The Fantasy and Science Fiction Stigma

 Newbery awards are given to authors based on their “distinguished contribution to American literature for children” . There is a 23 year gap between this year’s fantasy winner “The Girl Who Drank The Moon” (2017) and science fiction winner “The Giver” (1994). Kharissa and I believe it has to do with the stigmas associated with the science fiction and fantasy genres and the ideologies of parents; especially when dealing with young readers. However, fantasy and science fiction has survived the times, and even flourished in the young adult market. With the return of Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, science fiction and fantasy are as popular as ever. The idea of having superpowers, fighting as a warrior to save Earth or wishing you lived in a world where beasts and creatures walked allows for escapism, but that doesn’t mean readers aren’t learning. Among children, it’s celebrated but Vardell (2014) explains how some adults discourage science fiction and fantasy books because they promote the idea of magic and may distort a reader’s sense of reality (p. 213).

Podcasts and Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge

The podcasts I listened to were the Hornbook Podcast 2.3 – Special Guest Jamie Tan and the Scholastic Reads Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer. 

In the Hornbook Podcast, Jamie Tan discusses her job as a publicist and the different cons she’s visited. I really enjoyed the insight into how the publishing world works. I also got a thrill out of listening to book people talk so passionately, and had a a little fan girl moment when they talked about YA author Alexandra Bracken. In the Scholastic Reads podcast, author Peter Reynolds talks about his book, Happy Dreamer, and redefining ADHD (he calls it an acronym for Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer). This was a really interesting way to go about challenging social stigmas, and I definitely want to get my hands on this book now. I think that these podcasts complement other resources we’ve used, if only because the more information on books we’re exposed to, the better off we are. I didn’t know who Jamie Tan was before listening to the podcast, but it’s important for librarians to know the nuts and bolts of publishing. Understanding what goes on behind the scenes gives us a better idea of how books are marketed and exposed to the public. In turn, we can learn more about how we should be promoting books to our patrons. Now that I’m aware of the book Happy Dreamer, I can see what new picture books are doing to redefine a very common condition, ADHD, and promote these kinds of books to give children a different perspective.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente, C. M., & Juan, A. (2011). The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making. New York: Feiwel and Friends.


A whimsical story detailing the adventures of a young girl swept away to the magical Fairyland. September, a twelve-year-old girl from Omaha, Nebraska, is visited by a Green Wind one night and invited on an adventure to Fairyland. All too eager to leave her mundane life behind, September hops onto the back of a flying leopard, and is taken to Fairyland. There  she’s sent on a request to retrieve a magical object and save Fairyland. September is a delightful main character, with admirable problem solving skills. While the fantasy world is clearly well developed, the book is initially off putting with the excessive jargon used in the dialogue. However, once September’s journey begins, readers will be thrown into a world of witches, a flying leopard, and a wyvern (the creature on the cover who looks like a dragon) sidekick. VERDICT: Great for fantasy lovers and readers who don’t mind dense, wordy books.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a Hans Christian Andersen tale. In the original story, two weavers tell the emperor that they can weave beautiful clothing that can only be seen by clever people. The emperor gives the weavers money and expensive cloth. The weavers are, of course, tricking him. The emperor sends his men to check on the clothing. None of them are brave enough to admit that they can’t see the clothes, and so the emperor himself also doesn’t. The emperor parades through his kingdom naked, and only when a small child can acknowledges the truth does the crowd and the emperor suspect they’ve been fooled. The emperor simply continues to proudly march on.

Biro, V. (2017). The Emperor’s New Clothes. New York, NY: Windmill Books.

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Since I personally didn’t find the illustrations appealing, this version was my least favorite of the three. The emperor wears a sash around him to soften this story enough for children. The ending concludes that it is the emperor’s vanity that proves him foolish.

Sedgwick, M. (Adapter), & Jay, A. (2004). The emperor’s new clothes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

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This picture book adapts the story using animals. The emperor is a selfish, overweight lion and the weavers are, fittingly, weasels. The story is also told in rhyme. A small frog points out that the lion is naked. Unlike the original tale, the emperor does not proudly march on but is instead ashamed. The fact that the book uses animals tones down the saucy ending.

D. (Adapter) (2000). The emperor’s new clothes: a tale set in China. New York: McElderry Books.

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Set in China, this is the only version I read where one of the weavers is a woman. As the author states in her notes at the end, the Chinese symbols in the illustrations represent purity and wisdom. The emperor, surrounded by these symbols, still plays the role of the fool. In this version, the emperor isn’t naked, but parades in his underwear.

In a public library setting, it’s difficult to determine what age group this tale would be popular for. Despite the illustrations softening the content, I would feel uncomfortable reading this to children in a library. Every parent is different, and I would worry that a parent would be angry to hear that I’d read his/her child a story that ends with a man publicly naked and ashamed. Less mature kids might find this hilarious and repeat it to their friends and family. For that reason, if I did read this book to children it would be the one set in China, because the emperor is in his underwear still. Underwear is amusing still, but more kid friendly while still retaining the theme of the story. I would read this book to children ages seven and up, as there a considerable amount of text in this.

 

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

This week I chose Hatchet by Gary Paulson and Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Hatchet is a Newbery Honor book and Shiloh is a Newbery Medal winner. My review is for Shiloh.

Paulsen, G. (1987). Hatchet. New York: Bradbury Press.

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Awards:
Newbery Honor (1988), Young Hoosier Book Award for 6-8 (1991), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (1990), Buckeye Children’s Book Award for 6-8 (1991), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1995), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1990), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (1989), Golden Archer Award (1989), Soaring Eagle Book Award (1997), Iowa Teen Award (1990), Minnesota Book Award (1988), William Allen White Children’s Book Award (1990), Bluestem Book Award Nominee (2016), Virginia Reader’s Choice for Middle (1989), Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for YA (1990)

Source: Goodreads

Naylor, P. R. (1991). Shiloh. New York: Atheneum.

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Awards:
Newbery Medal (1992), Texas Bluebonnet Award (1994), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1994), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Intermediate Book (1994), Nene Award (1994), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1994), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1994), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award for Grades 6-8 (1993), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (1993), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Youth (1994), Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award (1993), Children’s Choice Book Award (1994), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1994), IRA-CBC Teacher’s Choice, Bluestem Book Award Nominee (2015), Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for Children (1994)

Source: Goodreads

My review:

When Marty stumbles upon a dog, an unbreakable bond is formed. However, when he discovers  the dog belongs to Judd Travers, a struggle to save his new beloved friend begins. Shiloh is a profound story about the lengths one boy will go for his dog. It works well for its target audience on multiple levels. We know how positively many children respond to dogs in stories, and this is certainly a book for dog lovers. However, it’s also a book about perseverance, and having compassion for others, especially for those who have less power than we do. A great book for ages 8-11.

Spotlight On: Templar Publishing

templar_logo_home

Since 1978, Templar Publishing has published children’s fiction, novelty and picture books. Their goal is to educate children while encouraging a love of reading. They have been recognized by the Independent Publisher’s Guild both as UK Children’s Publisher of the Year and Independent Publisher of the Year. Their home page is here, and the menu at the top provides links to their catalogue, organized by genre.

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Recommendation: One Hundred Bones by Yuval Zommer

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Review 1: Phelan, C. (2016, March 15). Booklist Review. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from https://www.booklistonline.com/One-Hundred-Bones-Yuval-Zommer/pid=7944588

Phelan’s review of the book is positive. She especially appreciates the author’s use of a “dog’s eye view”, the illustrations where the dog can only see legs. She recommends this book as a read aloud both to individuals and groups. Her review starts off as descriptive and finishes with her personal opinions. There is little criticism in her review.

Review 2: ONE HUNDRED BONES by Yuval Zommer , Yuval Zommer. (2015, December 22). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/yuval-zommer/one-hundred-bones/

Similar to Phelan, this review begins with a description of the plot. However, the review concludes with feelings that aren’t quite as warm and fuzzy as Phelan’s were. This review criticizes the artwork as lacking warmth. The reviewer also criticizes that the jokes in the book with fly over its target audience’s heads.

Overall, I’d have to agree more with Phelan’s review. I found the book to be very warm and endearing. I also don’t think it matters if jokes fly over the children’s heads. Many forms of media meant for children are popular for adults as well because the more mature jokes are a nod to the adults watching. The show Spongebob Squarepants is an example of this. I’d recommend One Hundred Books for children, and agree with Phelan that it would make a great read aloud.

What This Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush

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Add this book on Goodreads

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush by Emma J. Virján is an easy reader book that is perfect for emerging readers. The story follows a pig in a wig getting ready for bed but she is constantly interrupted by different animals. The text is very simple for young readers, with very few sentences on each page. The story is told through rhyme containing different animal sounds and illustrations, allowing young readers to connect the two together. More books like these can be found in the “A Pig in a Wig Book” series.

We selected this book because the text, while short and sweet, flows excellently with the illustrations. As Horning (2010) states, “Lengthy and sophisticated abstractions are unnecessary and pointless” (p. 88). Virján’s text follows this rule. Her pictures also assist the story. “The artistic elements and principles of design work together to express meaning in picture-book illustrations” (Horning, year, p. 100). Most of the pictures show an open window with a nighttime sky. When the window isn’t seen, the deep blue walls of Pig’s bedroom give the reader a sense that it’s late and quiet is needed. The animals’ small eyes and big expressions give a comical feel, which complements their role in the story as they continue to interrupt Pig’s bedtime routine.

Horning, K. T. (2010). From cover to cover: evaluating and reviewing children’s books. New York: HarperCollins.
Virjan, E. (2016). What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush. Harper Collins Books.