One thing I’ve learned about being a librarian is that you’re never off the clock. No matter where I am, if I tell people I’m a librarian, they ask me for book recommendations. Without fail. Of course, I don’t mind it – I welcome it – because I love talking books. (Which is 90% of the reason I went to library school in the first place.)
While camping this weekend, I had a lot of book questions thrown my way, and twice pulled out some paper plates and pens – gotta be resourceful! – to make up reading lists for a 7-year-old and another for a young tween. There are also a lot of questions that go into making a book list. I can name the hot books that are generally popular, but if kids have certain likes and dislikes, that narrows it down considerably. A 12-year-old who loves dragon stories that take place in Asia has a much narrower field of interest than a 7-year-old who loves fairy stories or whatever.
The most important questions I ask are:
1) “Do you like to read?”
I make it a point to tell the kids that it’s okay to answer that question with “no.” It breaks my heart, but not everyone likes to read. And reluctant readers may be open to graphic novels, or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-type stories, but chapter books with a narrative thread may not hold them.
2) “What’s the last book you read that you really enjoyed?”
2b) “And why did you love it?”
That question and its follow-up give the child a chance to really get excited. When kids talk about books they love, their enthusiasm levels go up. They love talking about it and the parts that they liked.
In other news, I got a really good reference question from an older gentleman, who wanted to find young adult books from the early 1900s. Many people don’t realize that YA as a genre is a relatively recent invention from as early as the 1930s – 1950s, but really coming into its heyday in the past decade or two. So when I told him that there was no YA back then, he asked, “Well, what did teens read?” And I suppose the answer is – adult books. Older children’s books were things like Baum’s Oz books, or sci-fi/fantasy – Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but nothing that could be likened to young adult lit as we know it until mid-century. (Another reason I love what Lizzie Skurnick is doing with her imprint.)
Diverse YA titles! There are so many of these I want to read.
Jane Austen would be really offended to be on this list.
From Mama Bear:
Please excuse me while I go buy Beverly Cleary’s childhood home.
This makes no sense. What if, as Mama Bear said in her email to me, we didn’t teach Shakespeare because he wasn’t an American author?
I am always in a Jane Austen novel. (Note: #1 really, actually, I promise, did happen to me.)
From Sister A: Behind every great man…
From Friend D: I’d never heard of this, have you?
Stolen from Friend L: Charlotte Perkins Gilman is rolling in her grave.
In What’s Annabelle Reading, boy, did I kick some serious reading butt this weekend. I really enjoyed The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, a non-fiction compilation of murders and mysteries and obsessions. It was fascinating.
I only just liked The Scarlet Sisters, a biography of Tennie Claflin and her sister, Victoria Woodhull, who was the first woman to run for President. They were both ahead of their times, speaking out about feminism, women’s rights, abortion, contraception, etc. They were quite interesting ladies.
I absolutely HATED HATED Penelope. I normally love books about college, but no one was likeable in it, the characters spoke without using contractions (who does that??), and there was really no plot. Sister A had said it sounded interesting before she read it, then read it, hated it, and forgot to tell me she hated it, so when I called her and told her that I’d read it, she said, “Oh, you hated it, right?” Yes. Yes I did.