Friday, November 30, 2007

Now, I ask you

Is this culturally accurate?

Quote from one of my favorite library kids

"When life hands you lemons, cut them in half and squirt them in someone's eyes."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The girl's secret guide to saving sparkly mermaids vol 1: the complicated case of the ghostly pirates, or How to be popular with superheroes

I'm weeding children's chapter books, and I have discovered two ways publishers can guarantee a book will never circulate: 1) give it an abstract cover. 2) fail to include a description of what happens in the book. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

Why make these mistakes unless they're trying to sabotage a writer? It's not rocket science. On the other hand, here's a list of 10 things you can put on the cover of a book (regardless of its content) that will make it move.

1. Sparkles. Or shiny swirls.
2. Animals with sad eyes.
3. Any reference to Superheroes or special powers.
4. Graffiti font.
5. Any combination of the following words: girl, popular, secret, complicated, life, game, rules, notebook.
6. The words "How to" followed by something ridiculous, like train dragons or eat worms.
7. The mottled pattern of a composition notebook.
8. Fairies or mermaids (strangely, unicorns have fallen out of favor).
9. Large reptiles.
10. The words haunting, ghost, scare, or triple-dare.

Foster care remains popular, but terminal illness and paralysis are still circ-killers. Another cardinal rule: the more books in the series, the better it circulates. Familiarity doesn't actually breed contempt. It breeds readers.

Stay tuned for my list of suggested titles for young adult books, beginning with Chicken Soup for the Teenage Child Called It.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How to Start a Manga Club Step 1: Buy Wired

HTSMC. Hmmmm. Shall we pronounce it "Hot Smack"? The series should really be called How to Start a Manga Club When You're Not Even Sure How to Pronounce it. (All the cool people seem to be saying "MAHN-ga" instead of "MAYNE-ga.")

To be more clear: I knew almost nothing about Manga until a few weeks ago, and now I'm running a club at my library, and since I'm not the only person asking the question, "What do you actually do at a Manga club?" I thought I'd answer the question by sharing what I'm doing.

First of all, I'm buying this month's issue of Wired. Actually, I already did that last night. Yes! I can check step 1 off my list! This month's issue has a history of Manga written in Manga format. It also has an article on the boom of fan fiction-type Manga (also known as copyright in fringement, right?).

I used the dojinshi article to spawn a short discussion about copying and copyright at our Manga club meeting yesterday. Like I said, the discussion was short. Very short. But they were busy with their drawings, so I comfort myself.

I also gave them some dialogue from the first volume of Samurai Champloo (more on this particular series soon) and told them to imagine what was happening and then draw it. When they had finished, we compared one another's interpretations and then looked at the original. This was supposed to demonstrate something about the interdependence between words and images in comics. Only I never really explained that. We just had fun. Here's the dialogue:
Hey man, your hand!
Hand? My hand!
One dumpling for one hand.
At these prices, I'll never get full.

Related: Quill and Quire compares the Japanese publishing industry's compromise with dojinshi (amature Manga) to DC Comic's online agenda. (via Mangablog.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What we talk about when we talk about race

You can tell a journalist wrote Adam Canfield of the Slash, because it's jam-packed with issues we talked about in J-101, from media consolidation to anonymous sources. It's not a tall tale in the Maniac Magee sense of the word, but it plays like one. The adults are caricatures and the kids operate like they've never heard of "grounded" or "bedtime."

I'm not sure kids really care about that kind of authenticity, though. I mean, don't they all wish they had the mobility, vocabulary, and independence of TV show kids? Hell, I wish I had all that. Anyway, the plot to this story's great, and the dialogue is, dare I say, snappy.

But there's another thing that's a little weird in an is-it-just-me kind of way. The main characters are named Adam and Jennifer, and 1/2 way through the story, the two get on a bus, and Adam realizes he's the only white person on the bus, and I realize that Jennifer is African-American. OK, maybe I'm obtuse, but I think the writer's trying to be tricky.

Then a woman on the bus gives them a speech about the beauty of two different colored children being friends and how that's going to change the world. What I like about the scene is Adam's feelings of disorientation. It's like suddenly he sees his own life from a different perspective--like it suddenly occurs to him that there is a different perspective. But I don't like the way the people on the bus appear for his enlightenment and then disappear again.

Lately I've read a few books that touch on white privilege (A Summer of Kings, Ethan Suspended) and they come dangerously close to celebrating the innocence of white kids, like, awwww, isn't it cute they don't know anything about racism? But it isn't cute, and they do know stuff. They just also know that they aren't supposed to talk about it. And until we get white kids talking about race, we're not going to be able to change what they think they know.

Tell it

I love comments like this: "Have you noticed how many picture books are on the subject of jazz? Nothing wrong with it, but how many kids these days listen to jazz?" Exactly. They listen to rap. Thanks for the reality check. Of course, I just like to be contrary, and that's not what this blog is all about. It's about spotlighting childrens books by and about African-Americans. (Checked out their first post via Motherreader.) But it appeals to my contrary sensibilities as well as that nervous need for more information about what's available for kids of color. So yeah, bookmark this, people.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Journalism strikes again!

When I first saw this headline, I wondered how it was possible to ban a short story without banning a whole book. Turns out the story was just removed from the curriculum. The book was never banned from the library.

The most amusing part of this article is the comment about how it's better for students to learn about pornographic acts with animals in school than out of school. Why do people always make themselves so ridiculous in situations like this?