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?
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?