i just recently read a response by author, Shannon Hale about an experience she had visiting a school where only the girls were allowed to attend the presentation because her books are deemed “girl” books. Although many of Hale’s books feature female protagonists, what are we telling students when we only allow girls to hear a presentation like this, but when a male author comes to visit everyone is expected to attend. And sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened to Hale, it has occurred in a few other schools as well.
A seven-year-old girl was able to get ABDO publishing to change the name of a series of books entitled “Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys.” Why did she write a letter? Because “You should change from ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys’ into ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys and Girls’ because some girls would like to be entomologists too.”
A number of years ago we had a book discussion for middle school kids (grades 5 – 8) on Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis. A boy absolutely loved the book and asked many time about borrowing the sequel when it was published. Is Emma-Jean a “girl” book? Nope, it’s a book for anyone who wants to read it.
I’ve posted about this issue before, I have the greatest job in the world – finding books that kids want and need at a specific point in time. It’s about providing a kick-butt reader’s advisory interview and knowing a collection. I try and keep up with new literature and although sometimes it feels like my job is never over, I love seeing a kid’s face light up when we’ve found the perfect book.
I just read this article, “‘Where Are All The Boy Books?’ You’re Buying Them” that was posted last Monday by Kelly Jensen on Book Riot. It takes a look at the 2014 Top-Selling Children’s and Young Adult books on Amazon and found that there are a number of “boy” books being published – whether a “boy” book is defined as written by a male author or whose protagonist is male. That being said, I feel as though you shouldn’t categorize books as “girl” or “boy.” This prevents children and teens from reading amazing stories that they may very well connect to, even if (gasp!) the character is not of the same sex as the reader.
Boys, like any other group people try to pull together, are individuals with different likes, dislikes and interests. Yes, I have boys who like male protagonists, but I also had a boy who couldn’t wait for the second Emma-Jean Lazarus book, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tashis to come out. A “boy” book, definitely not categorized as such. All kids need to be given the opportunity to find the right books for themselves – connecting with a character, escaping reality, learning something new. Kids are usually looking for something and its the mark of a great librarian who can find what a child is looking for, even if they’re not quite sure themselves.
As this year comes to a close, I’m going to try and catch up with a little more reading that I wanted to finish this year and continue to try and read from a wide range of genres, age ranges, and interests so that as a well-read reference librarian I can help kids find that *just right* book!
In spite of my very busy week filled with programs and getting ready for Enchanted Library on Friday, I had a mom stop by my desk this afternoon and thank me for getting her son interested in Gordon Korman’s book Ungifted. Before discovering Gordon Korman, he wasn’t necessarily a “bad reader,” he was (and still is) particular. He could breeze through a stack of books, glancing merely at the cover and not be interested in a single one.
After yet another stack of books to try, I was finally able to find something that grabbed his attention and created a reader. He’s into science, engineering, robotics and computers and so seeing a robot on the cover of Ungifted made all the difference. Now, as his mom let me know, he’s breezing through the Swindle series, asking for the next one before he’s finished the one he’s reading. He’s upset when he forgets his book at home for his school day and is reading for long stretches of time.
There’s no such thing as a non-reader – you’ve just got to find the right book and connect them to it! Not always easy, but makes my job worth it! I am so grateful to be doing something I love every day and being able to make a difference in a child’s life.
Addition: I just got another visit from a first grade boy who for the past month would only check out superhero books – that’s it. No Star Wars, Scooby-Doo, nonfiction, nothing, except superheroes. And I’m not talking stretching this idea – only Marvel and DC superheroes were agreed upon. Now, we have a lot of superhero books, but after awhile he had read them all. Last week, I finally convinced him to try the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka. He just stopped by and actually wanted to read the next one! Success! This has been an AWESOME day!
I reviewed an ARC copy of this book and let me tell you, I wanted to put it down for fear of nightmares with 6-foot tall praying mantises, but I couldn’t it was so interesting! Austin, our narrator, and self-proclaimed historian is a confused teenager in love with the girl-next-door Shann and his gay best friend, Robby. Unexpectedly, Robby and Austin unleash an unstoppable army in their small Midwest town of Ealing, Iowa and the end of the world has begun.
The narration is amazingly intricate and superficially teenager at the same time. The history that brings Austin’s family to Iowa is strategically intertwined with a number of the other characters, but no one actually knows about in, until the end of the world has happened. Austin and Robby, being teenagers, do things “all” teenagers do – smoke cigarettes, get drunk, think about sex (a lot!), and get bullied. But when they come across jars marked “Contained MI Plague Strain 412 E” the world as they know it will cease to exist.
Definitely a young adult novel, Grasshopper Jungle, didn’t give me nightmares like I thought it would and it was well worth it – it’s an end of the world story like no other. Learn more about young adult author, Andrew Smith, on his website!
Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publication Date: 2014
Page Number: 432 pgs.
There’s not much to say about the phenomenon of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Jeff Kinney has created a series of books that kids are dying to read; epseically boys and that’s awesome! We decided to host an event at this time of the year because the last book was just published in November of last year and we wanted the kids to have some time to read it before we hosted an event. We geared our program to 3rd – 5th graders, but had plenty of parents asking if their 2nd graders could come to the event! And the best part was that we had a senior in high school ask us if she could do something with the library as part of her senior graduation project and was very interested in this program. So, we handed the reins over to her and had a very successful program!
26 kids came out for the program, which worked out perfectly with the four stations that our senior created. We had a trivia station with a PowerPoint presentation of questions and answers spanning across the whole series, we also had a book discussion station where the kids discussed the most recent book, then we had a game where they were each assigned a Diary of a Wimpy Kid character on their back and had to ask questions to figure out who they were and finally, a craft station where the kids decorated their own cheese touch! (The cheese touch was a slice of cheese picture printed on cardstock which the kids decorated with glitter glue, pompoms, beads, and all other leftover craft material). Then of course we also had a snack which was – cheese crackers!
The program was awesome! The kids had a great time and the best part was that they number of kids broke down into great groups – a group of fifth graders, a group of fourth graders, a group of third grade boys and a group of third grade girls. They liked being with their friends and sharing their knowledge about the series. I was asking the kids what we should do next and a lot them are now reading the Big Nate series and a couple of kids suggested the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman. Our senior high student was so funny, after the program she looked at me and said, “I never understood why you said you were tired after events, but now I get it!” She was very happy with the results of the program, took plenty of photographs for her presentation at school, and is now working on some more research about the importance of literacy for children.