Children’s Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone
So I was listening to an episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour the other day. If you happen to unfamiliar with the show it’s just your basic pop culture based podcast where they dissect the trends and news of the day so you don’t have to. In a recent episode called ‘Captain America’ And The Pitiless March Of Time a discussion was made of websites that have simply disappeared over the years. The folks over at NPR were concerned about the fact that Television Without Pity is now defunct. They mentioned how we live in this odd world where things we love and sites that once contained just loads of content can disappear in a day. It got me to thinking.
I started A Fuse #8 Production as a blog on Blogger back in February of 2006. At that time I had no idea what I was doing, stringing one word next to another, plucking weirdo news items from the ether, and generally reviewing anything I could get my hot little hands on. I did a book review a day in my prime. Now I’m lucky if I can get two out in a week! That was when I caught some attention for starting a series called The Hot Men of Children’s Literature. All in good fun, it got attention which was my ultimate goal. Then SLJ picked me up and the rest is history.
So I took a trip back to my little old blog site and checked out the blogroll on the side. The blogroll was something I maintained meticulously for a while. There was even a moment when every day I would systematically check each and every blog there for news I could use. Looking at it now, I see a lot of familiar faces who are still going strong, but they’re alongside folks I wish were still around. If we pick a random number and say that the Kidlitosphere has been in existence for a decade, then maybe now is the time to tip our hats to those folks we miss. In no particular order . . .
Well. . . maybe a certain kind of order. Here’s the thing about that old blogroll of mine. If you look at it today you’ll see it’s organized in a kind of haphazard method. That’s because it’s in order of blogs I checked the most to the least (7 years ago . . don’t flog me if you’re low!). And coming in at #5 was Peter Sieruta and his jaw-dropping Collecting Children’s Books. I kid you not when I say that for a time Peter was the hardest working man in show business. His sheer output put me to shame. I’d mince about with a tiny post here and there and then he’d swoop in with his Sunday Brunch posts and just blow us all away with these insightful, clever, interesting looks into the history of children’s literature. He was beloved of certain authors like M.E. Kerr, childhood heroes he connected with thanks to the age of the internet. Peter was so amazing, in fact, that it seemed a bloody frickin’ shame that no one was paying him to do what he did so well. So I reached out to him and Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and proposed we all write a book together. Turns out, I couldn’t have picked two better authors in all my livelong days. Though our writing styles were diverse we were able to synthesize them into a single unified voice. That book, Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature comes out in August (we had to push back the pub date, which is why you’re not seeing it on your shelves this month) and is dedicated to Peter. You see, after we had turned in our text, Peter passed away unexpectedly leaving a massive gaping hole in the children’s book blogosphere. He was a kind and witty friend and from time to time I turn back to his old site just to see if there are any updates. There never will be, but it does the heart good to check.
On Saturday, April 19th at 2:00 p.m. I’m so pleased to announce that I’ll be hosting the Children’s Literary Salon Podcasting Children’s Books: Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs. In it, podcasters Katie Davis (Brain Burps About Books), John Sellers (PW KidsCast), and Matthew Winner (Let’s Get Busy) will engage me in conversation about the world of children’s literary podcasting and their experiences with the form. It’s bound to be a real thrill but it’s also important to remember that before any of these folks started in on the form there was one site that was your automatic go-to kidlit podcast. Just One More Book was a Canadian creation, the brainchild of Andrea Ross and Mark Blevis. For a time, it was really the only place to get good podcasting (unless, of course, you were a Harry Potter fan who subscribed to Pottercast). Then personal problems arose. Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer and the site bravely chronicled her fight and recovery. That was in 2009 and since that time there is the occasional podcast or video but for all intents and purposes the site is no longer updated. Yet even in its defunct state I was happy to note that the Twitter feed of @JustOneMoreBook rakes in a whopping 6,549 followers. You can bet I’ll be giving them a shout out at my next Lit Salon.
In an age of countless children’s literary blogs, with more and more cropping up every day, people forget that in the early days there just weren’t a lot of us hanging around. You had your Tea Cozy and your MotherReader. Your Educating Alice and your bookshelves of doom. And then there was Big A little a run by Kelly Herold. It wasn’t one of those big flashy blogs. Instead, Kelly just provided really good, steady content for folks who were curious. She had no problem interviewing Judy Blume one day and Mary Pope Osborne the next. Sadly the site shuttered in 2009 and though she did try to do an alternate blog for a time it didn’t last. Fortunately you can follow Kelly on Pinterest if you like, where she maintains four different boards.
Now my memory is a bit foggy on this one so folks who remember and worked on this will have to correct me when I get my facts wrong. You see, in the early children’s literature days we had no idea what we were doing. We knew we had to get organized in some way, so the Kidlitosphere Central was created, a wiki of reviews born, and the yearly Children’s Book Blogger Conference Kidlitcon established (not to mention the Cybils!). On top of that, there was an idea of maintaining an online magazine with contributions from our community. Called “The Edge of the Forest” it featured reviews of its own as well as articles and interviews. Sadly it didn’t last and the site itself disappeared completely from the internet. This is one of the rare cases of something children’s book blog related completely disappearing, reminding us that no matter how much content we may produce, it could all cease and desist tomorrow. A blogger momento mori, if you will.
Ah. One of the great mysteries of the children’s book blog age. Created in 2007 and continuing until its demise in 2011, no one ever knew who EA, as she/he was affectionately known, really was. Many theories raged, and undoubtedly a number of editors of children’s books probably had to field questions from folks wondering if they were “the one”. EA’s disappearance isn’t hard to explain though. She (it’s probably a pretty safe bet to call EA a she) was snarky in the good sense of the word. Suffering no fools she had a whip smart tongue and a great style to boot. Undoubtedly someone somewhere figured out her secret and so she stopped posting entirely one day. I harbor two fantasies about EA. One is that someday she’ll write a book of her own (though she may easily have already done so) and that I’ll see it and recognize her style. The other is that I’ll be in my gray later years, oh say 85 or so, and one day someone will call me up and say to me and me alone: “Editorial Anonymous was [enter name here]”. It could happen. A girl just has to have faith.
Sometimes a blog goes away and you feel sad. And sometimes they stop posting and you get a bit miffed. When The Uncommon Corps was created in the wake of the early Common Core State Standards rollout I was thrilled. With an illustrious group of authors at the helm this was slated to be THE #1 most important blog to talk about CCSS out there. But as time passed it just couldn’t quite post regularly. It was started in 2012 and continued through 2013 then died on the vine. I do maintain a hope somewhere that someday it will be revived, but until then we’ll just have to be content with the archives, such as they are.
Of course there are other blogs that have been pertinent to our business over the years that I miss just as much as well. Children’s Music That Rocks used to be my one and only source of great new children’s album reviews. Golden Age Comic Book Stories showed as much classic children’s book illustration as it did comic book panels. There are others too that just slowed down their postings to one or two a year.
So now that I’ve steeped you in my own unique brand of nostalgia, return the favor. What are some of the sites you find yourself missing from time to time?
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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