what the trainwreck of peter pan live got me thinking about

I tumbl’d this last night…

I’ve said many times that I have no memory of the book that made me a reader or the book that made me see myself, and I’m not sure if those moments have ever happened.

BUT

if I were asked, I could probably name a single thing that set me on my path to graduate school, that inspired me to seek out a degree specifically in children’s literature and that informs the way I approach my work and scholarship and creativity….

…and that is Peter Pan.

The play. And the fact that people forget it wasn’t a book first, but also that it was in a book before it was a play. Because it wins at meta.

The utter genius of the whole thing, that it is, simply, what play is, developmentally, anthropologically, sociologically.

The things you can (and must) unpack in it about narratives of play, constructions of childhood, violence, and gender roles. Continue reading

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on kidlit nonfiction, that incendiary nyt article, and “dumbing down”

There is an interesting conversation that went on last week on the child_lit listserv about this NY Times article on the trend of adult nonfiction authors rewriting their titles for young audiences. I was going to reply there, but the conversation has sort of gone dead, and everyone on that listserv dislikes me anyway, so instead I will write an essay about it. Of course, this is in fact not a new trend at all, but the Times could get more clicks if they claimed it was and also if their headline was “Hey, If You Hate YA Because You Think It Means Everyone Is Getting Stupider, Click Here and We Will Let you Complain About That,” so that’s what they made their headline. Long story short, because I don’t really like summarizing things, the article was about when publishers and authors take a best-selling nonfiction book for adult readers and adapt it into something suitable for younger readers. Surprisingly for a piece of writing about a topic in which the journalist has no expertise and doesn’t care, this one actually doesn’t use “YA” as a catchall to mean “anything for people who can’t vote that is longer than 32 pages and in a smaller trim size,” so my Bingo card for the Journalists Who Know Nothing About YA Except That It’s Trendy Refusing To Consult Experts Before Writing Articles Game is not full. So that’s awesome. Anyway.

There are interesting things going on here for sure, and I can see plenty of sides to it. Having been a kid when the book Chinese Cinderella (Adeline Yen Mah) enjoyed some success and was a trendy thing to read, especially after A Child Called It, I remember reading it and then finding another book by the same author, titled Falling Leaves. Given that as early as I can remember, I read books like a script supervisor and thought often about what my moves would be when I was a publisher, you can imagine my surprise when this book was the exact same as the book I had just read. Continue reading

because being a kid sucks, and adults are assholes

I just finished reading (well, listening to the audiobook, which was fantastic) Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I really liked it, overall. Goodreads automatically generated a tweet that I had finished it, as per usual, but unlike the usual going unnoticed, this one actually sparked a bit of conversation with one of my friends.

I know that Neil Gaiman has, like, tons of fangirls and fanboys. I’m not one, not because I don’t think he’s talented, but just because I haven’t read a lot of his work. Whenever it was that Coraline the book came out, I heard about it and needed to read it because it reminded me a lot of a recurring nightmare I had as a kid. Then the Stardust movie was coming out, so I got interested and read the book. And that’s it. Maybe some short stories. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, just that I hadn’t gotten around to reading the rest of his books. But we bought The Ocean at the End of the Lane this year at work, and a lot of my most trusted student book recommenders loved it, so when I saw it while scanning the audiobooks at the public library, I figured I’d give it a try. Continue reading