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Month: August 2013


  • William Steig Goes Digital

    Young readers can now discover William Steig’s beloved work on their tablets, as FSG has released fourteen of his titles as e-books. The Steig picture books now available as e-books …

  • Why Audiobooks Should Be Included in Your Home Library

    Audiobooks are a great way to foster literacy and instill an appreciation for stories. This post at Scholastic Parent & Child outlines some of the many great reasons to include …

  • Two Actors Cast for the ‘Fallen’ Movie

    Two actors have been cast for the adaptation of Lauren Kate’s Fallen. Addison Timlin will play Lucinda “Luce” Price and Jeremy Irvine will play Daniel Grigori. The Fallen book was …

  • Entertainment Weekly Offers Exclusive Excerpt of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Latest Novel

    “The Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson’s latest YA novel, debuts Jan. 7, 2014. The book centers around high school senior Hayley whose single father, Andy, struggles to escape the …

  • 8th Annual Brooklyn Book Festival Honors Celebrated Youth Author Lois Lowry

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   BROOKLYN, NY, August 20, 2013: Today, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Literary Council and Brooklyn Tourism announced that the eighth annual Brooklyn Book Festival, …

  • Evan Ross, Son of Legendary Singer Diana, Lands Role in “Mockingjay”

    Evan Ross, 25-year-old son of legendary singer Diana Ross, will play Messala in the film adaptation of Hunger Games continuation Mockingjay, parts 1 and 2. In the book, Messala is …

  • Penguin to Publish Bestselling Swedish Children’s Mystery Series

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The Whodunit Detective Agency by Martin Widmark scheduled for publication in August 2014 August 26, 2013 – Penguin Young Readers Group has acquired North American rights to the …

  • Learn More About Patricia Polacco, Author of ‘The Blessing Cup’

    Nearly three decades ago, Polacco’s mother financed a trip for her to go to Manhattan to try to get a publishing deal. Polacco set up 16 meetings in one week, …

  • Microaggressions: Those Small Acts that Pack a Big, Negative Punch

    Guest post by children’s librarian at Bank Street College of Education, Allie Jane Bruce.


    More and more, the word “microaggression” is cropping up in the world of children’s literature.  A “microaggression” —a term coined by Harvard professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 — is a tiny act of bigotry. Examples include crossing the street when a dark-skinned stranger appears, giving a groan when the word “Feminism” comes up, or using “homo” as a synonym for “uncool” (Pierce used it to describe only race-related acts, but the word has evolved to encompass bigotry in general). Viewed individually, these acts are almost negligible; taken as a whole, they constitute an evolution of the very nature of bigotry, from overt, conscious and public bigotry to a more nebulous form that is hard to identify and even harder to acknowledge (Sue et al, 2007).

    We who work in the field of children’s literature—librarians, teachers, booksellers, authors, illustrators, bloggers, publishers—must be aware of microaggressions. We constantly read aloud, recommend books, and do everything in our power to turn kids into bookworms. As fervently as we extoll the benefits of reading, we must also consider whether the books we love confirm kids’ dignity and worth as human beings, in ways small and large.

    What one person perceives as a microaggression may be a non-entity to another. At what point does an incident become a microaggression? What responsibility do I, as a librarian and teacher, have to filter out potentially harmful books?  Is it better not to read something hurtful—or to read it, and then discuss it? These were questions with which I wrestled after a read-aloud incident a few months ago.

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    The book I chose was Betsy Lewin’s You Can Do It.  There is much to love in this story of an alligator who, cheered on by a good friend, overcomes a bully to win the race. But a seemingly-miniscule element—a hair ribbon—produced a heartrending effect on a member of my audience.
    The kindergarten group I read to included a girly-girl.  A very girly girly-girl. We’ll call her Charlotte.  Charlotte loves to read, has a shy smile, likes a good hug, and almost always wears ribbons in her hair. As I held up the book, she observed the ribbon-wearing alligator and smiled.  I showed the title page and cleared my throat, but before I began reading, an argument broke out.  Which character was saying “You can do it!”, and which was the “doer”? The differences of opinion arose because although the cover makes it clear that the alligator wearing the ribbon is saying “You can do it!”, the title page suggests the opposite; it appears that the bare-headed alligator is leading the be-ribboned alligator to something that she will, presumably, do.  Charlotte was adamant that the alligator with the ribbon would be the “doer”. “Let’s find out,” I said, and we began.
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    As we read, the kids who had guessed correctly—the ribbon-less alligator is the “doer”—celebrated their victory with smiles and “yes!”es. Most of those who had guessed wrong gave a little groan and then recovered. But Charlotte’s face grew dark. Her chin dropped. Her eyes found the floor.  Her whole body curled inward. And she gave a tiny, angry tug at the ribbon in her hair.
    Charlotte’s reaction cut straight to my bone. I wondered what was going on in her head. Anger at being wrong? Probably, but was there something else? Was it shame that she was, due to a fashion choice, now classified as a cheerleader rather than a doer? Did she now believe that to have any chance of winning a race, she must remove her ribbon? Or did she extrapolate that girls en masse (after all, the presence of the hair ribbon does, to the casual reader, indicate gender) have no business being doers? 
    I tried to salvage it.  I pointed out that we didn’t know whether the main character was a boy or girl. Maybe they were both girls!  No luck.  In the world of picture books (reinforced over and over again, particularly with animals), the clothes make the gender. And even if we did accept that both alligators are female, Charlotte might have been thinking, “female alligators can do it, but not those who wear ribbons”.
    I do not know what was in Charlotte’s head, and if not for the look on her face and her extreme body language, I would not have engaged in any sort of analysis after reading this book to the class. It is possible that my response is overly sensitive to Charlotte’s reaction, or that Charlotte’s reaction had to do only with guessing wrong. Ultimately, when analyzing for microaggressions (or, for that matter, macroaggressions), the question is “what effect does this have on its audience?” In this case, You Can Do It positively affected most of the children in my group, who enjoyed the fun, inspiring story. My impression of Charlotte, however, was that she seemed to feel devalued and type-cast. And this reaction—even if it was just Charlotte’s—is valid and deserves consideration. It may or may not rise to the level of “microaggression” classification but, either way, it is a helpful place to start an important conversation because seemingly small slights sometimes pack a disproportionately big punch.

    In my opinion, the most dangerous thing about microaggressions is that the dominant group (eg white people, straight people, men, highly educated people…) often can’t see them at all.  They see only a person from the non-dominant culture go to pieces or start a fight over something that looks negligible. They say, “Wow.  ______ people are so sensitive!” or “Why do you have to be so angry?”  Those who experience such feelings then start to believe that their anger is not legitimate, that they are overly sensitive, that the smothering blanket of microaggressions they are wrapped in is their rightful burden.

    Teachers, librarians, and parents: Have you ever had an experience similar to the one I describe?  How did you handle it? What conclusions did you draw? Microaggressions are hard to think about and harder to talk about. But we need more conversation, not less. Let’s get started.

    References
    Pierce, C. M., Carew, J. V., Pierce-Gonzalez, D., & Wills, D. 1977. An experiment in racism: TV commercials. Education and Urban Society, 10, 61–87.


    Sue, D.W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. 2007. Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271-286.


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    Allie Jane Bruce is Children’s Librarian at the Bank Street College of Education.  She began her career as a bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. and earned her library degree from Pratt Institute.  She tweets from @alliejanebruce and blogs at http://bankstreetcollegeccl.wordpress.com.

  • Can Children’s Books Pass on a Sense of Empathy?

    “When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. We are doing something that …

  • Penguin Young Readers Group Reveals the Title for Bloodlines Book Five

    Recently, fans got a glimpse of the Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters movie thanks to a new trailer. This film adaptation of the first Vampire Academy novel is scheduled for release …

  • Why Do Adults Love YA Fantasy?

    In an editorial for io9, Marie Rutkoski, author of the upcoming The Winner’s Curse, posits that YA fantasy’s exploration of the “essence of change” draw adult readers to these “stories …

  • Newbery Medal Winner Linda Sue Park Pens New Picture Book

    Matt Phelan created ink and watercolor illustrations for this project. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Clarion Books will release the book on September 03, 2013. more at Linda Sue Park’s blog▸▸

  • Watch ‘The Book Thief’ Trailer Here!

    The upcoming adaptation of Markus Zusak’s bestseller will be released on November 15, 2013, and stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and young Sophie Nélisse as Leisel. Watch the trailer below!

  • Girl Who Inspired ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ to Publish Her Own Book

    Esther Earl met John Green at a 2009 convention for Harry Potter fans, and went on to inspire John Green’s characterization of Hazel in his smash hit The Fault in …

  • Industry Q&A with editor Phoebe Yeh

    Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published. 

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    For the purposes of this response, I propose that we define “diversity” in a more expansive way.

    I suggest that “diversity” should mean more than issue based books by authors of color about protagonists of color. (While I believe that these books are still needed, the definition of diversity in the 21st century needs to be broader. I encourage all of you to read Christopher Myers’ excellent Horn Book piece for more on this subject.

    Please consider the work of the debut novelists Korean American Ellen Oh and Asian Indian Soman Chainani. They are part of a growing number of authors of color who are breaking boundaries with regard to the diversity of book content and genre.


    In Prophecy by Ellen Oh, our heroine is a girl soldier/demon slayer. Oh based her research on Genghis Khan and feudal Korea. Readers may pick up on the nods to Asian history and culture, or they can be content with reading an action packed adventure with a strong heroine.

    Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers, is about the friendship of an aspiring writer, Darius and a runner, Twig, set against an urban landscape. Myers sets the standard for challenging himself as a writer and for giving voice to young people, their fears and frustrations, but also their hopes and dreams. But do not be fooled. These are not “just urban novels for urban teens.” Pay more careful attention, dear reader. Myers’ message is about universality.

    In The School for Good and Evil, Chainani skillfully upturns our notions of the good, bad and ugly. Readers will find the travails of Sophie and Agatha uproariously funny but I also like to think that the novel offers another perspective, a broader perspective about identity that maybe, you may have taken for granted.

    All three novels were acquired with the slightly subversive intention of pushing us along just a little bit farther as readers.
     
    What is one factor holding you back from publishing more diverse books OR what’s the biggest challenge for publishing companies who want to feature more diverse titles?

    I started in children’s publishing in 1986. What was true then still holds true today. Someone needs to buy the books. We can continue publishing the books if people are buying them. All of us who wish to see more diversity in publishing are collectively responsible. So borrow the books from local libraries or purchase them. Fewer sales, fewer books. It’s that simple.

    If you accept my more expansive definition of diversity, the news is happier. A glance at the New York  Times bestseller list from Aug 18 shows a range of books by authors of color, not necessarily writing about protagonists of color.  Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell is an illustrated novel, a popular genre avidly consumed by middle graders.  I suspect that Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is garnering strong institutional sales. Incidentally, Draper intentionally did not specify the ethnicity of her protagonist. A Long Walk In Winter by Linda Sue Park, is based on a true story. The aforementioned School for Good And Evil by Soman Chainani is a post fairy tale fantasy. It is nothing like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie but both novels are hilarious.  And everyone knows, funny books sell.   To my mind, the success of these novels is an indicator that there is a book for every taste, every sensibility.  And popularity and diversity aren’t mutually exclusive.
     
    Who would you consider to be a diversity pioneer in children’s and/or young adult literature? 
     
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    The one and only Walter Dean Myers, our current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Why  is he a pioneering genius?  He has mastered both fiction and non-fiction in all age genres: picture book, middle grade and teen. And all subjects: it could be a war novel (upcoming Invasion), a screenplay (Monster), sports fiction (Kick), opera (Carmen). And all formats: short story, novel, poetry.  He’s a skillful poet with a range that spans poetry for the very young (Brown Angels) and prose poetry that is Whitmanesque in scope (We Are America). Since we aren’t bean counters, we won’t enumerate all his awards here. Suffice to say that he has won every single major award in children’s literature. 
     
    Walter Dean Myers has changed the way we write and publish for young people. And he continues to set the standard for excellence. Because kids deserve it.
     
    His upcoming novel, On a  Clear Day, which will be published on my debut Crown list in 2014, is one more example of how Myers consistently pushes himself as a writer. Set in 2035, Myers meets Orwell as his Bronx heroine teams up with an ex rocker, an ex con , an ex athlete. Then throw corporate greed and  a young adult terrorist into the mix. 
     
    Tell us about your editing process. When you edit cross-culturally, how do you ensure that the book gets a culture with which you might not be as familiar “right”? 
     
    Anyone can write whatever they want but it is not easy to get it right.  My job is to advise the author, to remind him or her about what to watch out for and occasionally this may mean rethinking the ethnicity of a character or a plot development. I should be questioning and double-checking, and making sure  s/he is doing the research alongside. I consult others. And the author must do likewise.
     
    You need to leave no stone unturned. And even then, you don’t always get it right.  It’s about collective responsibility.  But here’s one of the first things I learned on the job.  I am a first generation Chinese American New Yorker with a 60s childhood. I have had the good fortune to work with Laurence Yep, a San Francisco Chinese American with a very different background that includes a parent who was raised in West Virginia and a parent who immigrated via Angel Island. We both come from Chinese heritage but it’s still not the same difference.  Being mindful of the difference is key.
     
    If you could receive a manuscript about one culture or subculture that you don’t normally see, what would it be? 

    This summer I read Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber. I was embarrassed that somehow, I had missed Ms. Abu-Jaber’s work until now, some ten years after publication. When you consider the children’s book genre, it was a timely reminder that there are far too few books about the Arab American experience.


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    After seventeen years at Harper Collins Children’s Books, Phoebe Yeh moved to Random House where she is VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers. She is launching her first list in Fall 14 with titles by Lou Anders, Suzy Becker, Jon Meacham and Walter Dean Myers. From editing the Magic School Bus and the Big Nate series, she knows what kids like. And she plans to foster diverse new talent in this vein.

  • This Week on Girls Scouts’ The Studio: ‘Lara’s Gift’ Author Annemarie O’Brien

    “Dasha opened doors for me that I never knew existed and singularly shaped the direction of my career and where I am today. She is the inspiration for Lara’s Gift, …

  • Shailene Woodley Donates Hair to Prepare for ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ Movie Role

    Over at her personal tumblr page, Woodley explained that “john green (author of T.F.I.O.S.), wyck godfrey (producer of the film), and i all decided that this could be a beautiful …

  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka on Not Judging What is “Legitimate” Reading

    “I was an avid reader as a kid. The only problem was that I didn’t realize it at the time. The reading I was most passionate about wasn’t validated as …

  • Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm on the Positive Impact of Graphic Novels

    “Graphic novels have the incredible ability to give visual clues and break out different aspects of the text like narration and dialogue. It really simplifies storytelling in a way for …


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