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My district has been all over Participatory Learning for several years now and when I first saw Makerspaces I thought, oh, yes, perfect. Our libraries already have a rudimentary beginning for this and what’s not to like about a DIY space?
“Makerspaces come in all shapes and sizes, but they all serve as a gathering point for tools, projects, mentors and expertise. A collection of tools does not define a Makerspace. Rather, we define it by what it enables: making.” From Makerspace Playbook
Makerspace as in create, build, design bring to life an idea. Not digital 21st or web 3.0 tools, but real tools like my dad had in his workroom.
Not sure what to do or how to start? Download the Makerspace Playbook and get started!
With our new STEAM Academy, makerspace-like areas will be the norm, but why can’t an area in our libraries become a niche space for collaborative hands-on projects? We need places where the 8 or 18-year-old student can teach not only classmates but also the teacher.
This is a pivotal time for our libraries to stand up and reshape the old notions of what can or cannot be done while in the library. I say, bring on the tools…my dad would be proud!
“Welcome to the studio, Dahlia! I am so glad to meet you! Your entrance made me smile! Now let’s get down to business! Tell me about yourself? “.
When I create a new character I have to find out who they really are and what makes them tick! Will they be loud and boisterous? Will they be shy and hold back? Will they run to meet the world or hide behind trees and bushes? It’s great fun to imagine!
Since Dahlia is new, let’s walk this process together. Let’s get a good look at her and ask ourselves some questions.
Here she is, in her great BIGness. As you can see, Dahlia is running! That gives us our first clue. She is ready to meet the world!
(Another little tidbit you can use when creating a character. It is a link to writing a character profile. I can get your wheels turning!)
In order to decide WHO Dahlia is, I look into her face. Her eyes are not like our eyes, but expression and body language are quite helpful.
Dahlia is running. Dahlia is laughing. Dalia is carrying a flower. Dahlia is practically leaping off the ground! I can almost hear the ground shaking! So, she is a “ground shaking” happy elephant.
But wait! She has no tusks! That tells me she is a baby elephant. My imagination is taking off now! Dahlia tromps! … but no… I found out that tromp is not a word… (hmmm…it seemed so fitting). So, Dahlia thumps, stomps, tramples and plows through! Thank you dictionary.com! Love all those words!
Looking again at this picture, I see that Dahlia is also clumsy. She trips, stumbles, tumbles, plunges, sprawls and topples. Even so, she is not bothered by falls. She simply rolls over and gets back up to her feet laughing! “What great fun!” she gigglies, “Let’s do it again!”
This tells me that Dahlia does not take herself too seriously. She is playful, but is she smart?
More of her qualities may surface once the other characters in her story emerge. Bring on the monkeys!
Filed under: My Characters
I posted on Facebook that the Youth Media Awards equals Christmas for librarians. At least, it is like Christmas for this librarian.
This year, I was excited to introduce Juniper to the special event.
She was pretty riveted.
The Newbery committee chose three Honor books, which are as follows:
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
I actually thought this one was going to take the gold, but I am extremely happy it received an honor. This book is creepy and original with vivid characters, setting, and drama. It is rather long but so worth the time. As you can see from the cover, Ms. Schlitz is already a Newbery winner. She wrote, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, which won the 2008 medal.
Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinken
I am not the greatest at finishing non fiction. I try, I do, but I do not always succeed. I started this one, and really, really enjoyed it, but did not finish it. I think I am going to have to give it a second go. Can you guess what bomb it is about? Really fascinating stuff.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
I really enjoyed this book. It is a quirky mystery, which, in my opinion, there is not enough of in the world…at least for a middle grade audience. I am glad this one made the honor list because it is fun, light-hearted and definitely a book I think kids will pick up and read.
And the gold goes to….
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Okay, so I am REALLY embarrassed by what I am about to admit to you…
I did not read this one.
My book club did, but when I saw it on the list for discussion and then saw the cover… I decided not to read it.
Oh, judgmental soul!
I am sufficiently chagrined by my book cover snobbery, and I am currently number 8 of 50 holds at the library.
I’ll let you know what I think once I have read it.
In the meantime, what are you reading these days? What do you think of the Newbery choices this year? Was your favorite chosen?
Coming up: Bran muffin recipe of amazingness!
After trolling the notes from Piper’s Book Was There and adding a number of books to my TBR list, I also got ahold of an article, “Falling Asleep over the History of the Book” by Seth Lerer (PMLA, Vol. 121, No. 1, Jan 2006, p 229-234) thinking it was about reading in bed. Reading in bed is mentioned at the very end of the article but nothing especially interesting or important is said about it. The article is really just an introduction to a special issue of PMLA on the history of the book. Talk about disappointing.
There were a couple interesting thoughts/ideas/questions in the piece though like this on the literary canon:
Books are objects, though, and canonization is as much a process of selecting space as of selecting value. How can we fit the range of literature on the shelf? The physical, artifactual nature of the book has made the canonizing of the literary work into an act of space management. I think it is worth pausing over this suggestion to provide another lens for […] thinking about the past and future of the book.
Can I just say that librarianship has been, and is, all over the space management thing? And not just for literature but for all other disciplines too. Lerer does go on to mention libraries but but not so much in relation to what he said above. He discusses libraries in terms of cataloging and points out the Cambridge University Library organizes books in part by size, the Marzian Library in Venice by date of acquisition, and Robert Cotton, a 17th c book collector organized his books by ancient emperors. Lerer wonders briefly how we arrange our books affects not only the way we see and find them as objects, but the way we read them and view literature in general. It’s a much better thing to wonder about than how shelf space affects canonization.
I read many years ago about a famous library in Europe that was once the personal library of, I believe, an author. He had his shelves and shelves of books organized by association and sometimes how the book was related to its neighbor wasn’t clear until you read the book. The last book on the last shelf supposedly referred back to the first book on the first shelf. How I wish I could remember more about this library because it was really fascinating. Maybe someone out there knows about it?
Anyway, I can see how shelving books like in the unknown library can affect how we see and read each book. But I doubt many people shelve their books like that. Think about the way you shelve your books. Mine are alphabetical more or less and broken out into different categories — fiction and nonfiction, poetry, classic fiction, books about books, reference books, etc. Then the TBR books are pretty much a wild jumble. My system helps me find my books when I want them, most of the time, but how does it affect the way I see literature? It’s a rather conventional system, does that mean I have a conventional idea of reading and literature’s possibilities? Or does it simply reflect that I value being able to easily locate my books over what a more creative arrangement might impart? Or maybe it is all bunk and means absolutely nothing.
I just don’t know. While I acknowledge a creative arrangement might provide extra bookish insight, I don’t want to be relegated to the conventional and uncreative heap because of the way I shelve my books. Therefore I’m leaning toward it not making that much difference how books are organized in my personal library.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
…………………… Victricia Malicia: Book-Loving Buccaneer Carrie Clickard, author Mark Meyers, illustrator 4 Stars ………….. Inside Front Jacket: Victricia Malicia Barrett may have been born on a pirate ship and raised in all the best pirate ways, but she sure is a wreck on deck. Her knots slip, she falls from the rigging, and rats abandon [...]Add a Comment
The original version of Batgirl was a librarian. You didn’t know this but many librarians do. Even the American Library Association does, as evidenced by this bookmark and poster:
A few weeks after I redesigned her website, I conducted a Q&A with Megan Frazer. Megan, like me and Mindy Kaling, is a fan of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Megan is also a writer, a mother, and a librarian, among other things. Find out more about her books and her busy schedule in the interview below!
Do you have any sort of writing routine?
As a mother of two with a full-time job, finding a routine is hands down the hardest part of my writing life. In the summer, I write when my kids are napping. In the school year, I'm still working on finding a good schedule, but it tends to be after my kids go to bed. I try to write for at least 30 minutes a day. I don't really focus on words or pages as a goal, though I do usually check how much I've accomplished. I have an office, but often find myself writing at the kitchen table, especially since we've bought a fixer-upper and my office has not yet been fixed up. My husband is working on the electricity and right now there isn't any in my office.
You got the idea for your novel Secrets of Truth & Beauty while watching the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Do you think Dara and Olive would get along?
I'd like to say yes, but I wonder if Olive would think Dara too serious and if Dara might find Olive a little kooky. I think Grandpa Edwin Hooper would love it on the farm.
How long did it take you to write the first draft, and subsequently to sell it?
Secrets happened really quickly. I can't remember how long the first draft took, but I had a draft ready for agents in nine months or so. Then, once I got my agent, Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, she was able to sell it quite quickly, within a couple of months, I think. This was back in late 2007, which might as well have been a different era. The Water Castle was a much longer process. I don't remember exactly how long it took. We did a revision for Mary Kate Castellani at Walker who ended up buying it.
What inspired your novel The Water Castle?
The Author's Note of The Water Castle is all about the inspiration for the story. It was inspired largely by places I lived and visited, from an old stone house much like the house in the book to the Poland Springs bottling plant. I went a lot different directions before the right story for the places came to me. I thought I might write about teens with special powers, but got too bogged down. Eventually, from the core elements of the castle-like house, a house full of books, and strange happenings in a small town, the story emerged.
What's your target audience for this story?
The Water Castle is for a younger audience than Secrets of Truth & Beauty, probably ages eight to twelve or so.
Tell me about your current work-in-progress.
I just finished a rewrite on another MG novel, a mystery set in the 1950s wherein a girl becomes convinced there's a Communist spy working for her parents.
What do you think your books have in common? Do they feature different aspects of your writing, and of yourself?
I think all of my books deal with revelations, uncovering things that are hidden, especially within families. I also am interested in the play between the past and present. This is really tricky when writing for kids and teens because the characters lives are so short. So, I often find myself looking at multiple generations.
Do you find it difficult to name your characters? Have you ever named a character after someone you know personally?
I do find it very difficult to name my characters. I use baby books and the Social Security names database. I actually try to avoid naming characters after people I know, which is hard when you work in a school and so many kids pass through your life.
You have a master's degree in library science and now work as a librarian at a school. Tell me about the path that led you to your library.
I started off working in television, but quickly realized it wasn't for me. I decided to move to Boston with a friend, but she needed a couple of months longer than I did to be ready to move, so I went back home and was substitute teaching. One day I was assigned to the library. I'd like to say it was an "A-ha!" moment, but really it was more of "Duh!" moment. All my life I'd done service projects and worked on literacy. Working in a library was a natural outgrowth of that, but it hadn't occurred to me until that moment. Fortunately, Boston is home to Simmons GSLIS, a fantastic library school. My education there was fantastic, though very theoretical. I was lucky to also have a part time job as a children's librarian. When I graduated, I took a position at an amazing independent high school, The Commonwealth School. I would probably still be there if my husband and I hadn't decided to move to Maine. After four years at a public high school, I am now at an independent school serving as their middle school librarian.
Happy new school year to you! What kind of programs have you been involved with that the kids really enjoyed?
I'm very proud of the coffeehouses we held in the public school where I worked. I believe that libraries should be as much about students sharing their skills and knowledge as they are places where information is retrieved, if not more so. Giving kids a creative outlet to express themselves made me very happy. I also try to use the connections I've made as a writer to get kids in touch with their favorite authors.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
Visit Megan's official website.
By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: August 17, 2012
To kick off TCBR’s new column “On the Shelf,” which shines a spotlight on brilliant children’s librarians, April Hayley, MLIS, graciously talked to us about becoming a librarian— among other great topics. Do you think you can guess which is the most checked out children’s book at San Anslemo Public Library in California? Read on!
Bianca Schulze: Why did you choose to become a librarian?
April Hayley: I was fortunate enough to discover the magic of reading at a young age, probably before I was out of the cradle. My mother, a librarian, read me stories and sang to me every night before bed and my father made up fairy tales for me. I didn’t discover my calling as a librarian until college one summer, working for the Chicago Public Library (my hometown). My job was to provide library services to children in some of the city’s most neglected and poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Instead of working inside the library, I brought books and literacy activities directly to the young people who needed it most. I visited three playgrounds a day, equipped only with a trunk full of picture books and a quilt to sit on. Once the kids figured out why I was coming around, they always ran over to join me, so eager to read stories, sing songs, and learn something new.Reading opened up new worlds for the kids I met. I could see it as they linked their eyes with mine, and for me that was a powerful, life-changing experience.
Most of the precious children I met that summer had never been exposed to the pleasures of reading, and none of them had ever visited a public library. When I witnessed the joy and curiosity that reading sparked in them, I understood the transformative effect of reading on young minds and I knew I wanted to be a Children’s Librarian. Once I entered graduate school to earn my Masters in Library Science, I had the opportunity to intern in the Children’s Room of the beautiful Mill Valley Library, and I knew I was on the right path; delivering traditional library services within the walls of a suburban public library could be just as fun and rewarding as literacy outreach in the inner city.
BS: Librarians are the ultimate evangelists for reading. How do you encourage students and children to read?
AH: Now that I work at the San Anselmo Library, I am lucky that many of the kids I meet already love to read. There is a culture of reading in San Anselmo that simply does not exist in places whose inhabitants must spend their time dealing with the dispiriting effects of poverty. Of course, I do a lot of work to promote reading for the children, babies, caregivers, and teenagers of our community. I lead several weekly storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers, which are designed to nourish a love of reading that will last a lifetime. It’s important to reach out to new parents and their babies as early as possible to show them how fun reading, sharing nursery rhymes, learning fingerplays, and singing can be. I also lead a book discussion group for elementary school students called the Bookworms, and a poetry club for yoAdd a Comment
Peaceable Kingdom makes such lovely products. We'll be playing lots of this one in the next week! Display Comments Add a Comment
If you loved reading The Hunger Games, then the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas has compiled a massive flowchart to help you find the next book you should read.
The chart explores genre, plot elements and themes, helping you pinpoint what you liked most about the book. We’ve embedded the first part of the chart above, but follow this link to explore the complete five-panel infographic.
Here’s more from the library: “If you’re interested in learning about the history of the dystopian genre, check out this infographic from Goodreads which charts the popularity and major milestones of dystopian fiction. Not sure what makes a book “dystopian”? Check out this helpful chart from E M Bowman that isolates that traits of dystopian fiction. Feel free to share or print a copy for your library or classroom use. You can download the hunger games read alikes pdf here.”
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.Add a Comment
The town of McAllen Texas was recently repurposed an abandoned Walmart building into the towns new 124,000sq library. The new facility is fantastic and completely state of the art; it even won the International Interior Design Association "2012 Library Interior Design Award."
I encourage you to look at some of the photos, even though it is quite modern I still really like the look of this library.
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Good stuff coming up this week, including a mega-Google hangout event with ten debut authors!
Tera Lynn Childs will celebrate the debut of her newest book for young adults, JUST FOR FINS. When Lily Sanderson decided to remain Crown Princess Waterlily of the mer kingdom of Thalassinia, she knew she couldn’t just coast along in the current. But since she’s spent the last couple of years on land, Lily’s not sure she has the fins to lead a kingdom… Just when Lily thinks her double life on land and sea can’t get any more complicated, an ancient mer law might separate Lily and her human boyfriend, Quince, after all. It feels as if the pair is up against a solid tsunami wave! In JUST FOR FINS, Lily will have to find a way to balance safety and justice for the mer people and for the humans she loves.
For important information about this event, please visit Blue Willow Bookshop’s Special Events page.
First Friday Reading Series, will feature the 2012 Meta-Four Youth Poetry Slam Team. Meta Four Houston is a nonprofit organization that encourages self-expression and literacy among Houston’s youth through creative writing and performance. Meta-Four Houston grew out of the Young Houston Writers 2007 -2008 collaboration between the Houston Chronicle daily newspaper and three local arts non-profits – DiverseWorks, Voices Breaking Boundaries and Writers in the Schools – that formed to identify and support the nascent youth spoken-word community in our city.
Inprint House is located at 1520 West Main, one block south of the Menil Collection, one block east of Mandell, in the Museum District of Houston. Always free, open to the public, always an open reading after the featured poet. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 1:30 pm
Bellaire Public Library, hosted by Murder By the Book
Victoria Laurie, Author
I'm so pleased to have been asked by the Allen Public Library to set up yet another display of my work in their gallery/lobby! The illustrations on display this time are from two of my books - The New House and A Place for Zero. The exhibit will be on display in case #4 until June 25, 2012.
I know we are all excited about TeenBookCon and happy that next week it’s Houston’s turn to host TLA, the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. But though these are the biggest events rocking Houston’s children’s literature community, they aren’t the only events. Check out what’s happening in the next few days:
Children’s Author/Illustrator Laurie Knowlton signs I KNOW A LIBRARIAN WHO CHEWED ON A WORD. Miss Devine, a bun-wearing bibliophile, has a passion for literacy that reaches new heights. She has actually chewed on a word, claims one small witness to this outrageous event. In the manner of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” she has downed a book shelf, table, chair, cart, and a copy of Peter Pan trying to chase down a savory assemblage of letters. What is that word?
April 14, Saturday, 10 a.m.-4p.m.
Alief Taylor High School
Orson Scott Card will be the keynote speaker for the 3rd annual Houston-area TeenBookCon. TeenBookCon is FREE, though attendees may want to bring money for books and snacks. Along with Card, over 20 authors and artists of teen books from all over the U.S. will participate in author panels, signings, and activities at the free event. Authors’ works include graphic novels, paranormal and dystopian fiction, fantasy and romance. This is a great opportunity for teens and other fans of YA literature to interact with a variety of authors and graphic novelists! TeenBookCon’s major sponsor is the Blue Willow Bookshop. For details on the event schedule and other sponsors, please visitAdd a Comment
Love libraries? Support libraries and show your love for National Library Week by adding one of these great images to your FaceBook page. Includes instructions on how to do this.
I just added it to my two author pages.Add a Comment
The sight of a ‘children’s room’ in a public library just after school hours is enchanting…they pour into its doors, the crowd of children, well-dressed, poorly clad, boys, girls, big, small, all with an assured air of welcome, comfortably, easily, happily at home among bookshelves as they are in no other spot. Thirty years ago nobody would have dreamed of such a golden picture as a possibility.
So wrote the novelist Dorothy Canfield Fisher in Children’s Library Yearbook Number One, a 1929 volume reviewing what might have been called, in the idiom of the time, three decades of progress.
But specialized work with children in the burgeoning public libraries was well underway before 1899. It didn’t spread from the storied cities of the Northeast, with their intellectual eminence; it arose almost simultaneously in many scattered locales. None were more representative of the children’s library movement, however, than Cleveland and Pittsburgh—cities of the industrial heartland with large immigrant populations and, crucially, a succession of gifted, forceful librarians who met a prevailing need in a historic partnership.
William Howard Brett was an accidental librarian. Born in 1846, he repeatedly tried to enlist in the Union Army—once putting a slip of paper in his shoe inscribed with the number 18, so he could honestly say he was “over eighteen”—until, in the last year of the war, he passed muster as a drummer boy. After the war his attempt to go to college foundered for lack of funds. But he was an avid, discerning reader and made his mark selling books—first in his native Warren, Ohio, then at the big Cleveland bookstore Cobb & Andrews. When the post of city librarian became vacant in 1884, who better qualified?
The Cleveland Public Library—originally the Public School Library—was then housed on the second and third floors of Board of Education headquarters. In the circulation department, borrowers waited at a high counter for an attendant to fetch the requested books. No one under fourteen could get a card.
As a bookseller, Brett knew two big things that the cloistered librarian didn’t: the value of browsing among books and the importance of books to children. He brightened up the quarters, and made them comfortable; he cataloged the collection by the new Dewey system. And with added space, a few years later, he arranged the nonfiction in alcoves by subject and allowed readers to go to the bookcases. In a large city library, where the borrowers were strangers to the staff, open shelves were a daring innovation.
Brett had audacity. A year after taking office, he submitted an article to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, called “Books for Youth,” soliciting a donation of $5,000 (about $125,000 today) to build up a collection of reputable children’s books. Youngsters shouldn’t be reading “worthless and corrupt literature,” he wrote, because the library didn’t have enough copies of Louisa May Alcott titles to meet the demand. No concerned citizen responded, but the article was reprinted in Library Journal, with an editorial salvo, and launched Brett as a children’s library advocate. In later years, Anne Carroll Moore was reputed to have called Brett “the first great children’s librarian.” The quote may be apocryphal, but the tribute rang true, and stuck.
Brett’s polemic against trash also expressed a common sentiment. In those days, you didn’t have to be stodgy to look askance at Martha Finley’s Elsie Dinsmore or Horatio Alger’s heroes. What enlightened grownup didn’t?
The Cleveland Library was then, like many others, serving children through the schools. But the popularity of the school collections only demonstrated to Brett “the pressing need of a system of branch libraries and delivery stations in a city so widely extended as our own.” In 1892, the library opened the first of four branches in existing buildings; froAdd a Comment
TeenBookCon is over for this year, and what a great turnout they had! Now TLA is in full swing and everyone is posting pictures on facebook and twitter. Last night, Blue Willow Bookshop had such a fun event—a panel of five MG authors with author/editor David Levithan as moderator. Now we’ve got a whole ‘nother batch of author/illustrator events to take us through the end of the month.
Starting with a bang (drumroll…)
April 20, Friday, 7:00 p.m.
West Houston Community Center, 725 Bateswood, Houston, TX
Veronica Roth , Author
Staff from Blue Willow Bookshop will begin handing out line numbers at 6:30 pm.Add a Comment
We still have a few days before the official start of National Children’s Book Week, which is May 7-13, but the wonderful bookstores in the Houston area aren’t going to make us wait for a great event. Speaking of great events, I want to remind everyone that Lynne Kelly’s debut novel CHAINED launches next week! Look for it in stores May 8. If you haven’t already done it, mark your calendars for her launch at Blue Willow Bookshop on Saturday May 12 at 2:00 p.m.
Now for this week’s events:
The Children’s Museum of Houston is getting a head start on National Children’s Book Week. You’re invited to join them in celebrating the enchanting world of reading. Ongoing activities include:
•Prince and Princess Crowns •Gingerbread Man Decorating •Magic Wand •Invent with Ernest the Balancing Bear •Fantasy Postcards •Optical Illusion Exploration •Flip Books •Hidden Rainbow
Herman Parish, nephew of Amelia Bedelia’s creator, Peggy Parish, and the author of many books about Amelia Bedelia, will discuss and sign AMELIA BEDELIA’S FIRST VOTE, the newest book in the Amelia Bedelia series.Add a Comment
When I was a child, growing up in the various parts of India to which my father’s job took us, books were my friends, and I liked them funny. I discovered my grandfather’s P. G. Wodehouse collection at the age of eleven and was at once enchanted by the amiable lunacy of fictional worlds like the Drones Club and Blandings Castle. Lovable and ludicrous, they allowed me to claim an understanding of characters very different from me. I was at that age when laughter comes easily and convoluted story lines feel newly accessible. Plum’s immortal farces were a gift.
But funny isn’t something we’re taught to respect. That could be why, when writers embark on the serious business of crossing cultural boundaries in their work, they don’t often start out with humor. In 2004, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith spoke at the Reading the World conference about the dearth of funny books with cultural resonance. Why, they asked, are multicultural books so very serious?
It was a valid question then. What’s surprising is the degree to which it remains valid today, especially in books for middle-grade readers. Books set in foreign countries are still largely about oppression, while those in hyphenated-American communities are about the challenges of finding oneself and becoming American. While many have humorous moments, they are not, by and large, funny books.
It seems especially necessary that children’s books, in the balance, convey more than a one-dimensional image of “the other,” yet the identity tale of oppressed people continues to dominate those books dubbed “multicultural.” Perhaps the problem is that the very notion of a culturally grounded story is perceived as worthy and important, not concepts we associate with laughter. But the truth is that you can’t see people as fully human if all you can feel for them is pity. Funny books with cultural contexts are capable of subverting and questioning issues of identity and belonging. By upsetting worthy apple carts, they offer new and necessary views of characters with cultural connections beyond the mainstream.
The pioneer in mixing humor with matters of race, culture, and, yes, oppression is undoubtedly Christopher Paul Curtis. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 was published in 1995. The scene in which Byron’s lips get stuck to the family car’s side-view mirror is the one most readers call to mind, but there are others, many of them much more pointed than that one, as when the boys are faced with the prospect of going to the bathroom in the woods. Byron says, sardonically, “Snakes? I ain’t scared of no damn snake, it’s the people I’m worried about.” He means white people, of course, on the family’s journey south. The humor slams the reader with the grimness of the circumstances, even while it gives the characters a means of coping.
Humor in The Watsons is a mechanism Curtis uses to lead readers to an understanding of the insidiousness of racism and discrimination. It allows us to align clearly with one group of people and against another, in a deliberate stance that counters the prejudices of the period. If you’re with Kenny and his family, you can’t condone the racism they have to endure. Inequity, discrimination, and injustice give thematic impetus to the characters’ journeys. Because we can laugh, we can bear to navigate those obstacles along with them.
Since 1995, other writers of multicultural books have ventured into humorous terrain. In Julia Alvarez’s How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, the unorthodox use of a strikeout in the title places a tongue-in-cheek tonal stamp on the work before the reader has turned a single page. It’s plain that this relative is about to change young Miguel’s life forever. He can’t hold out against this woman who is practically a force of nature, and neither can the reader. Her character, larger than life and twice as real, creates a playfulness that runs through the book and itAdd a Comment