Monday, May 28, 2012

Dare Patrons To Go Between The Covers

It is kind of ironic that the big news in adult fiction is censoring "Fifty Shades of Gray" when this year's Adult Summer Reading program's theme is "Between The Covers". Sometimes fate just happens to makes the statement that everyone thinking but dares not say out loud. So the book has smoking, sex, dirty words and a many things that may offend sensible people. The first question that should pop into a librarian's mind is, "Are we reading this book to children during story time?" Of course not! Hop on Pop is much more fun to read! Seriously, there seems to be an attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Between the Covers theme presents the perfect opportunity to explore titles that have been "forbidden" or "shocking". It may be a surprise to some that Uncle Tom's Cabin was considered a novel of ill repute. Some others titles that are in good company with Stowe's tome are Gone with the Wind, Ulysses, Doctor Zhivago, and Alice in Wonderland. Yes, dear old Alice caused quite a stir in her day and yet here now Carroll's work is known as a classic. Will Fifty Shades of Gray follow suit ast a classic? Who knows, but the media attention about the book is helping it get noticed. A unique summer reading program for adults could include "scandalous" titles as a suggested reading list along with a book talk. Of course, that's the tried and true idea. However, with a little bit of networking and planning a spark of excitement can make an evening program memorable. For example, contacting a college/university English to speak on the history of banned books could is a wonderful opportunity for the colleges and public libraries work together. Another possibility is a costume party. Some libraries have held fundraisers inviting their guests to dress up as their favorite characters from a banned book. It makes for an interesting party night and the money raised for the library is an added bonus. Last but certainly not least, libraries can hold a "dare" program through their website. The object of creating a "I dare you to ..." webpage is to encourage readers to read a book that they may not have picked up on their own. Once the readers have read the book that the librarian (or another patron) has dared them to read, they can then leave a comment on the I Dare page to give their opinion of the book. It can be something as simple as, " I dared to read Fifty Shades of Gray and I'm shocked that I actually liked it." This could bring traffic to the library's website, which could lead to patrons exploring what other events are planned at the library. It's going to be an interesting summer of reading for adults. Who knows what lies between the covers? The reader who dares to look between the covers will not only know what lies there but will be able to make an informed "opinion" about a literary work instead of listening to a second hand account. After all, that is what censorship is about. Listening to one's person's opinion about a piece of work and not bothering to find out for yourself if the opinion is shared or shattered. Be brave! Go boldly between the covers! When you are done with one "adventure", local libraries will be waiting to help you find the next one.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Celebrities' Children's Books!

Children books have come a long way since the 1960's and 1970's. In those days there were classic tales with wonderful artwork, but they were few and far between. Imaginative writers such as Keats, Sendak, Carle, Seuss, and a whole host more filled the stacks with stories that can not be forgotten. So why is it that celebrities think that it is their duty to come into the Children's Literature genre and make it their own? Could it be that they believe that it is easy to write a "kiddie's" book? Maybe it's just a marketing ploy to get their name plastered onto books. Whatever the reason, there are somethings that all children's books must have to be considered a "classic" or need to read. Placing a famous person's name on the cover just doesn't cut it. There needs to be creative text and art, a plot that is simple yet engaging, and never ever talk down to your audience. Children never respond well when adults treat their inquisitive nature as "silliness". The young readers are quite serious about their world. The authors should be just as well. One shining example of a celebrity turned children's author is John Lithgow of 3rd Rock From The Sun. Mahalia Mouse Goes To College is an inspiring, imaginative story of a young mouse who successfully graduates from College. The art work is pleasing to the eye, but it's the text that steals the show. In his trademark of rhymes and whimsical storytelling, Lithgow grabs the readers attention and gets them to root for Mahalia. Lithgow has mastered the ability to tell a story that invites every child to be apart of his world. Frankly, he has earned the right to plaster his name on the cover of children's books. Thank goodness he didn't stop with Mahalia. Check out his other titles at the library. One example of who shouldn't write for children is Madonna. Although this is a book that could be placed on a coffee table, unlike her other attempt at that literary/photographic fiasco, the question would be why would any parent or caregiver want to give it to their children? English Roses is an attempt to demonstrate that "beautiful girls" can be outcasts too. The text is poorly written and the art is less then magical. Not to mention that the story makes he reader wonder who she is talking to or about? It would be an interesting question to ask if any child has ever known someone who was an outcast because they were beautiful. Just a guess, but the number would probably be zero. Perhaps gifted Children's authors such as De Paola, Carle, or Willems should consider forming a rock band or audition for movies. After all, it can't be that hard to do. If Madonna can do it why can't they? Perhaps, they may be as lucky as John Lithgow and realize that they can successfully branch out into other arts! It's just a thought!