Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Commercial break

Brought to you by future writers of America.

Post your favorite, or write one of your own in the comments.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Confusion about kids' books

I've noticed some speculation and muttering lately on these here Internets about categories for kids' books. I thought I'd throw my two pennies into the ring.

When I was a kid, I don't think the categories YA (young adult) or MG (middle grade) existed. There were generally two sizes of books in what was called the Intermediate section of the library. The trade size, which is the larger of the two, indicated (to me, anyway) books for ages 8-12 or so: Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, and the Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing books by Blume. The smaller sized books, called mass market, were in spinner racks. These were for the 12-and-ups. Books like the Sweet Valley High series. SE Hinton. Robert Cormier. More mature works by Judy Blume. There were sub-categories for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery, and Non-fiction.

That was it.

Many kids in high school were assigned books to read such as Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird. These books were found in the Classics section, and included both adult and children's classics. Also, many high schoolers were reading books from the adult section.

Ten years ago, I managed a children's bookstore. We had Picture Books, Early Readers (short, easy chapter books), Intermediate (ages 7-12), and YA (ages 11-14 or so), as well as the usual sub-categories. We determined the correct placement in the store not only by size (mass market vs. trade) but also by content. Some books overlapped.

Today, there are many more categories. That can be a good thing, but it can also make it harder to find the specific book you're looking for in a bookstore or library. Intermediate became Middle Grade, and now there's Tweens as well (ages 10-12).

Also, the Young Adult category has grown fantastically over the past decade or so. It's also gotten edgier. Typical young adult books are considered suitable for ages 10 or 12 to 15 or so, depending on content and the child's reading/comprehension level. You'll find elements including romance (crushes and dating), dysfunction, social/racial/ethnic issues, some abuse (physical and emotional), and sometimes tragedy including death in contemporary YA (for whatever reason, death in historical middle grade appears acceptable, but I don't see a lot of death in the 7-10 year old range of books when the characters are living in current times -- Though Bridge to Terabithia comes to mind).

YA has expanded in age as well, to include more mature themes. Drugs, sex (with some detail, but generally not terribly explicit), moderate amounts of profanity, emotional illness and and teen problems such as anorexia, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide, murder (as opposed to accidental death)...everything you might find in an adult book. This category is sometimes referred to as Mature YA, Upper YA, or Teen Lit.

So if this upper YA category is similar to adult books, why does it exist? I'm not positive, but unlike 20 years ago, it seems that if the main character of a book is under the age of 20, the book is considered Teen Lit by default.

I invite you to share your opinion -- my post here is my own personal opinion which relies somewhat on memories from 10-30 years ago. I could be waaaaay wrong on this. But I think I'm closer to reality than some.

More on Teen Lit in the next post.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another Great YA

Newbery Honor winner Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is an historical novel that takes place in Maine in the early 1900s. Filled with racial tensions and religious disharmony, author Gary Schmidt transports the reader to the shores of the real town of Phippsburg, gives us a variety of tremendously developed characters, and shows us the coast through his gorgeous description. I feel like I've seen a whale in real life.

(well I have, actually, but this is different - it's the description, man!)

And I can't tell you about this book without feeling rather proud that Gary Schmidt was one of my favorite college professors back in Michigan in the late 80s. Prof. Schmidt taught (and still teaches) kiddie lit, among other English/lit classes. Good job, sir! I give you an A.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Aw, myahn! I haven't lost my midwest accent...

Though carbonated drinks are not 'pop' anymore. Definitely 'soda'.
My ten year old daughter's accent has changed the most in the past two years. Which is funny, because Phoenix is it's own little melting pot, and there's really not a 'southwest' accent, as far as I can tell.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
North Central
The West
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A new addition

After searching high and low for just the right dog for our family, I think we have a winner.

Jessie is a 3.5 year-old saluki mix. Emphasis on the 'mix'. Though no one seems to know what the mix part is. She's black and tan, shorter and stockier than the saluki in the photo at the link, and has a thick coat. When she stands to look at something, she reminds me of a small golden retriever with a collie-face.

We were very picky in our selection. We didn't want a puppy. We wanted a medium-sized dog who is housebroken, doesn't bark, doesn't chew on the furniture, doesn't need a huge amount of exercise, and doesn't shed. We got everything we wanted except the 'doesn't shed' part. Yay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Third thing...

One more great thing to share today -- design your own radio station.

Two of my favorite things today

Sometimes the taste for good ol' Chicago style pizza is overwhelming. And it's impossible to find the authentic stuff around here. Introducing Lou Malnati's pizza with nationwide delivery. A friend of mine who lives in Chicago (though he's somewhere in Africa at the moment) was so kind as to send me some Lou's pizzas last year, when I was mourning about being so far away from Chicago now.

Now, if y'all are going to argue with me and try and convince me that NY style or St. Louis style is better, well, just include a link to a place that will ship it to Arizona, and maybe I'll have a little taste test show-down.

The way to buy pizza online, by the way, is not to look at the price for one pizza. ($37, includes delivery, ouch!) What you need to do is have a party, see. And get 4 pizzas for $69.99, which also includes delivery. So I buy a couple cases of beer for $30 and we're good.

Think about it. Say you live in Chicago. You and seven friends all go out to Lou's (parking $10 per vehicle, 2 vehicles). You get drinks while you wait (six beers, $30 -- and the DD's drink coke, right? So $6 for those, plus a $5 tip to the bartender). And then you get a few pitchers once you're seated (I dunno, $25?). You order 4 pizzas, $10 a piece plus tax ($45) and tip ($15 minimum, and that's even skanky), and then you accidentally leave the leftover box of pizza on the sink in the bathroom (why on EARTH would you take your takeout box into the bathroom? Gross!).

And there you've spent $150, to my $100. It's a bargain, I'm telling you!

My second favorite thing today is Quelf.
This is a most hilarious board game, and would make a great gift, but like most great board games, they sell out before Christmas. So get yours early. If'n you do that Christmas thang, that is. See, players draw cards and they have to do what's on the card. Like, for the entirety of the game, instead of saying 'yes' or 'no', you might have to say 'word' or 'bogus'. If you screw up, you take a penalty. Or anytime another player rolls a 4, you might have to stand up, spread your arms and hum a mournful song until that turn is done. Or you'll have to put a pan on your head, bang it with a wooden spoon, and shout "I'm coming, Billy!" There are a variety of cards, some that make you list things like brands of shampoo or female authors' names.

It's a blast.

Pizza, family game, it's all good.

Now I have to go get my hair cut. Which reminds me; I've got to find that South Park website where you can design a character to look like yourself. Because I have Butters' hair.