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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Didacticism, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 7 of 7
1. Photo contest prize announcement!

It's that time again! Time to talk about our photo contest, that is. You may recall us mentioning it just as we were gearing up for October:

To recap, the rules are simple: Just send us your favourite picture of yourself as a kid on Halloween (or of your own kids!). Send it to our email at kinderscares@gmail.com with 'photo contest' in the subject line and include a few lines telling us the who/what/when. Easy! Plus you get all the fun nostalgic goodness of digging through your old pictures...

And if nostalgia's not enough to motivate you, there's also the matter of the awesome prizes you could win! Here they are:

The first prize package includes:

A piece of original artwork by the amazingly talented Chris Zenga
A year's subscription to the Crow Toes Quarterly ezine
And this incredibly adorable, fully reversible trick-or-treating bag from Baby's 1st Boo:

2 Comments on Photo contest prize announcement!, last added: 10/12/2010
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2. You can buy a printer, but can you buy a clue?

We got a call last week asking if the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards accept submissions of print-on-demand books. Editorial Anonymous explains why not.

Clueless wannabes will always be with us but what confounds me more are stories that indulge in all the sentimentality, preachiness, lame rhyming and anthropomorphism we say never, ever to indulge a manuscript in, and yet they somehow get published, by a real publisher, anyway. (Yes, Peach and Blue, I'm thinking of you.) Let's make an award for that. (Anyone remember SLJ's Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn pin?)

0 Comments on You can buy a printer, but can you buy a clue? as of 1/1/1900
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3. Robert's Snow - Adam Rex!

Behold J.Lo, in all his snowflakey glory!

Adam Rex is on of the illustrators who has donated a snowflake to the wonderful Robert's Snow auction to benefit the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute. He happens to be one of my favourite illustrators, and I was very happy that I snagged him when the ladies over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (also big fans...see here and here) were organizing this whole affair!

I think I first came to Adam Rex's work through Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. The second I spied the cover, I knew I had to have it. As a collector of Halloween picture books, I was so pleased not only with the art, but with the smart and funny poetry within. It's a killer for my Halloween read alouds with all kids loving the illustrations, and the kids with that sense of humour (you know the ones) splitting their sides over the content.

My next encounter (after searching for more) was with the Lucy Rose series. An early chapter book, featuring a feisty protagonist (what's not to love?). After that, I just wanted to read, and own everything. Fandom? Maybe...but I have yet to be disappointed.

Adam graciously agreed to answer some of my questions, as well as some questions from The True Meaning of Smekday loving kids at my school. So here we go.

Stacy: How did you get involved with Robert's Snow?

Adam: They tracked my email address down and got in touch in 2005–I think Grace Lin had seen my first book, The Dirty Cowboy (written by Amy Timberlake), and thought my work would compliment the collection.

Stacy: Did you always know that you wanted to be an illustrator? How did you figure out that writing and illustrating for children was for you?

Adam: I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind. I didn't think about writing and illustrating kids' books until I was in my teens, and working in a bookstore. When I became familiar with some of the titles coming out in the late eighties like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! and A Day With Wilbur Robinson, I realized there was a place for my sense of humor, and for the sort of art I wanted to make.

Stacy: How long were you cooking up The True Meaning of Smekday?

Adam: Oh, off and on for four or five years. At first it was just the fun project I worked on when I wanted to avoid my real work. So I started slowly. Then my agent sold it based on maybe the first third, and I worked more in earnest then. But I think some of the ideas go back further than that–I've long thought an alien invasion would be a good way to address our own history.

Stacy: How did you come up with the Boov Speak? I found that when I was reading Smekday, Boov speak stayed in my brain quite easily. Did you find yourself rearranging your words while you were writing?

Adam: Boovspeak comes kind of naturally to me–it's kind of an exaggeration of how I talk when I'm being lazy and there isn't anyone but my wife and me around. As I was working on Smekday I reached a point at which J.Lo's (my Boov's) speech came as quickly for me as did any other character's. I have not had for writing this way recentlies, so I am possibly notso much a Boovspeak Superstar as to before now. Hm.

Stacy: My students were asking about the "secret cover" on Smekday. The dust jacket image is different than the image that is physically on the book. What's the story?

Adam: No big story, really - I just came up with a number of images that I thought would make different covers for the book, and wanted to use as many of them as possible. People can peruse my July postings on my blog to see a little of how the cover evolved. I don't like to waste ideas, so I stuck runner-up covers beneath the dust jacket and on the title page. My books Tree Ring Circus and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich have "secret covers" as well, for various reasons.

Stacy: I have read that there is a sequel to Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich in the works. How is that going? Is the writing process for a collection of poetry vastly different than for a picture book?

Adam: It's written! Now I'm just figuring out the art. It will be called Frankenstein Takes the Cake. I've reported in other places that I thought it was going to be called Frankenstein Makes a Sequel

, but I was eventually talked out of that.
Writing in rhyme is different from writing prose, of course, for obvious reasons. Otherwise, writing something like one of my Frankenstein books is, in a way, like writing a number of rhyming picture books at once. Many of the poems in FMaS could have been expanded into full-length books if I'd thought that was the best way to present them.

Stacy: And here are some questions from my students who have been reading and loving The True Meaning of Smekday...

From an 8th grade reader: When you wrote the book, and didn't tell the readers some of the horrors of the aliens, did you know yourself? Or was it a mystery to you as well as the reader?

Adam: I don't know what details you're thinking about specifically, but I can definitely say that some things in Smekday were as much a mystery to me as I wrote as they will be to my readers. I wrote a lot without knowing exactly where the story was going, or how it would end, and trusted that I would figure it out eventually. That meant I had to go back from time to time and change some passages I'd written earlier so they'd fall in line with some plot detail I'd only just discovered. I didn't know at first, for example, that Gorg is not the name of the alien race, but rather that every member of the race is named Gorg. But it struck me at some point that having your planet invaded by, say, the Todd (a huge group of people who are all named Todd) or whatever would be funny.

From a 7th grade reader: How did you think of the characters and planets in The True Meaning of Smekday?

Adam: I thought a lot and drew a lot. When I felt like I had a good idea what the aliens were going to look like, their appearance helped me figure out what kind of people they were.

From another 7th grade reader: This book has so many characters and contraptions...it had a crazy plot. What or where did all of those ideas come from?

Adam: I was inspired by a lot of other books and movies and so forth, particularly the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams. But my ideas come from the same kind of places everyone's ideas come from -- you all the stories you've read, the movies and TV shows you've seen, things other people have old you, then maybe you mix it up with some other stories and ideas that don't seem to have anything to do with the first stories and ideas, then you run it all through the dirty coffee filter of your brain and, if you're lucky, it comes out looking and smelling like something brand new.

Stacy: Since it's Halloween and all, could you let us in on your favourite candy? Is it the same as when you were young or has your palate evolved?

Adam: I like gummi a lot these days, and it didn't really exist in America, as far as I knew, when I was a little kid. My earliest memories of Gummi Bears are from 6th or 7th grade. And yet Wikipedia tells me they've been around since the twenties. I don't know. I also love good dark chocolate, which as a kid I lumped in the same category as wine or coffee or kissing in movies -- things that only the mental illness of adulthood could cause you to like. When I was a kid I liked Butterfingers.

If you just can't stand it and you need some more, Adam Rex can be found all over the web. Here's a list of a few of the places that I found!

Adam Rex


Ironic Sans

Nerds with Kids


Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty

And for the CONTEST! Just use the comments to tell me what YOUR favourite Adam Rex title is, and you will be in the running for a brand new shiny hardcover copy of The True Meaning of Smekday! Woot!

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4. PEN

On September 19, 2007, the PEN Children’s Book/Young Adult Book Authors Committee hosted a panel discussion featuring authors Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Susan Kuklin, Robert Lipsyte, and Vera B. Williams.

LISTEN• Entire event (1:04:48)
Thanks to Fuse.

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5. "Crap, here comes Teacher!"

In the comments on the earlier post about dueling reviews, `h wrote:

Speaking of the good stick. There's something I'd like you to measure -- heavy handed instruction -- when an author sticks something into the text that clearly doesn't fit in order to model some lesson-- girls are just as smart as boys, or racism = bad, or it's okay to be yourself. Heavy handed moralizing is the best reason to return a book to the library unfinished, I think. What I really like is insidious invisible moralizing that is going to creep unreflected into the reader's head and take root!
Wait. No! Bad moralizing! Down you insidious lesson, you!
When you review a book, how do you judge the didacticism? Subtle is okay? Heavy handed, not? Or is the divide between didacticism that is currently accepted vs. didacticism you think is misguided?
Is subtle didacticism better or worse than the heavy handed? is insidious didacticism okay if it's on the side of the angels?
I mean the deliberate kind. I don't mean the unreflected reinforcement of cultural norms like Enid Blyton -- those things that stick out like sore thumbs when the culture changes.

I've moved the comment to here, because it's really a different topic, plus, this was the week of my return to the musical stage (it went fine, thank you) and I haven't had time to prowl around for something new. Although I think you can discern very different editorial styles among the seven of us who have been editors of the Horn Book, one thing we will agree upon when eventually gathered together in reviewer heaven is that we all hated didacticism, even while we might have had different definitions of the word and varying degrees of tolerance for it. But here I will only speak for myself. I think one could make a case that all literature is insidiously didactic, attempting to pull you into an author's view of the world. I have no problem with that.

And the problem I do have with overt didacticism is less with its frequent technical clumsiness, where swatches of sermons or lessons are just slapped into the story, then it is with the way it reminds readers Who Is In Charge. Having someone in charge is good for a lot of things--to return for a second to my singing class this spring, I loved the fact that the teacher, Pam Murray, knew more about singing than I did and could thus tell me, clearly and effectively (and diplomatically!), how to become a better singer. That's what I want in a teacher. But I don't want to hear it from a writer, especially when I think of myself as a child reader, being reminded, once again, that grownups are the ones in charge. Books are a great place for kids to escape from being told what to do. They are not a place where a reader wants to hear, "I know better, so listen up." As a reader, I want to feel that a book is a place I can explore, or even a place where the author and I are exploring together. Didacticism shuts that right down.

Didacticism can also bite the author right in the ass. Think of Go Ask Alice. It was clearly intended to be a moral instruction about the dangers of drugs; instead, it was a wild ride through a crazy, exciting world. (I'm now remembering a comment years ago by a librarian colleague, Pamela, who said "these stupid anti-drug books with all their blather about 'peer pressure' and 'self-esteem' aren't going to mean a thing until they acknowledge something else: drugs are fun.")

73 Comments on "Crap, here comes Teacher!", last added: 5/29/2007
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6. "Mad Bitches Against Gay People"

Here's an interesting story about censorship and the upcoming publication of And Tango Makes Three in the U.K. I'm refreshed by Mel Burgess's suggestion that censorship furor is often more a fact of media exploitation than it is a reflection of the actual fortunes of a book. For the record, here's what the Horn Book Guide said about the book:

Two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo court, build a nest, and raise their (adopted) daughter Tango. Highly anthropomorphized to maximize the sentimental but noteworthy lesson on family diversity, the story gains depth from the biological reality of same-sex penguin partnering. Gentle illustrations of the smiling penguin family add appeal, if not scientific accuracy, to this book based on a true story.

Tango is, for me, an example of a book that is didactic but On My Side, that is, a book that says something I think all children should hear. While you might think reviewers would go easy on a so-so book that speaks to their own values, I wonder if the opposite is true--that in order to combat even the suggestion of boosterism, we give them a harder time. But, as I recall, I couldn't take the smiles.

25 Comments on "Mad Bitches Against Gay People", last added: 6/1/2007
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7. Oops! I did it again

Via a colleague, I was recently warned by someone "just trying to be helpful" to refrain from political commentary on this blog. The thinking was that making fun of Republicans was not good for children's books, the one place, apparently, where we all get along.

And children's books have certainly been good to the Republicans. Just ask Mrs. Voldemort. And now Laura Bush is getting into the act. But I have just a small friendly suggestion. Really. Kids who don't like to read hate books that tell them "books can be a lot of fun." (Kids who do like to read hate them, too.) To them, it's just another instance of grownups telling them how wrong they are. As my "helpful" correspondent pointed out, nobody likes to hear that.

34 Comments on Oops! I did it again, last added: 8/23/2007
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