Category Archives: Other

The Complexities of Virtual Platforms When it Comes to the Newbery

Heavy Medal has a thoughtful post, debating the recent ouster of a Newbery Committee member for breaking rules related to social media. Here’s my comment:

This is such a dilemma. I started my blog in 2007 thinking naively that I’d feature a series on my Newbery reading (being on the 2008 Committee). Roger Sutton, on Caldecott, similarly had just started his blog. I remember vividly sitting with a bunch nascent bloggers at Midwinter that year where the Board was contemplating a rule that we could not blog at all. Happily they saw reason and we were allowed to blog non-award stuff. Since then I’ve watched the rules be strengthened and have puzzled about them. Why, I have wondered, can we talk in person about our preferences, but not online?

Sorting out what happened in this instance has helped me to understand. At first I was outraged, but then better understood how she had broken clearly delineated rules. And these conversations about what happened also makes it clear to me that for those with major social media following it is problematic to think of the platform in the same way as talking to a group of colleagues in RL. It is all that amplifying that is the problem. Your words go out to hundreds and thousands. So now sadly (because I too felt horrible for Angie) I better understand the need for this in some form. I look forward to seeing what the task force [established by ALSC president Nina Lindsay to revisit the guidelines] comes up with. Back in Roger’s and my day my sense was the Board was very vague on the nature of blogging, but now I assume there will be task force members who understand the situation thoroughly and thus trust their recommendations.

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Book Fest @ Bank Street College

New York, NY, September 13, 2017—On October 28th, Bank Street College of Education will host BookFest @ Bank Street, an annual event devoted to the celebration, discovery, and discussion of books for children and teens. This year, guests will hear from a number of renowned authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars from the children’s literature community in a series of panel discussions, thought-provoking presentations, and interactive small group book discussions. The event, which is intended for adults, will take a closer look at the unique and often award-winning approaches of some of the most celebrated names in children’s literature. Notable panelists will include six time Caldecott winner David Wiesner, author of Flotsam and Tuesday; Newbery medalist Rita Williams Garcia, author of Gone Crazy in Alabama; and Coretta Scott King winner, Carole Boston Weatherford. Children’s literature scholar Leonard Marcus will deliver a lecture on “Golden Legacy: The Story of Golden Books,” and the day will culminate in a
special keynote presentation by Carmen Agra Deedy, author of The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!.

Book discussion groups will center on topics in early childhood and adolescent categories such as middle grade and young adult titles, information books and graphic novels, and bilingual picture books, among others. Local children’s literature experts, reviewers, and teachers will lead the sessions. Attendees will be assigned to read the book that corresponds to their group prior to the event to prepare for deep discussion. Books by authors and artists will be available for purchase from the Bank Street Bookstore at the event.

The event, which has sold out in each of the past seven years, has limited seating for media who wish to attend. For a complete list of panels and moderators, please visit
bankstreet.edu/bookfest2017.

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On This First Day of School Remembering one Sixteen Years Ago

It was the first day of school for my new cohort of fourth graders here in our New York City private school.  Those kids are now moving on with their lives and the ones I’m going to meet in a few hours were not alive back then. But they will find a mascot of sorts in the classroom — ladybugs. I will hid 18 of them and when they come into the classroom each child will be required to find one. That will relax them and give me a chance to explain the ladybugs.

Why Ladybugs?

Because September 11, 2001 was the first day of school for Ms. Edinger’s fourth graders. They walked into her classroom that morning to discover a surprise — good luck chocolate ladybugs on their desks. They were delighted and happy, looking forward to a new school year. But then the planes hit the towers and everything changed.

For a long time after that nothing felt right at the school and in New York City. For weeks there were bomb threats, anthrax scares, helicopters hovering, jets zooming overhead, sudden-street-closings, the sound of police sirens, the National Guard everywhere, and frightening emergency evacuations unnerving everyone all the time. When the class finally had a week when nothing scary happened, Ms. Edinger gave each child another chocolate ladybug and explained how they were a symbol of good luck. For many of the children, this was so important that they kept those ladybugs in their desks all year. Many kept them for years after and may still have them for that matter.

To help the rest of the world better understand what it was like for these New York City children, Ms. Edinger wrote about them on several Internet list serves she was on. She was also invited to write an article for the London Times Educational Supplement which you can read here. And when people read about how important those good luck ladybugs were for her students they started sending them and the room became filled with them.

Ever after ladybugs have been a symbol for Ms. Edinger’s class. Her room is full of them!

Writing about Child_lit last week had me remembering the solace I received from that community on 9/11; you can get a taste in this anniversary post I wrote in 2008.

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In Memoriam: Child_lit

Born in late September of 1993, Child_lit was one of the first online discussion groups about children’s literature. Founded and maintained for twenty-four years by Rutger’s University rare book librarian Michael Joseph, it quickly became a community of individuals from many walks of life. Academics, booksellers, editors, publishers, librarians, writers, collectors, educators, illustrators, reviewers, publicists, and more interacted in this virtual space.

The Web was new in those days and social media as we know it now non-existent. Interacting virtually was also new for many on Child_lit, but we jumped in with enthusiasm, having intense conversations on a wide variety of topics. When issues arose in older media these became fodder for our discourse. Those there at the time are unlikely to forget a heated discussion provoked by Philip Pullman‘s 1998 Guardian article, “The Dark Side of Narnia” in which he fiercely articulated his distaste for Lewis’s series. In the midst of our conversation about the article we suddenly all received an email; it was from Philip asking how to join. He did and was an active and enthusiastic participant for many years. While the official archive is gone, Roxanne Feldman  captured some of our wonderful early conversations and has posted them here.

One of the wisest members of Child_lit was the illustrious Julius Lester. Regularly he wrote sage posts that gave everyone much to think about and often calmed us down as well. A conversation about Little Black Sambo inspired him to write Sam and the Tigers which he dedicated to the list serve. When I wrote of never having really read the Bible he sent me a copy. Another who taught us a great deal over the years was Debbie Reese. I well remember the dismay she voiced about racism her third grade daughter encountered at school; she subsequently was invited by Horn Book Magazine editor Roger Sutton to write the article, “Mom, Look! It’s George and He’s a TV Indian!” Debbie eventually started the critically important American Indians in Children’s Literature. 

For many of us in those early days it was an exciting time. I organized convention panels, drink gatherings, and restaurant meals. The very first was with Michael and a few others at the St. Regis King Cole bar, famed for its Maxfield Parrish mural. One of the most memorable for me was when a large group gathered to have brunch and then walk through Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Gates in Central Park.

The international aspect of the list was exhilarating.  I have a handful of saved posts and emails interacting with Sanjay Sircar who was in Australia. In real life I met another Australian Judith Ridge when she was traveling through the U. S. on a fellowship and British Jane Stemp Wickenden who took me to the Trout during a visit to Oxford. Then there was Philip Pullman who visited my home and entertained me more than once in Oxford. There were challenging times too (9/11 was one I remember vividly); we lost members to illness (I think of Ernie Bond, Kay Vandergrift, Chris Saad, Micki Nevett, and Karen Sue Simonetti); we also celebrated members’ achievements.

Over the years, people came and went. Blogs, Twitter and other forms of online interactions became familiar and popular. Similar lists ended, but Child_lit soldiered on. Until founder Michael Joseph decided its time was over. And while the original child_lit may be gone, it is still alive in other forms such as the children’s literature-UK group and a Facebook group.

For me, personally and professionally, Child_lit was one of the most important experiences of my life. It connected me to a world that I had not previously known I could enter. It taught me to write — when I was misunderstood I tried again and again — it made me a writer. It gave me dear friends. Ten years ago I wrote a post celebrating two individuals who changed my life, one of them Michael Joseph. I am not generally a sentimental or nostalgic person, but when it comes to Child_lit I am. It meant the world to me.

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Animals or People — Which Make Kids More Giving?

The article “Only Children’s Books With Humans, Have Moral Impact” has me rolling my eyes and snorting. To be fair, what caused my irritation wasn’t the article, but the study it featured (which can be read in an academic paper here).  And why am I so annoyed? Because I think the study is meaningless. The researchers asked some kids to do a task involving sharing stickers before and after reading them a book. They found that directly after hearing a book featuring animals the children were more selfish than when they listened to one featuring people. Did they check in a day later, a week later, a month later? Not to the best of knowledge. And if not, what does this prove? That little kids are briefly more selfish in one case of hearing a story featuring people than animals? I could have told them that kids can be temporarily more selfish after many situations. What matters if they are more or less selfish in the future and this study didn’t address that.
Count me a very big skeptic on this one.

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On The Mocking of Bad Spelling

I’m a terrible speller. I came to pre-computer college with this liability coupled with a worse one — an inability to revise due to a terror of writing given to me by an AP high school teacher who told me I need to “work on my writing” but not doing anything to help me. Since all my attempts to revise made things worse, I would hand in first drafts (typewritten, of course), filled with spelling errors. I remember one time I forgot to put my name on a paper and it came back with “Monica Edinger, I presume” written on it by the professor. I always thought he recognized my work by the spelling errors.

Because of this I have always been sympathetic to poor spellers, not attributing it to laziness, carelessness, or anything else. And so I agree with 

  • Criticizing spelling is elitist.

…. Yet there is an even deeper sort of elitism underlying the criticism of spelling mistakes. It stems from people correlating accurate spelling with a good education and outsize intelligence, which is actually incorrect.

There is not much scientific evidence to suggest that spelling well is connected to high intelligence. In the same way that some people are naturally better at arithmetic than others, some are naturally better spellers than others (and some people have lexical disabilities, like dyslexia, that make spelling even more difficult). But if you spell well, you can still do lots of dumb things, and if you spell poorly, you can still be very smart….

  • Focusing on spelling blinds us to content.

….All of this suggests that we are simply giving too much weight to spelling and other typographical mistakes. Focus on what people say, not how they spell it…..

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Cover Reveal for Avi’s The Button War

The distinguished and award-winning author, Avi, has a fascinating and unique new work of historical fiction coming out next June from Candlewick PressThe Button War.

Here is the publisher’s description:

Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of the world beyond his tiny Polish village; the Russians have occupied the land for as long as anyone can remember, but otherwise life is unremarkable. Patryk and his friends entertain themselves by coming up with dares — some more harmful than others — until the Germans drop a bomb on the schoolhouse and the Great War comes crashing in. As control of the village falls from one nation to another, Jurek, the ringleader of these friends, devises the best dare yet: whichever boy steals the nest military button will be king. But as sneaking buttons from uniforms hanging to dry progresses to looting the bodies of dead soldiers—and as Jurek’s obsession with being king escalates—Patryk begins to wonder whether their “button war” is still just a game. When devastation reaches their doorstep, the lines between the button war and the real war blur, especially for the increasingly callous Jurek. Master of historical fiction Avi delivers a fierce account of the boys of one war-torn village who are determined to prove themselves with a simple dare that spins disastrously out of control.

Here is a note from Avi about the book:

Many years ago, when my late father-in-law observed my young kids collecting baseball cards, he recalled growing up in Eastern Europe, when he and his friends collected (stole) uniform buttons from the ever-changing armies that passed through his village during World War I. That long-ago vignette was the basis for this book.

I think of this book as very different from my other books. Perhaps this will help to explain: When Graham Greene wrote the lm script for The Third Man (one of my favorite movies), he wrote it as a narrative. It was published that way and may be read as a novella. To some degree, I think of The Button War as a movie script, insofar that as I wrote I tried to visualize the book every bit of the way. (Usually I hear my books as I write.) A movie was not my intent, but in the sense that The Third Man was a movie script/novella, so too is The Button War.

Part of my research for this book was to look at many photographs of World War I. Newsreels too. I saw the boys as a real group. Watched them interact. Saw the world in which they lived — and its gradual destruction.

Moreover, I began to purchase the buttons (eBay!) and found them fascinating.

In short, this is a very real book to me.

In another Greene book, Our Man in Havana, he, for me, sums up what The Button War is:

“Childhood was the germ of all mistrust. You were cruelly joked upon and then you cruelly joked. You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it.”

And, tada, here is the cover!  Pretty intriguing, wouldn’t you say?

 

On sale June 12, 2018
HC: 978-0-7636-9053-3 • Also available as an e-book and in audio $16.99 ($21.99 CAN) • Ages 10–14 • 240 pages

Candlewick Press

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