Children’s Books

Ontario’s 49th Teachers Site Supports Canadian Books in Schools

5 January 2019

From Publishers Perspectives:

Launched in the spring of 2018 with the aim of getting Canadian books into Ontario classrooms, 49th Teachers expands on the established book promotion platforms 49th Shelf and 49th Kids, but is designed to connect directly with teachers and teacher-librarians.

. . . .

The new teacher initiative may well be of interest to other world markets’ publishers who would like to see their books better featured in educational settings.

The site offers educators a database of nearly 20,000 Canadian-authored kids’ and YA books as well as nearly 800 related resources, all available as free downloads.

One area of the site, for example, features “character education” selections that are recommended for development of respect, responsibility, empathy, kindness, teamwork, fairness, and so on.

. . . .

In addition to the database, the site offers users:

  • Options to search by author, title, genre, subject area, age, and grade level
  • Access to nearly 800 resources developed specifically for use with books in the database, searchable by subject, grade, and by resource type such as teacher’s guides, reading guides, handouts, etc.
  • A variety of themed booklists prepared either by the site editor or by educators
  • A books blog written by a children’s books librarian
  • Links to reviews, recommendations, and purchasing options
  • The ability to create book lists and share them with other site members

Link to the rest at Publishers Perspectives

I used to hide books from my children – I couldn’t bear to read them again

21 December 2018
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From The Guardian:

The house opposite Hampstead Heath where Helen Oxenbury has lived with her husband, fellow children’s writer and illustrator John Burningham, in north London for more than 40 years, is a home you might find in an old-fashioned children’s book: turreted, with steps up to a porch, a sun-lit kitchen – all paintings, pots and pans and piles of books. It is easy to imagine it as a family haven for their three children; the youngest, Emily, an artist, now lives next door with her baby and toddler. And Oxenbury, a sprightly, upright 80, with angular features and hair in the messy bun she has worn all her life, is the sort of no-nonsense grandmother you might find in such a book.

Her life and 50-year career as one of the UK’s best-loved illustrators – with classics such as Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesFarmer Duck and, most famously, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (written by Mem Fox, Martin Waddell and Michael Rosen respectively) – is celebrated in a handsome coffee-table book by the critic and children’s book specialist Leonard S Marcus. “Helen has mapped out the territory of childhood in drawings that combine the intimacy of a family snapshot with the formal mastery of a searching and rigorous art,” Marcus writes, placing her in the English tradition of Randolph Caldecott, Beatrix Potter and Edward Ardizzone.

How does it feel to see her achievements between hard covers? “A bit embarrassing,” she grimaces. “I don’t find it easy to look at it.” She feels the same about being interviewed. “I just get so bored of myself. If I were to talk about John, I could do it for hours.” “John! Are you listening John?” she calls periodically to check a date or anecdote. “No!” he shouts back, before retreating to his studio on the ground floor, from which, for decades, he produced one or more books a year, including such nursery favourites as Husherbye and Avocado Baby.

. . . .

At first she just wanted to make enough money to afford some help around the house. “Then I loved it so much I wouldn’t have stopped anyway.” Motherhood “spurs you on”, she says. “You think: ‘I’m bloody well not going to sit back and do nothing,’ and she would start work each evening once the children were in bed. “I do feel for mums,” she says, and they are always sympathetically portrayed in her books (Spare Rib approved of the resourceful, fun-loving single mum in Meal One).

Oxenbury’s initial playful counting book, Numbers of Things, was published in 1967. Just two years later she became the first artist to take the Kate Greenaway medal for two books, The Quangle Wangle’s Hatby Edward Lear and the gloriously trippy The Dragon of an Ordinary Family by Margaret Mahy.

“We were in at the beginning of a great boom of children’s illustrated books,” she says of the way in which her and Burningham’s careers took off as part of a group of British artists who are now household names, including Janet Ahlberg (Each Peach Pear Plum), Quentin Blake (The Enormous Crocodile and many more Roald Dahl stories), Raymond Briggs (The Snowman), Shirley Hughes (Alfie) and Jan Pieńkowski (Meg and Mog), and who transformed the drab postwar children’s publishing scene. “It was just wonderful, the energy and the excitement. Printing improved. Also publishers got the idea that you could make money out of children’s books – that helps. We were very very lucky.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Three Good Men, Three Great Kids’ Books

19 December 2018

From The National Review:

Men get a bad rap. They’re blamed collectively for rape culture, violence, war, poverty, climate change, and all other manner of global suffering. They’re forced to apologize on college campuses for their chromosomes, anatomy, and athleticism. They’re vilified incessantly in women’s magazines, on women’s talk shows, and at women’s confabs promoting the male-bashing #MeToo movement.

Not me.

This holiday season, I write in praise of three fine gents and their three great children’s books.

. . . .

Saving Montana, by John Paolucci (illustrated by Doris Tomaselli).

A retired detective sergeant from the New York Police Department, John has a thousand-watt smile, central-casting résumé, and heart of gold. He worked narcotics undercover, patrolled housing projects in the South Bronx, supervised a crime-scene unit for the forensic-investigation division, and managed the entire agency’s DNA evidence. He’s a teacher, trainer, expert witness, musician, church-mission volunteer, and animal lover. Saving Montana is the true story of how he met, bonded with, and rescued a “white freckled horse with a mane that was blond” from a kill auction.

In real life and in the book, John moved out of the gritty city to the countryside and shared the transformative power of his beloved Montana with two young children, Anthony and Charlotte. Having seen the worst of humanity over the course of his law-enforcement career and lost some of his closest friends and colleagues on 9/11, John notes that Montana saved him as much as he saved the horse.

. . . .

Kirkus Reviews praised The Pepperoni Palm Tree for its “touch of Seuss” and “inclusive message that sets out to prove everything has value, no matter how strange it seems at first.” On a faraway tropical island where life is a jungle, a palm tree that grows bulging, spicy pepperoni sausages stands out among “normal trees” that bear coconuts and mangoes. Young Frederick befriends the tree, which pines for evidence that it is not alone. In the end, the boy concludes:

“You are the only one in the universe, and that’s what makes you so special.”

. . . .

Lulu is a Rhinoceros is a buoyant father–child collaboration with a life-affirming message, like Jason and Aidan’s book, and a treat for animal lovers of all ages, like John’s. Jason and his daughter, Allison, built a story of embracing differences around their real-life pet bulldog, Lulu, who imagines herself to be a rhinoceros and fights to establish her unique identity. In an interview with Billboard magazine about the book, he expressed a life philosophy that binds the trio together and me to them:

“I’ve always been someone who believes in standing up for the underdog.”

Link to the rest at The National Review

China’s Children’s Book Market: Big Numbers, Local Talent

18 November 2018
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From Publishing Perspectives:

While other markets around the world reported relatively stable children’s book sales in 2017 (with small increases or decreases), China’s children’s book market grew by 9.66 percent—and this is its lowest growth rate in the last 10 years.

. . . .

This slower growth comes after a decade of huge changes for Chinese book publishing, and the children’s book sector in particular, in which the average annual growth rate over the last 10 years is 19 percent.

. . . .

Children’s books—picture books, in particular—are relatively new in China. At the Bologna Book Fair earlier this year, Haiyun Zhao, deputy director-general for SAPPRFT’s department of import administration, told Publishing Perspectives that modern picture books have been on the market in China only for about 15 years.

In this short amount of time, Chinese publishers have built up the domestic children’s book sector by bringing many foreign titles to the market and by developing authors and illustrators at home.

Ren reports that 22,834 new children’s books were published in China last year, and 19,607 titles were reprinted. Sales reached 17.55 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) in 2017, up from 3.9 billion RMB (US$561 million) in 2008.

. . . .

The main reasons for this rapid growth, Ren told the audience, are China’s massive population and peoples’ increasing willingness to spend money on books. More people are reading, he said, and parents are spending more money on books for their children than before.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

The Radicalization of Bedtime Stories

16 November 2018

From The Atlantic:

More than 200 years ago, when books for children first became common, they delivered simple moral lessons about, for instance, cleanliness and the importance of prayer. Today, story time is still propelled by moral forces, but the issues have gotten a good deal more sophisticated.

In recent years, publishers have put out children’s books with political undertones and activist calls to action on topics ranging from Islamophobia to race to gender identity to feminism. “The trend has definitely exploded in recent years with the social-justice books and the activism books,” says Claire Kirch, a senior correspondent at Publishers Weekly who has been covering the book industry for 15 years.

. . . .

For children of all ages, books about such charged topics are, in the words of one publishing executive, coming to be seen as more “retail-friendly.” This development applies all the way down to picture books—a category for which the intended audience and the buyers are two very different groups. In this sense, “woke” picture books can be thought of as products for parents, helping them distill some of the day’s most fraught cultural issues into little narrative lessons for their kids.

. . . .

The wave of politicized children’s books has come more from the left than from the right. Kirch told me that “of the three publishers that are the most well known for publishing conservative books”—Center Street, Sentinel, and Regnery Publishing—“only one really has a kids’-book line.” That one is Regnery, which has put out titles such as Donald Drains the Swamp!, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride (by Newt Gingrich’s wife, Callista), The Remarkable Ronald Reagan, and The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas.

It seems there is more of an appetite for liberal-minded kids’ books: Kirch noted that another Regnery title—Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President, by Mike Pence’s daughter Charlotte and told from the perspective of the family’s pet rabbit—was far outsold by a parody of the book overseen by John Oliver’s HBO show that imagined the titular bunny to be gay.

. . . .

Since then, the number of books featuring marginalized identities has increased. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison examines thousands of books for kids and teens published each year, and in 2015, it found that about 14 percent of American kids’ titles were about people who weren’t white. In 2017, this figure rose to 25 percent. “We have found, however, that the increase in the number of books about people of color is due to an increase in white authors writing about diverse characters,” the Center’s director, KT Horning, told me. “It does not mean that we are seeing more books by people of color.” Even so, diversity—in children’s books and in so many other parts of society—is these days a politicized issue, and an increasing focus on it in children’s books is a development that scans to some as liberal.

. . . .

Laura Stoker, a political scientist at UC Berkeley, put it to me this way: “Kids know that they’re Democrats before they have any clue what a Democrat is.” Stoker thinks it’s possible that children’s books touching on politicized issues are representative of broader political polarization. “Parents who feel very strongly want to produce children who feel the way they feel and adopt their values,” she says.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

While reading the OP, PG was inspired to create a new advertising slogan for Big Publishing – “By New Yorkers, For New Yorkers”.

50% Off Children’s Books

14 November 2018

For parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., who like to give books to children, Amazon is running a 50% off sale on a variety of children’s books.

A children’s publisher is designing GIF books for an immersive reading experience

14 November 2018

From Scroll.in:

Not-for-profit publisher Pratham Books has launched a series of digital books that use GIFs to enhance storytelling and the reading experience for children. Released on November 14 to coincide with Children’s Day, the books are available to read on the publisher’s Storyweaver open source digital platform, which is aimed at making reading more accessible for young children. The books feature text as well as a moving image on each page.

[Click on the illustration to view the animation]

Last year, Pratham Books launched books for mobile phones to take advantage of the increasing penetration of mobile data in India and the “moving books” appear to be furthering the same mission of getting more children to read. “We have constantly expanded the boundaries of what a storybook can be and our latest series of GIF Books is one more innovative reading experience that children will love,” said Suzanne Singh, Chairperson of Pratham Books.

. . . .

Bijal Vachharajani, Senior Editor at Pratham Books said she hopes children will associate with the characters coming alive. “They can dance, jump and run with the adorable Gappu; giggle at naughty Boochandis as they gobble up food (and feet) and prowl about the story; and marvel at the surreal green-glowing tomato patch bewitched by Shoecat,” she added.

Link to the rest at Scroll.in

Can diversity in children’s books tackle prejudice?

1 November 2018

From CNN:

Marley Dias says she was tired of reading books about “white boys and their dogs” in school.

So at the age of 11, she launched the campaign #1000BlackGirlBooks to identify books featuring people of color as protagonists.
Over the past three years, Dias has collected more than 11,000 books. She is in the process of donating all the books and has given more than half to what she describes as “predominantly black and underserved” communities in the US, Haiti, Ghana, Jamaica and the UK.
The young activist from New Jersey has even gone on to author her own book — “Marley Dias Gets It Done” — and is currently developing an app so kids can find “black girl books” more easily.

. . . .

“I hope that my campaign will mean more opportunities for our stories to be told and for books with black girls as the main character to be put on bookshelves worldwide,” she tells CNN.

Yet despite the young writer’s best efforts, statistics suggest “black girl books” are still in short supply.

Just 9% of children’s books published in the US in 2017 featured African or African American characters — according to data from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) which has been measuring representation in children’s books since 1985.

While that figure appears small, it actually represents an improvement on previous years. In 2014, just 5% of children’s books recorded by the CCBC included African or African American characters.

. . . .

Moreover, CCBC director Kathleen Horning points out that many of the books about black experiences have not been written by authors from that demographic.

Africans and African Americans wrote or illustrated just 3% of the books counted by the CCBC in 2017. Horning says this statistic appears to depict how difficult it can be for black authors to break into the publishing industry.

When children’s books about black people do get published, Horning says they often fall into three broad categories: books about slavery, books set during the civil rights movement and books that tell “gritty, contemporary” stories about children growing up in struggling families or teens dealing with violence.

“All of these are important stories, but young readers also want more variety,” says Horning. For example, there aren’t traditionally “many fantasies with African American characters, or books showing a middle-class black family.”

. . . .

B.J. Epstein, a lecturer in children’s literature at the University of East Anglia in the UK, notes that diverse characters are often pigeonholed by their ethnicity, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

In her book “Are the Kids All Right?: Representations of LGBTQ Characters in Children’s and Young Adult Literature,” Epstein surveyed English books with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters.

She found the majority of stories dealing with this subject only highlighted the difficulty of coming out, and the negative repercussions associated with doing so.

. . . .

The consequences of a lack of diverse characters can extend well beyond the classroom.

“The stories that children read at a young age tell them who matters and who doesn’t matter, who’s human and who isn’t human,” explains Philip Nel, professor of English at Kansas State University.

“A story doesn’t have to tell us that explicitly. It can tell us that by failing to represent certain groups of people — omission tells us that these groups of people are not important,” Nel adds.

Link to the rest at CNN

Disclaimer: PG is in a smart-alecky mood today. (This is also a trigger warning.) He’ll undoubtedly be better tomorrow.

He wonders if there’s a reason why a publisher could not release multiple versions of the same children’s book. One could include only black characters. Another could include only Asian characters. One could include only white characters. And a final version could include characters of several races peacefully coexisting.

When commissioning an artist for a children’s picture book, the publisher could request four copies of each illustration that depicted people – one for each of the three races and one with mixed races.

For a children’s book without illustrations of children, a racial character tag could be dropped into the manuscript – “Sue was a white/black/Asian girl” – and repeated in a few other places in the story. Search and replace could do the job. If the publisher was confident it wouldn’t be accused of racial stereotyping, character names could be modified for each racial group as well – “Priscilla/Imani/Ah Lam loved running in the sunshine.”

For the cautious publisher, committed to battling prejudice in all its forms, this might be enough. The result might seem a little bland, but incautious attempts to insert different “authentic” elements or idiosyncratic language usage into each racial version might backfire. Indeed, stereotypical white/black/Asian tropes would be avoided lest they offend someone.

Some of the prospective purchasers of such books might want a version in which all of the characters were of the same race, other parents might want their children to see various races getting along with each other. A publisher fully committed to diversity could do another series of books mixing both races and genders with search and replace again. Should the number of genders increase in the future, the sensitively-structured electronic book files would make updating and reissuing new editions easy.

Professor Nel, quoted in the OP, should be happy because everyone would be “human” and Ms. Dias would be freed from any more “white boy” stories.

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