29 January 2012

Over at "From JA to YA"......

....I'm trying to give the Pride and Prejudice board book a fair trial.

24 January 2012

Reader, I despair: Jane Eyre as a board book?

After the glory yesterday of the ALA Youth Media Awards, in which we were reminded of all the quality that children's literature has to offer the world, it didn't take long to find a reminder that children's publishing at least really can be ridiculous. Last year I had a full-blown rant about plans to publish a series of board books based on great literary classics. Clearly my gnashing of teeth (and surely I wasn't the only one!) was not enough to put a stop to the plans; Little Miss Austen and Little Master Shakespeare have been joined by Little Master Carroll and Little Miss Bronte. Okay. Maybe....maybe....MAYBE....I could accept the idea of a board book version of Alice in Wonderland. In this case we are at least talking about a classic of children's literature. But a board book version of Jane Eyre? Really?! Here is the product description taken from the Baker and Taylor catalog I am currently staring at in amazement:

"Provides an introduction to a classic work of literature in a stylishly designed story for toddlers that also promotes early counting skills."

Do those early counting skills include Mr. Rochester counting his wives? How can a book with plot elements including bigamy, institutionalized child abuse, and locking the mentally ill in an attic EVER be considered suitable for toddlers? Even as an adaptation?! Clearly, it can't be. Which means that the board book really has no bearing on the original work and is not fit to carry the name "Jane Eyre". Stop the madness!

There are no words.

19 January 2012

Over at "From JA to YA"......

.......I am discussing Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman.

13 January 2012

Cybils Wrap-up

I say "wrap-up" even though round two of the judging is just getting into gear. But for me, the work is done, and now there is nothing left to do but sit back and join those waiting to hear the announcement of the eventual winners. After months of reading, and weeks of debating, the Non-Fiction, Middle Grade and Young Adult panel chose six outstanding books as finalists. I don't envy the round two judges as they try to chose a single book to rise above the rest. Without giving away any secrets, I can say that almost everyone on they panel had to give up a title for which the felt passionately. The selection this year was excellent.

This year we have been invited to comment on "the ones that got away;" the titles that we wish had made the final cut. There were several books which I would have been happy to see make the list--books which were not on my short list but which I couldn't argue against if there was strong feeling in their favor, because they were so good. One book which missed out though, which I really would have liked to see make the list, was The Mysteries of Angkor Wat, by Richard Sobol. It's inclusion on our list was a bit of a surprise to me, because it is a picture book. There were several picture books on the list, (including The Many Faces of George Washington, which did go through as a finalist,) but they were text heavy and clearly written for a middle school or older audience. But Ankor Wat seemed young. However, we covered a wide age group, and I am assuming that is why it remained on our list and was not moved to non-fiction picture books. The picture book format served the subject matter well, giving Sobol the opportunity to share some outstanding photos on the sprawling temple. Its kid appeal was evident. Sobol introduced readers to a group of school children who sold trinkets and snacks to visitors to the temple. They befriended Sobol and shared a secret with him about the temple known only to themselves; a hook which was so surprising that I am not going to reveal here what it was, because it certainly caught me by surprise. Adults are almost non-existent in this book, other than Sobol himself, so while it is clear that these children are working to try and raise some extra money, the fact that they are playing on this ancient site completely unsupervised reveals a level of independence and freedom that American children can only wonder at.

Good luck to all the finalists! You can see a full list here.

11 January 2012

YA and Jane Austen: an obvious union?

I have started a new blog over at Wordpress, entitled From JA to YA. It will be devoted entirely to my reading of young adult Jane Austen adaptations, biographies, and anything else which purports to introduce teens to the author. I hope you will stop by and either check on my progress or join the conversation. And if you are in the Boston area on Sunday 4 November 2012, I hope you will join the Massachusetts branch of the Jane Austen Society of North America to hear me speak on the subject. Then you can say, "I knew those thoughts when they were just a blog!"

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