March 12, 2007

Notes From The Knee-High Grass in Left Field

I've had lots of YA Writing thoughts flood my mind this weekend, so please excuse the scattershot nature of this post...

Cheerios and Eric Carle have teamed up to create a fun interactive activity that helps get copies of picture books out to small children from families in need. Of course, these are properly good Carle books... not any of these... (via BookBlog.)

I always like finding out more details about the people in the blogosphere, and this week, it's Chicken Spaghetti's turn in the 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast interview chair. There are so many people who a.) blog more than I do, b.) really KNOW more than I do about the kidlit world -- I'm always so impressed by them, and by their interviewers, too.

Kelly over at Big A, little a has a good discussion going on regarding gender bias in picture books. Interestingly enough, this weekend I was browsing Sheroes, and came across that same statistic, that "80% of children's’ books published today feature male heroes." While they leave no hint of where they get their facts, I got to wondering about the truth of gender bias in middle grade/YA books, and while I did not find a particular study that related to 'children's books' and not picture books, I did find a1994 study of children's chapter books which depicted female characters as ill 80.8% of the time as opposed to 18% of the time with male characters... underscoring that our culture considers women's bodies somehow... frail and apt to break down easily, even now, outside of the Victorian Age. AND, from a study of G-rated kid-friendly movies that took place between 1990 and 2005, come more statistics: In G-rated family films, there are:
Three male characters for every female.
Fewer than one out of three (28 percent) of the speaking characters (real and animated) are female.
Less than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd scenes are female.
More than four out of five (83 percent) of films’ narrators are male.
...And don't let's start on the ethnic deficits. One outrage at a time, I think.

I always notice at SCBWI and other writing conferences aimed at those who teach, write and promote children's books, it's always skewed so that there are more women than men. So... what's up with THAT?! Why are girls and women not even depicted as the wallpaper, the crowd scenery... in family movies and in children's books... how odd that women and minorities rarely exist. It's very strange... People have said that movie-goers and readers pay for what they want to see. I guess one could say that's true. But still...

Full Cast Audio, Bruce Coville's company that produces "unabridged recordings of fine children's novels using a full cast rather than a single reader," has announced a new, "straight-to-audio" book by Tamora Pierce (speaking of Sheroes!), which is 3/4 of the way written, and will be released this summer. I haven't yet heard any of FCA's productions, but I'm looking forward to it!

In their spare time, poets are... whatever else they need to be. William Carlos Williams was a medical doctor, and now an unpublished poem he wrote for a patient is uncovered. Who knew!?

I suppose I also should have already known this: that a task force of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is reexamining the eligibility requirements for the nation's top awards in children's literature and illustration, as well as other children's book awards -- including the Newbery and the Caldecott. In the beginning, these awards were intended to push American authors into writing and illustration; apparently these goals may have been met, so the time to rethink their scope has come. Hm. Does that mean that JK Rowling, who has won everything else, will now win a Newbery?

Awhile back, PW ran a piece about whether or not authors who blog are wasting their time -- as in, does blogging have any kind of payback. Hm. Don't quote me, 'cause once you get into your editorial houses' PR policies, you never know what you may end up doing, but I can't see writing novel blogs AND writing-about-writing-novels blogs. I just don't want to hear my voice that much, and the whole thing seems to be a vicious cycle in maintaining publicity, etc. I see authors with blogs on Amazon, and I cringe for them... not that there's anything wrong with author-blogging, but Amazon can certainly bite back (as many authors know), and I really do think that writing is hard enough without inviting the criticism of strangers... on the other hand, what else is blogging?

On the invisible third hand, I do identify when I'm using blogging to completely avoid any real work, so this is it for me for now.

Cheers... have a lovely Monday, if at all possible.

ps - Okay, one last work avoidance -- THANK YOU Disco Mermaids for today's best laugh yet.


Anonymous said...

Thanks. We'll be knocking on FW's cyber-door one day soon for an interview, if you're willing.

tanita✿davis said...


C. K. Kelly Martin said...

I agree with the See Jane theory that boys learn girls and women are of less importance than males from the dearth of well-rounded representations of them in G-movies. Is it any wonder that boys (as we're repeatedly told) don't like to read about female characters while girls are happy to read about either gender? The message books and movies aimed at children are sending is that males are the abler and more empowered gender.

The F-word has an interesting blog entry from March 15th ( about how the British education minister's idea of special school bookshelves for boys would reinforce gender stereotypes. I tried to put the complete address of the blog entry but blogger just wants to truncate it - sorry!

tanita✿davis said...

Oh, I READ THAT article in the Guardian!!! I had SUCH angst about it, but I'm not always good at articulating exactly WHAT is wrong with something, so I just fumed about it, and kept thinking, "Can they be SERIOUS!?" The article said things like "boys need more books with them in roles of power," and I thought, "Um... what have we already got?!" I will definitely go and read the post, thanks for the heads up... Hopefully I'll be able to articulate something about it soon!!

Anonymous said...


I'm working in a library in Belgium and I found your blog while looking for images of "children reading". We'd like to use the illustration from that post as a logo for our "Ques'tu lis" (loose translation : "What r you reading"). It's a regular gathering of teenagers where we present them new books (or comics, mangas,bd,...) and they themselves talk about the books they love to each other. Of course, we want the authorization of the designer. So, if you are, would you agree to let us use it ? And if you're not, do you remember where you found it ?

Thank you for answering, and thank you for being patient with my english...


tanita✿davis said...

Your English is lovely!
Please feel free to use the clip art from my site. The girl reading is from a Microsoft clip art collection, and there are no copyright issues.

"Ques'tu lis?" sounds like fun! I will work on learning to pronounce this!


Anonymous said...

thanks a lot.

If you ever want to learn how to pronounce it properly, pass by the Mouscron library and they'll teach you (I won't be there long, I'm just the latest french intern). If you're lucky and arrive when they're doing a Kes-tu-lis (I mispelled it the first time) they'll offer you free croissants and orange juice, even if you're not a teenager...
An offer definitively worth flying across the world for !

Greetings from Europe (wherever you are).


tanita✿davis said...


Here in Northern California (on the West Coast of the United States) orange juice and croissants still sound pretty good!

Happy intern-ing! Do all librarians in France/Belgium do this, or are you a language intern?