Details Matter—Especially If It’s My Culture!

by Kathy G. Short, The University of Arizona

Even cultural insiders get details wrong in children's literature and reviews of children's books. The small error of detail serves as a reminder of why those details matter in books that do not come from an insider's cultural perspective.Sometimes 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

Stepping Back in Time in Contemporary International BooksThe 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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A Book Never Stands Alone: Do Reviewers Have a Social Responsibility?

By Kathy Short, Director of Worlds of Words

social responsibilityBook reviews, by definition, are a summary and evaluation of a particular book. Clearly reviewers make those evaluations within their in-depth knowledge of the broader field and body of literature. The reviews themselves sometimes connect the book to other literature, especially in longer reviews, but the general approach to reviewing is from an individualistic standpoint — the book stands alone. Several recent examples have made evident why this is problematic.
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Reviewer’s Assumptions about Audience

By Kathy Short, Director of Worlds of Words

mainstream audience for reviewsHaving written book reviews for various publications, I am aware of the difficulty of succinctly conveying a summary of the text, description of the illustrations, discussion of themes, and evaluation of the book in a few sentences. Many book reviews are one short paragraph, providing little space to convey much of a sense of the book. My conversations with other educators over the past several months have led me to wonder about the unwritten rules for writing these reviews that have developed out of a need to be so brief. I wonder if we have fallen into some practices as reviewers that send unintended messages to the mainstream audience for reviews.
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Wishing for Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona

Parker Wishes, children’s wishes for booksI wish I had a book.

I wish for all kids around the world to have books.

I wish I had an endless supply of books.

I wish that I could have history books.

I wish everyone would read a book they enjoy!

I wish everyone could read.I whish I could red a book for the world.

Reading and own lots of books.

I wish I could levetat when ever Id wish.

I wish animals and I could talk.

I mirmaid real.

I wish for a dinosaur.

I wish I could fly!
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Wishes for the World at Tucson Festival of Books

Have you ever blown out candles on a birthday to make a wish? What about wishing on a shooting star? Children all around the world make wishes, and so do we. Worlds of Words invited visitors to our Tucson Festival of Books booth to make wishes for the world. We used Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World by Roseanne Thong with illustrations by Elisa Kleven to start our conversations.

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