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Tag Archives: Children’s literature

An Open Letter to Meghan Cox Gurdon

Dear Ms. Gurdon,

Every Saturday I cruise down to the local market to get the weekend Wall Street Journal. It is one of my weekly pleasures to come home from church Sunday morning, enjoy a nice brunch and open the pages of a good newspaper. In particular I enjoy the Review section, mainly for the books. I have to say I’m surprised, but extremely happy, that you have a regular column on children’s books in the Wall Street Journal. After reading reviews of books about the history of mahogany and a travelogue based on the origins of noodles (really, WSJ?) your weekly exploration of children’s and young adult books is a welcome oasis.

Last week I received the July/August issue of Imprimis (a bit late) and was pleased to see your picture and byline on the front. Your topic, “The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books,” was immediately appealing, with the added bonus of referring me to an article you wrote for WSJ in 2011 titled “Darkness Too Visible.” I knew that the young adult category was growing increasingly dark, but I was thinking of all the titles with vampires and zombies and such. I didn’t realize you were writing about human monsters. They’re even worse.

What I don’t understand is how books with such things as abductions, rape, self-mutilation, parental molestation, and oral sex can be labeled as “young adult.” Even less understandable is how writers, librarians and others see your reasoned and intelligent critiques as a threat to freedom of expression. Encouraging taste and discrimination in choosing and producing juvenile literature is a bad thing? Who knew?

While we’re on the subject of darkness in today’s books, have you seen the novels your colleague, Sam Sacks, has been reviewing in his “Fiction Chronicle” column? Granted that these are for adults, but the books he reviews contain debilitating grief, depression, misery, addiction, isolation, loneliness, breakdowns and family tensions. His words. From this weekend’s column. I can’t wait to walk past those books at Border’s. Does Mr. Sacks actively seek these novels? Are they sent to him? Does he see his therapist once or twice a week?

But wait, there’s more! Forget the books. There’s another kind of darkness lurking around the Review pages, the kind that sneaks into people’s subconscious, burrows in and sends roots all through their world view. In the “Mind & Matter” column, written by Robert Sapolsky and Alison Gopnik, human life is observed through the lens of materialist science. Biology, neurology, anthropology, psychology, chemistry and, of course, evolution, pretty much explain all our behaviors. Which basically means we are merely meat machines marching to orders we have no control over. Puts a smile on my face.

OK. I know. This wasn’t much of a letter. More of a rant, actually. But I really did mean what I said about your “Children’s Books” column. And your piece in Imprimis gives me hope that there are people still fighting to let some light into this ever darkening world. Keep up the good fight, Ms. Gurdon, and know there are lots of us out here cheering you on.

I’ll do what I can in my small corner, too.

All the Best,

Rob

P.S. –¬† Could you slip Mr. Sacks a copy of “The Wind in the Willows” or “The Hobbit” maybe? Thanks.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Children's Books, Ideas

 

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Wonderful Find !

Christian Ed Books for KidsSo I stopped by my local library today and checked in the children’s section. They have a box by the children’s librarian’s door with free books and magazines they will eventually throw-away if no one grabs them. I’m all for giving unwanted children’s books a home!

Today I found 11 short paperback books published by The Westminster Press as part of their “Christian Faith and Life” series which is billed as a “program for church and home.” All of them appear to be from the 1950s and 60s and are illustrated in that classic 60s style art. I’m guessing the books are aimed at children in the 8 to 12 year-old age range. On top of everything else, they’re all in very good condition!

I have to say, after a brief skimming of a few of them, the theological concepts I found are clear and very well presented for children. Today’s churches could use these books!

I’ll try to share more of the contents with you as I have the chance to go through them.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Book Hunting

 

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Book Hunt 7/28/12: Tales Old And New

Book Hunt 7/28/12: Tales Old And New

 

My wife deserves a medal or some sort of official recognition. Every Saturday I have my errands to run, and inevitably I wind up at the local library to check out the ongoing book sale there. Rarely do I come home empty-handed. I mean, I DO call myself the old book “junkie” for a reason. My wife seldom complains even though we have too few book cases to put them all in.

Yes, I love her.

Had a good hunt today. Found a nice copy of the Reader’s Digest book “American Folklore and Legend” (Reader’s Digest Association, 1978, 1983.) Snicker if you want, but Reader’s Digest publishes some wonderful things and this volume is no exception. It contains many tales and traditions from the earliest days of our country up until the mid-1970s. Fun stuff, yes, but also very important. One of our nation’s biggest problems today is the lack of a national sense of identity, and at least part of the reason for that is we have largely forgotten and ignored our shared stories. Part of this book’s stated goal is to help correct that.

I also grabbed a book by an author I’ve never read before, Michael Chabon. The book is titled “Summerland” (Hyperion, 2004). It’s supposedly a children’s book, but I’ve found that some of my favorite books are those for younger readers. According to the blurb on the back of the book from Time magazine, “Summerland adapts Norse mythology, Native American folklore, American fables, Homeric myth, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, to teach the enduring lessons about finding strength within yourself.”

Sold!

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Book Hunting, Children's Books

 

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The Wizard’s Great Grandson

The Wizard’s Great Grandson

Turned up a nice children’s book yesterday at the DAV¬†Thrift Store in Prescott. “Lion of Oz and The Badge of Courage” (Yellow Brick Road , Inc., 1995) was written by Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of the creator of the Oz stories, L. Frank Baum. The book has beautiful illustrations by Sean Coons and is printed on nice heavy gloss paper.

Oh, did I mention it’s a signed first edition? Not bad for fifty cents.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Authors, Book Hunting, Children's Books

 

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