Children’s Books

“Free” Ebooks Don’t Help Poor Kids

4 May 2015

From BookRiot:

One of the duties I had at the last library for which I worked was helping to get patrons onto computers. For adults, this wasn’t generally a problem: they either presented a library card to me or pulled out some form of photo identification (which ranged from your standard driver’s license or passport to less traditional booking papers following a jail stay).

For teenagers and children, however, it was a different story. In order to get onto a computer to do work, they had to have either their library cards or a photo ID. A school ID would work, as would a driver’s license.

Anyone who has worked with teens or kids knows what this means. Many kids never had the opportunity to get onto the computers and internet, despite needing to do homework or research. Because they didn’t bring their IDs or simply didn’t have one — being that they’re maybe 12 or 13 and don’t HAVE identification like that — they were denied access to something they needed in order to complete assignments for school. Most of these kids, the ones who came to the desk begging me to break policy, were there because they have no internet access at home.

. . . .

The kids most harmed by these policies, which tend to be common in public libraries, are those who are the poorest and most needing of access. And kids who did bring their ID to do work still had barriers through which to plow: computer access is time-restricted in most libraries, as there are an inadequate number of stations to allow for the number of people who need to use them.

Some statistics before going further: in households where the family income is $30,000 or less in the United States, only 54% have access to broadband at home. For those who make under $20,000 a year (which is the rough poverty line for families of three), 1/3 – 33% – do not go online at all.

. . . .

So why is it that, despite these numbers, the publishing industry takes on initiatives meant to reach poor kids and improve their literacy in ways that show a clear lack of understanding about the real problems these kids face? How come publishers and politicians choose to ignore those who work with children and teenagers struggling with access — to books, to reading, to technology, to a host of literacies, including digital?

Recently, Simon & Schuster announced a change in a literacy program they’ve been offering since 2003. “Cheer on Reading,” which put physical books inside cereal boxes, shifted from a print focus to digital one. Now, when kids open up a box of Cheerios, rather than getting a book to read, they’re given a code to access a digital version of a book which they can download (via proprietary software, no less). While this initiative saves the publisher on the cost of printing and distributing a physical book, it in no way allows poorer kids — those who are most in need and most likely to benefit from this kind of access — access to them.

Link to the rest at BookRiot and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Juvenile Book Sales Plummet

24 April 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

The juvenile fiction and nonfiction categories had big gains last year, with print unit sales up by more than 10% in both categories at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. Industry members expected that sales in the two segments would cool this year and sales, which started to slow this spring, plunged in the week ended April 19, 2015, compared to the similar week in 2014. Unit sales in the juvenile nonfiction category fell 39% in the week and dropped 46% in fiction at outlets that report to BookScan.

At this time last year, the top 10-selling books in the juvenile fiction segment—books in the Divergent trilogy, several John Green and Frozen titles—combined to sell about 418,000 print copies. Last week the top 10 titles combined to sell about 133,000 copies, a decline of 68%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Queen Victoria, aged 10 and ¾, to be published as children’s author

10 April 2015

From The Telegraph:

A story written by Queen Victoria when she was 10 years old is to be published for the first time, revealing the vivid imagination of a little girl who dreamed about life beyond the palace walls.

The Adventures of Alice Laselles is the charming tale of a girl sent away to boarding school against her will. There is a wicked stepmother, a one-eyed French orphan and a dog called Frisk who dines on buttered toast.

. . . .

The young Victoria wrote the story as an exercise in English composition. Set down in a red notebook, it was later stored in the Royal archives at Windsor Castle where its existence was known only to a select few.

It will be published on June 8, with the author billed by her full name as “Alexandrina Victoria, aged 10 and ¾”.

The illustrations incorporate paper dolls that Victoria made with her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen. The original dedication reads: “To my dear Mamma, this my first attempt at composition is affectionately and dutifully inscribed by her affectionate daughter, Victoria.”

The afterword to the book explains: “Lots of children make up friends who are invisible to everyone else, but Victoria made up a whole school full of them.”

Victoria grew up in Kensington Palace following her father’s early death and referred to her childhood as “rather melancholy”. She mixed with few children of her own age, and aged nine was bereft when her half-sister, Princess Feodora, left home to marry a German prince.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Sadie for the tip.

Charlotte’s Web voted best children’s book of all time

3 April 2015

From the Telegraph:

Charlotte’s Web, EB White’s classic 1952 book about a pig who is saved from slaughter by a resourceful spider, has been voted the best children’s book of all time.

The book, which won the Newbery Medal in 1953, has been a consistent presence in “best of” children’s literature lists, and has been turned into two films and a sequel, and even a computer game.

In the poll for BBC Culture, critics from around the world named 151 favourites which were whittled down to a top 21.

The result is a snapshot of classics from the past two centuries including Little Women and Alice in Wonderland, and ranges from picture books (Goodnight Moon) to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

. . . .

The top 21 books in children’s literature

  1. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
  3. Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  5. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  6. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  7. Winnie-the-Pooh – AA Milne
  8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  9. A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin
  10. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle
  11. The Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder
  12. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  13. From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler – EL Koenigsburg
  14. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
  15. His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman
  16. Matilda – Roald Dahl
  17. Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
  18. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
  19. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  20. Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown and Pat Hancock
  21. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

Link to the rest at the Telegraph

Top 10 twins in children’s books

29 March 2015

From The Guardian:

In the post-apocalyptic world of my novel The Fire Sermon, all humans are born as twins. However, the twins share a fatal bond: when one twin dies, so does the other.

Literature has long been fascinated by twins, whose uncanny appeal lies in the fact that they’re simultaneously alike and different. Older readers can look forward to the nuanced (and sometimes twisted) take on twins in Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and Ian McEwan’s Atonement, among others. But for the younger reader, here are 10 of the best twins to enjoy.

1. Sam and Eric, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

The twins in Golding’s classic can’t be told apart – not even by Piggy, the only boy who really tries. They’re so identical that the joint nickname that Jack gives them, “Samneric”, sticks. These twins have none of the heroism of Ralph or Piggy, or the charismatic evil of Jack or Roger – instead, they’re the ordinary, well-intentioned bystanders who become complicit in awful crimes. By the end, the question is not whether we can tell Sam and Eric apart, but whether we can distinguish Samneric from ourselves.

. . . .

7. Fred and George Weasley, in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series

If being identical twins didn’t already present enough mischief-making potential, being identical twins in a school of magic takes the chaos to another level. Fred and George, partners in mischief, make the most of it all, with identity swaps and magical pranks. Their inseparable nature only makes (spoiler ahead!) their ultimate separation more poignant.

8. Claude and Eustace Wooster, in PG Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves

Claude and Eustace are the literary precursors of Rowling’s Weasley twins. They create chaos at every turn, and inevitably drag with them their hapless cousin, Bertie Wooster. Even when Claude and Eustace are supposed to be studying in the countryside, they do a sideline in taking bets on the sermon times of the local clergy. Usually partners in crime, their mistake is to compete for the love of the same woman, a division that Bertie’s brilliant butler, Jeeves, is able to exploit in order to outwit them once and for all.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Janet for the tip.

Picture Book Apps and the Case of the Vanishing Author

25 March 2015

From Digital Book World:

Many children’s book authors aren’t huge fans of the so-called “picture book apps” or “story apps” entering the children’s market at ever increasing volumes. One reason why is because they aren’t authoring them.

. . . .

The problem begins, in many cases, with a misunderstanding about what book apps for children actually are. Plenty of veteran authors consider apps—sometimes without ever having seen one—to be animated cartoons, games or entertaining videos. As a result, too few experienced children’s authors explore how to adapt their talents to take best advantage of the opportunities digital content affords them.

In fact, most picture book apps on the market today are (if to varying degrees) “translations” of printed picture books. But what interests me more are the digitally born stories conceived and developed with app production in mind.

There still aren’t many of these. In my own research on those that are currently on the market, I didn’t have to look at many apps to conclude that, just as children’s authors tend to snub picture book apps, many app developers overlook children’s authors.

Picture book apps often don’t even cite a writer. When they do, the author is likely the animator, designer or developer. I can fully understand the rationale for publishing copyright-free book apps—digital titles based on stories in the public domain: Why invest in original content when what you’re primarily working out is functionality?

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

JRR Tolkien falls off children’s most popular books list

4 March 2015

From The Guardian:

JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels have been elbowed out of the annual lineup of the most popular books for schoolchildren by a deluge of dark dystopias and urban fantasies.

The seventh What Kids Are Reading report, which analyses the reading habits of over half a million children in over 2,700 UK schools, revealed today that Tolkien’s books have dropped out of the overall most popular list for the first time since the report began six years ago. In previous years, Tolkien’s titles have featured within the chart’s top 10 places, mostly among secondary-school children.

Instead, this year in secondary schools the most popular title was John Green’s tale of a heartbreaking teenage romance, The Fault in Our Stars, followed by two dystopian stories: Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, from the Hunger Games series, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, set in a world where people are classified according to their personality traits.

. . . .

The report found that UK pupils’ most popular reads fell into two “distinct” categories – either dystopian fantasies by the likes of Collins, Clare and Roth, or what it described as “irreverent, larger than life anti-hero comedies” such as Kinney’s Wimpy Kid stories, Dahl’s The Twits or Walliams’ Gangsta Granny. “While the primary chart top 20 is split down the middle, featuring equal amounts of comedy and fantasy, by secondary school the ‘most popular’ charts almost exclusively feature darker conflicts from an epic fantasy genre,” it said.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

No Boys Allowed: School visits as a woman writer

28 February 2015

From author Shannon Hale:

I’ve been doing school visits as part of my tour for PRINCESS ACADEMY: The Forgotten Sisters. All have been terrific–great kids, great librarians. But something happened at one I want to talk about. I’m not going to name the school or location because I don’t think it’s a problem with just one school; it’s just one example of a much wider problem.

This was a small-ish school, and I spoke to the 3-8 grades. It wasn’t until I was partway into my presentation that I realized that the back rows of the older grades were all girls.

Later a teacher told me, “The administration only gave permission to the middle school girls to leave class for your assembly. I have a boy student who is a huge fan of SPIRIT ANIMALS. I got special permission for him to come, but he was too embarrassed.”

“Because the administration had already shown that they believed my presentation would only be for girls?”

“Yes,” she said.

I tried not to explode in front of the children.

. . . .

I think most people reading this will agree that leaving the boys behind is wrong. And yet–when giving books to boys, how often do we offer ones that have girls as protagonists? (Princesses even!) And if we do, do we qualify it: “Even though it’s about a girl, I think you’ll like it.” Even though. We’re telling them subtly, if not explicitly, that books about girls aren’t for them. Even if a boy would never, ever like any book about any girl (highly unlikely) if we don’t at least offer some, we’re reinforcing the ideology.

I heard it a hundred times with Hunger Games: “Boys, even though this is about a girl, you’ll like it!” Even though. I never heard a single time, “Girls, even though Harry Potter is about a boy, you’ll like it!”

. . . .

At this recent school visit, near the end I left time for questions. Not one student had a question. In 12 years and 200-300 presentations, I’ve never had that happen. So I filled in the last 5 minutes reading them the first few chapters of The Princess in Black, showing them slides of the illustrations. BTW I’ve never met a boy who didn’t like this book.

After the presentation, I signed books for the students who had pre-ordered my books (all girls), but one 3rd grade boy hung around.

“Did you want to ask her a question?” a teacher asked.

“Yes,” he said nervously, “but not now. I’ll wait till everyone is gone.”

Once the other students were gone, three adults still remained. He was still clearly uncomfortable that we weren’t alone but his question was also clearly important to him. So he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Do you have a copy of the black princess book?”

It broke my heart that he felt he had to whisper the question.

Link to the rest at squeetusblog

Here’s a link to The Princess in Black

When Characters Take Over

26 February 2015


Bound to Astound! Seuss Book Found!

19 February 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Book retailers will have more to look forward to this summer. Earlier this month came word of a new Harper Lee novel. And now Dr. Seuss is following suit.

On Wednesday Random House Children’s Books said it would publish on July 28 a rediscovered manuscript by the late Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, titled “What Pet Should I Get?”

“It’s up to the level of what one expects from a Dr. Seuss book: the humor, the wonderful illustrations, the rhyming, the imagination, all the things that are so Seussian,” said Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books. The publishing house expects to initially print 500,000 hardcover copies.

This is the second time in recent weeks that a rediscovered manuscript by one of the country’s most popular authors has been slated for publication.

. . . .

Random House Children’s Books said the manuscript of “What Pet Should I Get?” was initially found in Mr. Geisel’s home in La Jolla, Calif., in a box with assorted text and sketches soon after he died in 1991 by his widow Audrey Geisel.

Ms. Geisel rediscovered the box while she was cleaning out his office in 2013 with Claudia Prescott, described as Mr. Geisel’s “longtime secretary and friend.” Ms. Geisel then contacted Random House by phone, said Ms. Marcus. Two Random House publishing executives subsequently met with Ms. Geisel in La Jolla to review the material. Ms. Geisel was unavailable for comment, according to Dominique Cimina, a spokeswoman for Random House Children’s Books.

. . . .

The rediscovered box included the full text and illustrations for “What Pet Should I Get?” together with enough material for two other books. “We’re working on each book and in the process of getting them ready for publication,” said Ms. Marcus.

Dr. Seuss’s works, including “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” have sold more than 650 million copies world-wide, according to Random House.

Lind to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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