Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's a Book

I attended a "conversation" this evening with Horn Book editors Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano.  They recently published a book called A Family of Readers: The book lover's guide to children's and young adult literature.  These literary folk were gathered to talk about some of the articles and ideas presented in this book.  I was intrigued by notions brought up by the two authors as well as the audience.  Topics about the quality of literature and whether or not we should encourage kids to read anything vs. only "fine" children's literature, what makes a child an avid reader, etc. sparked my curiosity and will probably be the subject of posts to come.  But there was one subject that has been on my mind, both as a future bookstore owner and a teacher.

It is this notion of the role technology will play in the world of children's literature.  We have seen the rise of the Kindle and other reading devices that take the printed word and make it digitally accessible.  Does this mean that the days of the tangible book are limited?  Roger Sutton wrote an entry on his blog about this just a few days ago.  I do believe in the romance of having a book to hold, the magic of sitting with a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. and turning the pages to unveil a story that is being read aloud.  Will that all go away?  Will children gently place their finger upon a screen and swipe left to "turn" the page?  And if so, is that bad?

As a teacher I can appreciate the technology because it makes reading accessible to students who face difficulties as readers.  Students with vision problems can make text bigger on a screen so it is easier to read.  A student who can comprehend difficult stories but may not be able to read the words can have a book read to them so that he or she can access the same information as their peers.  These are just a few of the perks.  Students can also click on words to learn their meanings, they can break words into parts to hear the different sounds.  How can this be bad?

But what about the job of the book seller?  Should we be including books online as part of our duty to the growing technology?  Do we reach a wider audience by making digital books available?  And if everything becomes downloadable, is there even a place for a niche such as children's bookstores?  Should teachers utilize the technology and book sellers keep the magic alive?  Maybe both have a role in delicate balance of books.

The debate could go on and on.  I am not sure where I stand on this issue just yet.  My heart wants to say, just as the message in You've Got Mail, that everyone needs a "shop around the corner."  But in order for my dream to come true, do I have to make any sort of compromise? Maybe there is a sense of social justice in making reading accessible to everyone by including both print and digital media.

For those of you interested in this topic, here are two book recommendations:

1.  A Family of Readers: The book lover's guide to children's and young adult fiction by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano.  This is a great guide written specifically with parents in mind, about books that will engage your readers.

2.  It's a Book by Lane Smith.  This picture book addresses the world of technology vs. books.  One character explains to a tech-savvy youngster just what a book is.  Be warned, there is some colorful language that will make you smile but that you might not want repeated at home.  I say, read it anyway and have a great conversation about words with multiple meanings. ;-)

And, just because the technology is out there, here is a youtube video of part of Lane Smith's book.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things, Part 1

I am excited to share some of my all-time favorite children's books with you. Here is the first of many...and it happens to be a great Halloween-type book.

The Spider and the Fly, by Tony DiTerlizzi.

Tony DiTerlizzi illustrated this poem written by Mary Howitt.  Tony's illustrations create the feeling that you are watching an old silent film. In addition, Tony frames the text to look like title cards.  He complements the text with detailed illustrations that not only feature the Dr. Jekyll-ish spider and the narcissistic fly, but also the cautionary tale of the "Ghosts of Bugs Past."   (I can see why you like it too Mr. Nuthall!)

The illustrations capture the imaginations of all children, and adults, but it is the ending that really does it for me.  I love a book that isn't cliche and The Spider and the Fly certainly deserves an evil cackle at the end. The boys in all my classes have all loved this book! Tony adds his own twist by write a letter from the spider to all the readers.  The spider's opinion includes a reference to Charlotte's Web, saying that if he were Charlotte, he would be, "eating bacon."

Tony basically rocks at everything he does.  His website declares, "Never Abandon Imagination!" I have had a couple of opportunities to hear him speak and he is as cool in real life as you would guess from reading his books.  (There is a picture of us together somewhere but that was in the days before digital cameras so I have misplaced it somehow...)  If you love what you read when you pick up The Spider and the Fly, check out G is for Gzonk (a funky alphabet book) or any of the Spiderwick Chronicles (a chapter book series he worked on with Holly Black.)  His new book, The Search for WonderLa is also now available!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

Yesterday I ordered the Horn Book Magazine and the Horn Book Guide. ( For those of you who don't know, these are THE guides to children's literature.  After a friend recently asked for a book suggestion for a 6th grade girl, I realized I am not as in-the-loop as I would like to be.  I have always wanted to subscribe to these two publications and I can't wait for my first issues to arrive!  I'll let you know how helpful they are and the new books I will be reading.

In the meantime, I am going to create this post as a way for you to give me book recommendations.  Feel free to keep adding to this post.  What should I read next?  Feel free to suggest picture books, wordless books, young adult, graphic novels, etc. (All children's books, of course.) I'll keep reading and post my reviews.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Dream Come True

Welcome!  This is the first blog entry for my new site.  Where Bluebirds Fly Alice, Ever After is a blog that will explore the world of children's literature, my passion in life.  My dream come true would be for this to eventually turn into the site of my own children's bookstore.  Until then, I will do my work here.

Recently, I got to see Kate DiCamillo speak at a theater in Somerville, MA.  I am a huge Kate fan and this wasn't the first time I have heard her speak, however, this was by far the most memorable.  Kate was in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her book Because of Winn Dixie. She read a bit of the book and answered questions about her writing.  I could probably have answered these questions for her because I have seen her so often but the one that inspired me the most was one child who asked when she started writing.  Her her mid-30s!  Winn Dixie was the first book she ever wrote.  It rocketed her into fame and on this particular evening we were going to watch the movie adaptation of her book. (The movie came out a few years ago.)  How amazing to hear that it is not too late for my own dreams to start!

After Kate spoke, the movie started.  It was a surreal and moving experience.  The audience laughed, I cried, and we all clapped in unison with the music.  How truly amazing to sit in an audience and witness one person's dream come true.

I know that this post doesn't have anything to do with literature directly but in the spirit of wishes and hopes, I encourage you all to pursue your own.  Because, after all, "...if happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow, why, oh why, can't I?"