I’ve Been Reading the "Heavy Medal" Blog
and Jonathan has a link that we all should follow. He takes readers to Peter Sieruta’s blog tinyurl.com/yzdj9fn (which is called Collecting Children’s Books, but is really as much about reading and thinking about those books), where Peter says, "There was once a time when nonfiction and biographies for adult readers would beget junior editions for kids. But today many important and original topics are seeing first light in children’s books; adult versions of these stories will no doubt turn up eventually…but right now childrens’ books are where it’s at!" As it happens that is precisely the same point I make in my interview with Phil Hoose.
Now, why? Why is there this shift in NF? And how does this freshness, this newness, relate to the other shifts we have been talking about here — the schools that buy databases intstead of books; the opportunities for digital connections between authors and readers? On the one hand I think it is a generational matter — Ellen Levine, Phil Hoose, Betsy Partridge — many of us were shaped in our childhoods by the civil rights movement. Our own past — is now the history kids read and study. So when we go back to interview people who marched, or refused to give up their seats, or — as Tanya Stone did in Almost Astros — women who could have been her aunts or teachers. In other words the history we are investigating, researching, bringing to light for the first time is not foreign and distant. We feel comfortable interviewing people whose fight we’ve had a sense of all our lives.
But I also think that there is a certain gutsy courage in kids NF these days. We are so squeezed — off of the chain bookstore shelves, out of the library budgets — that we know we need to be exceptional. And so we take risks. And that risking taking, that willingness to be original, to blaze new paths, shows up on the pages of our books. I am so pleased that smart readers like Peter and Jonathan are recognizing this shift and giving it the credit it is due.
I only saw the claims by "a teacher" that Almost Astros is agenda driven and inaccurate so late in the posting thread that my responses were surely lost. I can only say that if that poster, or anyone, would like to bring those objections here, I would be happy to respond to them. I find it strange that the passion we all praised in We Are the Ship is seen as some kind of slanting agenda in Almost Astronauts. Why?