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”: http://rainfo.lu.com/product.aspx.  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!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by aedwright on February 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Reality Rules looks like a great resource. I had trouble finding a good non-fiction resource – I will definitely check this one out!

  2. Posted by holliselizabethanne on February 23, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I’m happy to have been of service! 😉 You can find it in the GRC.

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