What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 30 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Your Fairy Bookmother, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 35
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
Rachael Vilmar presents news and reviews from the colliding worlds of children's books, young adult books, librarianship, knitting, cooking, and motherhood.
Statistics for Your Fairy Bookmother

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 12
1. Haunted is the new sparkly.

By the purest chance (or, more likely, some unacknowledged hunger for the supernatural), I happened to read Bliss, by Lauren Myracle, and Swoon, by Nina Malkin, during the same week. At first glance, the two books share some uncanny similarities:

  • Fish-out-of-water psychic protagonist newly attending high school in a snotty upper-middle-class community
  • Ghostly being with intentions to possess the body of the protagonist’s closest friend
  • One-word titles that could easily double new fragrances about to be released by the Pussycat Dolls*

I’m afraid that’s where the similarities end, though. You see, the reader is expected to want to make out with the ghostly Sinclair Youngblood Powers of Swoon (tagline: “Sin is coming... prepare to Swoon!”). Even when he’s trapped in the body of her cheerleader cousin, the narrator can’t stop mauling him. Unfortunately, young Sin has more dastardly plans than playing kissyface with teenage girls. Not really, really, mean plans, though. Nothing that would get in the way of plenty of soulful gazing.  

As for Bliss? Well, Myracle’s spirit announces its presence by telepathically shouting things like “Tomb. Trapped. Blood. Blood!” You do not want to kiss that ghost. You want to run far, far away. Of course, the heroine, Bliss in the Morning Dew, can’t bring herself to do that. Her upbringing on a hippie commune taught her to be kind to the powerless, but her psychic abilities make her more vulnerable than she realizes.

As you can imagine, the books are quite dissimilar in tone. Swoon is a typical supernatural romance with a Byronic hero. Girls who like sparkly vampires will most likely be pleased with it. Readers who think Jane Eyre should never have returned to that would-be polygamist, Mr. Rochester, should probably stay away.

Bliss is classic horror, but it has elements that transcend the genre. Myracle weaves social and historical commentary into the book by setting it in Atlanta in the 1960’s, hinging the plot on a secret interracial romance, and drawing parallels with the Manson Family trial. There are moments of melodrama and the ending is strangely unresolved, but for the most part it’s both tightly-plotted and thought-provoking.

 

*The last book I reviewed actually meets this criterion too. What’s with the one-word trend? Perhaps it’s all a plot hatched by SWINTON.

Add a Comment
2. Haunted is the new sparkly.

By the purest chance (or, more likely, some unacknowledged hunger for the supernatural), I happened to read Bliss, by Lauren Myracle, and Swoon, by Nina Malkin, during the same week. At first glance, the two books share some uncanny similarities:

  • Fish-out-of-water psychic protagonist newly attending high school in a snotty upper-middle-class community
  • Ghostly being with intentions to possess the body of the protagonist’s closest friend
  • One-word titles that could easily double new fragrances about to be released by the Pussycat Dolls*

I’m afraid that’s where the similarities end, though. You see, the reader is expected to want to make out with the ghostly Sinclair Youngblood Powers of Swoon (tagline: “Sin is coming... prepare to Swoon!”). Even when he’s trapped in the body of her cheerleader cousin, the narrator can’t stop mauling him. Unfortunately, young Sin has more dastardly plans than playing kissyface with teenage girls. Not really, really, mean plans, though. Nothing that would get in the way of plenty of soulful gazing.  

As for Bliss? Well, Myracle’s spirit announces its presence by telepathically shouting things like “Tomb. Trapped. Blood. Blood!” You do not want to kiss that ghost. You want to run far, far away. Of course, the heroine, Bliss in the Morning Dew, can’t bring herself to do that. Her upbringing on a hippie commune taught her to be kind to the powerless, but her psychic abilities make her more vulnerable than she realizes.

As you can imagine, the books are quite dissimilar in tone. Swoon is a typical supernatural romance with a Byronic hero. Girls who like sparkly vampires will most likely be pleased with it. Readers who think Jane Eyre should never have returned to that would-be polygamist, Mr. Rochester, should probably stay away.

Bliss is classic horror, but it has elements that transcend the genre. Myracle weaves social and historical commentary into the book by setting it in Atlanta in the 1960’s, hinging the plot on a secret interracial romance, and drawing parallels with the Manson Family trial. There are moments of melodrama and the ending is strangely unresolved, but for the most part it’s both tightly-plotted and thought-provoking.

 

*The last book I reviewed actually meets this criterion too. What’s with the one-word trend? Perhaps it’s all a plot hatched by SWINTON.

Add a Comment
3. Go Sendak! Rah rah rah!

I am already loving Fuse #8's Top 100 Picture Books of All Time. Today she blogged 100-90, and she already hit a title I hate. Woo!

I did put in my vote, but I won't reveal my top ten until after she finishes the series. The subject line of this post  gives a wee clue to my sympathies, though. 

Add a Comment
4. Go Sendak! Rah rah rah!

I am already loving Fuse #8's Top 100 Picture Books of All Time. Today she blogged 100-90, and she already hit a title I hate. Woo!

I did put in my vote, but I won't reveal my top ten until after she finishes the series. The subject line of this post  gives a wee clue to my sympathies, though. 

Add a Comment
5. Review: Gorgeous, by Rachel Vail

Question: You are the average wealthy and disaffected suburban teen girl, endowed with a shaky self-image and a casual atheism. The devil offers to make you gorgeous. What can you offer him in return, in lieu of your probably nonexistent soul?

A. Your tennis rackets

B. Your tv.

C. Your cell phone.

Such is the dilemma of Allison Avery, an “interesting looking” middle child who is making her unobtrusive way through ninth grade in the shadow of a particularly uptight best friend (think Charlotte York before the loosening influence of Carrie Bradshaw and company). Her infernal bargain throws her into the spotlight and wreaks havoc with her cellular social life*. A new friendship with a gregarious ex-city girl leads her to become an unlikely contestant in a teen modeling contest, which, along with her family’s newly precarious financial situation, further complicates matters. And naturally there is a boy. A cute one. Shocker!

The conversations between Allison and the devil are the brightest spot in a fairly sparkly novel. Selling one’s cell to the devil is a clever and funny concept, and Vail exploits it accordingly. I was disappointed that satiric tone of these passages was not maintained throughout the novel, which bogs down in a few too many sentimental self-esteem pep talks. As a character, Allison is believably irritating in her self-deprecation, with glimpses of her wittiness and originality occasionally peeking through. Her obsession with Gouverneur Morris is a running joke and a reminder of these qualities.

By the end, the reader will suspect that Allison may have been growing into her own innate gorgeousness all along, and we are left to wonder whether the whole devil thing was just a dream. Or maybe Satan was exploiting her skewed self-image for his own nefarious purposes? In any case, she has now gained enough confidence to look in a reflective surface and not “shrink away in disgust.” Is she beautiful? “Well, maybe,” she thinks. And then she asks out the boy.

By the way: I'm not wild about the cover. It's generically pink and sparkly, and obviously meant to attract the chicklitty crowd, but something clever involving an evil cell phone (mostly likely an evil, pink, sparkly cell phone) would be more satisfying. Someone should draw this and send it to Rachel Vail.

*The correct answer was C. The devil is a golfer, and he has a nicer tv.  

Add a Comment
6. Review: Gorgeous, by Rachel Vail

Question: You are the average wealthy and disaffected suburban teen girl, endowed with a shaky self-image and a casual atheism. The devil offers to make you gorgeous. What can you offer him in return, in lieu of your probably nonexistent soul?

A. Your tennis rackets

B. Your tv.

C. Your cell phone.

Such is the dilemma of Allison Avery, an “interesting looking” middle child who is making her unobtrusive way through ninth grade in the shadow of a particularly uptight best friend (think Charlotte York before the loosening influence of Carrie Bradshaw and company). Her infernal bargain throws her into the spotlight and wreaks havoc with her cellular social life*. A new friendship with a gregarious ex-city girl leads her to become an unlikely contestant in a teen modeling contest, which, along with her family’s newly precarious financial situation, further complicates matters. And naturally there is a boy. A cute one. Shocker!

The conversations between Allison and the devil are the brightest spot in a fairly sparkly novel. Selling one’s cell to the devil is a clever and funny concept, and Vail exploits it accordingly. I was disappointed that satiric tone of these passages was not maintained throughout the novel, which bogs down in a few too many sentimental self-esteem pep talks. As a character, Allison is believably irritating in her self-deprecation, with glimpses of her wittiness and originality occasionally peeking through. Her obsession with Gouverneur Morris is a running joke and a reminder of these qualities.

By the end, the reader will suspect that Allison may have been growing into her own innate gorgeousness all along, and we are left to wonder whether the whole devil thing was just a dream. Or maybe Satan was exploiting her skewed self-image for his own nefarious purposes? In any case, she has now gained enough confidence to look in a reflective surface and not “shrink away in disgust.” Is she beautiful? “Well, maybe,” she thinks. And then she asks out the boy.

By the way: I'm not wild about the cover. It's generically pink and sparkly, and obviously meant to attract the chicklitty crowd, but something clever involving an evil cell phone (mostly likely an evil, pink, sparkly cell phone) would be more satisfying. Someone should draw this and send it to Rachel Vail.

*The correct answer was C. The devil is a golfer, and he has a nicer tv.  

Add a Comment
7. Testing my faith in Newbery.

Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins

I try not to write anything too overtly negative on this blog, so I'll just say that I'm glad that I trust and respect the process of the Newbery Committee. I haven't read All Alone in the Universe, which people say is better, but I shouldn't have had to read it in order to enjoy this book. 

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale

I wanted to read an honor book from the same year in order to get a sense of the committee's reasoning. I liked Princess Academy a lot, personally. It's a great twist on the modern princess story, incorporating class empowerment rather than the usual feminine empowerment, and it is tightly plotted and well-written. I'm just not sure it's distinguished. If the vote came down to this or Criss Cross, Princess Academy would be the clear winner for me, but I haven't read widely enough in the children's literature of 2005 to make any further pronouncements. In my defense, I was pregnant that year, and also working as a YA librarian. 

Add a Comment
8. Testing my faith in Newbery.

Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins

I try not to write anything too overtly negative on this blog, so I'll just say that I'm glad that I trust and respect the process of the Newbery Committee. I haven't read All Alone in the Universe, which people say is better, but I shouldn't have had to read it in order to enjoy this book. 

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale

I wanted to read an honor book from the same year in order to get a sense of the committee's reasoning. I liked Princess Academy a lot, personally. It's a great twist on the modern princess story, incorporating class empowerment rather than the usual feminine empowerment, and it is tightly plotted and well-written. I'm just not sure it's distinguished. If the vote came down to this or Criss Cross, Princess Academy would be the clear winner for me, but I haven't read widely enough in the children's literature of 2005 to make any further pronouncements. In my defense, I was pregnant that year, and also working as a YA librarian. 

Add a Comment
9. More Newbery, more trouble.

The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley

I confess that I'm a little puzzled about the committee's choice for this year. I like The Hero and the Crown, but I'm not sure it's distinguished. A lot of the plot is derivative, which is forgivable in high fantasy, but I didn't see any twists that were new and fresh enough to make it stand out. The writing itself is very derivative (way too many "And... and... and..." clauses), and there's not a lot of depth to any of the characters aside from Aerin.

Aerin herself didn't display a lot of agency or ingenuity after the appearance of Maur - it almost seemed like she was just sleepwalking through her destiny, which was a disappointing contrast to the first part of the book, when she trained Talat and discovered kemet.

Anyhow, I think the book is good fantasy, but I think some of McKinley's other books are better. Was it chosen because it's one of the first appearances of a butt-kicking female hero?

Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant

Oh, Cynthia Rylant. Nobody does folksy and heartbreaking like you.

The voice is pure West Virginia heart, and the characters are vivid and fully realized. Nothing much happens in the book plot-wise, aside from the abortive trip to see the spiritualist, which results in the subtle inner transformation of Summer and Ob.

This is a quintessential Newbery book - quiet, lyrical, character-driven, and, I fear, deadly dull to most children. The copy I checked out of the library had never been opened in the five years it's been in the collection. It is, however, clearly a distinguished book, and one that puts the capital-L Literature in children's lit.

Add a Comment
10. More Newbery, more trouble.

The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley

I confess that I'm a little puzzled about the committee's choice for this year. I like The Hero and the Crown, but I'm not sure it's distinguished. A lot of the plot is derivative, which is forgivable in high fantasy, but I didn't see any twists that were new and fresh enough to make it stand out. The writing itself is very derivative (way too many "And... and... and..." clauses), and there's not a lot of depth to any of the characters aside from Aerin.

Aerin herself didn't display a lot of agency or ingenuity after the appearance of Maur - it almost seemed like she was just sleepwalking through her destiny, which was a disappointing contrast to the first part of the book, when she trained Talat and discovered kemet.

Anyhow, I think the book is good fantasy, but I think some of McKinley's other books are better. Was it chosen because it's one of the first appearances of a butt-kicking female hero?

Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant

Oh, Cynthia Rylant. Nobody does folksy and heartbreaking like you.

The voice is pure West Virginia heart, and the characters are vivid and fully realized. Nothing much happens in the book plot-wise, aside from the abortive trip to see the spiritualist, which results in the subtle inner transformation of Summer and Ob.

This is a quintessential Newbery book - quiet, lyrical, character-driven, and, I fear, deadly dull to most children. The copy I checked out of the library had never been opened in the five years it's been in the collection. It is, however, clearly a distinguished book, and one that puts the capital-L Literature in children's lit.

Add a Comment
11. Loosely based on the works of Taro Gomi...

When you're munchin' on some nuts and there's a rumblin' in your guts...

Add a Comment
12. Loosely based on the works of Taro Gomi...

When you're munchin' on some nuts and there's a rumblin' in your guts...

Add a Comment
13. More Newbery winners: now with extra surrealism.

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink

I chose this one because Carol Ryrie Brink's Two Are Better Than One was one of my favorite books in second or third grade.

After reading Hitty, I was actually impressed with Caddie Woodlawn's depiction of Native Americans. Yes, there are cringe-inducing stereotypes, but there is also dialogue among the characters about them. Unlike Hitty, Caddie and her family are struggling to understand and come to terms with their native neighbors. They are clearly not 21st-century people, but attitudes like theirs paved the way for more progressive thinking.

I thought the parallels between the settlers' attitudes towards the Native Americans and the Bostonians' attitudes towards the settlers (embodied by Cousin Annabelle) were subtle and funny. Everyone is afraid of the "savage" Other!

Caddie's father reminded me of the Mr. March (of Little Women) in his abolitionist leanings and forward-thinking stance on gender. I thought all of that proto-feminism was going to be ruined when Caddie realized that she wanted to be a lady after all, but I was pleasantly surprised when her brothers decided to learn some women's work too.

The writing is fresh, immediate, and full of action, and the celebration of American values and landscapes reminded me of My Antonia. Though I agree that this book must be read with a critical and historical lense (and possibly paired with something like The Birchbark House), it holds up both as story and as flawed historical record.

And Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations are beautiful.

Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

This book is incredibly odd. It reads like a cross between nature writing and parable, and I'm not sure what the lesson is. Apple wood and hickory nuts don't mix? Civilization is corrupt? We'd all do better to stop thinking, become noble savages, and graft ourselves into apple trees?

Maybe I'm thinking too hard about it, and maybe child readers would just accept the surrealism without question. Either way, it's a lovely homage to the New Hampshire countryside. Definitely not plot-driven, but a child who likes the celebrations of rural life in Charlotte's Web might enjoy it.

At least it didn't have any problematic cultural stereotypes, unless you count the misogyny of the pheasants. Actually, I'm joking: I liked the way Bailey's animals stayed true to species in their behavior. It was a kind of incomplete anthromorphosis .

Add a Comment
14. More Newbery winners: now with extra surrealism.

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink

I chose this one because Carol Ryrie Brink's Two Are Better Than One was one of my favorite books in second or third grade.

After reading Hitty, I was actually impressed with Caddie Woodlawn's depiction of Native Americans. Yes, there are cringe-inducing stereotypes, but there is also dialogue among the characters about them. Unlike Hitty, Caddie and her family are struggling to understand and come to terms with their native neighbors. They are clearly not 21st-century people, but attitudes like theirs paved the way for more progressive thinking.

I thought the parallels between the settlers' attitudes towards the Native Americans and the Bostonians' attitudes towards the settlers (embodied by Cousin Annabelle) were subtle and funny. Everyone is afraid of the "savage" Other!

Caddie's father reminded me of the Mr. March (of Little Women) in his abolitionist leanings and forward-thinking stance on gender. I thought all of that proto-feminism was going to be ruined when Caddie realized that she wanted to be a lady after all, but I was pleasantly surprised when her brothers decided to learn some women's work too.

The writing is fresh, immediate, and full of action, and the celebration of American values and landscapes reminded me of My Antonia. Though I agree that this book must be read with a critical and historical lense (and possibly paired with something like The Birchbark House), it holds up both as story and as flawed historical record.

And Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations are beautiful.

Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

This book is incredibly odd. It reads like a cross between nature writing and parable, and I'm not sure what the lesson is. Apple wood and hickory nuts don't mix? Civilization is corrupt? We'd all do better to stop thinking, become noble savages, and graft ourselves into apple trees?

Maybe I'm thinking too hard about it, and maybe child readers would just accept the surrealism without question. Either way, it's a lovely homage to the New Hampshire countryside. Definitely not plot-driven, but a child who likes the celebrations of rural life in Charlotte's Web might enjoy it.

At least it didn't have any problematic cultural stereotypes, unless you count the misogyny of the pheasants. Actually, I'm joking: I liked the way Bailey's animals stayed true to species in their behavior. It was a kind of incomplete anthromorphosis .

Add a Comment
15. Crap Fair: Now at Your Local Elementary School!

Scholastic Accused of Misusing Book Clubs

You mean those nice little brochures that my daycare provider pushes on me (they just need a few more points to win something neat for the classroom) are full of crappity plastic crap instead of books? Shocker!

I am  so glad people are finally starting to grumble more loudly about this. I hated Scholastic's nefarious "book" fair tactics when I was a teacher (you haven't lived until you've had to deal with a six-year-old sobbing for an hour over some juggling balls his mother didn't give him money to buy), and now I resent them even more as a parent. Luckily, my kid is not old enough yet to peruse the brochures herself, so I just order the Caldecott Medal Valu-Paks* and go about my business. Before long, though, she's going to want the Princess SparkleFart Wand-and-Book Set, and she ain't going to get it.

But hey, I'm a meanie. I don't let her wear clothes with licensed characters, and I can hide princess-themed gifts from her so quickly that all she sees is a flash of pink as they come out of the paper. Even Santa Claus has only begrudgingly been allowed into our household. Just call me the godless, liberal White Witch.

*I know: typical elitist librarian. Oh well.

Add a Comment
16. Crap Fair: Now at Your Local Elementary School!

Scholastic Accused of Misusing Book Clubs

You mean those nice little brochures that my daycare provider pushes on me (they just need a few more points to win something neat for the classroom) are full of crappity plastic crap instead of books? Shocker!

I am  so glad people are finally starting to grumble more loudly about this. I hated Scholastic's nefarious "book" fair tactics when I was a teacher (you haven't lived until you've had to deal with a six-year-old sobbing for an hour over some juggling balls his mother didn't give him money to buy), and now I resent them even more as a parent. Luckily, my kid is not old enough yet to peruse the brochures herself, so I just order the Caldecott Medal Valu-Paks* and go about my business. Before long, though, she's going to want the Princess SparkleFart Wand-and-Book Set, and she ain't going to get it.

But hey, I'm a meanie. I don't let her wear clothes with licensed characters, and I can hide princess-themed gifts from her so quickly that all she sees is a flash of pink as they come out of the paper. Even Santa Claus has only begrudgingly been allowed into our household. Just call me the godless, liberal White Witch.

*I know: typical elitist librarian. Oh well.

Add a Comment
17. Some stolen links.

From Roger Sutton:

These photographs of factories have a very L. Frank Baum quality to them. Almost steampunk, but maybe a little too shiny. I actually love industrial landscapes. One of the best parts of traveling by train is getting to see the rusted-out underbelly of cities, and oil refineries at night are a magical sight.

From various people on child_lit and elsewhere:

Neil Gaiman discusses The Graveyard Book.

Neil Gaiman reads The Graveyard Book aloud.

Neil Gaiman Twitters the Newbery, profanely.

Add a Comment
18. Some stolen links.

From Roger Sutton:

These photographs of factories have a very L. Frank Baum quality to them. Almost steampunk, but maybe a little too shiny. I actually love industrial landscapes. One of the best parts of traveling by train is getting to see the rusted-out underbelly of cities, and oil refineries at night are a magical sight.

From various people on child_lit and elsewhere:

Neil Gaiman discusses The Graveyard Book.

Neil Gaiman reads The Graveyard Book aloud.

Neil Gaiman Twitters the Newbery, profanely.

Add a Comment
19. You Wynne-Jones some, you lose some.

So, as it turns out, it's easier to make time to blog while working as a full-time librarian than it is while being a full-time mother.

Guess which I've been for the past (postless) year. (Blush.)

In order to make up for my months of silence, I am going to delight my readers (if, indeed, any remain) with an embarrassing story from the ALA Annual Conference, which took place in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

Once upon a time, there were  two very different authors -  Diana Wynne Jones and Tim Wynne-Jones.  Now, these authors did not know it, but somewhere in a small hamlet on the east coast of the United States, there was an insignificant librarian who thought they were married to one another. You see, this librarian had overlooked that small but crucial hyphen in the name of Mr. Wynne-Jones (not to mention the fact that the two authors live on different continents). This misconception was fairly minor in the grand scheme of things, and it made no difference in the life of the librarian or the authors... until last weekend. (Dum dum dum!)

Through a convergence of events, publishers, and bibliophiles, the librarian happened upon the real live Mr. Wynne-Jones, who was signing books in the exhibit hall. Recognizing his name, and having read one of his articles in The Horn Book, the librarian decided to buy one of his books and have it autographed. Not having actually read any of his books, however, she was unsure what to say during the five seconds it took the author to sign her book.

This does not fully explain why she then found herself exclaiming, with an eager grin, "I just love you Wynne-Jones people!"

Mr. Wynne-Jones, to his credit, did not immediately club her with the nearest hardback. A small "HA!" of disbelief did escape his lips, but he quickly recovered, finished signing, and handed the book back.

As for the librarian, she hit the Internet as soon as she returned home and learned what she had suspected all along: Wynne-Jones /= Wynne Jones, Canada /= England, and "you Wynne-Jones" people would have been patronizing and insulting even if it had not been utterly inaccurate. As she spent the next day reading A Thief in the House of Memory, she felt smaller and smaller with each lovely chapter, until she finally disappeared back to the Internet, where she belongs.

To all of the Wynne-Jones (or Wynne Jones) people out there, consider this my apology.   

Add a Comment
20. Reluctant lactivism.

It's funny how motherhood changes you. There are a lot of things I used to get rather shrill about - sugary snacks, daycare, plastic toys. Some of them don't seem to matter as much, and on some subjects,  I have come to realize, I was simply dead wrong. I wince whenever I remember my righteous indignation about parents whose children misbehave in public. "You're bigger than they are!" I used to think, casting a disdainful glance at their helplessness. "Just pick them up!" Let me tell you: the woman who could be so flippant is not the sadder-but-wiser woman who has been kicked in the teeth by some flailing size-five Stride Rites.

Then there are the things I never used to care about. I used to regard lactivists with a sort of bemused pity - didn't they have anything more important to worry about? They seemed so comical, with their nurse-ins and their niche publications. How pointless. How 21st-century American bored-white-liberal trendy.

It didn't seem so funny when I was the one with the leaky boobs, looking for picture book representation of my own family. Like a good librarian, I started reading to my daughter in utero, and she started actually getting interested in books at around five months old. At first, she was obsessed with books about other babies, so we checked out just about every book on the subject in our wonderful local library. It didn't take long to start noticing a trend:

"Here is the baby's bath. Splish splash! Here is the baby, going night-night. Here is the baby eating. Oh. It's a bottle. You don't drink from a bottle, do you?"

After repeating slight variations on that monologue several times a day for several months, I started to get a little ticked off. I started to feel a little bit like a - dare I say it? - lactivist. And once I was comfortable with that label, it was only one baby step further to  "paranoid conspiracy theorist." Because this stuff starts to seem kind of intentional after a while.  Every picture book, every magazine article, every television commercial that mentions feeding a baby must include an image of a bottle (filled, we presume, with formula). On the other hand, a dogged search for images of breastfeeding in picture books will return only one mainstream result: the wonderful Everywhere Babies , by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee.

Now, I understand that publishers are uncomfortable giving the green light to books that depict bare breasts, but this is ridiculous. Surely there is some discreet way to communicate the concept of "nursing child" without including gratuitous nipples. Fellow librarians, authors, publishers, readers, mothers, consider this my lactivist plea. Join me in demanding picture book titles that depict the reality that so many of  our babies know: food comes from mom. If you think the target audience is too young to care, please think of the mothers, many of whom already feel embarrassed or ambivalent about their decision to breastfeed. Don't they deserve a little bit of pictorial reassurance?

Forget  Tintin in the Congo. Let's see baby Tintin at the boob. 

Add a Comment
21. Another strong magickal chica.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau Wilce, from Harcout.

Before we delve into the book, let's take a second glance at that author's name. Ysabeau? How cool is that? I wonder if it's a pen name. Even if so, it's better than the Raven Moonpiss pen names that most authors come up with.

Anyhow, the book: as my subject line implies, it's another coming-of-age story about a young woman discovering her powers (magical and psychological) in the context of a fairy-haunted alternate universe. Sort of Tiffany Aching meets Bartimaeus meets Tamora Pierce. Luckily, I like that trope a lot better than the "dead mother" trope. It's a lot more fun.

Ysabeau (like how I've put us on a first name basis so I can use that name again?) does a few interesting things in her version of this storyline. First of all, there's the military history, culture, and conventions. They seem really authentic. I think we have her background in military history to thank for that.

Then there's the way she plays with language. The story takes place in the imaginary republic of Califa, which, if I am not mistaken, is located close to our world's San Francisco. Accordingly, there's a lot of Spanish thrown around, but also French, Latin, and Nahuatl words. This constitutes good times for an armchair etymologist like myself.

And finally, there are the gender roles. They're a little more complex than your usual "girl kicks butt in the typical masculine manner." In Califa, girls do indeed kick butt, and so do boys, but boys also  have long, flowing locks and wear an awful lot of maquillage. There seem to be a lot of ceremonial and cultural gender conventions, and since the author shows them to us without a lot of extraneous explication, we are free to speculate about their significance.

Overall, Flora Segunda is a delightful escape, which is more than I can say for some of the more original titles I've read recently. I look forward to Flora's future adventures.

Add a Comment
22. Librarian tested, kid approved.

I recently wrote a favorable review of One Naked Baby , by Maggie Smith, for School Library Journal. I would like to amend that review here by adding that the book has been enthusiastically endorsed by my 19-month-old daughter.

Every night, as soon as she has her pj's on, she crows, "NAKEY BABY! NAKEY BABY!" Then we read the book two or three times (pointing out the baby's bun-buns each time, naturally). So unless my kid is weird, this one is probably a good choice for toddlers, both alone and in packs. 

Add a Comment
23. Advising readers.

As you may have noticed, I haven't had time to maintain this blog.

If you're interested, however, I've started another project over on Livejournal:

KidLit Advisory

It's a reader's advisory community focused on children's literature. You'll need a Livejournal to post there, but anyone can comment. Check it out!

Add a Comment
24. Brush Mush and Hitty

Just One More Book asks: which children's book best represents your marriage?

As I commented over there, the first thing that comes to mind is The House With a Clock In Its Walls. I call him Weird Beard, but I bake him cookies anyhow.  Happy almost-Valentine's to my dear absent-minded professor! He might be a sorcerer, who knows? Papers and scholarly articles do seem to multiply with otherworldly speed in our house.

In other news, I'm taking K. T. Horning's online Newbery course right now. We have to read at least one medalist from each decade. I just finished Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field, and I can't say that I'm going to run out and tell all of my little 21st-century friends about it. If the idol-worshipping savages and the happy sharecroppers didn't deter me, the sheer tedium of the later chapters would. Someone in the class made the point that Hitty represents the point of view of the marginalized - children, old women, etc. That may be true, but it doesn't make it any more appealing to Actual Children.

These people disagree.  Well, it takes all kinds of people to make an internet. At least they're not dressing up as Hitty and dating each other, right?

Add a Comment
25. Brush Mush and Hitty

Just One More Book asks: which children's book best represents your marriage?

As I commented over there, the first thing that comes to mind is The House With a Clock In Its Walls. I call him Weird Beard, but I bake him cookies anyhow.  Happy almost-Valentine's to my dear absent-minded professor! He might be a sorcerer, who knows? Papers and scholarly articles do seem to multiply with otherworldly speed in our house.

In other news, I'm taking K. T. Horning's online Newbery course right now. We have to read at least one medalist from each decade. I just finished Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field, and I can't say that I'm going to run out and tell all of my little 21st-century friends about it. If the idol-worshipping savages and the happy sharecroppers didn't deter me, the sheer tedium of the later chapters would. Someone in the class made the point that Hitty represents the point of view of the marginalized - children, old women, etc. That may be true, but it doesn't make it any more appealing to Actual Children.

These people disagree.  Well, it takes all kinds of people to make an internet. At least they're not dressing up as Hitty and dating each other, right?

Add a Comment

View Next 9 Posts