“Travel” and International Literature

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Like most people, when I read I have images playing my head, almost like a movie. I am traveling! But to get that movie and to take that journey, I need some prior knowledge about the setting of the story along with other details that bring the text to life. If I have a sense of the setting I don’t attend to the description as much as when I need to build the picture in my head from scratch. If I have been to a place, it serves as a handy backdrop to the piece of literature I am reading. When I haven’t been there, I need help. Of course, most of us do not have the extensive travel experience we would need (or like) to feel comfortable reading in this way. But travel is handy. It was also my passion when I was younger, and so I find that my experience of different places I have been are useful for my reading of international literature—on two accounts.

ThisisRomeFirst, I like reading about where I have been. The reading is enriched when I can picture it. I pull the images from my memory to help envision the world to which the author has led me. Secondly, the reading enriches my experience of the places I have traveled. It’s also great to find books to read about a place—whether fiction or informational—when planning to travel in it. Some fun texts for cities across the globe are the Miroslav Sasek series such as This is London and This is Rome. These books were written in the 1960s and 1970s, but have “this is today” excerpts that help students see how cities change over time.
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Social Responsibility and the Reader

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

OneWorldIf you ask me what I came to do in the world, I, an artist, will answer you: I came here to live out loud. — Emile Zola

Kathy Short’s June WOW Currents posts broached the issue of the social responsibility of the reviewer. I should have responded then, but waited because that posting had me thinking about Rosenblatt’s theory of transaction and the relationship between the reader and the author’s text. Searching the Internet, I found a Wikipedia entry on social responsibility along with One World, One Earth: Educating Children for Social Responsibility by Merryl Hammond and Rob Collins. After more thought, I am beginning to wonder, what is the connection to reading and social responsibility, especially if and when we find ourselves “outsiders” to the culture highlighted in the text?
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A Language for the Literature

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

BreakingBoundariesI am on a hunt. I am searching for the variety of ways international literature might be conceptualized by teacher educators, teachers, and teacher candidates. I am also interested in the ways in which they might address and differentiate between international and multicultural literature as well as how they perceive various other terms that might be used for literature that, well, transcends its native borders. I became interested in such a venture because it seemed as though as much as I discussed what I suggested was the difference between, say, “international” and “multicultural” literature, the terms and their nuances seldom transferred to my students. Was I not trying hard enough? Was I being too esoteric? Needless to say, I found the phenomenon intriguing, and so thought I would broach the topic via WOW Currents.
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Nick Glass Interview – Part 4

By Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX

Newbery(L)This is the fourth of a planned four-part interview with Nick Glass, member of the 2009 Newbery Committee, conducted electronically by Judi Moreillon.

JM: Nick Glass and I are wrapping up this month’s Newbery Medal Award conversation with a look at the books that have earned this prize since it was first awarded in 1922. That year, The Story of Mankind written by Hendrik Wellem van Loon earned the medal. To support our historical look, we referenced a book now published annually by the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC), The Newbery and Caldecott Awards: A Guide to the Medal and Honor Books.

In clarifying the criteria for the awards and defining terms, ALSC notes that the “award is for literary quality and quality of presentation to children. The award is not for didactic intent or for popularity” (p. 4). As we noted in early posts this month, the question of popularity should not enter into the committee’s deliberations. Still, every school and public library branch in the country purchases at least one copy of each Newbery award-winning book.

Do we expect Newbery Award-winning books to be enticing to readers? If not, can we rely on teachers and librarians to push titles that possess literary quality but are less popular with young people? What has been your experience?

NG: I absolutely believe the books that have been recognized as distinguished by the Newbery committee will be enticing –- with the caveat that not every book is for every reader. I loved the 2008 Newbery Medal-winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! It is both a wonderful book, and perhaps the one of the best curriculum-fit books I’ve read in a long time. It tells marvelous stories of the Middle Ages, and can be performed as fun, comprehension-grasping reader’s theater. Do I expect everyone to pick this book up and find it enticing? No. But for the people who love mini-dramas, goodness, they will love this treasure.
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Nick Glass Interview – Part 3

By Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX

This is the third of a planned four-part interview with Nick Glass, member of the 2009 Newbery Committee, conducted electronically by Judi Moreillon. Readers may refer to Judi’s summary of Gaiman’s acceptance speech.

JM: Nick Glass and I were among the enthusiastic authors, illustrators, librarians, publishers, and fans of children’s books at the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet in Chicago. Held on July 12th during the Annual American Library Association Conference, this event gives the award winners the opportunity to share their responses to earning the awards, a peek into their creative processes, and, we hope, a glimpse into their hearts. I have attended this event for many years, and I always leave the banquet hall with admiration for the talent and generous spirit of the award winners. This year was no exception. Nick, what were some of the memorable moments in Neil Gaiman’s Newbery acceptance speech?
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Summary of Gaiman's Newbery Speech

By Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX

This summary of Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Newbery Award acceptance speech is a supplement to the planned four-part interview with Nick Glass, member of the 2009 Newbery Committee, conducted electronically by Judi Moreillon.

Please read The Horn Book editor Elise Howard’s introduction of Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman divided his Newbery Acceptance Speech into six parts, as he said “for no particular reason.” He shared the role of this award in impressing his own children; who doesn’t want to be a hero to his/her kids? He talked about his youth as a “feral child” who raised himself among the library stacks, where early on he satisfied his curiosity about “ghosts, witches, magic, and space.” He shared the surreal experience of being sleep deprived at the moment he first heard the excited chorus of the 14 members of the Newbery Committee, delivered via speakerphone to his Los Angeles hotel room. He talked about being on the side of books you love.
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Nick Glass Interview – Part 2

By Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX

GraveyardBookJacket

This is the second of a planned four-part interview with Nick Glass, member of the 2009 Newbery Committee, conducted electronically by Judi Moreillon.

JM: Welcome back, Nick and WOW Currents readers.

Let’s talk about The Graveyard Book. In the International Reading Association publication Reading Today (April/May 2009), Gaiman notes that “all books are collaborative.” Similar to reading scholar Louise Rosenblatt, he describes the reading transaction as a collaborative creation between the author, the reader and his/her background experience, and the actual words and images of the text.

What was your response to the book when you first read it? Did your response change when you discussed it with your fellow committee members?

NG: The “collaborative creation” concept that you describe in your question, between the author, the reader and his/her background experience, and the actual words and images of the text,” is a beautiful thought, and definitely resonates with me. And yes, I believe this multidimensional experience works very well with The Graveyard Book, or many great books, because of the reactions readers have during the journey we take.
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An Interview with Nick Glass

By Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX

NewberyMedal

This is the first of a planned four-part interview with Nick Glass, member of the 2009 Newbery Committee, conducted electronically by Judi Moreillon.

JM: Thank you, Nick Glass, for your willingness to share your 2009 Newbery Committee experience with WOW Currents readers. There has been a great deal of buzz in the children’s literature community since the 2009 Newbery Committee selected Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book as this year’s medal winner. Many of us are looking forward to Gaiman’s upcoming speech at this year’s Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet at ALA in Chicago on July 12th. Before we talk about the book, let’s give WOW Currents readers some background on the Newbery Committee selection process and the process used for selecting the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” How were you selected for the committee? Have you served on a book award committee previously?

NG: I was elected to the 2009 John Newbery Award selection committee by the membership of the American Library Association (ALA) division that administers this award, ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children). This was quite an honor, and a real shock to me. You see, I’m not a librarian. I’m a book lover. I’m a professional in the world of children’s books. But I’m not a librarian – and I always thought that librarians and academics in the field were those who got to serve on these committees.
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Details Matter—Especially if it’s my culture!

by Kathy G. Short, The University of Arizona

ShortBlogSometimes when colleagues who are insiders to a culture talk about small details of inaccuracies in particular children’s books, like the kimono being folded wrong or the atypical hairstyle of a character, my immediate response is to think, “Okay, I can see your point but aren’t you being a bit picky?” I want to point out that the bigger themes in the book are more significant and that differences exist within a culture, so that what seems like an error to one insider is considered appropriate by another. Even cultural insiders sometimes get these details wrong. I reminded of Yoo Kyung Sung’s conversation with a Korean American author whose young adult novels have won major awards, but who uses Korean terms in how the brother and sister address each other that are incorrect and that infer a feminization of the brother that is not intended. The author’s reply was that Koreans always point that out, and that she didn’t realize the terms were incorrect—they were the ones used in her family who had been in the U.S. for several generations.
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Stepping Back in Time in Contemporary International Books

by Kathy G. Short, The University of Arizona

56CalendarThe need for book reviewers who are either cultural insiders or who consult with cultural insiders in writing their reviews has become increasingly apparent to me. Seemi Aziz Raina and Yoo Kyung Sung in their research on the representations of Muslims and Korean Americans in children’s literature have identified many subtle issues that would be difficult to identify by someone who does not have some kind of insider knowledge. They have also found that the recency of that insider knowledge is critical.
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