus issues. In my own mind it wasn’t that I wanted to ignore the teacher, it was that every room I entered was full of charming, distracting objects. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to study, it was that my imagination was always tugging me into exciting places with spaceships and swordfights.
Mrs. Origines had me figured out, though. I couldn’t disengage from her. She was not a big person, but with her arms folded and her eyes fixed on me she might as well have been a linebacker. I realized I couldn’t wiggle away.
I nodded, but she didn’t let me go until I’d looked her in the eye and given her a spoken “Yes.”~ read more ~
Banned Books Month: Guest Post from Betsy Bird: Gatekeeping and Censorship for the Modern Metropolitan Children’s Librarian
Here’s the thing about New York City. Censorship? Not what I was expecting.
I got my library degree at The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN. It was an excellent program and roundabout the time I figured out that it was children’s librarianship I wanted to go into (my propensity for accidentally destroying books did not exactly make me an ideal candidate for my first choice: conservator) my course was set. I took all the requisite classes. I learned all the important information. And as with any top notch children’s program, I was told about censorship.
Library schools teach incipient librarians about censorship the same way I imagine troops were taught about VDs during WWII. There are charts. There are graphs. And there are in-depth talks on methods that will help you handle the situation. We learned preventative measures, like having a Collection Development Policy in place so that it could be whipped out at a moment’s notice. We learned about talking to the patrons, and really hearing their concerns. People who censor aren’t bad people. They just have worries, and sometimes they’re completely valid. That copy of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO that accidentally got labeled JUV FIC? Thanks for telling me about it! For those patrons with true banning on their minds, you have a challenge form you can give them. They fill it out and then it gets reviewed and there’s a whole system in place to make them feel like they’ve been heard and respected. Even if/when their desires to remove AND TANGO MAKES THREE is ultimately rejected, they’ll feel like they weren’t ignored. And that’s a good thing.~ read more ~
Banned Books Month: Guest Post from Cassandra Rose Clark (THE ASSASSIN’S CURSE): I’m Glad I Read Waldo
I grew up the daughter of a librarian. We actually only had one bookshelf in our house, because my mother understood that we had access to hundreds of bookshelves down at the local library. Moreover, my mom pretty much gave me free reign over anything I wanted to read. If it was printed, I could read it, and the idea that kids couldn’t read a particular book, whether because of institutional or parental restrictions, was a pretty mind-blowing concept when I first encountered it in those magical years of my elementary school education.
Even now as an adult, whenever I learn that a book has been banned (or even challenged), there’s still that moment of disconnect: What? People do that? But of course I know they do. The reasons run the gamut, from conservative to liberal and back again—the idea that the political spectrum is a circle, not a line, is never more clear than when you’re looking at the reasons books get banned.
Let’s start with a book that was banned by the US government back in the the 1920s, so thoroughly that, according to Wikipedia at least, the US Postal Service burned copies of it: ULYSSES by James Joyce.~ read more ~
Jed was born different. He had now idea how different until a certain event made it clear he was unlike anyone else. He was picked on because of those differences. Called names. Bullied. There were days he wished he wasn’t so different. All he wanted to do was fit in, and if there were some way to make him what society considered “normal,” he would have seized the opportunity. It was not until Jed accepted who he was that he felt more comfortable, and better about himself. He even used his differences to excel, realizing it was OK to stand out, even if it was just for being different.
Jed is a zombie, the title character of my humor-filled debut novel, DEAD JED: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie, being published in December by Month9Books. I think subconsciously I may have seen Jed as a metaphor for those kids who struggle with their sexual identity. Early on in the book, I even have a line about “coming out of the casket.”~ read more ~
At one of my first readings of MY MIXED-UP BERRY BLUE SUMMER, the story of June and her two moms, an old friend from high school came with her sons. “How did you know what it feels like?” she asked. She and her wife married in 2010; she remembered the backlash of Vermont’s groundbreaking civil union law in 2000, the setting for my novel. I was pleased that she thought the story rang true but I also understood her question. Could a heterosexual write authentically about gay marriage?
In an industry overwhelming white, female, and straight, the lack of diversity in children’s literature is a pressing issue. But who will write the books that represent the range of humanity? “One of the most persistent questions is whether or not an author must be a person of color to write the story of a person of color,” observes librarian Rachel Hill in a 2011 article for VOYA. “Some authors argue that all fiction is the fruit of imagination and that that imagination can carry through a plotline despite, color, race, or ethnicity. Other authors argue that that kind of authenticity can only be achieved by a person of color who has lived in that particular ‘skin.’”~ read more ~
Cassie was born on the day her town died. Or rather, the day that her town was purposely flooded and everything was rebuilt around a manmade lake. Everything is supposed to be the same. But Cassie, the youngest of her siblings, feels like she doesn’t belong. She doesn’t remember the old town, but her family does. Her sister and brother have memories from their old house, and she can never, ever be a part of that.
Cassie has always been fascinated by the lake, and, ordered by the doctor to swim regularly to strengthen her lungs, she finds herself there, instead of the pool, doing her laps. At first, it’s just to avoid the crowded pool. But soon, it’s discoveries. The off-limits side of the lake. A friend she didn’t know she had. And — on the edge of the town’s highly anticipated centennial celebration — a mystery that could unravel everything, especially for a few pillars of the community.~ read more ~
Hi Kristin – so nice to be here at Write All the Words (and lovely to meet you in person at the Texas Library Association). When you asked me to write a guest post I wanted to talk about poetry – appropriate for you, no? Particularly since the mysterious E. in your name is actually EMILY!!!!
I knew I was asking for trouble when I put Emily Dickinson in the middle of a murder in NOBODY’S SECRET. People feel VERY strongly about Emily D. But I was convinced that I could capture her unique voice and have her solve a mystery in Amherst in 1846. I just needed a reason for Emily to want to do it.~ read more ~
National Poetry Month: Tamera Wissinger: A Mighty Bridge Over the River — The Unlikely Influence of Les Misérables
Several years ago, I first saw the musical Les Misérables with friends at a Broadway in Chicago presentation. I was so excited to be seeing the show live for the first time and it lived up to my expectations in every way, and in one way it far exceeded them. That moment of shifting perspective is still so clear: During the seminal song I Dreamed a Dream sung by the tormented character Fantine, there is a line: “But the tigers come at night/With their voices soft as thunder…” Wait a minute…tigers with voices soft as thunder…a simile right there in middle of Les Misérables. And more than that, the word choice of “softest” when the librettist could have easily chosen to write “loud as thunder” or “roaring thunder,” but he didn’t.
Right there in the theater I felt down to my toes: this was written by a poet, and from that moment on I viewed the libretto for Les Misérables in a different, more exalted, way. After the show I bought the CD and listened to it countless times, eventually adding it to all of my mobile devices so that I could hear it anywhere.~ read more ~