Archive for February, 2009

The Classics

I just want to thank everyone for a great discussion Tuesday night!  I really enjoyed researching, preparing and presenting my seminar – there are so many interesting things to think about in terms of teen lit and “the classics”.

Although they’re already on the course blog, I decided to post my references and resources here as well.  The book I couldn’t remember the name of that has to do with connecting YA Lit with The Classics is Sara K. Herz’ From Hinton to Hamlet.  🙂

Oh….and some of you may enjoy reading this wonderful essay about everyone’s favourite character from the most emotionally impactful piece of classic literature I know I’ve ever read!! (sarcasm? what sarcasm??):

“Is Heathcliff a Vampire?” by T.L. Stone

Bachelder, Linda, Patricia Kelly, Donald Kenney and Robert Small. “Young Adult Literature: Looking Backward: Trying to Find the Classic Young Adult Novel.” The English Journal 69.6 (1980): 86-89. JSTOR. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 10 2009. <;

 Best Books for Young Adults.  Ed. Holly Koelling. Chicago: ALA, 2007.

Reed, Arthea J.S. Comics to Classics: A Guide to Books for Teens and Preteens.  Newark, Del.: International Reading Association, 1988.

 Brooks, Bruce. “Holden at Sixteen.” The Horn Book 80.3 (2004): 353-7. LibraryLit. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 11, 2009. <;

 “Classic Novels (In Haiku).” Wellington City Libraries. 16 February 2009. <;

 Crowe, Chris. “Young Adult Literature: The Problem with YA Literature.” The English Journal 90.3 (2001): 146-150. JSTOR. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 10 2009 <;

 Gallo, Don, Ted Hipple and Jennifer L. Claiborne. “Bold Books for Teenagers: The Best Young Adult Novels of All Time, or “The Chocolate War” One More Time.” The English Journal94.3 (2005): 99-102. JSTOR. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 12 2009. <;

 Gallo, Donald R. “How Classics Create an Aliterate Society.” The English Journal 90.3 (2001): 33-39. JSTOR. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 10 2009. <;  

 Herz, Sarah K., and Donald R. Gallo. From Hinton to Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2005.

 Hipple, Ted and Amy B. Maupin. “What’s Good about the Best?” The English Journal 90.3 (2001): 40-42. JSTOR. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 12 2009. <;

 Hipple, Ted. “It’s the THAT, Teacher.” The English Journal 86.3 (1997): 15-17. JSTOR. Western Libraries, London, ON. February 12 2009. <;

 Koelling, Holly. Classic Connections: Turning Teens on to Great Literature. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.

 “Top 20 Classic Books for Teenagers.” Connect With Your Teens Through Pop Culture and Technology. 16 February 2009. <;

 Williams, Linda. “Summer Belongs in the Hands of the Students: Celebrating Choice in School Reading Lists.” VOYA 26 (2003): 368-71. February 12 2009 < VOYASummerReadingBelongs.pdf >


Professional Resources

I examined two reader’s advisory guides for my report on professional resources.  The first, Crossing Boundaries with Children’s Books, appealed to me because of its stated goal to “promote international understanding through children’s literature”.  The second, Reality Rules!: A Guide to Teen Nonfiction Reading Interests caught my attention because I know very little about nonfiction for teens beyond our thus far limited discussions in class.

 Crossing Boundaries with Children’s Books. Ed. Doris Gebel. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2006.

 This resource claims that it will serve as “an important tool for exploring stories that will help children understand our differences while demonstrating our common humanity.”  A noble cause, I think.  Aimed at librarians and teachers, the book provides information about international books (read: outside of the United Sates) written for children 0-14.  I was disappointed that there wasn’t a companion volume for young adults/teens.  The book itself is set up like most reader’s advisory resources.  Chapters are broken down according to countries or regions (“700 books representing 73 nations”), entries are annotated with plot summaries, reviews, and recommended audiences, and contact information is supplied for authors and publishers.  “Author Spotlights” highlight significant authors – award winners, those with popular followings, or the editors’ special favourites.  Titles were selected based on “literary and artistic quality, worthy and up-to-date treatment of people and their cultures, interesting presentations of information specific to a country other than the United States, unique quality of illustrations, and appropriateness for readers aged 0-14”.  This criteria seems logical, but I wonder exactly who it is that has the great honour of determining how to measure the literary or artistic quality of these books and their “treatment of people and their cultures”?  Unless the judges are experts on the literature, people, and culture of each country and region, isn’t there a danger that the selections were made based on nationally subjective views of those literatures, peoples and cultures?  To avoid this, I imagine they must have corresponded with “people in the know” (Librarians? Authors? Teachers? Publishers?) from each country and region.  I hope so.  I like the idea of international cooperation for the sake of international literature exchange.  

Overall, this book is a handy resource for locating international children’s literature.  It is a great idea, but I would like to see a companion volume for teen material.  I’d be very interested to know what kind of teen materials are available in different countries and regions around the world.  I think this would be a great idea for a website.  I am imagining some kind of collaborative web resource for use by librarians, teachers, etc. around the world, with a focus on increasing awareness of the global variety of YA materials.  Anyone know if such a thing already exists?

 Fraser, Elizabeth. Reality Rules!: A Guide to Teen Nonfiction Reading Interests. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.

 This reader’s advisory resource is from the same publishing company responsible for the amazing Genreflecting series.  I love the set up of these books.  Everything is so well organized.  Information is easy to locate, the additional materials (such as definitions, history of the genre or theme, critical essays) are insightful, entertaining, and wonderfully helpful for anyone venturing into unfamiliar territory. 

The blurb on the back of this book explains that: “Nonfiction has become the preferred genre for many teen readers, both male and female.”  I’ve heard this elsewhere.  I’m beginning to think I should take a greater interest in nonfiction.  This book would be a great place for me to begin.  It has entries for over 500 titles (for young adults grade 6-12), and it contains notes on classics, award winners, reading levels, read-alikes, and titles that especially appeal to boys and reluctant readers, or are appropriate for book groups.  I was really interested in how the text divides nonfiction.  A diehard fiction reader, “Nonfiction” seemed like one big blob to me – how do you begin separating titles and identifying readers’ particular interests?  This book makes it look rather straightforward.  They divide nonfiction like so:

  • Part 1: Nonfiction Genres – True Adventure; True Crime
  • Part 2: Life Stories – Memoirs and Autobiographies; Biography
  • Part 3: Nonfiction Subject Interests – History; Science, Math, and the Environment; Sports; All About You; How To; The Arts; Understanding and Changing the World

If library school has confirmed anything about my personality, it is that I worship tidy little lists and organized piles.  Everything has its place!  Somehow I doubt that dividing nonfiction material in practice will be quite as simple as it looks on paper.  My point is, this book at least gives me an idea of where to begin! 

Along with the usual suspects (annotated entries, indexes of author and title, additional resources, etc.), the book has two additional sections particularly useful for Nonfiction: “Consider Starting with…” and “Fiction Read-alike”.  These are provided at end of each chapter.  “Consider Starting with…” lists popular and highly accessible titles from the chapter that represent great starting points for people who would like more information about a certain genre.  “Fiction Read-Alikes” offers additional possibilities for readers interested in particular genres, themes, or subjects. 

And finally, if you are concerned about the currency of this book, the Genreflecting series is available online in the form of a subscription to database called “The Reader’s Advisor Online”:  For a price, of course.  And, unfortunately, neither Western Libraries nor the LPL seem to have a subscription.  Has anyone had access to it before?  I’d love to know what it’s like!

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini


Christopher Paolini

New York: Laurel-Leaf, 2007, c2003

754 p., pbk, $9.99

ISBN: 978-0-440-24073-0

When Eragon discovers the mysterious blue stone in the mountains, the teenager has no idea how it will change his life.  But when the stone hatches to reveal a dragon, Eragon is pushed from his simple farm life into a world of magic, adventure, and danger.  Book One of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Trilogy introduces readers to Algaesia, a magical world populated with fascinating characters and creatures, and ruled by an evil king who reigns with violence and terror.  Only fifteen when he began Eragon, the author demonstrates surprising skill and maturity.  The plot borrows heavily from the heroic fantasy tradition, but Paolini’s fluid narrative is brought to life by dynamic characters and imaginative settings.  Paolini deftly unfolds Algaesia’s history, using it to add depth to the plot and to create a background for the novel’s thrilling action.  Much of the 754 pages are taken up by descriptions of the land through which Eragon travels.  While this attention to detail will appeal to readers who enjoy having the story fleshed out, it may be tiresome for those more focused on plot movement.  Names and phrases from an imagined language add richness to the novel.  The print is clear and large enough to allow for comfortable reading.  Despite the book’s length the paperback is manageable.  Eragon will appeal to all fantasy readers.  However, frightening themes and violent action scenes may make Eragon inappropriate for younger readers.

 Recommended. 4P. 4Q.

The Horn Book Magazine

When I went in search of material for my report on Professional or Scholarly Journals, I decided to begin with the journal display shelf at the GRC. Most of the items on the shelf look like standard magazines. They say: “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  The fact is it is impossible not to. We’ve discussed this in class. Whether we are looking at books, magazines, a journal, or any other reading material, covers play a huge role in attracting our attention and drawing our interest. Knowing this, I am happy to admit that my decision to pick up, flip through, and ultimately choose The Horn Book Magazine (“About Books for Children and Young Adults”) for my review was largely based on the fact that it is a very attractive publication. Smaller than a standard magazine or journal, The Horn Book Magazine is printed on thick, creamy paper, it has gorgeous illustrations, and the font has an old-fashioned, type-written appearance. It even smells delicious!

Inside, the journal contains thought-provoking articles about such topics as the history, the present and the future of children and teen publishing, current events shaping the industry, and interviews with popular and up-and-coming authors. A major feature of the January/February 2009 issue was their list of the best books of last year: “Horn Book Fanfare: Our choices for the best books of 2008”. The reviews of the chosen books included plot summaries, critical analyses of the books, and audience recommendations. Each review was accompanied by a black and white image of the book’s cover. The issue also included a list of the books that won 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and a “Foreign Correspondence” section featuring an article about Canadian author Michael Kusugak by Toronto librarian Joanne Schwartz.

The second half of the journal was taken up by book reviews. I was very impressed by their quality. They were concise but also very perceptive. I felt that I could trust the reviewers’ opinions.

The journal conveys a sense of confidence … superiority, even. Take, for example, the mocking tone of the farcical list of “Bestsellers” making up the final page of the journal. Number 1 was “Like I’d Lie to Kids: A Memoir” by James Frey: “The author of the controversial “A Million Little Pieces” tells the “true” story of his teenage years.” Number 10 was “Endr: Book 4 of the Inheritance Trilogy” by Christopher Paolini: “The young author of a popular dragon fantasy series learns the importance of planning ahead.” I was impressed by The Horn Book Magazine, but even so as I read I felt somewhat excluded by the tone, the appearance…the entire package. Maybe excluded isn’t the best word. I felt like I was a public school kid visiting an affluent private school, rich in history. Was I allowing my imagination to run a little wild? Intrigued, I visited The Horn Book website to learn more about the history of the publication. It turns out that The Horn Book has been around since 1924. It was founded by Bertha Mahoney Miller, the owner of a Massachusetts’s children’s bookshop (the first of its kind in the U.S.A.), “to herald the best in children’s literature.” (This noble history somehow seems to support my sense of the magazine’s pomposity.) In their words, “The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide are the most distinguished journals in the field of children’s and young adult literature”. They describe The Horn Book Magazine as “[i]ndependent, opinionated, and stylish” and “essential for everyone who cares about children’s and young adult literature. Our articles are lively, our reviews are insightful, our editorials are always sharp.” I can’t argue with them. All discussion of the journal’s possibly arrogant tone aside, it is a great resource for critical opinions and reviews of children’s and young adult’s literature. Definitely check out the copy in the GRC (doesn’t it smell lovely??) and give the website a look:  Apparently there is also a searchable database of thousands of reviews.   I haven’t had time to check it out, but it sounds immensely useful to me!

David Macauley’s TEDTalk

In class last week, Erin presented her seminar on Picture Books for Teens.  One of the books she brought in was David Macauley’s Rome Antics.  I was so excited to see the book because I watched a TEDTalk last year with David Macauley in which he explained the process of creating the book.  (From the TED website: “David Macaulay relives the winding and sometimes surreal journey toward the completion of Rome Antics, his illustrated homage to the historic city.”)  The talk is incredibly interesting and quite funny.  He doesn’t talk about the book in terms of its audience, so the video doesn’t directly relate to our discussion about teen reading material, but I think you will find it appealing nonetheless.  Here’s the link to David Macauley’s TEDTalk:

For those who haven’t come across TED before, it is amazing!  TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is an annual conference held in California.  It’s all about encouraging great ideas, and showcasing the creativity and enthusiasm of “thinkers and doers” from around the world.  TED’s tagline is “Ideas worth spreading”.  TEDTalks are lectures given by these thinkers and doers on every topic imaginable.  You can watch them online, or download them onto your iPod (I love watching TEDTalks on the bus).    

Here’s a link to TED’s website:

And one to TEDTalks: