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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: reading, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,004
26. The Boys in the Boat Book Review

Title: The Boys in the Boat Author: Daniel James Brown Publisher: Viking Publication Date: June 4, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0670025817 416 pp. Reading copy via local library If you're looking for a historical nonfiction title that will appeal to teens as well as adults, then The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is the one. Don't let the subtitle, "Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold

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27. June Bug reads a page-turner! Amy Huntington

http://www.amyhuntington.blogspot.com

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28. "Reading" sketches

Here are a few rough sketches I recently blogged, which fall under this month's theme of READING.


Storytime




Pictures by June Goulding

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29. August is for Readers

Animalogy by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Cathy Morrison
August's theme is READING. Here's an image from Animalogy with a family reading by the campfire. This was my first book for Sylvan Dell Publishing, now Arbordale Publishing and I'm starting my eighth one now. And it's going to be another book by Marianne Berkes. Happy reading!

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30. Bookhopper


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31. 3 FAB AudioBooks & a poem for Poetry Friday!

.
Howdy, Campers!

It's POETRY FRIDAY!
Thanks to Margaret for hosting Poetry Friday today!
(My poem's at the end of this post.)
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Our topic is What are We Reading?  I love this topic...I've learned so much about my blogmates, our readers and books.

Carmela, JoAnn, Jill, Laura and Esther have each checked in about the books they've checked out this summer.

My turn!

Here's what I've read recently:
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green on my Kindle (loved it)
WE ARE CALLED TO RISE by Laura McBride ~ adult book (wonderfully written...but why are adult books so sad?)
TEA WITH GRANDPA written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg ~ (SPOILER ALERT: I've bought copies to give to grandparents who Skype their grandkids)

What I'm currently reading:
DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth on my Kindle (not crazy about the writing so far).

But I am CRAZY CAKES for audiobooks.  I live in Southern California, so maybe that explains it.  Or maybe I should say I live in my car in Southern California. :-)

So here is my list of  3 WONDERFUL audiobooks in the order I read them.  And yes, you can say "read them" if you listened to them. Because I said so.

ONE:


Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork, read by Lincoln Hoppe (read a review here)

Lincoln Hoppe is an AMAZING voice actor.  I think I want to marry him.

Hang in there with this audiobook. At first it felt soooo slow...I wasn't sure I was going to keep listening. But, boy, am I glad I did. I mean, wow.

From the Random House website:
"Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary audiobook is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside."

TWO:

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, read by Sam Freed

From Wikipedia:
"Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, published by Clarion Books, is a 2004 historical fiction book by Gary D. Schmidt. The book received the Newbery Honor in 2005 and was selected as a Michael L. Printz Honor that same year. The book was based on a real event. In 1912, the government of Maine put the residents of Malaga Island in a mental hospital and razed their homes."

“Schmidt’s writing is infused with feeling and rich in imagery. With fully developed, memorable characters. . . This novel will leave a powerful impression on readers.” ~ School Library Journal, Starred


THREE:

Okay For Now by Gary D. SchmidtNational Book Award Finalist.  Read by Lincoln Hoppe.  (!)

Here's what the National Book Award website says:
“In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.”

His main character, Doug Swieteck, first appeared in Schmidt’s Newbery Honor book, THE WEDNESDAY WARS.

Listen to an 8 minute NPR on-air interview of Schmidt about OKAY FOR NOW here.

There.  Those are my Fab 3.

What I look forward to listening to next:

~ THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt, read by Joel Johnstone. I think I may have this read years ago; I can't wait to listen to it. (I'm inspired by Esther and am reading a string of books by the same author...something I almost never do.  Gary D. Schmidt is a brilliant and deeply affecting writer.)

LISTENING IN THE BACKSEAT
by April Halprin Wayland

Are we twisting,
risking all,

listening to what the writer
wires us,

what the teller
sells us?

Twisting, uncertain,
wheeling...to the final curtain?


Did you know that many folks read books aloud for your listening pleasure on YouTube?  Go to YouTube and search for a book title.  For example, click here for a sampling of folks reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

And...if you know any flat-out beginning picture book writers in the Los Angeles area, my six-week class, Writing Picture Books for Children in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program starts August 6th.  (The student who benefits most from this class has never heard of SCBWI.)

poem and drawing (c)2014 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

posted by April Halprin Wayland...who's amazed that you've read all the way to here.  Thank you. 

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32. Who is My Audience?

On Twitter ages ago N. K. Jemisin asked “*do* white writers want only white readers?”

The immediate, obvious answer for me is: No, I don’t want only white readers. And I’m really glad I don’t have only white readers.

But I’ve not been able to stop thinking about that question. And the shadow question which is “do white writers only write for white readers” regardless of what kind of audience they might want?

In order to respond I need to break it down:

Whiteness

I’m white. That fact has shaped everything about me. I know the moment when I first realised I was white. I was three or four and had just returned from living on an Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory. My parents were anthropologists. I was on a bus with my mum in inner-city Sydney when I pointed to a man of possibly Indian heritage and said loudly, “Mummy, look it’s a black man.” My mother was embarrassed, apologised to the man, who was very gracious, and later tried to talk to me about race and racism in terms a littlie could understand.

What happened in that moment was me realising that some people were black and some people were white and that it made a difference to the lives they lived. I’d just spent many months living in the Northern Territory as the only white kid. The fact that I wasn’t black had not been made an issue.1 We played and fought and did all the things that kids do despite my difference. So much so that tiny me had not noticed there was a difference. Despite seeing many instances of that difference being a great deal I wasn’t able to make sense of it till I was living somewhere that was majority white, majority people with my skin colour, and then the penny dropped.

Many white Australians never have a moment of realising that they’re white. That makes sense. Whiteness is everywhere. White Australians see themselves everywhere. Our media is overwhelmingly white, our books are overwhelmingly white. In Australia whiteness is not other; it just is. Whiteness doesn’t have to be explained because it is assumed.

Because whiteness just is, like many other white people, I don’t identify as white. For me whiteness is the box I have to tick off when I fill out certain forms. While it shapes every single day of my life it doesn’t feel like it does. Because what whiteness gives me is largely positive, not negative. My whiteness is not borne home on me every single day. I don’t need to identify as white because, yes, whiteness is a privilege.

When I see a white person talking about “their people” and they mean “white people” I assume they are white supremacists. Anyone talking about saving the white race from extinction is not my people.

For many different reasons I do not think of white people as my people. As a white writer I do not write for white people.

I admit that I have used the phrase “my people.” I’ve used it jokingly to refer to other Australians. Particularly when homesick. Or when someone Australian has done something awesome like Jessica Mauboy singing at Eurovision at which point I will yell: “I love my people!” Or an Australian has done something embarrassing on the world stage: “Oh, my people, why do you fill me with such shame?”

I’ve used “my people” to refer to other passionate readers, to YA writers, to fans of women’s basketball, to Australian cricket fans who like to mock the Australian men’s cricket team and care about women’s cricket, to people who hate chocolate and coffee as much as I do etc.

All of that comes from a place of privilege. I can’t think of a single time in my life when I have been referred to as “you people.” I’ve gotten “you women” or “you feminists” or “you commies”2 or “you wankers” but never “you people.”

White people are rarely asked to speak for their entire race. N. K. Jemisin’s question about white writers writing for white readers is not something that gets asked very often. Meanwhile writers of colour are asked questions like that all the time. They are always assumed to have a people that they’re writing for.

Audience

When I sold my first novel3 I was not thinking about who would read those books. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote those books either.4 Frankly I was still over-the-moon ecstatic that they’d sold, that there were going to be novels out there that I wrote! I didn’t get as far as imagining who would read them.

I’ve written stories ever since I was able to write and before then I would tell them to whoever would listen. My first audience was my sister. And, yes, I tailored some of those stories to suit her tastes, adding lots of poo jokes. But, come on, I like(d) poo jokes too. It’s more that I got lucky that my sister liked what I liked.

All my novels are books that, if I hadn’t written them, I would want to read them. I write for myself. I am my main audience.

However.

That all changed when I was published, when my stories found distribution beyond my sister, my parents, friends, teachers.

When I, at last, had an audience and that audience was responding to my novels is when I started thinking about that audience.

When members of my audience started writing to me and I met members of my audience is when I really started thinking about who my audience was and how they would respond to what I had written.

That’s how I know my audience isn’t all white. It’s how I know my audience isn’t all teens. How I know they’re not all women. Not all straight. Not all middle class.

As my books started to be translated I found myself with an audience that isn’t all English speaking.

Discovering how diverse my audience was changed the way I wrote which I have discussed here.

Addressing a White Audience

There is one place where I am addressing a mostly white audience. And that’s on this blog and on Twitter when I’m trying to explain these kinds of complex issues of race to people who haven’t thought much about them before. White people tend to be the people who think the least about race because it affects them the least. So sometimes that’s who I’m consciously addressing.

Writing to an Audience

But white people who are ignorant about racism is never whom I’m consciously addressing when I write my novels.

Even now when I have a better idea of who my audience is I don’t consciously write for them. When I’m writing the first draft of a novel all I’m thinking about is the characters and the story and getting it to work. If I start thinking about what other people will think of it I come to a grinding halt. So I have learned not to do that.

It is only in rewriting that I start thinking about how other people will respond to my words. That’s because when I rewrite I’m literally responding to other people’s thoughts on what I’ve written: comments from my first readers, from my agent, and editors.

My first readers are not always the same people. If I’m writing a book that touches on people/places/genres I have not written before I’ll send the novel to some folks who are knowledgeable about those in the hope that they will call me on my missteps.

Any remaining missteps are entirely my lookout. There are always remaining missteps. I then do what I can to avoid making the same mistakes in the next books I write. And so it goes.

I hope this goes a little of the way towards answering N. K. Jemisin’s question. At least from this one white writer. Thank you for asking it, Nora.

  1. When we returned when I was 8-9 my whiteness made a huge difference.
  2. Many USians think anyone to the left of Genghis Khan is a communist.
  3. First three, actually. The Magic or Madness trilogy was sold on proposal as a three-book deal way back in 2003.
  4. Well not the first two, which were written before the first one was published.

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33. Confession




classic-winnie-the-pooh 4_720x960

I do not want to read books written for teens.  I do not want to read new books.  I want to snuggle down with Winnie-the-Pooh and Uncle Wiggily.

 I want to revisit the flood in which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water and the boat made of an overturned umbrella.

I can not get interested in road trips made by fledgling adults, or the struggles of young people whose best friends have all moved away.  I want to to find Goldbug on every page.  I want to meet Anne Shirley again for the first time.

And I want to sail on the pirate ship with Obadiah, the Bold, chant "Not I!" with the dog and the mouse and the cat - or is it a rooster?

It is the waning of summer, a time of nostalgia and I want to go back, go back, go back to the first time I opened Little Men.

This, too, shall passToddlers turn to school children.  Tigers turn to butter and I will turn to new books some time.

But not right now.

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34. I Couldn’t Help it, the Words, They Made Me

I read a review in the Los Angeles Review of Books the other day about a collection of essays called Xylotheque by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. I had no idea what xylotheque meant and I had never heard of the author before but before I even got to the part of the review that began to explain the title I had already decided I was going to buy the book. Why? I had no idea what the book was about, I still don’t really because I never actually finished reading the review, but the reviewer hit so many key words and phrases that had my synapses buzzing I had to have the book.

What had me so worked up? Let’s make a list!

  • lyrical essays
  • borderland between prose and poetry
  • sure-footed in their gamboling
  • revel in the gap between knowing and unknowing
  • provoking meditation

I was caught hook, line, and sinker. The book is now sitting next to me on my reading table and I still don’t know what it is about. for the record though, xylotheque is a collection of wood.

Then I got to thinking about other words that pop up in reviews that make me pay attention and want to read a book. And that led to words that make me not want to read a book. The words on both lists aren’t always the same (sometimes they might change lists depending on my mood) and they aren’t even words I would necessarily use when describing a book, but they are words that trigger a reaction in me when someone else writes them.

For future reference, if you are writing about a book and want me to read it, these words will serve you well:

  • thought-provoking
  • provocative
  • meditative
  • lyrical
  • complex/difficult/challenging
  • quirky
  • unusual/different
  • darkly funny
  • mind-blowing

Also, if anyone ever calls a book a good mind-fuck I will squeal in delight. I love it when a book messes with my head and such a description is so rarely encountered even when expressed less crudely that I will pretty nearly come close to dropping everything to read that book. Unless it is horror. When messing with my head turns into nightmares, won’t go there.

Words describing a book that usually turn me off wanting to read it:

  • cozy
  • simple
  • part of a series (I will sometimes make exceptions for this)
  • romantic
  • in the style of *famous author* (unless you say “this book could be the love child of Virginia Woolf and David Foster Wallace” or something equally as odd, then you’ll have my interest)
  • if you liked X then you will like Y (though it is ok to say “this book reminded a little bit of X”)

Hmm, I thought the turn off list would be longer. I will very likely think of more words for it after I click the “publish” button.

So what about you? What words trigger an “OMG I have to read this!” reaction in you and what words immediately convince you a particular book is not for you?


Filed under: Books, Reading

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35. BWFBC: Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt/Carol (1952)

Welcome to July’s Bestselling Women’s Fiction Book Club in which we discuss Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt/Carol. It’s original title was The Price of Salt and that’s what some editions in the US still call it. In Australia and the UK it’s called Carol. That’s how I think of it because that’s the edition I first read and fell in love with in my early twenties.

This is the first book we’ve discussed that one of us knows really well. I’m a huge Highsmith fan. Have read everything she’s published as well as all the biographies and memoirs of her I can find. So this discussion is a little different from the previous ones.

Because the book was originally published as a hardcover but did not take off until the paperback edition came out1 I thought it would be fun for you to see the different covers. Quite the difference, eh? From what I’ve been able to figure out it was that second version that sold the most copies. At least one of the dates in the image bleow is wrong. The hardcover version of Price of Salt was first published in 1952, not 1951.



Note: in the discussion below my information about the original publication of the book and how many copies it sold comes from Patricia Highsmith’s 1989 afterword which is now included in most reprints of the book. She says almost a million copies. As you can see some of the paperback covers above claim only half a million.

One last thing: apparently Todd Haynes is currently directing Cate Blanchett in a movie version to be called Carol. Yes, I’m excited.

For the discussion on Twitter we’ll be using the hashtag #BWFBC. You can also join the conversation in the comments below.

If you haven’t read Price of Salt/Carol yet there are many spoilers below.

And here at last is our take on this bloody brilliant book:

JL: This is my third or fourth read so I’d really like to hear your take on it first. Very curious to know what you thought.

KE: I’m about a third through.

I think it is quite well written. And I’m really impressed by how she captures Therese’s stunned attraction. Also, something about Highsmith’s point of view is so interesting to me and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe because the situation doesn’t feel as desperate as some of the other books where we can tell from the subject matter and the tone that a dire fate awaits the women characters. This isn’t precisely a comedy, but it is a book in which there is a fragile sense that a woman can contribute to her own destiny? That she has a hope of happiness and success of a kind? Does that make sense?

I’m enjoying it. The initial phone call exchange where Carol rings up and realizes who it is who called her is brilliant.

JL: Yes to all of that. Except that I think Highsmith is a genius and her writing perfect.

The pov is deeply strange. It verges on omniscient.

The description of Therese’s desire, love, obsession is remarkable. Every time I read it I’m absolutely desperate for them to kiss already. WHY AREN’T YOU BOTH KISSING ALREADY?! And I do mean kissing. They barely so much as hold hands for most of the book. Sexual tension = this book.

I can’t help thinking how disappointed the 1950s straight men who read lesbian pulps for the titilation must’ve been with this book and how beyond delighted the lesbians must have been to discover it. No wonder it was an underground hit.

Have you finished yet? Didn’t want to write more of my thought until you’ve finished.

I will say this one thing since it’s clear that Richard is like this early on. I’m struck by how in every single novel we’ve looked at there’s a guy who will not take no for an answer and who pathologises the woman for her refusal to marry him/be with him.

KE: Yes. Richard doesn’t seem bad at first but then it turns out he’s awful. Dannie is better because of he isn’t bothered (seemingly) by the revelation that Therese has had an affair with Carol, and because he genuinely does seem like a person who will not demand.

The man who won’t take no for an answer is a familiar and comfortable trope, still present today in guises that make such a man seem worthy and attractive, but in all these novels the writers simply skewer that notion.

JL: It’s lovely to see that revulsion at that guy is not a recent development. He’s been loathed for much longer than either of us has been alive. And yay for that! Now if only we could get him to go away forever.

I just reread Malinda Lo’s review of the book. I was really struck by how weird I found it that she saw it as a love at first sight novel. I didn’t read it that way at all. I mean Carol doesn’t even realise that it was Therese at first she thought it was some guy who served her that day. Carol pretty clearly isn’t immediately attracted to Therese it’s more of a slow burn. The falling in love is even a slower burn. I feel like Carole doesn’t even take Therese seriously until she realises that she’s a set designer.

Therese is very much attracted straight away. But that’s not love at first sight that’s lust at first sight which I’ve never found hard to buy at all.

Your thoughts?

KE: I absolutely read it as Therese falling in love at first sight. Carol feels the attraction but, I think, is mature and experienced enough to be amused by it because she knows what it is.

But I simply can’t agree that it is lust at first sight.

JL: Wow. I think I have a totally different understanding of what love at first sight as a narrative device is compared to you and Malinda. Because I really disagree. I’ve always seen it at as something that happens to both in the pairing—a la Twilight or Tristan and Isolde. They might struggle against it but they both feel it. A narrative in which only one person is into the other is not a love at first sight narrative.

Carol definitely does not feel it. She doesn’t even remember who Therese is at first and if Therese hadn’t contacted her Carol would never have thought of her again.

Therese feels an attraction—I think it’s lust—that she doesn’t quite make sense of until she sees Carol a few more times. But, yeah, I think her immediate attraction to Carol is physical. And that she lets herself understand it as something more romantic because she doesn’t quite have the means to understand being attracted to a woman. It’s part of what she tries to talk to idiot Richard about when she asks him if he’s ever been attracted to a man. So, yeah, I definitely feel the attraction is instant but the love comes later.

I don’t read Therese as truly being in love with Carol or even truly understanding Carol until the very end of the novel when she’s wowed by Carol’s bravery in deciding to be with Therese even though it means she’s going to lose her daughter.

One of the many things I adore about this novel is that it shows the reader Therese and Carol getting to know each other fairly slowly and falling in love fairly slowly. Therese learns that Carol is not, in fact, who she thought she was.

KE: Therese is so sure of herself and how these feelings permeate her. I think it’s beautifully written in capturing the sense of floating and surety. Besides the really good writing I think what I love most about this book is that Therese never questions herself, never hates herself for having what most people at that time (and too many even now) considered “unnatural” feelings. The power of the emotion that hits her is so strong that she simply accepts it in a way that might typically be written in a heterosexual romance of the time (and still today). There’s no agonizing forr her, it’s Cupid’s arrow straight between the eyes. I love that. Although over the course of the novel Therese slowly comes to realize what it means for her and Carol in terms of society’s disapprobation and the real threat it poses to both of them for different reasons.

JL: Here we can agree. (Though I think Cupid fires lust darts, not love.) I adored Therese’s surety about her own desires too. And it’s a huge part of why it sold almost a million copies in paperback and caused so many lesbians and gay men to write to Highsmith about the novel. Here was a story where a woman falls in love with another woman without believing that she’s deranged or infantile or any of the things that awful Richard acuses her of being. Here’s a story in which the lovers get to be together at the end.

KE: So, yes, put me firmly in the love at first sight camp.

Carol’s is a slower burn but I read that in part as caution and, as you say, in part that at first she seems to find Therese more amusing (and maybe a little flattering) than anything.

(Very true about Cupid. My bad.)

JL: If she’s a slow burner than how on earth is it love at first sight?! That makes no sense! I read it as Carol being depressed. Her ex is awful, she’s just broken up with her best friend, her daughter’s with her awful ex, she has a housekeeper she doesn’t trust, she has no job to distract her. So, yes, as you say she’s enjoying the flattery of Therese’s crush on her but doesn’t take it seriously beyond that. She’s certainly not imagining them living together. Pretty much until they go on the road trip Carol tries to encourage Therese to stick with her odious boyfriend.

KE: The set design does change Carol’s view of her. I wonder if you have any thoughts in how Carol reacts (with the negative criticism)? It could be seen as a compliment (I’m being honest) or as a little more passive aggressive. Or some other option. It’s interesting though.

JL: For me that’s the first moment Carol starts to really see Therese and not just the flattery of this pretty young thing having a crush on her.

I read her criticism as part of Carol’s general discomfort. Carol’s up against so much that she’s not talking about. Two break ups in a row. She’s constantly kind of on edge and irritable and I see the picking at Therese’s designs as another part of that. She spends a lot of time trying to push Therese away. And there’s a lot of weirdness around her break up with Abby and Abby’s interaction with Therese. I also think she’s a bit freaked out by her growing feelings for Therese and the ramifications for Carol. She is, as you say, much more aware of the consequences of being a lesbian in the 1950s in the USA than Therese is.

I’m coming out of YA where there’s a metric tonne of love at first sight in the sense I mean it. In the fairy tale sense. And YA is where Malinda is from as well which is how I read her as responding to the book: “Oh, God, not that awful trope again.” Whereas I think this novel is SO not that trope.

However, I still don’t see Therese as instantly in love. Intrigued and crushing, yes. Full of desire, yes. In love? No. I also see a very slight amount of omniscience in the narrator. Through those eyes I feel like the novel is very lightly mocking—mocking is too strong a word—Therese’s growing obsession with Carol. But there’s a definite feel of someone much older telling the tale of this nineteen year old’s first real experience with love.

KE: If you are defining “love at first sight” as necessarily mutual, then no it isn’t. But I’ve never defined it as having to be mutual.

In Carol’s case, she even says toward the end that she went over to Therese in the department store because she was the least busy, and not wearing a smock.

JL: I don’t think either of them really start to fall all the way in love with each other until the road trip when they get to know each other and discover they have great chemistry in bed.

KE: Nah. I just disagree. Therese is in love from the get-go, although I should specify that I think of it as infatuation-love rather than love-love, if that makes sense. But it is not just lust. The emotion made Therese stronger and more sure of herself. Lust (to my mind) doesn’t create the same grounding.

JL: It’s lust with romantic longings. That ain’t what I call love. I do not call infatuation love. I call love what you’re calling love-love. So I think we’re agreeing but we have definitional disagreements. Frankly I don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in lust at first sight, infatuation at first sight, but not love. Love takes time. You can’t love someone if you don’t know them.

KE: I should note that I myself am skeptical about the idea of love at first sight. On a personal note I actually have a statement about “love at first sight” in my forthcoming YA fantasy novel, in which a father tells his daughter about the first time he saw her mother. He emphatically does not believe in “love at first sight” and then describes what pretty much what in any book would be “love at first sight.”

I should also note that from my own experience I know that “instant attraction” (sometimes sexual but often a more intangible quality that is an instinctive “connection” between two people) does exist but I have experienced it with both men and women. It always startles me when I instantly like and feel drawn to someone (even as I know I don’t really know them, but something sparks that connection and I am sure I have no idea what it is).

JL: Yes to all of that.

KE: I’m enjoying your analysis of Carol. I think in this case that is a perspective that can’t be gained from a single reading of the novel but only from a re-read.

JL: It is true *cough* that this is at least my fourth read of this novel. It fascinated me because it is so not like Highsmith’s other books yet at the same I can see so many places where it could take a turn into Highsmith territory. Like when awful ex, Harge, shows up, there’s a moment where either Therese or Carol could plausibly have killed him. The fact that Carol brings a gun on the road trip and it never goes off! If this were a regular Highsmith Carol could have wound up killing that detective.

KE: Yes, I recognized the business with the gun and felt it was, perhaps, a tip of the hat to her thrillers? I was pretty sure it would not go off because the tone of the story wasn’t right for it, but it was a reminder that the entire narrative could have taken a far darker turn.

JL: Oh, I like that interpretation. Hadn’t occurred to me. It’s just the sort of thing Highsmith would do too.

KE: What’s interesting is that I think the story may have been far more important to readers because it did not take that dark turn.

JL: Absolutely!

KE: The ending is brilliant and adorable, and the cinematic romantic in me is just beaming because it is so sweet and yet somehow Highsmith pulls it off without making it saccharine; she makes you want it.

JL: The first time I read it I cried. Sobbed my heart out with joy. Not just because it’s a (relatively) happy ending but because they’re both now in a place and the novel takes place over at least a year and a half where they’re right for each other, mature enough for each other, and brave enough for each other. *sniff*

KE: I must say that I did feel a pinch of anger at Therese for that business of “she choose Rindy over me” because I’m a mother and so I entirely empathize with Carol’s situation. Having said that, Highsmith has carefully set up that Therese has no reason to understand “motherly love” as she never got any and, in fact, was herself discarded when her mother chose her second husband over Therese. So it makes psychological sense.

JL: Oh, sure. I also think it’s meant to be a bit appalling. Even without her awful background Therese is still very young. It’s a very young person’s selfish thought.

KE: So while Therese’s story ends well, Carol’s remains filled with a combination of triumph and heartbreak, very bittersweet. In my fanfic, Rindy will start writing secret letters to her mother and then, as 16, will start seeing her mother secretly and, at 18, tell her father where to go.

JL: That’s hilarious. I was going to tell you that I imagine Rindy constantly running away from her dad until he finally gives in and lets her go live with Carol and Therese. He won’t mind because he’s found himself another trophy wife and had more children. And Rindy’s proven herself to be too much trouble.

But, yes, my heart breaks for Carol.

One of the lovely things at the end of the book is that we finally get to see Carol without all those weights on her. She knows, at last, where she stands with her ex, she’s lost custody of her daughter. She doesn’t have to hide. She doesn’t have to pretend anymore. That brittleness about her is gone.

KE: The only thing that mitigates my annoyance with the plot device of Carol having to lose her child in order to be “free” (very dicey plot device, that one) is that I know that legally it would and could have happened in that way. But in this particular case the plot line of a mother losing her child always comes across to me as traumatic.

JL: It happened to a close family friend in the 1970s. Lesbian mothers didn’t start winning custody battles til later in that decade. At least not in Australia and I bet it was just as bad in the US. So I never thought of that as a plot device but rather as absolutely what would have happened. Because that’s what did happen. Sometimes still does happen.

I also think is clear Carol doesn’t see losing Rindy as making her free. She’s clearly heartbroken. But in the choice between denying who she is to people who hate her and won’t to keep her from her daughter and will use any excuse to do so she chooses love with Therese.

KE: I’ve thought a bit more about this and I realize that in fact Carol doesn’t read to me as heartbroken and in fact her relationship with Rindy never felt true to me; it is the one thing in the book that doesn’t ring true to me. It feels obligatory but not emotionally authentic. So it isn’t the plot device that didn’t work for me — the legal aspect — it’s that I never quite believed in the mother/daughter relationship as depicted between them so that it came across as a plot device rather than something I truly cared about because I never (as a reader) invested in the Carol/Rindy relationship. All the other relationships felt true to me, even the minor ones like Mrs Robichek.

JL: Again I disagree. One of the things I’ve noticed on rereads is that Therese is not a reliable narrator though she absolutely strives to be one (which is a key distinction between kinds of unreliable narrators). but everything about Carol is filtered through her gaze. Therese does not give a shit about Rindy. She doesn’t much ask about Rindy except in a pro forma way. So Carol doesn’t much talk about Rindy with Therese. Yet even so she’s there haunting the entire book and a huge part of Carol’s grief and brittleness. When letters arrive Carol always reads Rindy’s first. And Therese is puzzled by that. To me that was a huge tell that Therese just doesn’t get Carol’s love for her daughter.

KE: If that is the case, and I think you make a compelling argument about something that might not be as obvious EXCEPT on a re-read, then there’s a second layer to all this in that Therese essentially acts as did the second husband for whom her mother discarded her. It would be interesting to think about how and what it means that, as an abandoned child, she can’t (yet) empathize with a girl about to be separated from her mother.

I wanted to make a brief mention of how brilliantly Highsmith uses excerpts from letters. She’s such a skilled writer, and it’s interesting to see how the narrative voice differs from the voices displayed in the letters (naturally, but it’s not easy to do).

JL: As I have now mentioned multiple times I am a huge fan. Can I admit now that you’re initial comment that Highsmith writes “quite well” had me fuming? Yay, that you saw the light. :-)

KE: Justine, “quite well” is a huge compliment from me. I don’t gush much. If I say, “that was a good book” it is strong praise.

JL: Weirdo.

KE: Probably!

There is a period of several chapters where Therese does a cascade of “growing up” that turns her into a person of budding maturity and—quite the most interesting to me—a woman with determined goals and a sense of herself. She is a woman who will succeed and also be true to herself (in many different facets of her life). Wow. What a fabulous emotion to leave the reader with.

JL: Yes to all of this. I too think that was beautifully done, which I guess is pretty obvious given how many times I’ve read it.

KE: I would like to hear more about the context of this book’s bestsellerdom because I confess it surprised me that a book with this content would have been a bestseller in 1952. I’m not surprised people wrote to Highsmith. Again, I can’t express enough how unusual it is EVEN TODAY but especially then to read a lovely story like this in which her sexual coming out (if I may use that term) is depicted so positively, and sexily. And without any need to ever have Therese question, doubt, dislike, or try to “change” herself.

JL: It may not be technically a bestseller. But it did sell close to a million copies and it was one of the bestselling lesbian pulp paperbacks of the 1950s. It did not do well in its original printing in hardcover though it got some nice reviews including from the NYT. But it’s real impact was in paperback.

Those lesbian pulps were mainly aimed at titilating straight male readers but many lesbians also read them and I’m pretty sure this novel would have stood out like a sore thumb. It became a novel that was passed around by lesbians and by which they could recognise each other. Marijane Meaker (M. E. Kerr) was one of Highsmith’s lovers and talks about the book’s impact in her 2003 memoir about her relationship with Highsmith:

Pat was revered [in the lesbian community] for her pseudonymous novel, The Price of Salt, which had been published in 1952 by Coward McCann. It was for many years the only lesbian novel, in either hard or soft cover, with a happy ending.

It stood on every lesbian bookshelf along with classics like The Well of Loneliness; We, Too, Are Drifting; Diana; and Olivia.

KE: The book dragged for me a little in the middle, mostly because I was waiting for dragons or ninjas to appear and they never did. But the ending is really masterfully written.

JL: You do realise that there will be no dragons or ninjas in any of the books we’re looking at, right?

KE: WHAT?!?!?

So glad you had us read this one! I’d never even heard of it. But then again, because of the lack of dragons and ninjas and sword fighting, I tend not to have heard of a lot of mainstream fiction.

  1. Pun intentional.

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36. Writings and paintings

This passage from Kate Rundell's gorgeous Rooftoppers always makes me think of an impressionistic painting:


Paris lay still below them. From where Sophie stood, with both her hands wrapped round the neck of a carved saint, it was a mass of silver, except where the river shone a rusty-gold colour in the lamplight. (p.224)

The way she adds the 'rusty-gold' to the 'mass of silver' - what a lovely contrast of warm and cold metals... and look at those tiny yellow specks from 'the lamplight', which you can just see, can't you, on the surface of the Seine? 

I love the fact that it's a child seeing all this from above, from a place that people generally don't go to, and that she's there with her arms hugging a stern, stone figure - as if trying to give it the affection it's never had. For me, it's this painting:

Gustave Caillebotte, Rue Halévy (1878)

Stories almost never unfold in my head like films when I read, but I do sometimes 'see' static images - paintings, photographs - often specific styles or artistic currents. Sometimes it's the other way around: I'm reminded of a book when I look at a work of art. The other day I went to Madrid for the first time, and I saw in the huge and wonderful Prado museum this well-known triptych by Bosch:

Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490?)
Immediately I was reminded - of course in part because I'd just read it - of J.K. Rowling Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm, with its grotesque gallery of monstrous protagonists and torture scenes:

charming
But also, one little detail called back to my mind a similarly gripping summer read from years ago I'd almost entirely forgotten, Michael Connelly's A Darkness More Than Night... A Harry Bosch adventure, not coincidentally:

it's a story full of Boschian owls, that's all I can remember...
Now Galbraith and Connelly are linked in my mind as inextricably as Rundell and Caillebotte.

Generally, it happens with very famous rather than obscure works of art, perhaps because those tend to stick in one's head more. In children's literature, here are other associations, personal and therefore not always logical, though some are much more obvious than others:

Lois Lowry's The Giver and the 1956 French film The Red Balloon
Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses and Norman Rockwell's 'The Problem We All Live With' (1964)


Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon is Anselm Kiefer all the way. Anne Fine's The Tulip Touch is this Edward Hopper...:

yep, it's the Bates Motel, too... not a coincidence, I'm sure.

I didn't like Neil Gaiman's Coraline very much (sorry), but it was Louise Bourgeois's 'Maman' spiders:


Some authors make explicit reference to paintings, films or other visual art forms, like Marcus Sedgwick in Midwinterblood. I love that - I love looking up the works of art mentioned in books, especially when I have no clue what they are and it throws a completely new light on the text. Some painters, some paintings and some movements seem to crystallise writers' attention. Da Vinci, of course, but also the Surrealists in general, it seems.

Similarly, when I write, I never really picture my characters in my head, but there's always a lot of colours, and many static images, like paintings or stills from films or photographs. Fun adventure stories, whether I write them or read them, look quite like Sonia Delaunay's circles and spirals:

Pippi Longstocking!
Is it a kind of synaesthesia? Not sure, it's not automatic - it only happens with some books, and some paintings or works of art. It also depends hugely on what I've just read or seen, and in which contexts. Does that happen to you too? With which texts and which images? 
_____________________________________

Clementine Beauvais writes children's books in French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes, and the latter humour/adventure series - the Sesame Seade mysteries with Hodder, the Holy-Moly Holiday series with Bloomsbury. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.

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37. The Lost Planet Book Review

Title: The Lost Planet Author: Rachel Searles Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication Date: January 28, 2014 ISBN- 13: 978-1250038791 384 pp. ARC provided by publisher The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles is a rollicking sci-fi adventure for middle grade readers. A boy wakes up with a blaster wound to the back of his head and no memory except the phrase, "Guide the star." He's told that his

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38. Friday Feature: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick


16059938
Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late. 

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage. 

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. 

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

My thoughts:
It's no secret that I love the Hush, Hush series. Becca Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite authors, so when I found out this book was going to be given out at BEA, I had to have it. (Special thanks to Dan Cohen for making sure I got a copy since I missed the actual book drop.) This book is very different from the Hush, Hush series, but I was still sucked in.

Britt is an interesting character. At times she comes across as being very dependent on the men in her life. I didn't like this part of her personality. But there are other times when she's extremely strong and the men in her life depend heavily on her. Showing both sides helped the reader to see how Britt grows as a person throughout the book. I was really glad to see her moments of strength because without them, I would have had a hard time rooting for her.

I did love how Britt put totally set herself up for trouble, first agreeing on a trip with her ex-boyfriend, who happens to be her best friend's older brother, and then by claiming a total stranger is her new boyfriend just to save face and having her ex confirm her story. Luckily that stranger goes along with Britt's lie, and isn't she surprised when her truck gets stranded in a snow storm and she winds up on that very same stranger's doorstep. ;)

From there, trouble begins and Britt isn't sure who to trust, especially since there is a murderer on the loose. I admit, I figured out who the murderer was early on. *Sigh* I'm really cursed when it comes to figuring out plots before I'm supposed to. But anyway, I still really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

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39. Poetry Friday: Last Impressions and What I'm Reading




For Poetry Friday, I'm sharing a poem from a book coming out this fall from J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon. I just received an ARC of Voices from the March on Washington (WordSong), and I've only read three of the poems. But they all knocked my socks off! I'll share more closer to the publication date, but here's a sneak peek to whet your appetite.

Last Impressions

black without white
is
a moonless
night
empty
as
a life
of endlessly
falling snow
is
white without black

--J. Patrick Lewis, all rights reserved

This lovely poem especially connected with me because I just wrote three poems about diversity for consideration for a friend's scholarly book on children's literature, and the one he chose uses blizzard/snow imagery as well!

And I love the way you can create many different complete thoughts that kind of overlap each other because of the line breaks. Gorgeous.

Here I am reading Pat's poem:



Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, creators of the amazing Poetry Friday Anthology books, are hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at Poetry for Children. Don't miss it!

Now on to what I've been reading. I've been working on attacking my to-read shelf this summer! I joined the Book-a-Day Challenge through Donalyn Miller and the Nerdy Book Club (http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/the-sixth-annual-book-a-day-challenge/). My goal is to average a book a day (surprise:>) And it's not too late! You pick your start and stop days, so if you have one month left of summer, go for it. Commit to reading a book a day, and share your books on your blog or Twitter (#bookaday). I post mine on Twitter--that accountability is great. Anyway, the thing I've learned most is that having a book-a-day really helps me get to a lot more picture books and poetry books--which are my favorite books, anyway. But they often get lost in the shuffle as I read research books or escape into mysteries. Below are the most recent 10 books I've finished. I have more in progress.

Looking over my list, I would say two other things I've learned are that I abandon books without guilt now (a major change from 10 years ago), and I want to read MORE picture books and poetry. Once book-a-day ends, I might have to come up with a picture book plan to keep me going!

P.S. Check that last book for the most finely-crafted nonfiction picture book I've read in months.

P.P.S. Those of you in the Los Angeles area who are aspiring picture book writers, check out Teaching Authors' April Halprin Wayland's upcoming class, Writing Picture Books for Children. It's Wednesday nights from August 6 through September 10. It might be just right for you, so don't miss out :>)

Happy reading,
Laura

Laura's bookshelf: read

Superworm
4 of 5 stars
Drama, a lizard wizard, an evil crow, and a superhero worm. All in delightful rhyme. What more could you ask for?

         
Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
4 of 5 stars
A terrific nonfiction book to introduce the fairly complex concept of fractals (shapes that have smaller parts that resemble the larger, overall shape). Clear text and well-chosen photos are the strong points. I might have given this 5 s...

         
Guilt by Association
4 of 5 stars
A smart-mouthed DA sets out to prove her colleague's innocence (after being ordered to stay out of the investigation) on the side while investigating the rape of the daughter of an annoying, powerful businessman. Strong, relatable charac...

         
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?
4 of 5 stars
Great rhyming nonfiction. We get to hear the calls of several species of birds and learn about their habits. Interspersed with that is a narrative about a bird that's calmly and quietly sitting on its nest--the nesting bird. It's a robin...

         
You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees
4 of 5 stars
I am not very savvy about financial planning. I'm a good budgeter, but at age 47, I've only thought about retirement in general, far-off terms. I'm SO glad I read this book. After starting to follow the basic steps spelled out here, I'm ...

         
Feathers: Not Just for Flying
5 of 5 stars
Basically a perfect nonfiction picture book. The primary text, secondary text, and art work beautifully together. Great mentor text for exploring functions or for using similes. And terrific for units on birds. Gorgeous work!

goodreads.com
Share book reviews and ratings with Laura, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

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40. Monday Mishmash 7/21/14


Happy Monday! Here's my Mishmash of thoughts:
  1. Construction  We had water damage to our house and the downstairs had to be completely gutted and treated for mold. It's a nightmare. I've been out of my house since last Wednesday and will be out all this week too while it's being repaired. I'll do my best to respond to comments during that time.
  2. Revision  I'm still revising my MG sequel. It's been slow going thanks to the disaster going on in my house and having to relocate for a while.
  3. Schedules  I'm a very scheduled person and my schedule has been so off this summer. Adjusting to that has been tough.
  4. Reading  I discovered a bunch of books on my Kindle that I forgot were there. I'm going back and reading those before I purchase more. Right now I'm reading Hereafter by Tara Hudson.
  5. Deal Announcement  The official deal announcement for Into the Fire and Perfect For You is here. It's always exciting to see these. :)
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That's it for me. What's on your mind today?


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41. Pretty Deadly Volume 1 Book Review

Title: Pretty Deadly Volume 1 Author: Kelly Sue DeConnick Illustrated by: Emma Rios Publisher: Image Comics Publication Date: May 13, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-1607069621 120 pp. ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley Pretty Deadly Volume 1 collects the first five issues of the Pretty Deadly comic, which is an Eisner Award nominee. Kudos to Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios for creating such a

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42. Question of the Week: Which Bestsellers Have You NOT Read?

Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. A few times a month at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you and the Adventures in YA team to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers and book lovers: craft, career, reading, books, and more. Join the discussion!

Question of the Week:
WHICH SUPER-POPULAR BOOK(S) HAVEN’T YOU READ? WHY NOT?

Source: Nomadic Lass
Jan Lewis: I haven't read The Fault in our Stars. I know, I know! I really need to read it. I generally don't read contemporary books, so I haven't gotten around to it.

Lisa Gail Green: Yikes. Too many, unfortunately. Mostly it’s a matter of getting through my horrifically long TBR list. But most are sequels and I do try to read as many first books as I can between those. So I’m dying to get to the last books in Cassandra Clare’s series, which I adore for example.

Martina Boone: Too many. Reading is the best perk of being a writer. I can read and consider it work, but I still struggle with guilt over that a little bit, as if “just” reading is something I have to justify. I’m forcing myself to get over it, though, and I try to stay current on what is being loved by readers. Right now, I’m behind on the Mortal Instruments series and the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, which is something I need to remedy. I’m also trying to get to Ransom Riggs’ Hollow City. On the other hand, I’ve been binge reading books that are coming up later this year, and I’m beyond excited about a lot of those. This year has been amazing—so many outstanding books from my favorite authors and new authors whose work is truly exceptional.

Katharyn Sinelli: I just read The Giver last month. To tell you the truth,I put off reading it despite recommendations because the old guy on the cover really creeped me out. It's like there should be a saying about not forming opinions of books based solely on their exteriors.

Alyssa Hamilton: Quite a few but I'll narrow it down. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I have read Eleanor & Park and didn't completely love it, so I think I just put Fangirl off. Maybe when the paperback comes out. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I've started this one but I really really disliked it so I never finished it. I've read 2 of John Green's books and am pretty apathetic towards them so I have no desire to read any more. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. The writing style just holds no interest for me so I know I won't be picking it up either!

Clara Kensie: For me, it's a matter of time. I could copy Lisa’s answer and paste it here, except that I haven’t read any of Mortal Instruments. I have the first book sitting right there on my bookshelf, staring at me every time I look up. I really want to read it, but there are so many books in the series, and I know if I start, it will take me forever to finish. Same with Game of Thrones. And there are so many books on my TBR list that are just as excellent as the super-popular books, but haven't made the bestseller lists. Maybe I'm alone in feeling this way, but I want support those lesser-known books by reading them first.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Which super-bestsellers haven’t you read? Why not?

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43. No Frigate like a Book - Joan Lennon

October 8, 1940, after an air raid on London 
(AP photo)


There is no Frigate like a Book

BY EMILY DICKINSON
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –


(This version of the poem is found on the Poetry Foundation website.)

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.

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44. Summer Reading List - Download

 
If you're looking to keep track of your literary adventures this summer, I've drawn a reading list that will satisfy just that purpose. You can find the PDF download below -- it's free for all personal, library and classroom usage. Happy reading!


 © Abigail Halpin 2014


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45. Guest Post: YA From a Marginalized Young Adult’s Perspective

A few weeks back @bysshefields was being really smart on twitter about being a young adult excluded from conversations about Young Adult literature. This is something that has often annoyed me, that the go-to “experts” on the genre for the mainstream media are almost never young adults themselves, that we only rarely hear from the people at whom the category is purportedly aimed. I asked Bysshe if she would write a guest post on the subject for my blog and happily she said yes.

All the words below are hers:

——–

My name is Bysshe and I’m a 19 year old aspiring author who lives in Brooklyn, NYC. I spend most of my time reading and writing.

Two different conversations led to my tweeting about the way YA voices are being ignored. I was talking to a friend (who is also a writer) about how no agent will want to take on my manuscript because it deviates too far from “the norm” (aka straight white girl protagonist being a badass and defeating the government). Both of us know that the audience for our stories is out there; if we and our group of friends, and THEIR groups of friends, and so on and so forth want to read about queer girls of color, then someone out there is lying about what’s actually popular in YA (particularly speculative fiction).

The second conversation occurred when my friend and I were discussing high school trauma, and how we felt that we couldn’t turn to YA because there weren’t representations of kids in our situations. Instead, we were reading books like The Godfather and Fight Club and who knows what other adult-marketed books because there was nothing heavy enough in YA to match how heavy we felt.

In what I’ve written below, I know there are misconceptions about how YA publishing works but I’ve left them in because I think they represent how little communication there is between those who market YA books and their audience. That also ties into what the idea that it’s harder to sell books about non-white/non-middle class/non-straight characters.

I truly, deeply don’t think it’s that they’re harder to sell, so much as people aren’t working as hard to sell them. Social media has taught me that the market is there. My own existence has taught me that the market is there. In my experience, the only people who truly think that diverse books might be harder to sell are people who wouldn’t buy them.

I’m certain that if Sherri L. Smith‘s Orleans got the same explosive blockbuster treatment as, say, Divergent, it would sell. Thinking that it wouldn’t is another example of young adults being underestimated because it suggests that we’re incapable of handling differences, which just isn’t true. I think that if publishers, or whoever’s in charge of properly exposing books, put the same effort into exposing diverse books, we would see a change in how they sell.1

Young Adult is defined as the ages of 15 to 25. By this definition, I’m about four-ish years into young adulthood. So far, it feels like a lot of things. It’s stifling, frustrating, exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I won’t make it out of these years alive. As a young adult, a lot of my decisions have already been made for me (if not by an adult, then by circumstances that were generated under adult influences). What little freedom I have has been cut down almost to the point of nonexistence (again, if not directly by adults, then by systems that adults put in place long before I was born).

In spite of the release that reading is supposed to give me, I’ve noticed a trend in mainstream2 YA literature: it’s exactly the same as reality, in that I have close-to-no input with regards to what happens in it.

There are a lot of teams on the playing field of the YA lit scene. Out of everyone, I feel a lot like Frodo at the Council of Elrond as I struggle to assert my voice over the Big Folk who seem to think that only they know what’s best for Middle-earth.

Just like Middle-earth, the world has become an increasingly toxic place for people my age to navigate. And basically, the parameters for the books we turn to for empathy and escape are shaped and defined by people who have little to no idea what we’re going through; people who make laundry lists of what YA is/is not, or what YA does/does not need. People telling us what we can/can’t handle, what we are/are not ready for despite the amount of things we’ve already been through. As we write our own stories and seek publication, I’ve had my own friends go over YA parameters they disagreed with but feel the need to adhere to. They’re always something like this:

  1. No blatant sex, drugs, violence, or cursing.
  2. Nothing too complex.
  3. No adults.
  4. Stick to characters and themes that are easy to understand.

Otherwise, the book “won’t sell”. Won’t sell to whom?

I’d sure as hell buy something that went against each and every one of those points. You know how that list translates to me?

  1. Sex, violence, and so forth are not a part of adolescence.
  2. Young adults are unintelligent.
  3. Young adults have no adults in their lives.
  4. Young adults don’t have real problems—never mind the harsh and diverse realities of abuse, rape, deportation, international terrorism, identity crises, mental health, the trauma of high school, etc. Let’s dumb this down, then turn it into a blockbuster film series. The end.

Have the majority of editors in YA publishing houses ever actually spoken to a young adult? If you have, have you asked them what they needed to read? What they needed empathy for? Have you, as an adult, tried to think back on what you needed to hear when you were my age or younger? Because if yes to any of those, then it isn’t showing. None of the Big Folk seem to have ANY idea what I needed to read at the age of 16, and what I still need to read now at the age of 19.

When I was an even younger young adult than I am now, I needed to read about sex. I can already visualize a bunch of mainstream authors pulling on puppy faces and gesturing to copies of their novels: “But what about my—?”

Stop right there. As a young, queer girl of color, I needed—no, NEED to read about sex. Heroines of my race having sex in a way that isn’t hyper-sexualized. Heroines having sex that isn’t just romanticized rape. Heroines having sex with multiple partners over the course of a series, because the first-boyfriend-only-boyfriend model is a dangerous misconstruction of reality.

I wanted heroines who know that it’s okay to fall in love multiple times. Heroines who know that it’s okay to leave relationships. I wanted to read about queer kids having sex. Period. None of those fade-to-black sex scenes between straight characters have ever taught me anything about safe, healthy sexual relationships. Sure, I could go to Planned Parenthood for that, but that’s embarrassing and terrifying for a kid to have to do and I’d rather just access my bookshelf like I do for everything else.

You know what? Sixteen-year-old me wanted to read about sex because she wanted to read about sex. Period. Good portrayals of sex are something that sixteen-year-old me desperately needed, and that nineteen-year-old me desperately needs now. Good portrayals of sex help kids to learn the signs of abusive, coercive relationships. “But that’s too explicit” my ass. The virgin, white-girl heroine never taught me anything except that my version of adolescence was dirty and needed to be kept off the shelves.

I needed to see violence—not some sick gore fest or anything, but something that subverted the violence happening around me. I grew up in Detroit—America’s capital of violent crime and murder. If you know anything about Detroit, then you know it’s closer than any city in America to becoming a modern urban dystopia. And yet the only message I’ve managed to pull from half the dystopias on shelves is that “the government” is “after me”.

How is the government after me? Is it the devastating impact of capitalism on the working class? Is it the fucked up education system? The school-to-prison pipeline? The military industrial complex? The ever present hetero-patriarchy that many, YA writers, editors, and publishers included, are complicit in? Because after taking a long list of classes and reading a long list of essays, I’ve finally figured out that, yes, those are the problems. But somehow my books couldn’t tell me that. Interesting.

Surprisingly, I need to see adults. I’m really curious about this one. Why do adult writers of young adult books tend to write adults out of the picture? Or else portray them as flat, villainous characters?

Throughout high school, I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother, and definitely needed to see people my age communicating effectively with their parents. After having endured many mentally and verbally abusive teachers, I learned to neither trust nor respect adults, but to fear them. Even though I was going to be an adult soon, I hated all of them and had no idea how to approach them.

Reading about abusive adults in YA lit hasn’t done anything to heal me from that. I definitely needed to see that it was possible for someone my age to have a connection with an adult that wasn’t full of miscommunications and didn’t border on abusive. At this point, I’d say that stereotyping adults as vapid villains does more harm than good.

More than anything, I need a spectrum of issues—a whole rainbow of characters and themes to match my identity, and the identities of the many people I know. This is probably more important to me than any of the above.

Adults in the publishing industry are currently responsible for the devastating and, frankly, embarrassing lack of diversity in the YA canon. Publishers and edits and basically everyone else who’s not writing what they see for a living, don’t seem to think we’re capable of handling a catalog of diverse narratives—which is complete and utter bullshit.

Don’t project your racist, sexist, transphobic, queerphobic, xenophobic, and otherwise marginalizing overview of reality onto my generation. Our realities encompass racial identity, gender identity, sexuality, religion, mental illness, disability, abusive relationships, poverty, immigration. The list goes on and on, and we need to see people with complex identities and narratives in our fiction.

We need to see people coping with racism. We need to see queer and trans people coming out of the closet. We need to see queer and trans people doing things OTHER than coming out of the closet. Seriously. There’s always been more to my life than queer angst. There is more to my queer life than the closet, than simply telling people that I’m queer.

We need to see queer kids breaking out of the established set of queer tropes. We need to see people ending unhealthy relationships and forming newer, healthy ones. We need to see all the issues that the Big Folk think they’re hiding from us because these issues are not exclusive to adults. These things are happening to us, too, and censoring in our fiction only makes us feel more alone. We need to see these things happening to people like us in the books that we’re supposed to be able to turn to. Even if the character’s problems aren’t solved, just knowing that someone with the same issues means the world to people who feel trapped in their lives.

I don’t think this is an issue with authorship. I don’t think this is an issue of editorship, either. To be honest, I’m not sure what type of issue it is. All I know is that I am very, very frustrated with the lack of complexity and diversity in the mainstream catalog of books for my age range. I think that there are plenty of authors I haven’t heard about writing just for me, but for one reason or another, I can’t access them.

Justine provided an excellent insight, which is that it isn’t that things aren’t being published, but because they’re not being promoted as heavily as the big books like Divergent. Or they’re being published by smaller publishers with a smaller reach. Or they’re not being published at all.

Is it that adult-operated publishing houses are telling adult writers what they should/shouldn’t be writing for the YA audience, without first consulting the audience itself? If so, this is blatantly disrespectful not only to authors, but to me, because a large portion of the industry that wants my support doesn’t respect my identity or my intelligence. I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve given wide berth to the young adult bookshelves while I sit back to write the series I’ve always wanted to read. If it weren’t for the fact that I eventually want to be published, I might’ve quit altogether.

But I don’t want to quit.

The books I’ve needed to read are out there. They’re just few and far in between. Orleans by Sherri L. Smith follows a young, black rape survivor navigating a hostile post-deluge New Orleans, where people are hunted for their blood. Coda by Emma Trevayne follows a diverse group of teens operating within a dystopia fuelled by music. Pointe by Brandy Colbert features a black girl protagonist with an eating disorder and deals with a multitude of heavy issues that teens in her situation might normally face. Last year’s If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is a f/f love story set in Iran. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina features an Aboriginal Australian protagonist in a supernatural dystopian future. These books are all immensely important, but they’re under-marketed, and even then, they’re not enough.

YA lit is too important to be given up on, and instead needs to be worked on. Many of the criticisms of YA are baseless and frivolous, such as the notion that adults should be embarrassed to read YA because, according to Slate, it’s all “written for children.” Bullshit.

If after the age of 25, I can only read the Adult Literary Canon™ for the rest of my life, I may as well just sign out now. It’s easy enough to address all these problems: cut down on the Big Folk vs. Hobbit mentality. Publishers need to start treating their young adult audiences like growing, developing human beings, or else the industry runs the risk of ending up as dystopic as half the books on the shelves. Stop telling us what we need and ask us instead.

We are more than just a market. This should be a partnership.

  1. See also: #weneeddiversebooks
  2. Heavy emphasis on the word mainstream. There are definitely books out there that do a good job of things like this. But why are they so hard to find?

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46. Monday Mishmash: 7/14/14

Happy Monday! Here's my mishmash of thoughts:
  1. I have a roof!  Finally! The addition isn't finished yet but I have a roof, which means no more raining in my house. Yay!
  2. Beth Fred's Blurb Writing Class  Beth Fred is teaching another online blurb writing class in August. Beth is great at writing blurbs so you're going to want to sign up here.
  3. Revisions  I'm working on second round revisions of my MG novel this week. I still have more to trim off my word count.
  4. Kiss of Death  My Touch of Death prequel novella from Alex's POV will be ready soon, and it will be free! I can't wait to share it with you.
  5. Reviewing  I need to catch up on reviews. I have two waiting for me to write them. Hopefully they'll get taken care of this week.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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47. We're Back! And Talking about What We've Been Reading


Hello Readers,
I hope you're all enjoying summer (well, at least those of you in the Northern Hemisphere!). These are definitely not "lazy, hazy days" for me. I spent much of our blogging break working on lesson plans for upcoming classes, including a children's writing camp that begins today. (If you'd like to see my summer class offerings, check out my website.)

Today I'm kicking off a series of posts in which we TeachingAuthors talk about a book we recently read or are currently reading. Thanks to the lovely Linda Baie over at TeacherDance, I know about a meme in the blogging community called "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" hosted at Teach Mentor Texts. I'm happy to have a blog post that qualifies for the roundup!

The book I'd like to discuss is John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton). Even though this bestseller has been out since 2012 and has been made into a "major motion picture," I didn't get around to reading it till this month. I might not have read it all if it hadn't been selected as one of our Anderson's Bookshop's Not for Kids Only Book Club titles for August.


I'm happy to say that even though I don't typically read or write contemporary young adult novels, I enjoyed this one. I was especially struck by two things right at the beginning:

A. The Author's Note:
In case you haven't read it (or somehow missed the page) the book includes an unusual Author's Note before Chapter One: 
Author’s Note
      This is not so much an author’s note as an author’s reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up.
      Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species.
      I appreciate your cooperation in this matter.
This note struck me for two reasons: 
  1. It reminded me of a question I'm often asked. Since my novel, Rosa, Sola, is based on events from my own childhood, readers often want to know how much of the novel "really happened." I think many who ask it are disappointed by my answer: None of it "really happened" because my life events happened to me, not to Rosa Bernardi. I don't think I could have written the story if I hadn't been able to separate myself from my character. 
  2. Green's note made me think more deeply about the nature of fiction and our purposes in reading/writing it. The note also reminded me of something I read years ago--that fiction is about Universal Truths, or "truth with a capital T." As a writer, I sometimes get so caught up in plot and craft, etc., that I can lose sight of the Truth.
If you'd like to read more about what Green meant by his Author's Note, see this page on his website.

B. That a story about cancer and death can be humorous:
From page one of The Fault in Our Stars, I was intrigued by the narrator's wit and voice. It begins:
Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.
I have to admit--after first reading this sentence I wasn't completely sure Hazel was being sarcastic. After all, this was a book about a girl with cancer. But it soon became apparent that cancer hadn't killed her sense of humor. That surprised me, as did other things about the book. I'm not going to risk spoiling it for those of you who haven't read the novel yet by telling you what those other things were. I'll just say that I enjoyed the book more than I expected. And, reading as a writer, I learned from it.

I wonder how many of you, our readers, have read Green's book. I'd love to know what you thought of it. And if you have any "summer reading" recommendations, do share them with us. 

Happy writing (and reading)!

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48. Question of the Week: Buy or Borrow?

Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. A few times a month at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you and the Adventures in YA team to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers and book lovers: craft, career, reading, books, and more. Join the discussion!

Question of the Week:
BUY OR BORROW?

Which do you do more often: borrow books from your library or purchase books from the bookstore?


photo credit: MissMessie via photopin cc

Clara Kensie: When I hear about a book I want to read, the first thing I do is look for it on my library’s website to see if they have it already or if it’s on order. In fact, I keep my To Be Read list on my library’s website, where I can tell at a glance if the books I want are currently available for immediate download, if they’re on order, or if they’re available for checkout. My library has an phenomenal digital collection of YA, and I always try to get my books as a digital loan first. If it’s not available in digital, I’ll borrow it in print.

While I always prefer to borrow from my library, I purchase lots of books too. I automatically buy books written by my author friends, either in digital or print. If a book I want is digital only and my library doesn’t have it, I’ll buy it. I also cannot resist Kindle Daily Deals and Nook deals or used books stores. I buy dozens of print books at my library’s used book sales.

Jan Lewis: I read ebooks exclusively, so I purchase them from Barnes & Noble. I got used to reading on a Nook before I got my iPad, and I still prefer their reading app.

Lisa Gail Green: I buy far more books than I borrow, but sometimes I can’t afford to support my bad habit and I do go to the library. I’ve always loved libraries and definitely fed my teenage book habit using the library, however. My own mother is a retired librarian. But I try to support authors by purchasing when I can. Plus I love to own my books and use my Kindle.

Martina Boone: I love libraries. I practically lived in them through my teenage years. Until recently, I
photo credit: ImaginaryGirl via photopin cc
bought a lot of books but I also borrowed a lot. Lately, I read a ton of ARCs, and I read a lot of digital books. I know the library carriers lots of digital books, but so far, I have not figured out the mechanism for reading on them. I should though, because when I love a book I’ve read digitally, I usually end up buying a paper copy as well. That might be my solution for avoiding buying multiple copies of books. On the other hand, I have to admit that one of the reasons I LOVE reading digitally is that all my favorites are there with me instantly. My iPad has become my security blanket, except that instead of being fuzzy and soft, it’s filled with places that offer comfort and adventure. I’m hooked.

Katharyn Sinelli: I usually buy more than I borrow, especially via Kindle since it doesn't feel like I'm spending real money. Our local library has stepped up it's digital list of YA titles, so I'll also get my fix there. I do like to own copies of my friends' books and titles I'm likely to reference in my writing process. Sometimes I want to know things like how Lani Taylor differentiated Karou's description of Prague from Akita's. Yep, literary nerd through and through.

Alyssa Hamilton: Well I work in a bookstore and it is seriously just temptation after temptation for me everyday. And I usually give in very easily. Having a discount has saved me so much money I can't even believe it. We also get to borrow books from the store, so it's my own personal library :) I haven't taken a book out of a library though in a really long time. I have this extremely bad habit of needing to own my books. One day I'll get back into it!



WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you borrow most of your books from the library, or do you buy most of your books from the bookstore?


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49. Friday Feature: Souless Cover Reveal


Have you met the Soulless and Passionate? In the world of 1770 where supernatural beings mix with humanity, Alexia is playing a deadly game.

SOULLESS, Book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she’s forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

What people are saying about this series: 

"With a completely unique plot that keeps you guessing and interested, it brings you close to the characters, sympathizing with them and understanding their trials and tribulations." --SC, Amazon reviewer

"It's clean, classy and supernaturally packed with suspense, longing, intrigue and magic." --Jill Jennings, TX

"SWOON." --Sherlyn, Mermaid with a Book Reviewer

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.


COMING October 13, 2014



PREORDER your print copy
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50. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 18

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, book lists, the Cybils, common core, aging, ebooks, apps, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, reading, writing, play, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Books and Authors

Stories from authors about school visits "gone terribly wrong" at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/zcwJO  @SevenImp @FuseEight

75 Years Old, Still Showing off her Scar, fun details about Madeline from @SevenImp + @FuseEight at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/z94Jk 

Book Lists and Awards

Amazon-backed Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award turned down by Allan Ahlberg | @TheBookseller http://ow.ly/z3OLT 

The Wildest (bold + unique) Children’s Books of 2014 as picked by @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zcxat  #kidlit

Teen blogger Summer from @miss_fictional looks back on Favorite Books from her Childhood http://ow.ly/z5flg  #kidlit

Who knew that there could be a list of Top 5 Picture Books about Ninjas? @rosemondcates could! http://ow.ly/z3KJl  #kidlit

Thanks! RT @145lewis: #CYBILS are an amazing resource Looking for summer reading ideas? http://dadtalk.typepad.com/cybils/finalists/ … #kidlit #edchat #elemed

Common Core and STEM

#CommonCore Becomes Touchy Subject for Governors Group, reports @WSJ, as both parties are internally split on CC http://ow.ly/z5fA0 

Tap the STEM Resources in Your Community! | ALSC Blog post for librarians by @amyeileenk http://ow.ly/z3KzZ 

Diversity

RT @tashrow 5 Stereotypes Positive Aging Picture Books Avoid | Lindsey McDivitt http://buff.ly/1zmZLk9  #kidlit

eBooks and Apps

RT @TWhitford: Great Apps To Introduce Coding to Young Kids http://goo.gl/uUdGX0  via @mattBgomez

Malorie Blackman: ‘I love gadgets, but e-reading has to be carefully handled’ | @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/z3P8z  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Growing Bookworms

What Do Phonics, Phonemic Awareness and Decoding Mean? @CoffeeandCrayon has the scoop http://ow.ly/zeLEb  #literacy

How #Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- @MaryAnnScheuer interview with @jenniholm http://ow.ly/zeLPW  #kidlit #literacy

Teaching My Daughters to Read -- Part III, Phonics from @ReadingShahahan http://ow.ly/zcvyn  #literacy

RT @LiteracySpeaks: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Reading Comprehension from This Reading Mama! http://fb.me/6BtWnEOln 

Fun times @everead | How I Stopped My Children's Whining with Story Club http://ow.ly/z5eUD  #literacy

KidLitCon

KidlitCon2014_cubeBOOM: And we are LIVE! Why you should attend this year's KidLitCon, from co-organizer Tanita Davis, FindingWonderland http://ow.ly/zcvbM 

The registration form for #KidLitCon14 Oct. 10-11 in Sacramento is now live: http://ow.ly/zc0lr  A great way to see friends + talk books

October will be here soon, soon, soon — @bkshelvesofdoom is coming to #KidLitCon14 Are you? http://ow.ly/z3GYs 

RT @CBethM: The 8th Annual @KidLitCon - Spending Time Face-to-Face with Kindred Spirits by @JensBookPage #nerdybookclub http://wp.me/p21t9O-1zS 

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

On having (and integrating) multiple Reading Lives by Kristin McIlhagga @TeachChildLit @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z94kV 

Cultivating Curiosity, on love of stories vs. love of words at So Obsessed With blog http://ow.ly/z94SO  via @catagator

Food for thought at Stacked: Growing Up, Leaving Some Books (Narnia) Behind by @kimberlymarief http://ow.ly/zi3Ac  #kidlit

Why Book Reviewers Would Make Awesome Authors, by @Miss_Fictional http://ow.ly/zcvDd 

A proposal from @100scopenotes | All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions. Thoughts? http://ow.ly/zcvYJ 

Here's what @medinger thinks about @100scopenotes idea for Putting a Stop to Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth http://ow.ly/zcwej 

Confessions Of A Binge Reader (Or, How I Read So Much) | Ryan Holiday at Thought Catalog http://ow.ly/z3LKY  via @tashrow

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With @EliteDaily http://ow.ly/z3NZQ  via @librareanne

On Kids

How Much Activity Do Our Students Need? asks @katsok How do you help kids who can't sit still, in era of less recess? http://ow.ly/z92pA 

Did What You Played as a Kid Influence Who You Became as an Adult? asks @FreeRangeKids http://ow.ly/z933H 

Powerful post @KirbyLarson by Michelle Houts on adults looking back and regretting childhood acts of bullying http://ow.ly/z3K36 

Schools and Libraries

Bridging the Gap: Making #Libraries More Accessible for a Diverse Autistic Population | @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3Omk 

Corporal Punishment in Schools: Can it be Justified? @TrevorHCairney thinks it's not the right approach http://ow.ly/zi3el 

Top 10 Ways to Turn Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers by @megangreads + @muellerholly @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z5eFi 

Summer Reading

This could keep us busy for the rest of the summer! 50 Fabulous Movies based on Children's Books from @rosemondcates http://ow.ly/zcvGP 

#SummerReading Tip20 @aliposner Set up your vacation accommodations in ways that make literacy more likely to occur http://ow.ly/z3LbF 

#SummerReading Tip21 @aliposner Encourage your kids to author “vacation books” when you are traveling this summer http://ow.ly/z5eOF 

#SummerReading Tip25 @aliposner | Read the SAME BOOK that your child is reading independently + discuss it together http://ow.ly/zeM9u 

#SummerReading Tip26 @aliposner | Try to connect reading to your kids’ summer activities http://ow.ly/zi3mT #literacy

Reading Is Fundamental Study Says Summer Reading Is Not Priority | reports Lauren Barack @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3OeW  @RIFWEB

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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