Summer Reading Lists: Worst Titles Ever
Recently I was admiring two different but certainly related articles online. The first was Mike Lewis’s Non-Required Summer Reading List, which is just the loveliest little PDF of fun summery read titles. A great list in and of itself.
The second piece was the infinitely useful article How Teachers Can Create a Summer Reading List That Won’t Make Librarians Die or Children Cry: Unsolicited Advice from a Public Librarian. That public librarian is Miss Ingrid Abrams, and when she talks about summer readings lists I know from whence she speaks. You see, here in NYC, there is no over arching summer reading list. Each individual teacher can come up with their own individual lists. Sometimes, they’re brilliant lists of titles. Well researched, fun, smart pairings of fiction and nonfiction. But oftentimes you get something like this:
This year THIS list is the bane of my existence. This is one page of several from this school, and of those lists this is the good one. The fact that Ms. Hesse’s Brooklyn Bridge is in the nonfiction section isn’t a surprise to me because it was in the nonfiction section last year and the year before that. Yes. I’ve seen this same list for three years in a row. I don’t mind the fiction on this one, but the nonfiction titles slay me.
Or, as Ms. Ingrid puts it:
“Often, parents hand me lists so outlandish I’ve considered whether I was being featured on a really bad hidden-video reality show. They’re either really poorly organized or they contain titles that I know just by looking at them that we just don’t have. I’ve tried contacting schools and teachers, either by phone, email, or in person, and have had absolutely no luck. We have pre-written form letters that we send home with the parents (we call them “Dear Teacher” letters: Dear Teacher, Name of Child was unable to obtain this book due to 1) lack of copies 2) high demand 3) plague of locusts 4) flood of librarian tears, etc.) so that their children won’t get in trouble for not being able to access the books on the list. The letter has our contact info on the bottom, so the teachers and librarians can talk before the next summer comes around.”
We’ve tried our own strategies for combating problem before the summer hits, all to no avail. Every year we see the same out-of-print books over and over again. Birdland by Tracy Mack is unavailable people!!
After reading Ms. Ingrid’s post, though, I got curious. Is this just a New York thing or do other public librarians around the country also find themselves in the weird position of having to check and see how many copies of The Well by Mildred Taylor are in the warehouse at Ingram?
So I put it to you, public librarians. What are the most annoying titles to show up on a summer reading list? Here’s a list of some of my own favorites that I’ve seen pretty darn recently:
Birdland by Tracy Mack
Back in 2005 I could have gotten you any number of copies! Today? Not so much.
The Acorn Eaters by Els Pelgrom
It came out in 1997. It disappeared. And then suddenly folks decided they just couldn’t get enough of it.
Sultans of Swat: The Four Great Sluggers of the New York Yankees
by The New York Times
Nope. Can’t get it. Just cannot.
Maxx Comedy by Gordon Korman
Surely Korman himself would admit that he has published books just as amusing, if not better, than this one. Surely.
Those are my top four at the moment. Any of your own bugging you?
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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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