My Bio

My Bio
My name is Sharon Levin and I've been reviewing children's literature for 20 years. I founded and run the Bay Area Children's Literature List. My biggest passion (outside my family) is getting books into the hands of children and teens. My favorite thing is getting non-readers to realize that they're readers. I also LOVE t-shirts that have to do with books or literature. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll have a click through on the above picture so you can see my entire collection (and where to get them).

August 11, 2015

Don't you ever get tired of reading children's books?

Okay, simple answer, NO. (and the blog is done, YAY!) Wait, no it's not because it's not the question but the thought/values/perceptions behind the question that I want to address.

"Don't you ever get tired of reading children's books?"  What is the questioner implying?  Children's books are boring, simple, unengaging, a chore to read, something someone would want a break from.

I'll address all of those in a minute, but let's first consider that this is never, NEVER said about any books written for an adult audience.  If someone only reads mysteries or romances or non-fiction they are not asked if they 'get tired of it' or 'need a break' (always accompanied by the nose wrinkle that implies a lack of respect for the genre or age group).  Their intelligence is not judged by their reading material.  Well, that's not true (someone reading Danielle Steele vs. reading Richard Feynmann, oh yeah, there's judgement going on), but it's never said out loud. I guess people think they're complimenting me when they judge me 'capable' of reading books outside the children's literature arena.

So, let's look at some of those 'lesser than' books written for (apparently) a 'lesser than' audience and see if they fit the perception. 

Boring, unengaging, etc.  oh yeah, that's what comes to mind when reading The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams, http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780312627751 a story about a girl in a religious cult who is going to be forced into marriage with one of the church leaders.

Oooh, how about Unwind by Neal Shusterman http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781416912057.  A book in which the ProChoice and AntiAbortion sides come up with a compromise, abortion is gone, but if between the ages of 12 and 18 you STILL don't want that kid (come on parents of teens, when are they at their least lovable?  Come on, admit it) you can have them 'unwound'.  Every molecule will be used in another human being somewhere. So, the person isn't gone, just 'disseminated'. Unwind follows three characters:  a boy who is his family's tenth child, so he's the 'tithe', an orphan girl who doesn't play piano quite well enough to be of use to the state, and a boy whose parents are just DONE with him.  It's an amazing book and very useful as a parenting tool as well (I have threatened my daughters with 'unwinding'.  Parenting through YA lit, I recommend it highly).

Ah, but these are YA you say, what about the boring stuff written for younger children? Only engaging to an immature mind (yes, which I know does not exclude me).  Oh, yeah, boring like Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Matthew Myers http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781442446731 (and yes, I think Mr. Scieszka and Mr. Barnett are right around where I am maturity-wise). A treacly sweet, well intentioned Birthday Bunny given to Alexander by his Gram Gram is changed (for the better) thanks to Alex's black crayon and lively imagination.  I know librarians who are now taking the culled books from their shelves and handing them to students with a crayon or pen and saying "Make it your own."

Or Katherine Otoshi's STUNNING book One http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780972394642 which has a lesson to make those adults who think ALL children's books should teach, inspire, etc. etc. (yuck!) but is not pedantic, so it makes people like me (story first, lesson later or never) very happy.

Also, Exclamation Point by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom  Lichtenheld http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780545631303  Lively, fun and fits same category as Ms. Otoshi's book.

How about Quest, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763660536 This magical book won't be on any AR lists because it's wordless and therefore unworthy of being considered (do NOT get me started on AR or Lexiles, feel free to look at previous post on that)

I could keep going on and on and on and.................. there are many ABSOLUTELY AMAZING books written for children and young adults (and I'd love for y'all to add your own suggestions in the comments). Too many to read them all, let alone list them.  Too many for me to ever get 'tired of' reading (no nose wrinkle) children's literature.

Of course there are books in children's literature that fit one, some or all of these negative descriptions, but that is true in every category of literature. I think the devaluing is part of the bigger picture of all things having to do with children being less valued (monetarily, no matter how much lip service we give to things) i.e. teaching, child care provider, etc.

So, NO! I do not ever, EVER get tired of reading children's books! If I do ever get tired of reading children's books, that means there's something wrong with me and you all need to stage an intervention, STAT!!









16 comments:

  1. Yes, Sharon--yes, yes, yes! It's a very weird prejudice, though based, I suppose--as so many are--on mere ignorance. I LOVE how you just roll out one great counter-argument after another! Yes, yes, yes!

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  2. Great post, Sharon! At least in the past few years there has been adult interest in YA books. So maybe we're heading in the direction of more reading and respect for children's books. :-)

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    1. True, YA has gained some respect (although my high school librarian still refuses to read it), but books for younger readers still get the 'nose wrinkle'

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  3. I agree! The most enduring books are the ones that can be appreciated by readers of all ages. For instance, I fell in love with the Portuguese original of the picture book THE WORLD IN A SECOND by Isabel Minhós Martins and Bernardo L. Carvalho and was so honored to be asked to translate it into English. The way the book stops time to show scenes taking place all over the world, and the way that the pictures tell their own stories, sometimes along with the text and sometimes in tension with it, is quite sophisticated.

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    1. Lyn, that sounds LOVELY! Thank you for mentioning it! And YES, good children's literature works on many levels. Is THE WORLD IN A SECOND out in the U.S. now?

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  4. Amen! I get the same question and it drives me nuts. The world would be a better place if more adults read kids' books.

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    1. It's so disrespectful to the literature AND the intended audience, isn't it?

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  5. Who couldn't learn a little something from Beautiful Oops!

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  6. Love to hear you shouting this out Sharon! I agree with every single word and I just hope that more readers out there, through the power of social networking, can begin to lift the veil from their misunderstanding of lack of acknowledgement of the power that resides in children's literature.

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    1. Thank you Mathew! I know you're fighting the good fight too!

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  7. And if we all listed the books that blew us away as young readers, and that we are still attached to and that inspire incredible new children's books (say, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, and then Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me,) the list simply gets too long. Plus it's impossible to get tired of reading children's books because thousands of fabulous new ones come out every year!

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    1. Absolutely!! And, every now and then I treat myself to a favorite reread i.e. Just reread The Chronicles of Prydain and still LOVE them!

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  8. You made me want to go read all of them!

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