Monday, January 31, 2011


So, I was doing laundry the other day, and I decided to check the laundry instructions for my bathing suit (I'm trying to get back into the habit of swimming three times a week). And I noticed that on the tag, it stated,

"Use non-chlorine bleach."

Ummm....yeah.... Somehow that makes sense if you don't think about it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Really fascinating discussion on the ALSC listserve right now about whether or not popularity should come into play when awarding the Newbery. The conversation is getting pretty heated -- I guess some people have some really strong opinions regarding this.

So for good measure, I went to ALA's website and looked up the criteria considered for the Newbery. And found the following:

Interpretation of the theme or concept
Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization
Development of a plot
Delineation of characters
Delineation of a setting
Appropriateness of style...
[E]xcellence of presentation for a child audience...
The award is not for didactic content or popularity.

And yet, it begs the questions. Should it consider popularity?

If the JNM were awarded solely on popularity, The Adventures of Captain Underpants would have won. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid would have as well. But they didn't. They didn't win, because while they are fabulous in getting a child to read, I have yet to meet a single person who thinks that they are REALLY WELL WRITTEN. Are they popular? Yes. Do they get children to read? Absolutely. But are they well written enough to stand the test of time to become some of the great classics in children's literature? I doubt it.

But then again, there are several Newbery winners that don't measure up to that either. A couple of years ago, I put the book Smoky the Cowhorse (it won in 1927) on display on the end of a bookcase. Where it sat for over a month. Several months later, I put The Wheel on the School (winner in 1955) out on display. A month later, I could make fingerprints in the dust that had gathered on the top.

There are plenty of winners out there that have stood the test of time and are still quite popular, ten, twenty, thirty plus years after they won (A Wrinkle in Time and Bridge to Terabithia are two really great examples). But as the previous paragraph illustrates, there have been some real flops as well.

For the record, my definition of a good book is one that I will recommend to children, and that is still being read and checked out five years after it's published. Does popularity, whether fleeting or enduring, make a book good? No. But should we consider, in addition to all the other criteria, the potential for enduring popularity when handing out awards?

This year's Newbery winner, btw, is Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Twelfth Night

Generally speaking, I've lost some of my love for Christmas over the years.

Don't get me wrong. It's still a wonderful holiday, and I enjoy it very much. It's just that, as I have grown older, I've become disillusioned with all of the secularism, over-indulgence, and greed that has come to mark the holiday. Christmas is, after all, first and foremost a religious holiday, and it should be a time for people to remember family, love, and faith, rather than a time for shopping like hysterical maniacs and driving oneself crazy with gifts and food and whatever else.

My family is big on tradition. We always go to church on Christmas Day, we always give gifts for each of the twelve days of Christmas (and the ones received on January 1 are always a calendar and a puzzle), we always decorate the tree and give out stockings on Christmas Eve, and we always have a big family dinner. Always. I can't remember a year when we didn't do all of this. It's always been a part of what makes Christmas so special.

But this year, some of the traditions have changed a little. The dinner was at the nursing home where my grandmother lives, instead of at my aunt's house; and instead of giving gifts out each day for the twelve days, we gave them all on two; and some of the gifts we ordered for each other didn't arrive on time (one of them still hasn't).

But does any of that make it any less Christmas? Does the fact that your holiday season didn't go quite as you expected make the day any less special, or holy?

On this, the twelfth and final day of Christmas, I hope you have a merry one. And as Charles Dickens once said, may we all truly know how to keep it well.