Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Farewell to CCBC-Net

When CCBC-Net began in April, 1995, we wanted to offer an exciting new way to engage in discussion of books for children and teens. Our first topical discussion was held in July of that year. We’ve been exploring individual books, topics and issues in the world of literature for children and teens on a monthly basis ever since.
The original welcome message on CCBC-Net included 8 pages of directions

Across CCBC-Net's twenty year history, there have been thousands of posts as members of the CCBC-Net community have shared their insights, observations, perspectives, experiences, and enthusiasm around books for youth.  At the time we launched CCBC-Net, listservs were on the cutting edge, and ours allowed for a vibrant, lively discussion of subjects near and dear to our hearts and our professions. We have had over 2,000 subscribers from all over the world and from many walks of life, and the listserv has seen some great discussions.

Today, while listservs still have a place, they have been joined by blogs, Facebook, Twitter feeds, Pinterest posts, and other forms of social media that offer different ways to connect and engage.  Listservs are no longer the go-to form of social media for discussion and, as a result, we have observed a sharp decline in activity on CCBC-Net over the past few years.  Our attempt to revitalize CCBC-Net in 2014 with changes that included book discussions and Q&A with authors and illustrators – while illuminating -- did little to increase participation.

For this reason, after much consideration and discussion, we have decided to bring the CCBC-Net listserv to a close at the end of 2014.  

We’ll still be talking about books for children and teens, publishing trends, and essential issues in the world of children's and young adult literature, in person as always at the CCBC, as well as here on this blog. Look for more author and illustrator interviews, too, like this one with Eric Gansworth from earlier this year. That’s one thing we look forward to carrying forward in this new forum.  And as with CCBC-Net, we welcome your suggestions of topics for discussion.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book of the Week

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

by Katheryn

Published by Lee and Low, 2014
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8
Ages 6-10

“From as far back as her memory would go, Melba loved the sounds of music. Blues, jazz, and gospel rhythms danced in her head.” An energetic, entertaining picture book introduces self-taught jazz trombonist and composer Melba Liston. In childhood, “notes stirred and rhythms bubbled all through Melba’s home.” As an adult, Melba “composed and arranged music, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs. And when Melba played the trombone, her bold notes and one-of-a-kind sound mesmerized the crowd.” Exceptional and unafraid to be herself, Melba more than held her own among other greats of jazz whose names are better known. A two-page afterword further informs this inspired picture book that deftly touches on the sexism and racism Melba faced while showcasing her extraordinary talent. A variety of intriguing perspectives distinguish Frank Morrison’s movement-filled illustrations that accompany Katheryn Russell-Brown’s spirited narrative.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book of the Week

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces

by Isabel Quintero

Published by Cinco Puntos Press, 2014
284 pages
ISBN: 978-1-935955-95-5

Age 14 and older

As her senior year begins, Gabi Hernandez learns her best friend Cindy is pregnant. In a narrative told primarily through diary entries, Gabi moves between revelations like this one, her preoccupation with both weight and boys, observations about her Mexican American family and community, and the mundane (just how hot is the food at Pepe’s House of Wings?). Gabi’s voice is funny, foul-mouthed, and, early on, unfocused: she’s just as likely as not to be trivial. This makes the transformation over the course of the school year all the more powerful. In Gabi’s own house and in the halls at school, she’s constantly reminded that girls are labeled “good” or “bad” based on sexual behavior—rumored or real—and that she’s too heavy to be considered beautiful. It all undeniably affects her. But as she responds to things happening to her and around her, including the revelation that Cindy was raped, she begins to reject pervasive ideas in her family, culture, and society that devalue and demonize girls and women. In the writing she does for a poetry class, Gabi explores her father’s addiction and other family issues, as well as body image, with linguistic precision initially lacking in her diary entries. In poems and in her diary, she eventually emerges as a passionate, articulate advocate for herself and others, tackling sexism and sexual violence and the connection between them with keen and sometimes raging honesty. Gabi never loses a funny edge—in fact, the humor becomes sharper as she does—but her voice is also unapologetically fierce. Family and friendships all inform Gabi’s understanding of and response to what it means to be a young woman and young Latina in this bold, welcome work.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Considering the Young Adult Memoir

To-date in 2014 at the CCBC, we've read five memoirs by young adults (usually in collaboration with other writers): 
  • I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick (Young Reader's Edition: Little, Brown)
  • Laughing At My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw (Roaring Brook)
  • Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill with Ariel Schrag (Simon & Schuster)
  • Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews with Joshua Lyon (Simon & Schuster)
  • Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela de Prince with Elaine De Prince (Random House)

I found each of these young adults' stories compelling in one or more ways and think many teen readers will, too. The young reader's edition of Malala Yousafzai's life to-date is, as she has said, her story, whereas the adult book has greater emphasis on her father. The Katie Rain Hill and Arin Andrews titles are an intriguing pair of books, because the two transgender teens are friends (and were girlfriend/boyfriend) and so have a number of intersecting characters and events seen from their two different points of view. Shane Burcaw's perspective on his life--he has spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative muscular disease that has made him wheelchair bound--is frank and often funny. Dancer Michaela De Prince's tells how she lost her family in Sierra Leone during brutal war and was eventually adopted by a family in the United States, which is where she began to pursue her interest in dance: a life of striking contrasts.

But I also found myself asking questions as I read them.

I would imagine one of the challenges, when taking on a project like this, from an editorial perspective, is trying to balance the teen's voice with the adult collaborator's (when there is a collaborator).  My guess is that the ones that are less well written from a literary perspective are the most authentic in terms of letting the young adults' voice come through unfiltered. Is that a good thing or a bad thing in terms of evaluating the books?  I don't know. 

Occasionally, what I think of as the less-filtered voice gave me pause.  There were moments in some of the books when I thought--Oh, how are you going to feel about having said/written this in five or ten years?

They are so young, really, to be reflecting on their lives. They all have stories worthy of sharing, but at moments like that I wondered if it wouldn't have been better for their stories to be something other than first-person.

Then again, I think the first-person is also part of where the power of their narratives resides. And those occasional moments that made me wince in some of the books are also, perhaps, the very things that teen readers might find most genuine.

So, no answers, just questions, none of which detract from my overall appreciation for the existence of these works.

Monday, December 8, 2014

You Think You Know Children's Books?

Babe the Blue Ox
Last month the Friends of the CCBC hosted our first annual children's literature trivia contest, CCBC Bowl. Over a hundred children's literature aficionados participated, competing in teams of ten to win the coveted Babe the Blue Ox trophy. (Our University of Wisconsin football team competes each year against the University of Minnesota for Paul Bunyan's axe, so we thought it would be appropriate for our teams to compete for Paul Bunyan's ox.)

Quiz Master Kevin Henkes went through three rounds of ten questions. By the end of the evening the team that called themselves Wild Things were the victors, answering 22 of 30 questions correctly.

Kevin Henkes hands the trophy to the Wild Things team
The CCBC librarians made up the questions, and they were challenging. There were two questions that flummoxed everyone. Do you know the answers to either of these?

Round Two, Question Six:

What is unusual about this picture from Song and Dance Man, the 1989 Caldecott winner by Stephen Gammell?

Round Two, Question Nine:
 What was Lois Ehlert's first published picture book that she both wrote and illustrated? 
 Do you know the answer to either of these questions without looking them up?   Let us know! (And remember, you have 90 seconds.)

CCBC librarian Emily Townsend, Timekeeper

All photos (c) J. Matzner

Book of the Week

The Noisy Paint Box:   The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Mary Grandpré

Alfred A Knopf, 2014    32 pages     
ISBN: 978-0-307-97848-6    Ages 5-8

In young Vasya’s world everything is staid and proper, until the day he opens the paint box his aunt gives him. “The swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a magical symphony.” Vasya paints what he hears—the clinking of a bright lemon sun, the low vibrations of a navy blue. But no one in his family hears what he hears or understands what he’s painted. They do, however, think lessons would be a good idea. “So Vasya went to art class and learned to draw houses and flowers—just like everyone else.” Vasya grew up and became a lawyer, but a trip to the opera reawakened his urge to paint the colors of sound. “Art should make you feel….like music,” he said. Playful, lyrical language propels this picture book account of Vasily Kandinsky, who started the abstract art movement. An author’s note tells more about Kandinsky and abstract art and includes photographs of four of his paintings. The acrylic and collage illustrations wonderfully express the rigidity of Kandisky’s life and the colorful wilds of his imagination.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book of the Week

West of the Moon

by Margi Preus

Published by Abrams, 2014
224 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0896-1

Age 11 and older

A vivid, shining, artfully told story is set in nineteenth-century Norway, where thirteen-year-old,orphaned Astri is sold to a goat farmer by her aunt. Astri must cook and clean and care for the animals, all the while dodging the farmer’s harsh and eventually groping hand. The night the farmer locks her in the storehouse she discovers a mute girl inside spinning at a wheel. Spinning Girl’s identity is a mystery that Astri interprets through the many stories her mother used to tell her. The folktales have helped make her life bearable as she looks for the opportunity to escape. A breathless, terrifying effort to flee when the farmer is trying to haul her off to the village to marry him is complicated when Astri realizes she cannot leave Spinning Girl behind. Astri’s plan has been to return to her aunt’s and rescue her little sister, Greta, whom she knows her aunt will sell next, then find a boat heading to America. Astri is a girl of great strength, wit, and compassion, all of which she draws on as she devises new plans on the run. Soon all three girls are headed toward the coast on a journey that challenges Astri to rewrite her understanding of the past as she discovers new information that reveals the identity of the mysterious girl. An extraordinary novel about hope and courage, dreams and the power of story pays tribute to the pain and promise of the immigrant story—what was brought along and what was left behind—as it effortlessly blends historical fiction and fantasy.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center