Happy New Year! I'm happy to be back this week as a "guest blogger" -- especially on this most exciting day when the children's book world celebrates its equivalent of the Academy Awards.
As most of you probably know, you can follow the live feed of the ALA announcements here:
Yay, librarians! Yay, writers, illustrators, and editors!
I have been enjoying my hiatus from blogging duties to relax, read (gasp), and yes, even work on my own writing -- that is, when I'm not teaching, working at my day job, or schlepping my kids all over central Maryland. The opportunity to "fill the well," as they say, has been much needed and most welcome.
While I have been on a bit of a reading binge, I admit that I haven't run out to acquire most of the (I'm sure fabulous) books on this year's Mock Newberys lists. [Here, by the way, is an awesome Mock Newbery blog.] I have made no secret in the past of my populist tastes, and a colleague I respect very much who writes literary fiction recently said something very revealing to me. She shared that she enjoyed dabbling in writing for kids because "it's okay to have a happy ending." The fact that it's not okay to have a happy ending in "serious" works probably wholly explains my populist taste. As someone who's suffered from depression my entire adult life, I frankly don't enjoy reading books that depress me.
Over the holiday break, my daughter was cast in a local production of The Sound of Music, and we have been glorying in listening to My Favorite Things on endless repeat. I also introduced her to my favorite childhood show, The Brady Bunch, and she prefers it to all of our Netflix offerings. Eight is such an amazing age -- that blend of wit, innocence, intelligence, ignorance. I honestly wish I could freeze this moment in time forever.
But while I grew up in an era of Little House and The Waltons, it's now a world of Dance Moms and the Kardashians and Justin Bieber. The catch word is "edgy." Scan the list of acclaimed books, and count how many feature dead parents, siblings, mental illness, war, or some combination thereof. Certainly these books are necessary and important, and I would never want to imply otherwise. I also greatly appreciate the fact that today there is a place for heroines like Katniss (even if I can't bring myself to read anything about vampires or dystopian societies). At the same time, I wish there were more appreciation today for the literary "comfort food" that sustained me through my childhood. I believe there is still an appetite for the cozy, (and yes, cozy can be realistic!) family stories that I loved and that my daughter still loves today.
In some ways, our kids are so sadly wise in the ways of the world. Yesterday I had to tell my daughter about a mass shooting at "our" local mall, which we visited just last week. Experienced in "duck and cover" drills as she is, she barely reacted to the horrifying news. At the same time, I never thought that I would have an almost-nine-year-old who still believed in Santa -- and she is far from alone among her peers. Technology is, I'm sure, a big part of the reason -- in this Internet age, Santa's rapid transit feats no longer seem quite so impossible; and those video chats and apps featuring the "man" himself add credibility, too. But I also suspect that our kids want to cling to the innocence of childhood, to be kids longer than they are often allowed to be.
At least in the field of picture books, happy innocence is still the rule. If you're looking for something to warm your heart, don't forget to enter the giveaway for Jill Esbaum's delightful new book, I Hatched!
Click here for contest details.
Congratulations to Jill on her recent book birthday and to all of today's ALA nominees and winners! -- Jeanne Marie