Fusenews: The Owl Who Gives No Hoots
Good morning to you. While I’m off traipsing about the Illinois Library Association conference in bee-auteous Tinley, IL, why don’t you settle down for an informal smattering of Fusenews. Good for what ails ya.
ok, let’s talk about Dr. Seuss says Grace Lin. Ms. Lin faced the full wrath of the masses when she dared to impugn the honor of the Little House books on a PBS website. Now she considers the recent controversy of the Dr. Seuss mural at the Dr. Seuss Museum. Did you miss that one? Grace will catch you up. Long story short, about two years ago the museum installed a mural from And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street that featured a big Chinese stereotype. The Boston Globe ran a piece entitled Dr. Seuss museum will take down mural after authors threaten to boycott festival (which, someone pointed out to me, is phrased to sound like the mural will only come down in the event of a boycott). The whole piece by Ms. Lin is worthy reading but this is undoubtedly my favorite part. In it, she addresses some of the responses she’s received to her thoughts on the matter:
“Response #2: “This is history! How dare you try to erase it!”
You are mixing up nostalgia for history. No one asked for the mural to be removed, the museum decided to do that themselves because they were unwilling to put the art in context—think about that. The museum would rather take the whole mural down than put a caption that acknowledged Geisel’s true history. Here, I’ll even write the caption for you:
“This image of “the Chinaman” was originally printed in 1937 with yellow skin and a pigtail. In 1978, Dr. Seuss, himself, changed the image, acknowledging that his original rendition could be offensive. It is probable, that now, over 39 years later, that if he were alive he would change the image again.”
There, fixed the whole thing! It’s 52 words. Yes, it’s longer than a tweet, but I think it would take about 3 inches space, max. Why was this so hard to add? Why aren’t you offended that instead of adding 52 words, the museum decided to take the entire thing down? Isn’t a museum’s job to educate and put things in context for the viewer?
The artists in question here asked for the art to be put in context. If anything, the artists were trying to give a more accurate view of history.“
Actually, nothing’s really going well in Seussland these days. For example, when Dr. Seuss Enterprises tried to stop a theatrical parody of a Grinch story with a grown-up Cindy Lou Who, the judge ruled that it didn’t violate any copyrights. Taste, perhaps. Copyrights, no.
In other news, I was interviewed by a bunch of girls for their podcast Buttons & Figs about my book Funny Girl. These gals are terrific. I call for more podcasts run by kids! More, I say!
The Opie Archive is open! It’s open, I say! Aren’t you excited? What’s that? Who’s Opie? Oh goodness me, let me start over entirely. As you may know, Iona and Peter Opie were sort of the foremost experts of nursery and schoolyard rhymes for kids for quite a while. These boxes are the research they conducted when making The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, which was published towards the end of 1959. Here’s one of my favorite parts:
Some of the games described would make modern-day readers flinch, such as the popular game “Knifey”, which involves throwing a pocket knife to stick in the ground near the opponent’s leg.
I think it is fair to say that any game called “Knifey” would probably be a cause for alarm, no matter what the content.
Any time Melissa Stewart comes on over here and does a guest post my numbers just climb through the roof. That lady knows from whence she speaks, and if you missed her last piece here on expository nonfiction, read it now. Meanwhile, I headed over to her blog to guest post over there too. What are my Top Five Expository Nonfiction titles of 2017? Better find out for yourself.
I have a bone to pick with the New York Times Book Review section that comes out every Sunday. Do I read it? Oh, I do. I love it. But if you’ll recall, in each section is a little one-page interview portion with a pertinent author. Insofar as I can tell (and I don’t have any real information to back up any of this, so don’t quote me) it appears that each author is given a list of different questions that they could answer and they pick and choose amongst them. One question will inevitably ask what they read when they were children. Now, if the person answering is a twit, they will spout some nonsense about how they loved Robinson Crusoe/Treasure Island/etc. and/or how there “really weren’t any children’s books” in their home when they were kids. Blah. I don’t believe a word of it. That’s why I was so delighted with author Celeste Ng (she of the very popular adult title Little Fires Everywhere) and her answer. One of the best I’ve seen, honestly. She wrote to the question of her favorite fictional hero or heroine the following:
“Vesper Holly is the heroine of Lloyd Alexander’s The Illyrian Adventure and multiple sequels: she’s smart, feisty, thoughtful and resourceful, and in each book she saves herself and her companions using her own wits and know-how. I loved her when I first read her at 11, and still wouldn’t mind growing up to be her.”
She also suggests Trump read Have You Filled a Bucket Today. This woman is clearly going to write a children’s book in the future.
This Saturday I will be one of the breakout session speakers at the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books’ annual day-long institute Indivisible: 10 Years Later: Conversations in Social Justice. My session’s topic? Finding Religion (in Books for Kids): Collection Management and Spiritual Diversity. *blows a noisemaker* We are going to have fun fun fun! I love this topic and I’m utterly fascinated by the degree to which anyone at all talks about diversifying a collection’s spiritual content for the kid readers. Wish you could come. Oh wait! If you’re in the Chicago area, you can! And as a sneak preview, I refer you to two very very interesting pieces by Marjorie Ingall over at Tablet Magazine. The first is Picture Books for Parents Who Are Ambivalent About Israel, which I’d describe as a piece that has more guts in its first two sentences than anything I’ve written in the last ten years. The other is Teaching Kids About the Plight of Refugees. They shall come into play, you betcha.
To my mind, if you are an illustrator for kids that comes up with a clever idea, double down, man. Double down. That’s just what Aaron Zenz did recently. Last year, in celebration of his magnificent picture book Monsters Go Night-Night, Aaron would solicit folks to send him their kids’ monster art. Then he’d re-illustrate it in his own inimitable style. He did it for my own daughter and it was delightful. Now he’s doubling down in a wholly cool and smart way. Check it out:
This summer I decided to take it to another level. I decided to enter ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, and do the same thing on a larger scale: invite kids from all over the state to send me monster designs that I’d potentially work up into illustrated pieces of “fan art” in my own style with the same materials and techniques that I use to create picture books. I reached out to a number of schools and individual classes around Michigan at the end of last school year, and I received close to 3,000 drawings (!!!) This summer I worked up over 100 pieces of Monster Art from this pool of designs. And during ArtPrize I am creating additional monsters based off designs submitted by kids in attendance. I manage to do another 2 or 3 each day from out of the 300-500 designs that land in the submission box each night. You can see some of the results in these places:
Hey, remember the Thalia Kids Book Club in NYC? It’s sort of one of those situations where it’s like your bookclub, only they get ALL THE AUTHORS THEY WANT! If you’re lucky enough to be in NYC for any of these dates, check out what’s on their roster:
Friday, October 13 at 6 PM
Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (10th anniversary celebration)
Join the winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Sherman Alexie to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his iconic young adult novel. Ages 12+
Sunday, October 15 at 1 PM
Cressida Cowell: The Wizards of Once
The author of the How To Train Your Dragon series presents her enchanting new novel, an exciting adventure filled with giants, witches, wizards, warriors, and the mysterious wildwoods. Cowell will be joined by author Claire Legrand (Foxheart) for an afternoon of conversation, art, fun activities, and a reading from The Wizards of Once. Ages 8-12
Saturday, December 2 at 11 AM
Katherine Paterson: My Brigadista Year
Two-time winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) comes to Symphony Space for a conversation on her engrossing historical novel about a young Cuban teenager as she volunteers for Fidel Castro’s national literacy campaign and travels into the impoverished countryside to teach her fellow countrymen how to read. Ages 10-14
Tickets are $17 each ($14 for Symphony Space members and groups). Visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/events/series/96/thalia-kids-book-club for details.
Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway, New York, NY 10025 (Upper West Side, at 95th Street). To order Thalia Kids’ Book Club tickets, call (212) 864-5400 or email email@example.com.
Happiness is receiving a box of buttons featuring what may well be the greatest bird-related librarian illustration known to man (as seen in Andrea Tsurumi’s marvelous picture book Accident). She has been called The Owl Who Gives No Hoots. I have another term for her that would work equally well, but it’s NSFW so you’ll just have to read my mind.
God, I love that owl.
Filed under: Fusenews
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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