Here’s to the Ladies

Mar. 24th, 2017 05:53 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
We may be nearing the end of March, but before it’s over, let’s honor one of the best things about it – that it’s Women’s History Month. If you work in any way in an educational setting with children’s literature, I hope you show your students books about strong women all throughout the year and not just during March. If you don’t, please lie and tell me you do. Or, better yet, you could always change your ways and consistently bring students books about multi-faceted, groundbreaking, innovative, and/or otherwise complex women of all stripes – and not just relegate them to one month out of the year. These books are great for girls and boys alike to see.

Hitting a High Note

Mar. 23rd, 2017 08:32 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
It’s the beginning of Jordan Sun’s junior year at Kensington-Blaine Academy for the Performing Arts, and nothing is going right. She’s a musical theatre major, but despite her talent, she hasn’t been cast in the fall musical for the third year running—and because of that, her parents are thinking about pulling her out of school and enrolling her in public school back home in San Francisco. On the social front, she’s still reeling from a break-up with her long-term boyfriend—and because they were in a Relationship Bubble for such a long time, she doesn’t really have any close friends.

Happy Anniversary, Magic Tree House

Mar. 21st, 2017 10:31 am
[syndicated profile] vicky_smith_kirkus_feed
“I can’t believe you didn’t get ‘Frog Creek, Pennsylvania,’ ” my daughter said, witheringly. "I deserved it. In a scorching humiliation, my team had lost a children’s-book trivia contest with the final question: 'In Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series, where do Jack and Annie live?'”

A Literary Security Blanket

Mar. 20th, 2017 04:19 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
I have a problem, and I suspect that some of you out there might suffer from it, too: there are too many books in my bag.
[syndicated profile] diceytillerman_feed
In 2009, when I posted about Susannah Appelbaum's The Hollow Bettle (Book 1 of The Poisons of Caux), I opened with this sentence: "Have you ever heard anyone say that at least the most glaring, barefaced hatred of disability in children's fiction is a thing of the past?" If I wrote it today, I would write, "of disability and disfigurement." I was aware that disfigurement was part of what Appelbaum was grievously misusing and oppressing -- the terrible quotes say it repeatedly -- but I didn't know yet that I should distinguish it from disability.

Disability and disfigurement aren't the same thing, though of course a person can have both. Disability is about what a person can or can't do (or the fact that society says they can't, or doesn't set them accessible paths); disfigurement is about how a person's body appears.

But disfigurement, specifically, is alive and well in children's literature -- often used oppressively by the narrative. It's often a symbol of evil, or a punishment, or something negative, or something meaningful on moral levels, as something for a character to "overcome." It's almost never simply a way that bodies can be. But in real life -- like disability, like fatness, like other embodied aspects that literature uses oppressively -- disfigurement is simply a way that bodies can be. We need to call out oppressive use of disfigurement in children's literature. Notice when it's a symbol. Notice what it's a symbol of. Notice when it's a punishment. Talk about it.

My friend Mike Moody, a disfigurement activist, has coined the word disfiguremisia (dis-fig-u-ruh-mi-sia), meaning "specific erasure & bigotry against Disfigurement." Please use it. She tweets disfigurement analysis and media critique as @guysmiley22 if you're on twitter; recently she's been tweeting about Beauty and the Beast.

Dark Days and Blood Rebellions

Mar. 17th, 2017 06:41 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
3.17 Smug_BeautyandthebeastWhat is it about the clever blend of magic and classic aristocracy that is so pleasing to read? The mix of enchantment, romance, and classism is a tried and true bouquet, from books like Sherwood Smith’s much beloved YA duology Crown Duel/Court Duel to movies like the newest iteration of Beauty and the Beast.

Komako Sakai: An Appreciation

Mar. 17th, 2017 06:32 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
If you’ll pardon a moment of insufferable sincerity, today’s column is a bit of a love letter to the work of Komako Sakai, one of Japan’s leading illustrators and one of my favorite artists. She has two new illustrated titles out this Spring, and I think it’s a cause for celebration.

Erin Entrada Kelly

Mar. 17th, 2017 06:32 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
“All my novels begin with a picture of a character. Then I start asking him or her questions—my favorite being why,” says Erin Entrada Kelly, whose middle-grade novel Hello, Universe was released on March 14. The picture that came to Kelly for this novel was that of an introspective, quiet, and lonely 11-year-old boy sitting deep in a well. “And I knew he must be down there for a good reason, because he’s so timid. What would bring a boy like Virgil into the bottom of a well?”

What Does An Award Do?

Mar. 16th, 2017 09:37 pm
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
I posted on MetaFilter about the new Disobedience Award that MIT Media Lab is starting (nomination deadline: May 1st). And in the comments there, I stumbled into talking about why one might found an award, and thought it was worth expanding a bit here.

I think anyone who thinks for a second about awards -- assuming the judgment is carried out in good faith -- says, well, it's to reward excellence. Yup! But what are the particular ways an award rewards excellence, and when might an award be a useful tool to wield?

Let's say you are an organization and you genuinely want to celebrate and encourage some activity or principle, because you think it's important and there's not enough of it, particularly because there are so many norms and logistical disincentives pushing to reduce it. For example, you might want to encourage altruistic resistance. Let's say your organization already has a bunch of ongoing processes, like teaching or making products or processing information, and maybe you make some changes in those processes to increase how likely it is that you're encouraging altrustic resistance, but that isn't really apparent to the world outside your doors in the near term, and the effects take a while to percolate out.

So maybe you could set up an award. An award can:

  • get publicity for the idea that altruistic resistance is a thing to celebrate
  • help one specific person or group who's currently practicing altruistic resistance keep going, with money and attention, and make a big difference to their stamina and effectiveness
  • maybe bring attention to a list of finalists and help their work get more coverage
  • ensure the award administrators (and any judging committee involved) and, to a lesser extent, the reporters covering the award, will spend time thinking about the importance of altruistic resistance
  • cause a bunch of people to think "hmm, whom should I nominate?" and write a couple paragraphs about why their work is good and award-worthy (and, by causing that writing, also solidify the nominators' commitment to respecting and rewarding altruistic resistance)
  • demonstrate your institutional commitment to altruistic resistance, potentially sending a hard-to-ignore message to your future self to guide future decisions

And if an award keeps going and catches on, then people start using it as a shorthand for a goal. New practitioners can dream of winning the acclamation that a Pulitzer, a Nobel, a Presidential Medal of Freedom carries. If there's an award for a particular kind of excellence, and the community keeps records of who wins that award, then in hard moments, it can be easier for a practitioner to think of that roll call of heroes and say to herself in hard moments, "keep on going". We put people on pedestals not for them, but for us, so it's easier for us to see them and model ourselves after them.

So, all awards are simplistic summative judgments, but if the problem is that we need to balance the scales a bit, maybe it'll help anyway.

Nalo Hopkinson is doing it via the Lemonade Award for kindness in the speculative fiction community. The Tiptree Award does it for the expansion & exploration of gender. Open Source Bridge does it for community-making in open source with the Open Source Citizenship Award for "someone who has put in extra effort to share knowledge and make the open source world a better place."* It's worth considering: in your community, do people lack a way to find and celebrate a particular sort of excellence? You have a lot of tools you could wield, and awards are one of them.


* I realized today that I don't think the list of past Open Source Citizenship Award recipients is in one place anywhere! Each of these people was honored with a "Truly Outstanding Open Source Citizen" medal or plaque by the Open Source Bridge conference to celebrate our engagement "in the practice of an interlocking set of rights and responsibilities."

Magic Touch

Mar. 16th, 2017 06:36 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
I’m doing something different this week, taking a break from new books to talk about a powerful program from a non-profit group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The organization is called the Children’s Literacy Network, and last month I had the opportunity to visit them in Ann Arbor during a visit to speak about picture books at Ann Arbor’s independent bookstore, Literati. Their Staying in Closer Touch program unites incarcerated parents and their children through children’s literature. It is one of many efforts on the part of the Children’s Literacy Network to give children there in Michigan equal opportunities to develop a love for reading and books.

One Is the Loneliest Number

Mar. 13th, 2017 06:08 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
Virgil Salinas is the youngest person in his family. He’s quiet, shy, and introspective; spends most of his time with his guinea pig, Gulliver; and is looking for a way to address (and hopefully reverse!) his Grand Failure of the past school year.
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