Let them read what they want to read

Yesterday on the way to a violin lesson, my daughter told me that she was in the school library and found a book called “The Mozart Problem.” She then proceeded to tell me the whole story, the whole time demurring about her ability to do it justice. I assured her that she was doing a very good job of telling the story. At the end, she said that she wanted to read it again, but the librarian didn’t really let the middle school kids check out picture books, just chapter books.

What. The. …?

Of course I sent an email to the librarian asking for clarification. No response yet. (For those of you who know me and the kind of turns of phrase I’m prone to, I assure you, it was a polite email. Not just Tracey polite. Actual polite.)

Me: It's meant for high school kids Him: *shrug*

Me: It’s meant for high school kids
Him: *shrug*

This morning, when I woke up sleepy boy for breakfast, he was rolled over a copy of “Dark Matter,” one of the first books I edited for Rosen last season. When the book arrived at the house, he immediately grabbed it up, and I hadn’t seen it since. This is a book from Rosen’s “Scientist’s Guide to Physics” series, so the readability is much higher than his 3rd grade level. I know. I ran the readability myself. I asked him if he was reading it, and he said he’d already read “about half.” Then I asked if he understood what he was reading, and he admitted that there were a lot of words he didn’t understand–science words–but that he was continuing to read it anyway.

You can imagine how this makes me happy. I took a picture to send it to the author.

Now, obviously I’m not the kind of parent who’s hung up on age suggestions on the backs of book covers. If my kids want to read something, they can go right ahead. Well, mostly. I do take some parental license. For e.g. I made my daughter wait to read the last couple of Harry Potters until she was ten. Actually, I think she still hasn’t read the final one, and is unlikely to now that she’s moved on to the likes of The Hunger Games. My son is still hoarding board books. To be fair, I think my daughter might still be hoarding a couple herself.

I still have some of my fairy tales from when I was a kid. They are tattered and gross, and I still read those bad boys every now and then. And when the kids borrow them, I make them swear on pain of no dessert that they will return them in the same tatters they found them with.

Isn’t that how it should be? Does it even matter what the book is so long as it’s a good one?

During the kerfuffle last year over some ridiculous adult saying that it was pathetic for other adults to be reading children’s books–specifically YA, my mother asserted that she loved picture books. Who was going to read them to the children? How were they going to learn to read? And how would you have a conversation with them about it afterward? All reasonable questions, Mom. Of course children’s book writers countered with, “So we can write the books, but we’re not allowed to read them?” I mean it is the rare 3 year old who gets a publishing deal for board books, right? There are way too many “supposed tos” and “can’ts” in the world. Can we just leave that out of what people–especially small people–should be reading?



Last week in writing… late edition

So I got knocked out by a stomach bug last week, and the weekly roundup is late. You’ll forgive me though, won’t you? Let’s get to it.

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair was on this week, and many people turned out for the international event. Keynote addresses were on the topic of digital books in the hands of kids, including discussions of apps vs. ebooks.

At Bologna, the first Ragazzi Digital Award was given out to e-Toiles Editions for Dans Mon Reve (In My Dreams). So many publishers competed for the award that it’s clear, ebooks and apps are only going to get bigger and better.

Over at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, there are plenty of interviews from Bologna participants. Enjoy.

Speaking of kids… this has nothing to do with publishing, but everything to do with the way kids learn, so I thought I’d share… Why Bilinguals are Smarter.

If you’re writing for teens, you might be interested in this article about how they communicate. Do you know how to use a smartphone? Because your character probably does.

Maybe it’s not the kids you can’t quite peg. Maybe it’s that unusual color. Merriam Webster has you covered with the top ten unusual colors.

Do you habitually underline sentences in everything you read? Then you have something in common with Jhumpa Lahiri, who says that opening sentences are like handshakes, or embraces. So true!

I’ve been planning to read the book MWF Seeking BFF. But now that I know it started as a blog, I’m even more intrigued. Here’s a post on the author’s advice for building your own blog.

There are so many books being made into movies this year. The New York Public Library has a list of them all.

IBBY announces the winners of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award. Sheesh! More books to read!

Who doesn’t like a good writing competition? Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers announces a writing competition in conjunction with their 2012 conference. You have until April 20 to enter. Sharpen that prose!

And finally, author Brian Yansky wonders, do we need talent?

Loving children’s books

Lately, I’ve been having conversations with all of my book-loving friends, many of whom are former teachers, or who work in publishing in children’s books, about why it is exactly that we all love children’s books so much. And it all comes back to our own childhoods. Maybe we found excitement in those pages, or refuge, or familiarity. But because we found those things when we were so young, those books we read helped to form us. We are what we are because of those books that we read. And even though as adults we all read books written for adults, we can’t seem to get over the books that we loved as kids, so we’ve decided to carve careers around children’s books.

I mean, what’s not to like? Gorgeous illustrations, compelling stories, funny ones, poignant ones, all in a satisfyingly fast read. You’d kind of have to be made of stone to see a display of children’s books and not smile.

Among my favorites was HILDA BOSWELL’S TREASURY OF CHILDREN’S STORIES, which included THE SELFISH GIANT and an excellent piece of fantasy called THROUGH THE FIRE. And even though I have now had this book for thirty-something years, any time I start something new, this is the book I think about, with its excellent illustrations and compelling stories. Because this book is why I make my life about children’s books. And I suspect it’s the same for all of my kid book-loving friends.