We get a lot of bookish news and links from librarian Betsy Bird’s blog, A Fuse #8 Production, and its Fusenews collections of literary links. This week, she brought us a couple stories of covers that we’re happy to pass along. First, we have the cover to PW’s Trends in African-American Publishing issue causing a bit of controversy. Frolab looks at the arguments and asks us to Pick Fros Not Fights!. Second, she leads us to Stacked, where they’re taking a look at a different sort of diversity—or lack thereof— on covers: Where have all the fat girls gone? “Think about all of the covers you see: they’re ALL thin. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. Even if the book doesn’t talk about the weight or shape of a character, the cover makes him/her thin.” Well, not every cover, but she’s got a point.
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There are four more segments, but I think we all know how it’s going to go: the (already) beautiful Indian woman will use the Magical Whitening Cream, gaining a “pinkish white glow”; the European woman will reveal her inner petty, jealous self; the Indian woman’s new, whiter skin will re-catch the man’s eye, and they will be passionately reunited. In an airport.
Winter brings with it a slew of holidays, and most of us have holiday traditions—for holidays we celebrate and, in many cases, for those we don’t. (I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas, but woe betide any who come between me and my Christmas Eve French Onion Soup, a tradition my family inherited from a French exchange student). Our authors and illustrators have shared their holiday traditions and memories, and now it’s your turn!
Welcome to winter! I know, according to the calendar winter doesn’t start for another week and a half, but the weather says it’s winter. So let’s curl up by the fire, roast some chestnuts, and talk diversity.
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on some new films depicting African Americans. We start out with Precious: is it a harsh but realistic portrayal of issues too-often found in poor black communities, or is it a racist depiction of black Americans, relying on stale clichés and taking advantage of the people and situations it pretends to help? David Schmader explains why he likes it and then highlights the arguments of those who don’t.
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.
I hope everyone had as good a Thanksgiving as I did! Now, we’re back with another batch of diversity-related links.
Last month’s job report was an improvement, but the recession is still keeping employment just a dream for many. Also keeping dreams of employment from becoming reality? Race, even now. The New York Times brings us an exploration of the difficulties faced by even college educated African Americans. Postbourgie responds with some points on the issues faced by college educated professional black women, and the unfortunate tendency to assume that black men’s experiences are representative of all black people.
Today we’re bringing you a guest post from authors Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, authors of Armando and the Blue Tarp School. Their book tells the story of a young boy who spends his days picking through a trash heap in search of anything useable or sellable, until he is given a chance to learn when Señor David—a real-life volunteer—spreads a blue tarp on the ground and calls it a school. Now Armando and the Blue Tarp School is also a musical! The authors are here to tell us how their book was transformed into a play, and to share their experiences watching the production. Take it away, Edith and Judith!
Watching our book Armando and the Blue Tarp School transformed into a children’s musical has been magical for us. The sneak preview took place on November 14, 2009, at David Lynch’s Responsibility fundraising gala. With fresh, earnest faces and clear, bright voices, four eighth graders and one tenth grader presented the show to a large crowd of Responsibility supporters. It was a smash hit!
The songs drew directly from our book, with clever additions: Flaco the rat wove the narrative between the songs, with comic interruptions by his flamboyant sidekick, Gordo the rat, who elicited laughs from the opening moment when she threw a tortilla scavenged from the dump into the air. In “We Are Pepenadores,” the actors sang about the flies, heat, and stench, and of working the dump all day as pepenadores, trash pickers. The poignant “Someday, Maybe,” a duet between Isabella and Armando, conveyed his deep longing to learn at Señor David’s school. In “We’re Going to Build a School,” staccato music and lyrics pulsated as the whole colonia, the neighborhood by the garbage dump, worked together to construct the school. The actors mimed hammering and sawing as they sang, “Bam, bam, bam, hit that nail, bam, bam, bam . . . saw, saw, suh-saw, saw.” In “Fuego!” their worried faces portrayed the urgency of the fire with their waving arms representing flames. In the jazzy, upbeat “Blue Tarp School,” the audience clapped along, and in the finale, everyone joined in singing the chorus with the actors.
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: