The State of Children’s Literary Blogs Today (Prepare to Update Your Blogroll)
As you may or may not have heard the offices of School Library Journal moved/are moving to a new location here in NYC. As such, a fair number of folks have been cleaning house. One such person wrote me an email letting me know that they had extra copies of “my” SLJ issue and they wondered whether or not I wanted them. I most certainly did (my sole copy was water damaged years ago) but boy, talk about something that makes me feel old. Remember this?
Published in November of 2009 it was a piece about the rise of children’s and YA literary blogging (and, for the next 30 seconds, it appears to be the picture on the Wikipedia entry for School Library Journal). As you can see, it was me alongside Monica Edinger (Educating Alice), Cheryl Klein (Brooklyn Arden), Jennifer Hubert-Swan (Reading Rants), and Liz Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy).
The cover was not without controversy, by the way. Some folks objected to the fact that it was a whole bunch o’ white girls, which was a legitimate point to make. That was my mistake. At the time we had almost zero bloggers to choose amongst but we were not without options
The much greater objection, however, was to the fact that we were holding alcoholic drinks. Imagine! Librarians and teachers and editors who drink! What kind of message is that sending? WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!? Looking back on it (one librarian wrote that she could easily have left this face up on her desk where some poor unsuspecting child would have seen it – apparently dooming said child to a lifetime of alcoholism, one assumes) this may have been the incident that inspired the creation of Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. After all, that book is all about combating this fluffy bunny mentality surrounding folks who work with kids in some capacity. Never mind that we were all adults well over the drinking age. Never mind that what we were actually holding were fake drinks that tasted like nothing so much as used pink bathwater. We work with or for children and therefore must be fine upstanding citizens at all times. There is no room for adulthood when you work with kids, it would seem.
All this happened five years ago. In that time span a lot has occurred not least of which is the state of children’s literary blogs themselves. If you read the piece you’ll see that I include in it a sampler set of kidlit blogs from which to choose and to read called “Ten Blogs You Can’t Live Without”. Most of them remain, to this day, go-to pieces. Others have passed on (Collecting Children’s Books and Editorial Anonymous most notably). I’ve already done a post on children’s literary blogs that have passed on, so today I’d like to consider where the children’s literature blog of the future is going.
Take, for example, The Kidlitosphere. Started as a group to organize and celebrate the bloggers out there, it continues to have annual conferences (the next one is in Sacramento on October 10th and 11th) that are well worth the time and energy taken to attend. The Kidlitosphere has not yet incorporated, but one can hope that it’ll head that way someday. That group has legs and The Cybils, its annual book award, is only more and more popular every year. Since 2009 we’ve seen Book Expo express an interest in book bloggers as well with their own little conference. It is broader than the children’s literary field (and their first conference was exceedingly annoying since they kept repeating over and over that it was the “first” book blogger conference ever in the history of the world, which it most certainly was not) but is well attended.
Then there are the new blogs. In my prime I was able to keep track of new blogs with shocking alacrity. These days a blog essentially has to walk over and bop me over the top of my head with a large heavy object for me to notice it. Still and all, I’ve managed to locate some pretty outstanding blogs over the last five years. Here are the ones I would let you know about if I were to write another article for SLJ about the state of blogging in 2014.
Great Children’s Literary Blogs : A New Sampler Set
32 Pages – Canadian to the core! There aren’t as many Canadian bloggers out there as I would like. It’s absolutely lovely. For those of you already fans of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, this makes for a nice supplement.
The Book Smugglers – Actually they’ve been blogging since 2007 so technically they don’t belong here. They were around when I wrote the SLJ article. That said, I didn’t know about them until relatively recently. They exhaust me, actually. Full of spitfire and verve and personality, these folks give blogging a good name.
Bookie Woogie – Created by Aaron Zenz this is without a doubt the smartest, wittiest father & kids blog out there. Zenz captures the words of his kiddos brilliantly. Once you’re hooked you just can’t stop reading (and those kids make some EXCELLENT points about the books out there).
Books Around the Table – Author blogs come and go. They all seem so fleeting (except Blue Rose Girls, which may be the longest running author/illustrator blog since it started in 2006). This blog has had some serious legs. As it describes itself, “Books Around The Table is the blog of Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Laura Kvasnosky, Julie Larios, Julie Paschkis and Bonny Becker. We are a critique group of children’s book authors and illustrators who have been meeting monthly since 1994 to talk about books we are working on, books we have read, our art and our lives.” Read it. Love it.
Calling Caldecott – Jules at 7-Imp reminded me of this one. We all love Heavy Medal when it comes to the Newbery but let us not forgot the good work being done by the folks at Horn Book on the picture book side of the equation.
Disability in Kidlit – Three YA authors make for most excellent guides into the world of children’s and YA literature where disability is a feature. Definitely check out their most recent post The Mystical Disability Trope.
The History Girls – Another author blog, this time with a concentration on historical fiction. It’s a great topic and this blog has been blowing and going since 2011. No mean feat! Check out the topic cloud on the side if you’re looking for historical fiction of a particular era or time period.
How To, How Hard, and How Much – Or, put another way, nepotism nepotism nepotism. Yeah, this is my sister’s blog, but when it comes to crazy original crafts you can’t do much better. For example, her recent piece on Origami Monster Bookmarks that you can make yourself . . . well some enterprising picture book author with a book about monsters would be WISE to check this out (to say nothing of the children’s librarians out there). Plus it uses the phrase, “8 minutes per monster” which is just awesome.
Latin@s in Kid Lit – This group blog has five authors and one shared purpose. They came to prominence in the wake of #WeNeedDiverseBooks and have produced consistently compelling and interesting posts ever since. If can add only one of these blogs to your blogroll, it should probably be this one.
Nerdy Book Club – The rise of The Nerdy Book Club is probably the most significant change since that 2009 article. In 2012 (as far as I can tell) a band of bloggers with an educational bent came together to create their own site. If you want to see your jaw do a drop to the floor, check out their blogroll on the side of the site. They have big events where they gather together in a kind of un-conference called Nerd Camp (and its kid-spinoff Nerd Camp Junior) and even their own book awards. Little wonder publishers have picked up on them as a force to be reckoned with.
Nine Kinds of Pie – This is Phil Nel’s blog. A professor at Kansas State, Phil is amazing. An academic and a contributing member to the online conversation about children’s books, his site never fails to make me happy every single time I look at it.
Pop Goes the Page – I love my sister’s craft blog but if you want a pure library program focus then this blog from Cotsen Collection librarian Dana Sheridan is awe-inspiring. Of course there are interviews as well as crafts to be found too. One of my favorite new blogs out there.
The Show Me Librarian – Sure, I’m a librarian but how often do I do posts that another children’s librarian could really use? Posts about storytimes and flannel boards and all that good stuff? If nothing else her recent post on art bots and family forts should convince you to check her out with great regularity.
The Uncommon Core – Though it took a hiatus for a while, the best blog out there to discuss the larger ramification of the Common Core is back in business, baby! It seems strange to me that in the wake of all this CCSS talk there haven’t been more blogs of this sort. At least we have this one.
Views from the Tesseract – Without a doubt this would be the #1 science fiction and fantasy middle grade blog out there (though, to be perfectly honest, I work with Stephanie so I might be prone to a bit of bias). Anytime I want to know how a middle grad work is I hand it to Stephanie and she vets them for me. Her taste is impeccable. Without her there are whole swaths of books I might otherwise miss.
Watch. Connect. Read. – Mr. Schu is the arbitrator of this video blog. Want to see a trailer or filmed conversation about books? Now you know the place to go.
Looks like it’s time to update the old blogroll, eh? All of these are extraordinary. They give me great hope for the future. Blogging, far from the trend some predicted it to be, continues unabated. Of course, this is just a small sampling. If you know of any blogs that cropped up post 11/09 that I should know about, comment here!
By the way, in 2009 when Peter Sieruta caught wind of our controversy he created a faux alternative cover for those disturbed by the presence of lady liquor. Seen here:
God, I miss that man.
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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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