Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Controversial views on a picture book

Have recently discovered that views can really be diverse.

You may have come across books written by Babette Cole. Cole's characteristic wacky humor is very prominent in both text and art. One of her trademark characterstic is poking fun on real life subjects; often a bit rude and off the wall.

For "Mummy Never Told Me", publishers had reviewed it as humorous and deals with realistic issues --- which is not unexpected. However, if you have a chance to browse the book, you will either be 'mad' with the inaccurate review or 'rave' about this fantastic book.

There are questions like 'Why do old men have hair on their ears but not their heads!' - humourous question for kids to think about ....... 'Why must I go to school when mummy was expelled from hers?' - appropriate question for adults to ponder ........'Why women prefer to fall in love with other women...and some men with other men?' taboo question that went too far?

Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions. This short description cannot do justice to the book. This is a picture book! Go to the library shelves and check it out for yourself. Just make sure you do not buy this book as a gift for just anyone! Review it before deciding if you'd read it to your kids over a bedtime drink and a biscuit.

You are most welcome to post your comments here too!!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A YP Book

Read the book "The Devil's Footsteps" by E.E. Richardson recently. The plot is simple but the conventional use of a sinister, oft-repeated rhyme and haunted house did bring shivers down the spine. Personally, I think the theme is very suitable for young adults (and adults), especially reluctant reader who likes scary movie.

Even though I am not much into supernatural and horror stories, I was captivated after the first few pages. I actually want to continue reading - to discover all the dark, mysterious places and mythical history of the town described.

As the story unfolds, the question of fear, evil and death was articulated by the 15 years old protagonist, Bryan. Together with two other boys, they risk their lives to find and destroy the mysterious power that haunt their community.

This is a good read for someone who is too busy for thick novels. This book is less than 200 pages, well laid out and definitely a page turner.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Author or editor

Have you ever been surprised by something that is totally different from what you believe it to be? I've always thought that the author of a book has the ultimate say over the text, images and layout. Little did I know that the real decision maker is the editor!

An idea for a book not necessarily come from authors' book proposal. Very often, editors and sales reprentatives are the ones who brought the ideas to the table. Once the editorial board agrees on a book proposal, editor in charge will decide on the most suitable author to assign to.

Besides making suggestions for revisions on the manuscript, it is the editor's choice of images to accompany the text; author has nothing to do with the selection (unless she raises strong objection to any of the images selected). However, the author is the one to put a caption for each of the image selected : ).

Another interesting thing about the editorial process is the number of people involved. Besides the author and editor, there are the 'expert' (to verify the accuracy of the concept presented), the photo researcher, the copyeditor (to check basic grammer, punctuation, consistency, logic, sense and typesetting features), the keyboarder, the designer, proofreader, indexer and last but not least the production manager.

Have I told you that each of the role above does overlap? Besides the proofreader, the copyeditor, keyboarder, and editor proofread whenever the manuscript lands on their hands. People involved in and enjoyed the editorial process are normally 'perfectionists' - meticulous and detailed. Changes can still take place even when the manuscript is on the way to the printing press (as long as not printed) !!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Freedom to read ?

Have you heard about 'Banned Books Week'? Well, the name may be misleading...... the intention is to raise awareness that Americans should not take for granted the freedom to read.

Historically, many attempt of challenges have been made by people on books and on authors. Things that conflict with or disagree with anyone's belief. The attempt to remove or restrict access to 'objectionable' children/teen materials are often very prominent. Somehow, individuals and groups seems to be setting a much higher standard for children/teen materials.

In the American libraries, librarians are to challenge censorship. Librarians are guardians to the freedom to read. Library Bill of Rights empowered the librarians to be responsible. What is the delicate balance between freedom to read and ensuring our children/teen are not reading 'bad' materials?

Personally, I'd experienced the frustration of censorship which is the result of an individual or a group's point of view - such as pornographic versus artistic; blasphemy versus perception....thus, freedom to read is not a bad thing. On the other hand, from the perspective of a parent or teacher, we know the influence reading materials can have upon the young minds. How then can we practise the freedom to read?

One thing I discovered is the assumption on library materials. Many assume that all materials from the library should be 'safe' for children/teen. We can only start embracing freedom to read when parents or teachers are aware that libraries' responsibility is not to protect readers from 'bad' materials. Their main and professional responsibility is to provide information and enlightenment ; that includes challenging censorship.

It is the responsibility of individual to decide what they want or do not want to read! For children/teen who are not ready to make such decisions, parents can decide on their behalf. However, when a parent disapproves of any book, he/she should only attempt to stop his/her child from reading it; not attempt to restrict or even remove access.

Just like a book can have very different effects on individuals; the take on freedom to read can also spark many different responses. Are you so comfortable without the freedom to read that you wanted censorship? Or are you a frustrated librarian that wonders why you must remove or restrict access to yet another book?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reading And Play

Attended the Astrid Lindgren celebration at WRL yesterday and was reminded of the relationship between 'reading and play'. Astrid Lindgren, an advocate for a child's right to play. Astrid's believe has been very distinctively portrayed in the character of Pippi Longstocking.

The first speaker Ms ├ůsa Tolgraven has shown us the unique curriculum of the Swedish pre-schools where the right to play, adventure and fantasy are the key words. The second speaker Ms Lwin Moe Moe has emphasized that reading should be fun. Strategies to support early literacy are through activities and drama, allowing children to experience, explore and play.

I remembered learning from 'sound' books when I was a young mother. I was fortunate enough to be able to find as well as to pay for these invaluable resources - press the button and we can sing along and enjoy the words and illustrations at the same time. We also tried singing the rhyme without the help of the recorded tune! taking turns to sing the lines or alternate singing the songs. Both my child and myself had really good time : )

I did some simple fingerplays with my child when she was a baby. When she got older, I decided to expand my 'repertoire'. I bought a 'tape and book' set and started my learning journey. Instead of enjoying the fingerplay with my child, I spent most of my time learning and practising! Learning from tape and books was really frustrating for me : (
After much agony, decided to stick to my existing repertoire and enjoy my child instead : )

Wondering if the library collection should include the 'sound' books for young working mothers. How are the new generation of young mothers coping? Are they spending enough time to read and play with their kids? Do the new generation mothers know anything about fingerplays?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Teen Titles

Should teen titles be classified as a children's books rather than adult books? This has always been an issue for discussion. Does a teenager consider himself an adult? There's no definite answer but booksellers have found that teen readers who are 13 to 14 years of age are quite happy to browse through the teen shelves in the Children Section. Teenagers who are 15 or older will be most embarrassed to be 'caught' in the Children Section!

What is considered a good read for teenagers? It is often difficult to "pigeonhole" what makes a good read cos' teenagers have very broad tastes. From the 'little survey' I did with my nephews and nieces and my friends' nephews and nieces who are teenagers, their interest ranges from Dan Brown to Gossip Girls, fantasy to realistic fiction, fiction to non-fiction and horrifying discoveries that some typical Singapore teenagers read only 'exam worthy' books !!

Teen titles are often classified based on the age of the protagonist and the subject matter. Very often, the protaganist must be one that a teen can relate to i.e. a teenager. The subject matter must be seen as relevant to a teenager. Issues and angst common to teens. Fantasy fictions that cater to their imaginative minds. Teens are maturing so fast nowadays that the simple assumption described above are often irrelevant. Thus, many writers of teen books are putting in contents that crossover to the adult world.

Recently, some teen books are beginning to appeal to adult readers. These "crossover" books are currently rare and few in the market. Some crossover titles are Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now (Puffin), Jennifer Donnelly's A Gathering Light (Bloomsbury) and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night (Doubleday).

According to Becky Stradwick, children buyer for Borders UK, on possible crossover titles that are on the way, "Books such as Elsewhere, Tamar and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas all deal with complex adult themes and deserves to reach a wider audience." (Stradwick, Becky. "Action for the autumn." The Bookseller August 2005: 28.)

Elsewhere (Hardcover)by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September, 2005)
ISBN: 0374320918

Tamar by Mal Peet
Publisher: Walker Books, Limited (October 2005)
ISBN: 0-7445-6570-7

Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Publisher: Random House Children's Books (February 2006)
ISBN: 0-385-60940-X

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Books under the same series!


The Magic School Bus series books often upset my mind whenever I wanted to borrow them from the library. Let me explain.....

These are wonderful non-fiction books that explore various subjects in the form of a story i.e. fiction. When I discovered these books in the bookshop, I was so excited --- I wanted my girls to read them! I know the chances of them reading these 'stories' to pick up facts will be much higher for them to read our brand new but dust-covered World Book Encyclopedia at home.

Just as Junie B Jones, Narnia and Roald Dahl are shelved as a series in our home, I expect the Magic School Bus to be shelved together in the library as well. To my dismay, being non-fiction, they are shelved by DDC. In addition to DDC, there are also shelved according to author within the particular classification!

Another set of books that I find wonderful is the magic tree house series. The format and language used are suitable for readers to build confidence in reading yet the content is varied and informative. I think they are more wonderful than most basic readers used in schools.

The shelving of the magic tree house is however under both fiction and non-fiction. The magic tree house series is under fiction - shelved by author. The magic tree house research guide is under non-fiction, shelved by DDC.

I just could not explain why the very logical way of library shelving seems to upsets my logical mind! I simply expects to find all books under the umbrella of "The Magic School Bus" to be together; the magic tree house books, whether reseach guides or not to be together!
Unlike the good old days, series books are often by one author and one particular genre. Now, series titles comes in variations e.g. Animal Ark Classics, Animal Ark Babies, Animal Ark Holidays...within the same series title, every book could be written by different authors!
Guess nothing can be as simple as it used to be. The world is now changing, dynamic and global. We need to find our own 'logic' in this chaotic world to satisfy our own mind.