Adventures in Reading

Bookends: Staggering Piles of Books and Stephenie Meyer’s Release Party

I always promise myself that I will never, ever do it again. But yet I do time and time again. What is this unnamed dysfunction of mine? Allowing books to pile up post reading that I really ought to write about but Procrastination (note the capital “P”) is my friend. The benefit to waiting is that it allows me time think of a book and to write about said book after I’ve had a period of detachment. This usually ensures a (somewhat) less subjective and opinionated commentary. However, this also makes it seem more like homework and another dreaded task (like the dishes stacking up) that I need to do. I’ve had a great accomplishment today and went ahead to clear out the pile.

One of the most vital and amazing occurrences resulting from J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter madness has to be the phenomena of midnight book release parties. On one hand it’s a marketing gimmick that allows for stress and tension to escalate around the book. “Well if you don’t reserve a copy now there’s no way I can guarantee when we’ll have another batch in…” Every time I have uttered this I have felt like a complete shit but it’s what lowly booksellers are supposed to do and it is more or less true. But on the positive side, how often do gads of people really become so excited and silly over a book? This type of mania I find empowering in the book world.

So I volunteered to work at my store’s Breaking Dawn party, which included debates, trivia, pictures, painting, costumes, music, prizes, food and drinks, and a monstrously good time. (Three hundred screaming female adolescents can’t be wrong! Just think about the Beatles.) And as annoying as the evening was at times and as frustrating as it is knowing that [1] a really amazing work of literature will never have the same reception, it was wonderful seeing so many readers come together for the event and spread their excitement. [2]

[1] I know I’m begging for a verbal bitch smack, but I really cannot seem to completely shatter the bounds of literature versus Literature.
[2] Granted, I was mostly simultaneously horrified at the sheer cattiness (despite the feminist in me there is no more apt description) that hissed out from many overheard comments. My suggestion to female adolescents: you’re all physically beautiful and every time you attempt to tear someone else down you’re really only hurting yourself and your friends.

Nonfiction: Children’s Literature by Seth Lerer
August 12, 2008, 2:55 pm
Filed under: book reviews, nonfiction | Tags: , , , , ,

“All children’s literature recalls an unrecoverable past, a lost age before adulthood.”

As an adult, children’s literature, from Aesop to Stephenie Meyer, holds a certain allure for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I spent so much time up and down trees and constructing rafts that I didn’t get my fill of books as a child, or that I’m reliving my more vicarious days through these books, or that they’re simply excellent works set to entertain a younger audience. (Or of course the obvious option of all three!)

In Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History From Aesop to Harry Potter Seth Lerer explores the historical influences and interpretations of childhood and children’s literature. This history begins in classical antiquity and takes the reader through centuries of children’s literature to arrive at more contemporary works.

Reading Lerer’s book has been an enriching experience in the world of western children’s literature. He manages to illuminate the evolution of the child’s book by exploring particular influences ranging from ideas of child as citizen, Puritan influence, girl books, to the influence of prize culture on books. Throughout the reading I consistently would pause recalling not only the books from my childhood but also those books I have recently read and how they fit into Lerer’s reader.

Children’s Literature was described to me as not exclusively being an academic work but a book that would also be beneficial for a more general reading audience and I completely agree. Lerer’s book was not the easiest read but it was a most enjoyable and informative read. It’s one of the few books I took serious time with and not only because it dealt with some weightier topics but because the book provided me with information that I wanted to stop and think about and that I wanted to take notes on.

I was asked by Tiny Librarian about whether I found Lerer’s book to be “interesting/entertaining” and “containing good research on the subject?” Easily I can answer yes to both of these inquiries and it was of particular interest for me when I came to Lerer’s chapter on the history of the children’s library in America and the story of children’s literary prizes and how these two prominent features have helped shape the landscape of books directed at children. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Lerer, Children’s Literature is food for thought and an exploration of the world of childhood book-related fantasy that is on equal footing with the numerous explorations of adult literature.