Well, it’s HOT, and it seems like the urge to stay out of the heat has led to lots of thoughtful conversations around the web this week.
We begin with a new take on To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic by Harper Lee that celebrated its 50th Anniversary just this week. While it’s been taught for years as the quintessential anti-racism novel, Stuff White People Do has a fascinating argument for why the book can also be read as racist. Among the arguments: “The novel reduces black people to passive, humble victims, thereby ignoring the realities of black agency and resistance.” Even if you’ve got a deep love for To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s worth thinking about who it was written for, how it can be read differently by different readers, and how it fits into the larger picture of a literature curriculum heavily dominated by white authors.
A guest post by our fantastic intern, Noemi:
Those of you Yankee fans out there have probably heard by now that Bob Sheppard, the long-time Yankee Stadium announcer, died yesterday at age 99. Among the heartwarming anecdotes and quips mentioned in his obituary and numerous articles memorializing the legend was a small detail that stood out to me which indicates the changing cultural backgrounds of baseball players from Sheppard’s start in 1951 through today.
In a tribute to him in the New York Times, George Vecsey wrote of Sheppard, “In an earlier time, when baseball was not yet comfortable with Latino players, he made sure to give Minnie Miñoso his tilde. Later, he delighted in getting the pronunciation right for Shigetoshi Hasegawa.”
‘Tis the time of year when advance copies of our new fall books begin trickling into the office, and I wish I could bring every one of you here in person to leaf through them and chat over delicious baked goods and lemonade. However, since apparating is not yet possible outside of Harry Potter, a virtual preview will have to do.
But first, some virtual desserts to go with:
And now let us get on with our program.
SEASIDE DREAM, by Janet Costa Bates and illustrated by Lambert Davis, September, Ages 6-10
This lovely picture book about a girl and her grandmother won a New Voices Award Honor from Lee & Low when it was first submitted, so it’s exciting to see it as a real book. It’s about a young girl, Cora, who struggles to find the perfect gift for her grandmother, just in time for a birthday beach party.
Cora’s grandmother is from Cape Verde, a country off the coast of Africa that I knew little about before this book. It’s a lovely and unique culture. But what I like most about Seaside Dream is that it reflects an experience common to all immigrants, no matter where they come from originally: a loneliness for the people and places they left behind. At the end of the story, Cora finds a perfect way to ease this loneliness for her grandmother.
We’re packing up and shipping out this weekend to the American Library Association annual convention in Washington, D.C. If you’ll be there too, we’d love to see you!
We’ll be at booth #2711 all day every day, so stop on by. If our charm and good looks alone are not enough to entice you (ahem), we’ll also be giving away ARCs of our FIRST EVER GRAPHIC NOVEL, Yummy! Yes, OK, I am really excited about this one.
We’ll also be giving away posters featuring the oh-so-lovely artwork of Seaside Dream plus other posters and bookmarks. Plus we’ve got a jam-packed signing schedule of super authors and illustrators:
Saturday, June 26
9-10 am: Ching Yeung Russell (Tofu Quilt)
There are plenty of books out now teaching us to respect the environment. But do they do it themselves? The question of whether books are “green” tends to make readers more than a little uncomfortable, because much as we all love the feel of leafing through a book, hey, that’s a lot of trees. So, just how environmentally friendly are books? Here’s what you need to know (thanks to our Production Manager, Danny, for the full rundown):
1. Books are meant to be kept. On the pro side, books have a rather longer shelf life than, well, most things. They don’t need to be thrown out when we’re done with them, won’t break or expire. And if you don’t want them, there’s always a need for them somewhere else – a school or local library – so books don’t end up in landfills like most other things. That’s good.
2. The paper used in the manufacturing process comes from trees meant for paper. Book paper mostly comes from tree farms, not irreplaceable 500-year-old trees. Tree farms feature fast-growing, replenishable trees that are less expensive to log and maintain, and easier to implement in an industrialized setting.
I’ll just come right out and say it: I love reading children’s books. I do. And not just for work, or for industry research, or for educational purposes. I read them for fun, and I am not embarrassed about it.
That’s not such a revolutionary thing to say around here. Working in children’s publishing, you get spoiled – in this world, everybody knows how good a good children’s book can be. But out there in the “real world,” not everyone is so enlightened. Some people think that children’s books are only for (gasp!) children, and there’s a stigma attached to adults who read children’s books without some kind of excuse. It’s ok if you’re a teacher, or you work in publishing, or you’re studying to be a librarian. Then it’s work-related. But despite what the newspapers are saying, for those adults who have no excuse I think that being a regular reader of children’s literature is still very much looked down upon.
It drives me nuts. Once an aunt of mine asked me what great books I’d read recently. I had just finished Melina Marchetta’s wondrous Jellicoe Road and recommended it to her wholeheartedly, albeit with one caveat: it was a teen book. “You read teen books?” she said with a face. “Why?”
Well, barring any more volcanic interruptions, come this weekend we’ll be heading off to Chicago for the annual International Reading Association convention. If you’ll be there, we’d love to see you! It makes me super happy to meet people face to face in this age of twitter-email-voicemail-3G-4G-whatever.
Anyway, we’ll be hanging out at booth 2122 so be sure to come by and say hello. And if the L&L staff alone is not enough of an attraction for you, come for our authors who will be stopping by:
MONDAY, APRIL 26:
Anyone who loves books loves libraries, and even though they’re worth celebrating year-round, it’s especially important now. Why? Well, for one it’s National Library Week. Ironically, we’re also in the midst of a huge round of budget cuts for libraries all over the country. Time’s growing short, but it’s not too late to let your public officials know how important libraries are to all of us! The ALA has a quick and easy way to show your support:
1. Please go to http://capwiz.com/ala/ and click on “call your senators now to support library funding.”
2. Scroll down and customize the sample email message as you see fit — remember, a brief but personal story on how your library helps your community matters the most! Change the subject heading to “please sign the Dear Appropriator letter for libraries.”
3. Enter your contact information.
I LOVE the Olympics. I’ve spent many (er, too many) hours over the past week mesmerized by ice dancing, ski cross, super-giant slolom, half pipe. . . these athletes make it look like somebody literally turned off gravity in Vancouver for the week and the laws of physics no longer apply.
Still, it’s hard not to notice how white the US Olympic Team is. If this is a team sent to represent one of the most diverse countries in the world, well, it doesn’t look all that representative. Take a look at this year’s 218 Team USA members and you’ll see what I mean. I could count the number of African Americans on one hand. Out of 218! What about Latinos, Asian Americans? Some…but not that many.
There’s an interesting discussion going on over at January Magazine this week about whether we should establish a ratings system for books. The blogger over there, Tony, read an upcoming YA book billed for ages 14 and up. But some 70 pages in, Tony discovered content that he felt was a little, um, mature for the average 14-year-old reader:
“14 and up, I thought. 14 and up? 14 and up?! To me, ’14 and up’ is just another way of saying PG-13. . . . As the father of boys aged 13 and 9, who both love to read, I am now officially worried. Is this the stuff of books for Young Readers? For 14 and up?”
In the professional world of books, made up of librarians and publishers and booksellers, any complaint about the appropriateness of content tends to illicit a knee-jerk reaction and cry of censorship. And, frankly, when people are removing dictionaries from schools because they contain definitions of words that parents deem inappropriate, it’s not hard to see why. But Tony has a sensible argument: Shouldn’t there at least be some sort of rating so readers know what they are getting themselves into?