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  • Roxanne Feldman 5:24 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    Maze Runner – Observing the Races (as in skin colors and not contests) 

    Went to see The Maze Runner with a group of high school students. We all agreed that the movie was quite satisfactory and more intense than we had anticipated. When watching big action films these days, we often discuss the racial components of what we saw, so here’s a collection of the immediate comments:

    • The first person who died was not black.
    • Two black people died — both are portrayed as heroic deaths.
    • The Asian dude (Korean) is portrayed as a cool guy. His name is Minho — like the pop singer in South Korea Choi Minho. Minho outran Thomas (the white hero) the whole time in the maze.
    • The main hero and heroine are white.
    • (and this is not about race, but gender) — Teresa kind of lost her intelligence in the movie while in the book she was a lot more involved in planning the escape and solving the problems along the way.

    No conclusions or judgments — just observations.

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 5:18 pm on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    Because of the books I’ve been reading, I have been learning about Nigerian history and contemporary politics, the 60s America, especially in Mississippi but also overseas in Vietnam and the important people during that time, including LBJ, and about more fantastic creatures in Russian folklore.

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 9:44 am on September 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    New trend? 

    Some of my high school students who witnessed the unpacking of publisher’s submissions this summer were slightly scandalized upon seeing this group of book covers.  Many of them are from the same imprint, but not all.  Is this a new trend in in YA cover design (gone with the partial faces and showing of only body parts?) Take a look through the Goodreads Popular 2014 YA list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/ya-2014 and see what unfolds.

    IMG_20140903_101543

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 8:10 pm on September 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Do I have the right to be angry… 

    … at the really badly penned lyrics of a potentially interesting and weird Rock Musical? I sat through this off-Broadway production in painful silence, averting my eyes to the stage and the actors because I felt so sorry for them, having to deliver those lyrics! And anger simmered in my gut the whole time: how dare someone put on stage this production: in public, sell tickets, and demand all the production crew’s time and energy without at least putting SOME effort in coming up with more than 1 verse per song? Or at times, more than 10 words per song? The inane repetitive lyrics do not drive the points into the mind of this audience member but away from her thoughts – I tuned most of the words and ideas out when they were repeated 20 times over. I guess I just really dislike when I know that something could have been made better if only a little more effort was put into the process or perhaps the creators had bothered to seek some honest opinions to improve the results!

    Then some doubts set in. Do I have the right to be angry at something that is quite subjective. Apparently someone must have liked it enough, or is not bothered by the lack of writing talent to appreciate the production as a whole: weird but interesting world, most actors are capable or even quite talented, and a storyline that is simplistic and juvenile but at least has a convincing enough arc.

    All of these thoughts brought me back to the discussion of books and their flaws. I sometimes get really mad (or disappointed) when I find certain aspects or elements or devices in a book sub-par, and believe that these flaws could have been easily fixed. Sometimes, they become quite “fatal” and ruin my enjoyment of the whole. Over at Educating Alice, Monica Edinger wrote about her reaction to the Heavy Medal discussion on Fatal Flaws that might ruin the chances of a children’s book winning the Newbery. Fascinating discussion and valuable thoughts to digest. One person’s fatal flaw can be merely a blemish to another viewer or reader.

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 4:47 pm on August 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Sipping Rose Infused Tea 

    Drinking Pu-Er Tea infused with rose bought in a small tea shop on the northern path by the Greek Lake in Kunming, I sit in my living room and continue to remember and digest all this past summer contained — a summer unlike any other. I tried to summarize the experience of my 15-day trip and here’s the result (as posted on the Yak Yak board at WhereThereBeDragons.)

    More thoughts will come along and I decided to start using this blog to include more than just children’s and YA lit. book notes.

    Posted: August 20, 2014

    Practical, Cultural, Personal

    It has been almost 3 weeks since leaving Kunming and all the other cities/towns (Shaxi, Weishan, Weibaoshan, Shuanlang, Baoshan, Pupiao, etc.) I visited during the 15-day program with Dragons. On July 30th, I flew from Kunming to Shanghai and then to Vancouver to join my husband for a 2-week Alaskan cruise and did not get back to New York City until last Saturday. Much to sort through both in practical matters (laundry, pet care, grocery shopping) and internal matters — Dragons propelled me go through a most existentially challenging summer the intensity of which I cannot recall experiencing since in my 20s.

    Living a mere couple of blocks away from The 9/11 Memorial Ground which is now open to the public, I am used to threading my way through hundreds of tourists every time I need to get somewhere in the city (a ten-minute walk takes me to subway lines to the rest of the five boroughs.) This morning marked the first time I took that familiar walk since leaving for the China Educators program five weeks ago. And I was keenly aware of the reversal of roles – I, THE “local” and THEY, THE “tourists.” In my mind, I repeated the Dragons’ mantra: Tourist vs Traveler. Some of THEM surely are immersed travelers and aware of the culture and history of this place, but a whole lot of THEM surely are just tourists. By looking at me, a 4-foot-11, 51-year old Chinese woman, wearing sandals and a bamboo basket, who would know that I’m not a tourist/traveler? And how can I tell for sure that some of them are not 9/11 victims families coming from Brooklyn or New Jersey to pay tribute and respect to their loved ones?

    Thinking further: I’m not even sure that I can truly label myself as a “local” — being here for 23 years after growing up and educated in Taiwan kind of makes me only a semi-local, doesn’t it? Where could I truly call home? Taipei where I was raised? New York City where I reside now? Baoshan which was printed as my “origin city” on my Taiwan national ID?

    These kinds of multi-stepped thoughts manifested on an hourly-basis while I was with Dragons.

    They cropped up while the leaders, Max and Yingzhao, walked the five of us in the group through practical exercises for educators who might be leading a student group to a foreign country following Dragons’ experiential model. I took quite a bit of notes and asked a lot of questions about the stages of Group Dynamics, about the basics of Non Violent Communication (which I thought perhaps could be termed Non Aggressive Communication,) meditation techniques, and different icebreakers and check-in techniques. The hows, the whys, and the why-nots. The could it be…. and couldn’t it be… s as well. Whatever was given to us, I wanted to dig up more!

    Then there were the more complex issues of cultural adaptations, interpretations, mis-interpretations, encounters, understandings and misunderstandings. My life-long knowledge of Chinese history, geography, literature, and traditions both enriched my experiences during those 15 days and challenged my status as a “knowing” but “foreign” outsider. I don’t even know what an average monthly salary for a middle school teacher is and how is that compared to the living standard: what is the monthly rent for a 3-bedroom apartment and how much it will cost to buy such a unit? I don’t know who the most popular local singers are and where might I buy a reasonably priced rice cooker. I observed, I photographed, and I talked and talked and talked to any locals that would talk back to me. Making friends with Mr. Ma who had a sweet-soup stand in the courtyard shopping ground within the Green Lake Park gave me just a little window into the life of a local shop owner. He and his family are believers of the Islamic faith. They just finished observing Ramadan. The ingredients of their food come from rural Yunnan. His daughter is studying to go to college, and along with his wife and his nephew, who is 24, helps him with running the shop. Business is decent. We talked about my family root in Yunnan and the political relationships between Taiwan and China. His nephew firmly believes that Taiwan should just be absorbed as an official Province (or special political unit) of China. And I found out that the attitude toward Chiang Kai Shek and his military strategies during WWII, fighting against the Japanese invasion, has completely changed in China in the past few years. Now they recognize his and Kuomintang’s achievements. This altered view was confirmed time and time again by others whom I met during the time in Kunming. Much to my joy and relief, since being an army brat of the Kuomintang armed forces, I had always feared the animosity that could be hurled my way if my affiliation had been revealed.

    Meeting Lao Zhang, an artist and writer, who survived and thrived after The Cultural Revolution added even more cultural perspectives. I learned yet more from too many others to detail here…. Mr. Yu, a total stranger who gave me a ride and helped me find my ancestral home, my cousins, Ms. Ji, who runs a cafe in Shaxi, Shitou (Rock – a 25-year-old woman from Shandong province) who served as my impromptu tour guide in Shaxi, the Taoist priest who showed me the scripture he was reciting in the morning “lesson,” the girls who mind the shops in Baoshan, etc.

    Holding all of the information in my mind, feeling the powerful emotion of “going back to the motherland” for the first time in my heart, and trying to learn new techniques of group management while being part of a group that’s being managed, was truly too overwhelming for me to absorb at once in such a short time. (Not to mention miraculously finding my relatives separated since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, 65 years ago.)

    This finally led to the toughest, most complex, and mind-shattering aspect of the whole trip: my personal identity struggles. My many years of complacency of self-worth, self-awareness, and self-understanding were jolted by the thunder and lightning of an internal flash storm which questioned whether I actually knew myself — what was my own identity? Stripped off of the coziness constructed with long time friends, a loving family, fairly established professional standing, and the most satisfying dream-job, and many other aspects of my daily existence such as the art and music I love, I had an opportunity to examine me as ME, raw. It was a frightening experience, one that I am still trying to recover from, and yet it was also a truly incredible experience, leaving me hopeful that I might have learned a couple of new things, even though I did not go on this trip to re-establish my self-awareness or re-construct my ways of relating to others.
    It has been almost 3 weeks since leaving China… and I am still re-considering priorities, trying to decipher reasons behind my fears and reluctances, and figuring out how I can improve fluency in empathy.

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 12:20 pm on July 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    ALSC and its newly revised policy on members who serve on the committee 

    Over at Horn Book, Roger Sutton, the editor in chief, recently published an editorial that sparked a bit of a discussion and controversy over the January 2014 revised Policy for Service on Award Committees. This is a publicly accessible document that governs various aspects of members of such committees such as Sibert (for nonficiton,) Newbery (for text) and Caldecot (for illustrations) awards for American Children’s Books published each year. I posted quite a few comments there but decided also to add some thoughts here. One of my biggest concern as a long-time ALSC member (and former Newbery member twice over and Notable Children’s Books selection committee, among other non-book related committees) is how the Division itself “regards” its member body. The preamble of this document states:

    “ALSC affirms its confidence in the integrity of members who are invited to be nominated or appointed to serve on award committees, and in the integrity of the officers or nominating committees responsible for selecting candidates. Because of the nature of the work of such committees, those who serve on them must be especially sensitive to conflict of interest situations and the appearance of impropriety. The purpose of this policy is to clarify the eligibility and responsibility of candidates asked to serve on such committees.”

    To me, the first two sentences are antithesis to each other — I mentally translated these two sentences to: Great, the Division states first and foremost that IT trusts implicitly the integrity of ITS members (librarians, classroom teachers, reviewers, professors, etc.) and that they will behave professionally and with civility while they serve on these highly sought after committee posts (paying their own way to attend conferences and donating at least a whole year of their time to read and think and discuss the eligible titles). Oh-but wait wait, the second sentence negate all that was implied in the first sentence. It seems to be saying that “since you, the DIVISION’S members who have the privilege (as pointed out later in the document) to serve on such committees really don’t know how to behave using print or online media, you must be told exactly what you can and cannot do because, um…. we actually don’t trust you at all without spelling everything out and without putting a muzzle on all your opinion outlets (in this newly revised guideline, the outlets include blogs, twitter, official and professional signed reviews, etc.)

    In the older version of the document, it was pointed out that one can always express one’s personal opinions over eligible titles even while serving on the committee as long as one makes it amply clear that it’s a personal expression and the process is to be trusted — 15 people with 15 different opinions and affiliations and experiences tend to cancel out all the “personal” stuff and come to a communal decision that serves the public well. The new policy revision seems to me to put huge stock on a few people’s personal’s opinions and place little or no trust in the time-honored, although often seemingly mysterious, process of how Newbery, Caldecott, and other children’s book award winning titles are chosen.

    Just want to clarify: you’re still allowed to verbally express your personal opinions with your colleagues or friends or patrons — just never to publish them anywhere.

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 10:15 am on May 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    I should not have been surprised but nonetheless am stunned at how many characters (in the recent YA books I have read) who are portrayed as beautiful/good looking/gorgeous/handsome/pretty whose first and often most prominently described feature is “blue eyes” or “green eyes” or any variations of these two colors (emerald, icy blue, baby blue, deep blue, deep lake, etc.) Enough that when I read about the beauty of a pair of dark brown eyes I let out an audible hoot!

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 11:18 am on February 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    Continue interesting discussion over on ccbc-net re character ethnicities in children’s / YA books. And here’s a little rant I just posted there:

    Also re Hunger Games — There’s always the discussion over Katniss’s ethnicity — she’s described as having “olive skin” and dark hair, eyes, etc. while her mother and Prim are fair haired and blue eyed. Does that indicate that she’s mix-raced? Does anyone know how Suzanne Collins envisioned her? What is Olive skin, anyway? Light or dark brown cured in a barrell? Green on the tree? Black in a can? Can we all just agree that this is a useless descriptor and toss it out of the window as of Feb. 2014?

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 12:32 pm on January 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , thoughts, YA Lit   

    Why I Serve on Selection/Award Lists Commmittees 

    The reasons are really quite simple: to force myself to read constantly, for a purpose, and reach beyond my own comfort zone.

    I’ve been quite lucky in the last 15 years or so, to have the opportunity to serve on various children’s and YA literature selection/award committees.

    Each experience pushed me to expose myself to genres or books that I would not have reached for naturally —

    For more than five years now, I work with Monica Edinger and Jonathan Hunt annually to prepare for SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books. Both are dear friends who read quickly and have strong opinions — they keep me on my toes and encourage me to seek out worthy contenders and to discuss and argue about them!

    Notable Children’s Recordings committee (back in the late 90s’) taught me how to listen for technical excellence, for great voice acting talents, and for content respecting children’s intellect and sensibilities.

    Twice on the Newbery (2002 and 2013) propelled me to consider each author’s crafts critically: be they creators of nonfiction, poetry, historical fiction, or humorous realistic stories, etc.

    The two years serving on the Notable Children’s Books (2008 and 2009, with about 3000 books submitted each year) committee really impressed on me the breadth and depth of the children’s publishing field and even though I was not working with younger readers/listeners, I got to relive the beauty and joy of picture books that I almost had otherwise forgotten!

    Deciding to help with CYBILS first round of Graphic Novels selection panel (2013) was my way of urging myself to know more about this ever trending field for children and YA and it definitely served me well — and of course, I hope that it serves the world at large well, too! I also served as a final round judge for Cybils Fantasy panel in 2006, supporting passionately for our winner Jonathan Stroud, Ptolemy’s Gate.)

    Now, embarking on the 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults (even though my term of service does not start until February) adventure, I can’t even start fathoming the great benefit I’ll reap from this experience: becoming more familiar with the field: the top authors, new and talented creators, trending and/or tired themes, and perhaps even glimpses of future directions.

    And every committee also allowed me to admire and take from my fellow committee members the wealth of literary knowledge the enriched my own.

    Yes, I definitely feel quite selfish when it comes to “serving” on these committees — but, hopefully it also in turn serves my community: having a well stocked mental library to draw inspirations and information from, I have ready answers and recommendations whenever a child asks for the next book or series to fall in love with, whenever I need to compile a reading list or conduct a literary lesson, and whenever consulted by teachers, administrators, and parents.

    Serving on these committees is really the best (and possibly the ONLY) way for me, an extremely slow reader, to continue sharpening my tools of the trade! So, let me continue to be indulgent and selfish… and revel in the excitement and responsibilities of such committees!

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 9:58 am on December 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Thinking Graphics 

    I’ve been reading more graphic novels of late, due to my responsibility as the first round selection judge on the CYBILS Graphic Novels (both MG and YA) panel.  And my mind swirls — especially after reading many reviews of graphic novels: both from educators/librarians and from GN fan sites.  What glares back at me review after review is how most people spend at least 85%, if not more, of the review addressing plot, character, setting, writing style, etc. and only one or two sentences on the artwork.  Often these sentences are general, broad, and feel like an after-thought.

    Very few reviewers get into the actual artistic aspects of the books — how the artist uses lines (effectively or excessively?); how the facial expressions are captured (or not); do the background/foreground receive the same details (should they or should they not, depending on the style and the demand of the narrative); are there effectively varied perspectives; are depths of perception employed (in a good way or unnecessarily?); what TYPES of artistic styles or media are employed: cartoony? impressionistic? modern? realistic? pen-and-ink? watercolor?; how about tonal discussion: humorous? harsh? gentle? intense? and how did the artist achieve these tones?  And so so many more things that should be addressed in any review of a graphic novel — including the colorist’s achievement, the letterer’s choice and accomplishment (yes, many people use computer fonts instead of hand lettering now, but the CHOICE of font is still important), the panel layouts, the employment of comic books conventional elements such as gutters, speech bubble placements/usages, narrative boxes, etc.

    I am no art critic and have only a limited vocabulary when it comes to discussing artwork and layout designs but I intend to improve upon that and hopefully in the future, when I write about graphic novels, I will include a good balance between discussion of the text and examination of the artwork.

     

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 11:02 pm on November 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Defending Ender's Game, the Book 

    Recently on an online listserv, a member posted some objections re Ender’s Game and I responded with the following. (I will be paraphrasing and truncating the original objections):

    Since I have read (and listened to the audio book) multiple times, I hope that potentially I have done the “close reading” that [the listserv member] and her students have done with the book. I am going to address each of the four points:

    1. A question on how could Ender repent/whine/moan when he obviously knew he was enlisting in the military for a total war?

    We must consider the world that Ender is born into. He did not really have a choice to be on the training path to be chosen or not. His existence as a THIRD is quite literally unbearable, and his living in the house with a monster brother who at any moment might murder him definitely does not make staying home as a desirable option. He went up to Battle School at age 6 — even as brilliant a strategist as he was, he was naive in many many ways of the people — he was NOT given the opportunities to develop those. Just consider his first encounter on the launch shuttle, how he BELIEVES that Graff is his FRIEND and gets his wish shattered into pieces. So, to say that he “signed on to be the killer” because he joined the military and blame him later on for not being able to deal with not just WAR and KILLING but GENOCIDE — seems to me not fully understanding the book’s themes. Ask many service men, how many of them are shocked (in their late teens, early 20s or even later?) when they actually are put in combat? I’d say a LOT of them. So why can’t Ender be repentant? (He never moans or whines — his sorrow is SO much deeper than those emotions.)

    2. Orson Scott Card praises children’s intelligence in the foreword but then makes his child character so manipulatable — that’s self-contradicting.

    Not at all — In fact, in the end, Graff’s “intelligence” and “manipulation” – although ensured the winning of this ONE total war, makes him and the world leaders look like the worst people possible while Ender comes out as a lot more Humane and Saint-like. We must not forget that they live in a post-Alien attack world where everyone’s brainwashed to a certain extend, and there is a whole entire system of manipulation, lots of secret keeping, etc. For those of us who have read Ender’s Shadow, we would know how Card created another brilliant child who was NOT AT ALL manipulated by the System — and the reason why Ender was so manipulatable was the fact that he’s incredibly trusting and has “a flaw of wanting to form connections with others” — which is EXACTLY why he is a BELOVED leader and Bean is just his second in command whom everyone respects but cannot truly adore. So, no, the author (Orson Scott Card) knows exactly what he’s doing with his child characters.

    3. Orson Scott Card romanticized total warfare and the video-game-style warfare, making him socially irresponsible.

    I don’t really have much to say about this point except that I do not see how this book or the whole series is romanticizing total warfare where the ending was the strong sentiment AGAINST fighting against another group of people AT ALL — Ender finally understands The Other and spends the rest of his life to make peace and to make others see the peace that is necessary and achievable. And I am totally at a loss as to how “predicting the video-game-style warfare” that we are developing these days is “irresponsible.” Please elaborate.

    4. To favor elitism is offensive. The book dismisses anyone who is not a genius.

    I think this is definitely where people have to agree to disagree. For me, it is SO great that we have a book that celebrate intelligence and political savvy over brute forces or some sort of magical talents. I cannot understand how that is offensive. Are we saying that if we have characters who are geniuses, we should somehow portrait them as undesirable leaders of the society? We should make fun of them? We should “put them in their places”? and refuse to let them tell others what to do??? I also am not sure that there are ANY “not geniuses” characters in the book — and that’s kind of the point — Battle and Command Schools are for those who have the capacities to fight and to lead — we are not given the rest of the world and Card didn’t set out to write about the rest of the world. That’s the scope of the book’s setting — if Card included other aspects of the world (which he did in Ender’s Shadow and definitely in Speaker for the Dead and other sequels) and botched it, we should definitely discuss the flaws — but as an author, he made a choice: he CHOSE to set the tale within a confined environment. Surely we cannot fault him for that? (That would be like faulting Baum for not giving a good picture of Kansas at the turn of the 20th century when he wrote OZ stories!)

     
    • Robert 12:39 am on November 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Right on!! Each point well answered. One must read more than just ENDER’S GAME to get a good look at Ender Wiggins’ character and what Card was telling us. (Also note: Baum did give a good picture of Kansas … ” grey “)

  • Roxanne Feldman 9:03 pm on August 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chidrens lit, , thoughts   

    A Girl or A Boy? Do you care? 

    (I posted this to the CCBC-Net discussion list as the current topic is on Gender Roles in Picture Books.  Slightly off topic there but I want to share it with others here, too):

    Recently, at a Simon and Schuster fall preview for librarians, we were introduced to a reading recommendation app on the Ready to Read site — that can be found here:

    http://www.readytoread.com/recommendation-app

    This is set up so that parents and teachers can find beginning readers that fit their specific, individual young readers’ needs — you can choose by interests, by reading levels, by age/grades, etc.  At the preview, several of the attending librarians (including me) were aghast to find that the first question of identifying a young “Reading Star” is:

    “Is your Reading Star a boy or a girl?” with the BINARY choices of BOY and GIRL.

    And if you followed through with one of the two choices, the books recommended tend to be stereotypically for a specific gender — even if the choices of interests might not be stereotypical.

    I did two quick searches:

    Girl + Age 6 + Grade 1 + Sports (skipped reading level) got me:

    Henry & Mudge and the Happy Cat, The Really Rotten Princess, and whole bunch of Annie and Snowball books, Katy Duck books, Eloise books, and also a few Childhood of Famous Americans (all males) books.

    Boy + Age 6 + Grade 1 + Sports (skipped reading level) got me:

    Henry and Mudge books, the same Childhood of Famous Americans, and Jon Sciezka’s Truck Town books, Robin Hill School books, Mike the Knight books, a book on Martin Luther King Jr. and another on Johnny Appleseed.

    (What I didn’t quite understand is how the Robin Hill School books are pegged as “BOY” books and not gender-neutral to be picked up by both choices.)

    After the first wave of shock subsided, I started considering: why did S&S think it so important to identify GENDER as the first and ultimately most defining question that split the recommendation path into two?  Because, I imagine, market research must have shown that even in 2013, a child’s gender and his/her traditionally and socially assigned gender role remain the most common and most unconscious “invisible stamps” that we adults affix on any child.

    One asks a new (or expectant) parent, always, if the baby is a girl or a boy.  Going into a children’s clothing store is stepping into a Binary World where you only visit ONE side of the store if you are looking to buy an outfit for a specific child.  One feels really bad and apologetic if one accidentally uses the wrong pronoun when addressing a child or if one mistakes a child’s gender due to presumptions based on outfits, hair styles, or mannerism. (Heck, we even do that with dogs and cats!)

    So, I guess what I am trying to say, in a very round about way, is this: there is a huge societal and economic factor in what kind of books published for children.  For each one of us who wishes to bust the traditional gender-role assignment, there are dozens (or hundreds?) of marketing and sales people who KNOW how traditionally gender-assigned merchandise (and yes, books ARE goods for sale) just do better on the mass market.

    I do not blame the publishers to not regard exacting social changes as their number one mission.  I just wish that there eventually will be enough demand from the parents, teachers, librarians, and the kids themselves to turn the tide.  We will then see plenty of non-traditional gender roles in books for children as a matter of fact, not a social changing agent — but a reflection of the world around us.

    However, I also don’t want to sit back and just take it passively.  Educators and parents CAN help by making some waves in small ways.  I wanted to do something about this Ready to Read App.

    So, I emailed the marketing director and found that more than one person had expressed our dismay at the Binary Options on the App. The Ready to Read team listened to us and added another option on that page: SKIP.  Which allows for parents and teachers to say, “I actually don’t care if the books are stereotypically assigned to girls or boys — just give me stuff at the right level and addressing the kid’s interests… ”  I applaud this clever solution!!!

    I did another search today:

    Skipping gender + Age 6 + Grade 1 + Sports got me:

    (curiously) not MORE books and not ALL the books that were assigned to BOTH girls and boys — there are Annie and Snowball and Henry and Mudge — but Robin Hill School and Truck Town are completely missing and no more Childhood of Famous Americans…)  I guess the team still needs to work on their algorithm but at least this is a start!

     
    • Linda Stanek 5:37 pm on August 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      When my 3-year-old niece was a baby, my sister wanted to buy a “busy box” and was appalled to find them all gendered–pink castles on one, blue sports stuff on the other. She ended buying a non-gendered from a resale shop–it was the only way to get an un-gendered one. Crazy!

      • fairrosa 9:08 pm on August 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Apparently, the current market research still points at the Fluffy Pink Girl and Tough Truck Boy divide. According to the publisher, parents in general still want to find books (products) that “speak to a specific gender” first and foremost.

  • Roxanne Feldman 8:56 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Response to NPR 100 Must Reads for Ages 9 – 14 — Part 2 

    It turned out that I have more to say and more wish lists to compile:

    First off, According to a child_lit member, “In the first 50 books, there are only 8 books published since the turn of the century.  The average age of the first 50 books?  44.  The average publication date is 1969.”

    And I noticed that some of the titles/series seem to belong on another, slightly younger recommended list, such as, Sarah Plain and Tall, Romana, the Little House series and Hundred Dresses.  Or perhaps I’m off base here?  I’m also surprised that there is no School Life section — perhaps it should be grouped with Family Life.

    Here are the rest of the sections and my Wish Lists!

     

    Family Life (I want School Life to be added here)

    Agreeing:

    Walk Two Moons (11, 12, 13)

    The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (10, 11, 12)

    One Crazy Summer (10, 11, 12)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    Casson Family series (Saffy’s Angel and sequels) (10, 11, 12)

    Frindle (if School Life is here) (9, 10)

    Al Capone Does My Shirts (9, 10, 11)

    Bell Prater’s Boy (9, 10, 11)

    A Corner of the Universe (11, 12, 13)

     

    Fantasy Worlds

    Agreeing:

    The Chronicles of Prydain (10, 11, 12)

    Peter Pan (11, 12, 13, 14)

    Oz, The Complete Collection (10, 11, 12)

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (9, 10, 11)

    The City of Ember (shouldn’t this be SciFi?) (9, 10, 12)

    A Wizard of Earthsea (12, 13, 14)

    The Chronicles of Narnia (10, 11, 12)

    The Giver (11, 12, 13, 14)

    His Dark Materials (11, 12, 13, 14)

    The Hobbit, Or, There And Back Again (9, 10, 11, 12)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    (Fantasy is my favorite genre, so I can probably come up with about 50 Must Reads just here.. haha… )

    Gregor the Overlander series (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Bartimaeus series (10, 11, 12, 13, 14)

    Howl’s Moving Castle (10, 11, 12, 13)

    Inkheart (11, 12, 13)

    The Neverending Story (11, 12, 13)

    Friendships And Finding Your Place (probably school stories can go here, too)

    Agreeing:

    The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (9, 10, 11)

    Are You There, God? (10, 11, 12)

    The Secret Garden (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Harriet the Spy (9, 10, 11)

    Wonder (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Bridge to Terabithia (10, 11, 12)

    Holes (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Maniac Magee (10, 11, 12)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST:

    Hope Was Here (11, 12, 13)

    So B. It (10, 11, 12)

    A Mango Shaped Space (10, 11, 12, 13)

    Olive’s Ocean (10, 11, 12)

    Six Innings (10, 11, 12)

    Black and White (13, 14, and older)

     

    Good For A Laugh

    Agreeing.. sort of:

    Matilda (Not really just funny.. should be in Everyday Magic) (9, 10, 11)

    The Phantom Tollbooth (should be in Everyday Magic) (9, 10, 11)

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid (9, 10)

    Joey Pigza series (9, 10, 11, 12)

    The Grand Escape (9, 10, 11)

    Jack and the Seven Deadly Giants (9, 10, 11)

    Graphic Novels

    Bone (9, 10, 11)

    The Arrival (9, 10, 11, 12)

    American Born Chinese (13, 14, older)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    Rapunzel’s Revenge (9, 10, 11)

    Amulet series (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Persepolis (I know. this is a memoir… but) (13, 14, older)

    Mysteries And Thrillers

    Agreeing:

    Wolves of Willoughby Chase (9, 10, 11)

    The House With a Clock in Its Walls  (9, 10, 11)

    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (9, 10, 11)

    The Invention of Hugo Cabret (9, 10, 11)

    When You Reach Me (9, 10, 11)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST:

    The Westing Game (9, 10, 11)

    The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (11, 12, 13)

    The Face on the Milk Carton (11, 12, 13)

    Killing Mr. Griffin (13, 14, older)

    Coraline (10, 11, 12)

    And Then There Were None (yup.. I went there!) (12, 13, 14)

    Myths And Fairy Tales

    Agreeing:

    The Dark Is Rising Sequence (11, 12, 13)

    D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (9, 10, 11)

    The Little Prince (10, 11, 12, 13)

    Ella Enchanted (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (9, 10, 11)

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (9, 10, 11, 12)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    A Tale Dark and Grimm (9, 10, 11)

    Fairy’s Return (containing 6 stories (9, 10, 11)

    Science Fiction (weird to have only 3 titles!)

    Agreeing:

    Ender’s Game (12, 13, 14)

    The House of the Scorpion (11, 12, 13)

    A Wrinkle in Time series (10, 11, 12)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    The Hunger Games (12, 13, 14)

    The Boy Who Reversed Himself (11, 12, 13)

    Epic (11, 12, 13)

    Incarceron (12, 13, 14)

    Airman (11, 12, 13)

    The Dead (series) (12, 13, 14)

    Ender’s Shadow (12, 13, 14)

    Atherton (11, 12, 13)

    Survival And Adventure

    Agreeing:

    Julie of the Wolves (11, 12, 13)

    Island of the Blue Dolphins (11, 12, 13)

    Hatchet (11, 12, 13)

    The Twenty-one Balloons (9, 10, 11)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    Trash (10, 11, 12)

    Peak (11, 12, 13)

     
    • DaNae 11:24 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I’m reading the Casson books for the first time this summer and feeling really cheated I didn’t bond with them earlier. I can agree with most your additions. But I’m imbalanced in my love for OKAY FOR NOW, so we will need to part ways over your omission.

      • fairrosa 11:31 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Haha… I loved Okay For Now… So, sure, we can keep it on the list.

  • Roxanne Feldman 5:25 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , thoughts   

    Response to NPR 100 Must Reads for Ages 9 – 14 — Part 1 

    I don’t know whether I’ll have time to finish this since we’re getting ready to travel and I have too many chores (including shopping.. ugh! my least favorite thing to do.) But, some initial reactions:

    1st Reaction: I wish that they had indicated ages for each title — a 9-year-old probably should wait a few years to read An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; and a 14-year-old probably will not be the ideal reader to be introduced to Bunnicula for the first time.

    2nd Reaction: WHAT? No, Nonfiction???? Really? Are we saying that there are no worthy, must reads for kids ages 9 to 14? Or are we saying that they do not have to read Nonfiction. Period? Actually.. there is a Biography, Memoir, and History section — just no general knowledge or science. So they go on my short wish list here IF they had included a Nonfiction section:

    Swords: An Artist’s Devotion (9-14)

    Scientists in the Field series (9-12)

    The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (10-14)

    Fossil Fish: Found Alive (10-14)

    3rd Reaction: WHAT? Only ONE book in POETRY???? And Linda Sue has that amazing Soji poetry collection that’s so worth reading by EVERY school child! So, her book gets on this wish list:

    Agreeing:

    Inside Out and Back Again (9, 10, 11)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST:

    Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems): (8-12)

    Blue Lipstick (12-14)

    Diamond Willow (9-12)

    Keeping the Night Watch (11-14)

    God Went to Beauty School (11-14)

    Peace, Locomotion (10, 11, 12)

    4th Reaction: WHERE ARE THE FUNNY BOOKS? Doesn’t it deserve its own category? Oh, well.. probably not — but that’s what the kids constantly ask for by APPEAL TERM. There are enough humor sprinkled throughout the list I guess… (It is pointed out to me that there IS a Good for a Laugh Section. My bad!)

    I also went through the first few sections and marked down which ones I strongly agree that they belong on MY list of top 100, tagged them with recommended ages, and added my own WISH LISTS:

    American Stories

    Agreeing:

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian — (14+)

    Caddie Woodlawn — (8, 9, 10)

    The House on Mango Street — (12, 13, 14)

    The Birchbark House — (11, 12, 13)

    To Kill a Mockingbird — (13, 14, +)

    The Witch of Blackbird Pond — (10, 11, 12)

    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry — (11, 12, 13)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST:

    Weedflower (11, 12, 13)

    Out of the Dust (11, 12, 13)

    Count Down (11, 12, 13)

    Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (12, 13, 14)

     

    Animal Kingdom

    Agreeing:

    The One And Only Ivan (8, 9, 10)

    Poppy (8, 9, 10)

    Because of Winn-dixie (8 , 9, 10)

    Redwall (9, 10, 11, 12)

    The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh (10, 11)

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (9, 10, 11, 12 — should be in SciFi)

    Charlotte’s Web (8, 9, 10)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST:

    Little Gentleman (10, 11, 12)

    The Tale of Despereaux (9, 10, 11)

    Babe, the Gallant Pig (9, 10, 11)

    I Was a Rat (9, 10, 11)

     

    Biography, Memoir And History

    Agreeing

    Anne Frank the Diary of a Young Girl (13, 14)

    Eleanor Roosevelt (11, 12, 13)

    Bomb (11, 12, 13, 14)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    This Land Was Made for You and Me (12, 13, 14)

    Bill Peet (9, 10, 11)

    Guts: The True Story Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books (9, 10, 11, 12)

    True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall (13, 14, older)

    Maus (13, 14, older)

    Horrible Histories series (9, 10, 11)

    We Are the Ship (11, 12, 13)

    Good Masters, Sweet Ladies (10, 11, 12, 13)

     

    Everyday Magic

    Agreeing

    Tuck Everlasting (10, 11, 12)

    James and the Giant Peach (8, 9, 10)

    Half Magic (8, 9, 10)

    The Graveyard Book (10, 11, 12, 13)

    Harry Potter series (9, 10, 11, 12)

    A Series of Unfortunate Events books (9, 10, 11, 12)

    FAIRROSA’S WISH LIST

    The Spiderwick Chronicles (9, 10)

    Savvy (9, 10, 11, 12)

    Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat (9, 10, 11)

     
    • Amy 5:58 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      There’s a section of funny books called “Good for a Laugh”.

    • fairrosa 6:08 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Ah.. my bad… will revise :)

    • fairrosa 6:16 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      That section has four books :)

    • DaNae 8:38 am on August 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I like that you included age recommendations. Aside from the first few years of life there is no greater swing in developmental change than the early adolescent years. I see this reflected in reading choices. It is hard to comfortably pigeonhole.

      I like your non-fiction choices, but it reminds me that my copy of SWORDS bit the dust this year and I need to look into replacing it, although the students who are drawn to it make me a little nervous with their devotion.

      • fairrosa 8:52 am on August 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Swords is simply too beautiful to worry about those who are into it! It also contains a lot of information and I have multiple copies for the enthusiastic bunch.

  • Roxanne Feldman 5:17 pm on August 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , thoughts   

    Quick thoughts of the day: Don’t have knee jerk reactions to this story: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/08/masturbation-gets-book-banned-summer-reading-list/67872/ — the inclusion of Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian probably does not belong on a summer required reading list (with required writing assignment attached) for INCOMING 6th Grade students in the first place!

    And … seen on twitter – a list of YA books for adults who will NOT read YA. And Reluctant Adult YA Readers have to be cured… because……?

     
    • DaNae 6:34 pm on August 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      To make this book required is misjudged. Yes, the book should be available and even recommended but obligatory – no. Overlooking what many students and their parents are comfortable with at eleven-years-old just gives the likes of FOX news the opportunity to diminish one the best YA books of any and all time to “a book on masturbation”. Sometimes I feel like well-meaning educators show up with the kindling for the book burners.

    • fairrosa 7:34 pm on August 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      “Sometimes I feel like well-meaning educators show up with the kindling for the book burners.” That’s such an image… I am not saying that there are no 11-year-olds who are able to appreciate, process, and even benefit from reading this book. I just won’t give this to a bunch of incoming young students without first knowing who they are as readers.

    • DaNae 4:02 pm on August 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Exactly. I would never tell my students what they should or shouldn’t read, but having a relationship with them helps me understand what different children will be ready for and guide them appropriately. I, personally, would have died of embarrassment at the age of 11 or, 18 for that matter, if I’d read Alexie’s book, but I think at least one of my own children would have loved it at that age.

  • Roxanne Feldman 12:08 pm on July 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    The Starring Debate 

    I’m reading a few blog posts this Friday morning (wow, almost noon, now.. seeing a movie that lets out at 3:15 a.m. and home after 4:00 a.m. definitely warps one’s timeline…) regarding whether to give stars to individual book reviews and notes and how people might take the starring system and use to their advantages:

    At School Library Journal – A Fire, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy examines “To Star or Not to Star“;

    At Educating Alice, my friend Monica Edinger talks about “The Thing About Stars“;

    And The Goddess of YA Literature denounces the whole starring system in her “Seeing Stars and Seeing Red” — which also touching on another topic that keeps me on my toes (but has not prevented me from taking forward steps): namely, whether to write negative reviews or not.  That will be another post for another day.

    Here’s my own thoughts as posted in a comment to Tea Cozy’s query:

    I agonize about starring a LOT on Goodreads — since you’re right about how so many books have both merits and flaws and how can one easily show that in the STARS system (especially when it’s only 5 stars.. I have so many books that I’d give 3.5 that wind up only getting 3.) There is also the differences between one reader and the next: I noticed that I give out a lot more 3 stars than 5s because to me FIVE is near perfect and there are just not that many near perfect books out there — but many readers freely bestow five stars to indicate that “This is a GOOD book! Really GOOD.” (but probably not near perfect.)

    I do use the stars for myself — I sort them by my own preferences so when I compile a list for work or when I need to recommend something to someone and memory failed me, my own system really helps. I also semi-rely on the average star system to check on books I have not read or books I have but want to take a pulse of the general public. I like the rating distribution / percentage chart. It’s not a perfect reflection, but I think it is telling.

    The biggest pet peeve I have is seeing a book that’s STILL TO BE PUBLISHED receiving stars based on the anticipation/expectation of the fans. Unless they are all conscientiously changing their reviews/stars after actually reading the books, this can throw off the average quite a bit.

    Like Ed, I think if you do post your stars publicly so the others (including educators and authors/publishers/editors) can see — it is only fair that you give reasons to substantiate the rating.

    (I will leave the reason why I stopped assigning low count stars on this blog for another day.) 

     
    • medinger 2:45 pm on July 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I actually don’t agree about having always to write something to go with stars on goodreads. Since I indicate books I’m reading once I’m finished I do feel obliged to at least acknowledge that I’ve done so. Some of these end up “read” and starless, some are ones I feel passionately about and have things to write about, and some I like, but have nothing clear about just why and so rather than writing something banal I prefer not to write anything. I sometimes reread books and then go back and write something (and sometimes change the stars). I do feel while I am aware that others pay attention to what I star, how, and what I have to say that I’m also doing it for myself.

      I do wholeheartedly agree with you about those who star books they haven’t read. That is, fans who even write in the review section, after giving the book in question five stars, that they can’t wait to read it. Now that is lame!

      • fairrosa 6:45 pm on July 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        I think you are right about reviews being not always necessary — especially if these are books read a long time ago or well established titles. For example, I might look at someone’s book list and just add the titles I already read a while back with star ratings to go with my memory of how much I liked them. But, let’s say I give something freshly published (or to be published) a one or a two star rating, I feel obliged to explain my problems with the book. Note that I said, “my” problems with the book and not “the book’s problems” because — as you and I both know, reading can be so subjective. Something that bothers me (i.e. a voice ringing false to MY inner voice detector) might not bother anyone else or might be a positive for someone (i.e. message-heavy.)

  • Roxanne Feldman 8:16 am on July 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: eBooks vs Paper Books, thoughts   

    Why I Love Paper Books 

    Reposting (with a little editing) my comments from a facebook conversation here:

    Regarding the switching over from reading paper books to purely ebooks for whatever reasons: Not that I don’t see that the words and stories and characters are what ultimately most readers want to “get out” of books they read. I too read books on my computer, on my phone, on kindle and iPads and I get about as much joy out of the content as reading a paper book.

    However, I cannot stress enough the value of books as objects of art and am always in awe by the artistry of expert book designers and producers: the tactile pleasure that one can gain from touching a specifically selected paper (say, the graph paper quality materials for the Templeton Twins books or the rough cut edged paper for The Tale of Desperaux) or even just simply the weight or trim size that varies from book to book so there is a physical memory of a particular book — holding horizontally Where the Wild Things are and opening it wide when sharing with a child on my lap or carrying the heavy tome of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I do not ever want to lose the opportunity to have all these added values that so far only paper books can achieve.

    I am holding a dainty book in my hand — it has a lot of white space (because it’s a free verse novel) and the page number is placed in a very unconventional place, with a bit of decorative design (that echoes the theme of the story) around each number… This makes me want to say, “Thank you,” to the book designer, to those who still take great care and artistic pride in making the books perfectly to enrich my life!

    When seeing someone else carrying a book I have read and loved and their thorough absorption in the world it opened for them, I feel an instant connection. Alas, with all the e-readers, I can no longer play I-Spy-What-Others-Read on the road or on the subway! I am deprived! I tell you, Deprived!!!

    (An added thought about the environment… paper, when produced without extreme logging practice and with effort of recycling, etc. is bio-degradable and can be “regrown” always…. I wonder, sometimes, about the electronic and plastic parts of eReaders and devices: are they more environmentally friendly? When old devices are tossed – recycled – what happens to them, really?)

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 7:43 pm on July 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , thoughts   

    This is why reading fiction can still teach one a LOT of “facts” in life: as I pondered the plausibility of a specific animal’s breeding behavior in book 55, I embarked on an adventure of educating myself something that I had never wondered because I thought I already “knew” the facts — it turned out, I was wrong and now I’m one-fact richer than yesterday :).

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 8:41 pm on June 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thoughts   

    http://sdlempke.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/all-awards-are-not-equal/

    All Awards Are Not Equal –> Mom’s Choice Award is obviously not proof of quality children’s literature! Be warned.

     
  • Roxanne Feldman 9:41 pm on April 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , narrative voice, , thoughts   

    Today, I’m thinking about narrative voice choices again. Employing a particular device is like handling fire… Especially when it is an unusual and potent one such as an ignorant, concealing, and unreliable first person narrator. When it is done right, it adds brilliance and life to the tale; but when it is fanned and carelessly left unattended, it will scorch and burn, metaphorically, the pages. The book I am about to finish suffers from just such unskilled fire keeper and, in this reader’s opinion, has been badly and unjustly incinerated. The idea of the tale is a solid and interesting one, but the book is definitely made inferior by the unwise choice of such a narrative device as beyond the talent of the author.

     
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