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?
You might have already seen today’s big publishing news: Kirkus Reviews is closing, according to Publishers Weekly and the ever-informative A Fuse #8. Kirkus, which has been publishing book reviews since 1933, is a print review journal mainly used by librarians and booksellers when they make their purchasing decisions. While other review journals like School Library Journal only come out monthly, Kirkus is (well, was) published every other week, so it reviewed a great many published books, and gained something of a reputation for Telling It Like It Is.
People have been talking a lot about cover art lately, what with all the Best-Of Lists floating around this time of year. When it comes to cover art, I’ve found that people are shockingly opinionated. Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can still judge the cover. Sometimes cover controversy is about larger issues, but more often than not it’s pure aesthetics: what looks good, what looks really bad?
I can usually guess when our production and editorial departments are meeting about a cover because they stay in the conference room for a looooong time. For a couple of reasons, I think children’s and YA covers can be more challenging to design than adult covers. First off, they sometimes have to appeal to a fairly wide age range, and the difference between a 6-year-old and an 11-year old is not the same as the difference between a 35-year-old and a 40-year-old. Older kids don’t want a book that looks babyish, and younger kids don’t want a cover that looks old. Plus, boys don’t want to read “girl books” and vice versa. Not to mention teenagers, who–as usual–have their own set of demands.
This week is Thanksgiving! There’s lots to love about this holiday, and some of it doesn’t even have to do with food (although…pies! stuffing! MORE PIES!).
Thanksgiving is also a great opportunity for teaching and discussion. I know sometimes people have an adverse reaction to that–something like “Stop trying to make my holiday traditions politically correct!”–but so much of the Thanksgiving story is still relevant today. I like thinking about Thanksgiving as a celebration of a history that is still being written, a history that we can take an active part in.
On that note, Fourth World Journal points to a new teaching resource for Thanksgiving developed by a teacher and historian whose ancestors happen to be Quebeque French, Metis, Ojibwa, and Iroquois. He suggests that it’s time to move past some of the myths surrounding Thanksgiving towards historical accuracy, and insists that this will make the holiday more, not less, meaningful. I especially like some of the discussion questions, like this one:
First, celebrations are in order for both Soichiro Honda and Isamu Noguchi, who share a November 17th birthday. It’s a nice little coincidence that two very different creative minds from Japan should share the same birthday.
A peek at the calendar reveals all sorts of other special days and notable celebrations this month: It’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for short) and of course, National American Indian Heritage Month. But looking at the calendar always brings up the same question: are special months a double-edged sword?
OK, tell me that this CNN promo does not sound just a little bit like the trailer for a horror movie:
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The first time I saw this ad, I was sitting on the couch with my roomate. “Oh my God,” she said, “I can’t believe how racist that sounded.”
This week is officially National Teen Driver Safety Week!
Now, before you think to yourself, “How many more of these random ‘holidays’ can there possibly be in one calendar year,” consider this: 1 in 4 crash fatalities in the US involves someone between the ages of 16 and 24. Nothing —not drugs, not sex, not rock n’ roll—kills more teens than driving, and the risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional peer passenger in the car. This time of year the number of accidents goes up even higher because of things like homecoming. Take a look at these Teen Driving Safety Tips for ideas on raising safe young drivers.
Saturday is Black Poetry Day! And while sometimes these super-specific holidays can be a mixed blessing (if October 17 is Black Poetry Day, what are the other 364 days of the year?) I just can’t be against any holiday that celebrates poetry. Here are a few of my favorite poems by African American writers. Er, top five, let’s make it, otherwise I’d just go on forever. . .