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Friday, January 25, 2008

Millerbery Photos!!!

As you will recall, I was recently awarded THE gold sticker to end all gold stickers: the coveted MILLERBERY MEDAL. No doubt you read about it here, in my blog, or in other important MILLERTOWN publications. Yes, there were some OTHER big awards handed out recently (way to go, Brian Selznick and Laura Amy Shlitz...) but none of them have the cachet of the MILLERBERY.

As you can see in this picture of me with most of the judges, including the esteemed dignitary, Jennifer Miller (otherwise known as the Mayor of Millertown), awarding the medal was serious business. They read, they debated, they listed their favorite authors (never before have I had the opportunity to sit - on a list or otherwise - between Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling... too cool!) and they narrowed things down. In the end, the choice was clear: NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY had won.

I was, of course, incredibly honored. Not many people know how many of my days are spent agonizing over one of my work-in-progress picture book texts, or fretting over when my next book will come out, or hashing through revision number 817 of one of my novels. But in Millertown, it is easy to forget all that. The flashbulbs pop and the kids elbow each other to strategically pose their webkinz next to my book and, well, there's that fabulous gold sticker. It reminds me of why I do what I do and why I love it so much.

So, thank you very much, MILLERBERY committee!!!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

British P.C. (Pig Correctness)

Here’s a fun little news story from Great Britain. According to the BBC News, a digital book based on The Three Little Pigs was recently rejected by the judges in a national awards panel. The awards, known as the Bett Awards, honors educational technology. Becta, the British government’s educational technology agency is a leading partner in the Bett Awards and was primarily concerned that the CD-Rom, entitled The Three Little Cowboy Builders, was offensive.
Its problem? Pigs. Three of them. Galavanting all over the book, and potentially offending Muslim children who might inadvertantly view them.

Now, I’m not Muslim, but my understanding is that Muslims’ faith directs them to not eat pork (as does orthodox Judaism). I’m not aware of any prohibition on reading about pork products in action, as it were. Feel free to correct me, loyal Muslim readers, if I’m wrong on this one.

Meanwhile, if this seemingly misguided act of political correctness wasn’t bad enough, the officials at Becta went one step farther. They objected to the book’s depiction of building trade workers as pigs. The judges viewed this as stereotyping, stating: “Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?”
Well, I’m not a builder. Or a cowboy (or cowgirl, as my younger daughter would politically-correct me). But I’m not sure I’m willing to walk down this path with the judges. By their reasoning, most if not all books could be rejected for their unfair or unflattering portraits of people, animals, personality traits, professions… you name it.

Though I’m not sure I understand why depicting builders as cowboys or as pigs is negative. I’m a fan of the book Cowboy Bunnies, for example, and I’ve never heard of labor groups objecting to this depiction of ranch hands as rabbits. Though I guess the standard image of a rabbit is positive (quick, spry, generous with chocolate eggs) and that of a pig is negative (fat, dirty, and, well, piggy). Although I’m told pigs are smart and clean and their bad reputation is undeserved.
Some of my favorite books lovingly skewer classic tales (The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig comes to mind) and/or feature kind, heroic and funny porkers (Olivia, Mo Willem’s new easy reader character Piggy, the uninvited guests in Pigs A Plenty, Pigs Galore, Babe the Sheep Pig and, of course, Wilbur come to mind). I don’t really see why kids, regardless of their religion, should be shielded from them.
So here’s what this Perl says: Let there be swine.

PARENTS: What book do YOU find offensive and why?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Surprise: No Big Surprise!

As announced by the American Library Association at the crack of dawn this morning, the 2008 winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards are:

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz
(2008 Newbery Medal)


The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
(2008 Caldecott Medal)

These selections were predictable in their predictability (the committee likes ruffle feathers by plucking books from obscurity and the Newbery Award winner this year was no exception to this rule... I can't tell you whether it is a deserving book -- though I'm guessing it is -- because I had never heard of it before this morning).

They were also predictably in their unpredictability (Selznick's extraordinary 500+ page illustrated novel, a favorite for the Newbery, is an unconventional choice for the Caldecott because the award usually goes to a picture book... this may even be the first time the award is going to a novel).

Which is pretty much how the process goes every year. As my pal Alison Morris, the famed bookseller/blogger, lamented recently here, the announcement of the awards triggers an immediate rush of booksellers to their phones to try to get back the very books they returned to the publishers the week earlier for insufficient sales. This will not likely be the case with Selznick's book, which sold well from the get-go.

What does all this this mean for parents who are trying to find good reads to place in the eager and not so eager hands of their kids? Well, look at the winners, but also look beyond...

A whole bunch of other honors and awards were handed out as well, including the award for the best early reader, the awards for the best books incorporating themes of disability and the Corretta Scott King Award. A lot of really interesting and diverse books got props, so check it out. You can read the full wrap up of award winners and their books here.

Plus, many libraries and schools run "Mock Caldecott" and "Mock Newbery" contests, which yield very interesting lists. Google these terms, or ask at your local library.

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