Tag Archives: fantasy

What’s the Right Type of Princess?

For one of the projects I am working on as a part of my internship, I am developing saved searches and a read alike list for common questions at the children’s reference desk. The idea came about when my site supervisors realized the difficulty they were having with certain questions, like about princess books.

So what’s so hard about princess books? As it turns out, the question is far more complicated than you might imagine. Do they want fairy tale princesses as might be found in the 398s? Or does princess mean Disney princess? Or could Fancy Nancy fit in as a princess? Of course a good reference interview is key, but there is no way to search for “fluffy princesses” in most OPACs.

For my part, I have decided that the princess question is too complex to save as a single search. So far my breakdown includes a separate category for Disney princesses, which includes a keyword search and a list of possible titles. I am also including a list of Cinderella stories from around the world as well as a subject search for Cinderella, in case that catches interest. Cinderella exists in nearly every culture in the world, from Native American, like the Ojibwan story of Sootface to the Korean Pigling. Each of my searches so far are flexible to make sure they fit the searching style of the librarians that will use it as well as the needs of their patrons.

After all that, how do you decide what’s the right princess? That depends on your reader. As Ranganathan’s Second and Third Laws state:

  • Every reader his or her book
  • Every book its reader

A story about Belle, Ariel, Aurora and the rest might be right for one reader, but another might want a fractured fairy tale like Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella. What can be learned from this process is that sometimes something you think is simple, like a subject search for princesses — juvenile fiction, may not be. Princess stories hold something that still fascinates young readers today, so take the time to find some good ones, just make sure it’s the right princess for the right princess reader.

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Bang! Kapow!: The Power of the Graphic Novel

Graphic novels have become essential parts of many youth library collections, but they still have a long way to go in the minds of many adults and others that work with books and children. From simple stories to intense situations, graphic novels are both a great introduction to reading as well as great reading in and of themselves.

Not all adults are on board with graphic novels, even from other adults, but I believe this to be a mistake. From the adult world of graphic novels, Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman series is widely considered to be literature in graphic novel form. Gaiman is also now well known in the children’s literature world, having published fantasy novels like Coraline, which have been adapted into graphic novel form.

What makes graphic novels so great for libraries is their power of interest. Though they are getting a lot of buzz right now, they have been a part of the youth library for a long time. As a child, I was obsessed with Archie comics, specifically Josie and the Pussycats. Because I was already a heavy reader, no one questioned what I was reading. The important thing to remember is that reading is reading. Depending on the graphic novel, the vocabulary may be complex and help your reader develop their reading skills. Furthermore, because graphic novels span so many genres, it can easy enough to pull interest from a graphic novel to an easy reader or chapter book. Fantasy and science fiction are well-tred categories of graphic novels, but you can find them in every genre from realistic fiction to poetry.

Though they have pictures, graphic novels are not picture books and can span the entire spectrum of a youth library collection. Take care when selecting a one as it may deal with situations your reader isn’t developmentally ready for. So what should you do to learn more about graphic novels or find good ones? Scholastic has a great primer for those who are completely unfamiliar with graphic novels. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center from the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a fantastic resource, including reviews, awards lists, and materials to understanding more about the graphic novel phenomenon.

If you are already familiar, best of graphic novels lists are everywhere. The easiest place to start is YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Many of these are appropriate for tweens and mature children. Other places to look are:

Don’t be afraid of the graphic novel! With such a wide variety of resources available from so many libraries, it is easy to start and it is easy to get hooked yourself. Reading is reading, even if there are superheroes with kapow! bubbles over their heads. You never know where they might lead.

Some of my new favorites are:

  • Meanwhile by Jason Shiga. If you haven’t heard of this one yet, you will. It was in YALSA’s Ten Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, but is appropriate for nearly all readers. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure book on steroids, with 3,856 different story possibilities that you will not want to put down.
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Winner of several awards, including the Eisner Award (named for graphic novel originator Will Eisner). It’s an engaging story told equally through pictures and text and is well worth your time.
  • The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís. This Siebert Award winning book tells of Sís’ childhood in Communist Czechoslovakia. Though many children today have little idea what the Cold War was, this informational text is easy to understand and is made more palatable because of its graphic novel format.

Favorite Childhood Authors

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about my childhood favorite authors. Though some of them may be obvious, they include:

  • Roald Dahl
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Jon Scieszka
  • Eric Kimmel
  • Beverly Cleary
  • Judy Blume
  • E.B. White
  • Eric Carle

As I mentioned yesterday, Roald Dahl continues to be a favorite of mine. As much as I loved any other author, he was always first. His putting children first as the hero is part of what has made him an enduring figure in the children’s literature canon. He has an entire month (it’s Scrumdiddlyumptious September) dedicated to him! He also recognizes that children love silly things. Who else would come up with a word like scrumdiddlyumptious? And what are snozzcumbers? If you’ve read The BFG, you know!

Reading The Twits, 1993

The author, age 10

Nonsense is part of what makes children’s literature so fun to read, even as an adult. Dr. Seuss is the all-time master of nonsense. The reason nonsense is so important is because it triggers the imagination. What kinds of words can you make up? What do they mean? Say something silly and then try to define it. By doing so, you’re working on literacy skills and vocabulary. Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelusky are favorites because of their awareness of the power of silly. Another silly favorite? Jon Scieszka. From The Stinky Cheese Man to The Frog Prince Continued to The Time Warp Trio series, everything I read by him was ridiculous and made me laugh.

Not everything I was a fan of as a child was silly. Like a lot of children from the 80s and becoming big readers in the 90s, I loved The Babysitter’s Club and The Boxcar Children. Series books are still popular with kids and it’s not hard to see why. You get to follow characters over a period of time and many adventures. These characters gain depth and you get to know them. It also makes the question “What do I read next?” very easy to answer.

I was also a fan of classic children’s literature. I tore through The Secret Garden, couldn’t get enough of Anne of Green Gables (and the rest of her stories), and loved Ramona. Obviously I was a fan of historical fiction and realistic fiction. I also loved folktales. Eric Kimmel is an astounding storyteller and very prolific. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins was my absolute favorite Chanukah book growing up, so much so that I would take it out of my parent’s closet at random times of the year just to read it because I couldn’t wait until Chanukah rolled around again.

Another category I adored was fantasy. Though I wasn’t as into dragons and knights, I liked animal stories, particularly those by E.B. White. My copy of Stuart Little is falling apart, but that’s because it is so well loved. Recently, I picked up a copy of Charlotte’s Web, which is an enduring favorite of many children. Though not as fantastical as some, these both represent the breadth of fantasy novels.

And speaking of animals, the work of Eric Carle is beloved because of his artwork and representation of animals. Admittedly, I started reading him later on, when my younger brother was given The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This beautiful picture book drew me in and made me a lifelong fan. Picture books are wonderful for children of all ages and you never know what’s going to catch a child’s eye at any age.

Many children have a wide variety of interests and you never know what might snag them into reading and reading a lot. Though obviously anyone interested in working with children should attempt to keep up with the ever changing field of children’s literature, introducing a child to one of your childhood favorites is a great place to hook children in. Your passion for the text often translates into the way you talk about it. That enthusiasm is contagious. Shel Silverstein is still a favorite of children and it’s not just because he’s silly. It’s also because of the generations of children that loved him before and shared that love with the next group of kids.

Share the love. Share your favorites!