May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Imag­ine for a moment: you are an author devot­ed to cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful and inspir­ing books for chil­dren and young adults. Per­haps, some­where in the back of your mind, you won­der if, some­day, your work might be hon­ored to receive a Nation­al Book Award. Then imag­ine that the impos­si­ble hap­pens: You learn that your lat­est book […]

Nine Not-to-Miss Novels

Com­ing up with the title for this blog was a breeze. As a poet, I’m par­tial to allit­er­a­tion. How­ev­er, I fell in love with a good deal more than nine books this sum­mer, so I’ve decid­ed to list all of my faves and let some­one else wor­ry about the final tal­ly. First, a cou­ple of caveats: […]

The Trouble with YA Literature Today

The prob­lem with YA lit­er­a­ture today is— fill in the blank. Some scream that the genre has gone too dark: drugs, alco­hol, dystopi­an tales, pro­­fan­i­­ty-overkill, parades of para­nor­mal fan­tasies. All true. Oth­ers com­plain about zom­bies and oth­er gore, about witch­es and war­locks and were­wolves. But I have a big­ger bone to pick: orig­i­nal­i­ty, or the […]

9/11: Fragments of Thought

It was a love­ly, late-spring day. The blue sky seemed lim­it­less, and the first fin­gers of almost-sum­mer-sun warmed the air. I’d just fin­ished turn­ing in final grades for the stu­dents of my fresh­man cre­ative writ­ing class at Liv­ingston Col­lege, and was look­ing for­ward to a few days of rest and relax­ation. I was ready to […]

Where Have All the Female Illustrators Gone?

For the longest time, I had the dis­tinct impres­sion that there were pre­cious few women illus­tra­tors in the chil­dren’s book mar­ket. Can you blame me? Accord­ing to one not­ed illus­tra­tor, a scant 20% of the illus­tra­tion work goes to women. If that’s true, no mat­ter how you look at it, that’s a pret­ty low percentage. […]

“Eyes on the Prize”

Chil­dren’s poet­ry is the bas­tard child of Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture. Bet that got your atten­tion. “That’s strong lan­guage,” you say.  Actu­al­ly, the term is quite appro­pri­ate.  Let me explain. You can win a Pulitzer Prize or a Nation­al Book Award for poet­ry, pro­vid­ed you write poet­ry for adults. As a poet for adults, the Guggen­heim is […]

Revisiting Historical Fiction

Since when did the Amer­i­can class­room become a democ­ra­cy? When I was in school, long after dinosaurs became extinct, I was made to sit through lessons on math, gen­er­al sci­ence, and social stud­ies, none of which suit­ed my fan­cy.  I was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of Shake­speare either, at least not when his works were first introduced. […]

Black Box: Race in Children’s Literature

“Why must you always bring up race?” That’s not a ques­tion a black per­son asks. In fact, most of us would be quite hap­py if the issue of race were nev­er raised in our day-to-day lives. But the fact is, in our soci­ety, the specter of race is raised again, and again, even in the […]

This Ain’t No Joke

Bilin­gual My girl­friend Guadalupe knows she’s not the only one who speaks two tongues. I’m flu­ent in two Eng­lish­es: one “Black” the oth­er “good.” It pays to speak both lan­guages /in my neigh­bor­hood. —A Dime a Dozen _______________ This is a touchy sub­ject, so I may as well jump on in. I was recent­ly asked to read and com­ment on a […]

Out of the Box

Why is it that most pub­lish­ers push their authors to keep writ­ing the same book, over and over again, but with a dif­fer­ent title? (I’m not wrong here, am I?) The argu­ment goes that it is eas­i­er to mar­ket a new book by an author when it is like that author’s pre­vi­ous book. I think […]