Since today is World Penguin Day I thought I would share my love of penguin children’s literature. Do you have any favorite penguin books? Share them with me!
Well, I’m a day late, but it’s with much heart and soul that I bid you all HAPPY EARTH DAY! Earth Day started more than 30 years ago on April 22nd, 1970 in my adopted hometown of San Francisco. It has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, which makes sense since it’s celebrating the beauty and wonder of our home planet.
However, Earth Day also carries with it a warning–we’ve only got one planet, so we better treat her right! Living in harmony with the environment is a noble goal. And it has always bugged me that I work in the publishing industry…an industry that uses tons of paper.
In honor of Earth Day, I’m going to give a shout out to one of the most ecological developments in the entire publishing industry: eBooks! Sure, it still costs some energy to create an eBook and view it on a Kindle or Nook. But compared to the amount of paper we use to print libraries of paper books, I’m a big proponent of digital books.
What do you think about books, publishing and ecology? Can you share some tips to conserve and preserve for readers, authors and publishers?
Everything literary in this country seems to happen in April. International Children’s Book Day (okay, that’s not just this country), National Library Week, and, next up, (now in fact) National Library Workers Week.
So, speaking as a part-time library worker, I want to thank the nation for all the appreciation my colleagues and I have been getting since Monday, and …. Oh, wait … you didn’t know, right?
No problem. Most library workers get a fair amount of appreciation for the jobs we do. Most library users are actually a little afraid of libraries and of the people who ork in them, so when they find out that we’re not there to intimidate or threaten them (what do they expect? “Put that book down now and march right out of this building. And don’t come back!”) they can be excessively grateful.
Most librarians (and it’s important to remember that not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. There are four or five other ranks of being, like angels) who go into public service really did do so in order to serve the public, and in these days of internet self-service reference (honstly, why do people want to make their own mistakes when they are already paying us to make mistakes for them?) a good reference question is more treasured than ever. I used to work in a place where we were asked for that kind of help so infrequently that when we got a good one, we’d go back in the work area and tell everyone.
We all have favorites. One of mine happened years ago when a young man trained as a bakery and about to open his own high-class pastry shop, came in and asked for a recipe for an elaborate French dessert which he hadn’t been able to find anywhere.
This was actually an easy out, given a good section of 641′s (cook books) which we had. In fact, I happened to know the book that would almost certainly have it, and did. Time elapsed, about thtee minutes. he could hardly believe it had been so easy.
And there’s the children’s programming. If you become a stoyteller, you’ll probably develop a following. Kids will show up every week to hear you do their favorite song. You get a name, like The Monday-Monday Man. On a good day, you may get your leg hugged.
So, thanks very much for the National Week, but the fact of the matter is that, in those places where budget cuts and city council recruited from America’s ever-growing community of self-imposed illiterates have so far spared the services, we library workers are getting plenty of appreciation just for doing what we do. Maybe what we really need is a National Library Patrons’ Moment of Thanks.
So, if you are one, thanks.
Last night on Twitter I learned what AR points are. We didn’t have a program like this when I went to school. We were way to concerned with T-Rex attacks and carnivore safety. Basically each book is assigned an AR level. Students can earn things (like Six Flags passes) by reading and then passing a quiz about the book.
- City of Bones – Cassie Clare: AR Points 20
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling: AR Points 12
- Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger: AR Points 11
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain: AR Points 12
- Twilight – Stephanie Meyer: AR Points 18
The points amaze me. I am going to research today how points are awarded. Have you ever completed an AR reading program?
The folks at Amazon made eBooks possible. Sure there were eReaders before Amazon came out with the first Kindle model in 2008. But it was Amazon’s marketing and pricing muscle that made the eBook phenomenon take off in a big way. In 2010, 8% of Americans admitted to reading eBooks. One short year later that number had jumped to 20%. There are eReaders out from Amazon (many Kindles), Barnes & Noble (the Nook) and dozens of other companies. eBooks can also be read on the new tablet computers, such as the iPad from Apple, the Galaxy TAB from Samsung, and oodles more. The fact is that most Americans consume their eBooks on their laptop and desktop computers these days.
But now, back to Amazon. Recently they gave journalists a sneak peek at their new technology and all I can say is, “Let there be light!” Amazon has always touted that its eInk screen makes it possible to read an eBook even in the direct sunlight–such as when you’re at the beach or in your backyard. Now they are moving in the opposite direction and adding LED lighting as a layer of the screen so you can read in the dark. Kind of like the iPad has now.
This development made me ponder. If given a choice, would you rather be able to read your eBooks at the beach or in bed at night under the covers?
Hans Christian Andersen’s Birthday, April 2nd, is also International Children’s Books Day. It’s also the thirtieth anniversary of the day when I, somewhat randomly, brought a bouquet of daisies into the childen’s room of my local library in commemoration of that fact, which bouquet a young redheaded library assistant effiecienty prepared and vased, which led to ta talk baout crossbows which led to … anyway thirty years later, we are still finding things to talk about.
But I digress. Hans Andersen was born dirt-poor in a Denmark so conservative the king still ruled by fiat. Insanity ran in his family, and the fear of it haunted him all his life. But he grew up in a family of storytellers. His cobbler father, and his grandparents, when they were sane, filled his head with folktales and snippets of history that the boy used to concoct his own compensatory dreams of glory. It was the beginning of a fairy tale.
When he was still a boy, he left Arhus for Copenhagen in hopes of making his living as a singer — he had a superlative voice — and on the way encountered a party of nobles who were impressed enough with him take him with them and present him to the king. He got a shot at some education through their help, and his fairy tale entered its second act.
In the third act, he became a dighter, a word for which there is no equivalent in English, but which means a writer with an elevated style. His plays and essays earned him little attention in Denmark at first, but his fairy tales translated into English made him a celebrity in Britain, and caused his own people to take a closer look at what they had.
Andersen spent the rest of his life collecting accolades. They saw his tales for what they were — satires on social conditions in Denmark, a country where there really were little match girls freezing to death in alleys. This only made him more important as Denmark began to change into the liberal, decent nation it has become.
He was vain, insecure, demanding and greedy. He fell desperately in love with unattainable men women and men, but finally only cared about himself. He wrote his autobiography twice, to construct a past he could live with.
He remains not just a great children’s author but a great author. he demonstrated that stories that are written for children don’t have to ignore or deny the problems, even the horrors, of the real world. Writers like Suzanne Collins can trace a line of descent from Andersen.
All of which may be something to think about when you’re asked, “When are you going to start writing for adults?”
“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.”
- Hans Christian Andersen (born today in 1805)
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Pea
The Red Shoes
The Snow Queen
The Ugly Duckling
And these are just a few of his many stories. Which is your favorite Hans Christian Andersen story and why do you think fairy tales have such long-lasting appeal to not only children, but to adults and teens as well?
No, Suzanne Collins has not contacted us about offering The Hunger Games through this imprint. I have, however seen the movie. I thought that they did a pretty good job of sketching in the background of Collins’ dystopia without interrupting the flow of the narrative, a tall order in the circumstances. Apparently, though, a lot of people don’t agree. They find the sketching too sketchy. So, what do people think? If you have seen the movie but not read the book, did you find the exposition adequate? If you have read the book, do you think there should have ben more background? Could that have been done without slowing up the story? If you have opinions, you can post to my blog, dougreeswriter on WordPress.
A friend of mine linked this article to her Facebook page yesterday. At first the post seems innocent enough, but then when you read the title and the text it begins to feel a little sensational. You start to think OMG OUR KIDS CAN’T READ, but you swiftly realize after looking at the slideshow, our nation’s children are reading for fun! Here’s a quote from the article.
High school students today are reading books intended for children with reading levels far below those appropriate for teens, according to a recent report.
A compilation of the top 40 books teens in grades 9-12 are reading in school shows that the average reading level of that list is 5.3 — barely above the fifth grade.
“A fifth-grade reading level is obviously not high enough for college-level reading. Nor is it high enough for high school-level reading, either, or for informed citizenship,” writes Sandra Stotsky, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas.
Below the text there is a slideshow that reveals the hottest books and their reading levels. For example The Hunger Games is 5.3 reading level. My daughter is in second grade and reads 2.1, so she is behind because she is in grade two but the year is almost over, she should be at 2.6 by now. So our high school students are reading books in the 5.0 range and the nation is clutching its collective pearls.
But here’s what I see. Thanks to Harry Potter, and Twilight, and The Hunger Games I see a nation of children reading for entertainment. They are reading for fun! Haven’t we, the people of the book, been waiting for this day since Beowulf was first transcribed and became the first thing ever written in the English language?
I say we ease our hands off the pearls folks, and let the kids read.
No, I don’t mean the bologna from Oscar Meyer here folks! I mean the annual Bologna, Italy Children’s Book Fair held last week. That’s where publishing people from around the world flock to each year to see what foreign children’s book publishers are selling and maybe interest them in some American children’s book authors. The word back from Italy says publishers are looking for mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and contemporary books for tween and teen readers. Not paranormal or dystopian. WOWZA! That means you’ll be seeing the results of the deals made last week on bookshelves and eReader screens in late 2013 or 2014.
What do you think? What types of YA and MG books do you wish were on bookstore shelves in your town?