Sunday, July 26, 2015

More Book Banning in Italy?

What is happening to children's literature in Italy, particularly in Venice?  Luigi Brugnaro took over as mayor of Venice in June, many people thought his priorities might clean up corruption that rocked Venice with over-funded protective floodgates.

Instead, Brugnaro focused on cleaning up the city's primary schools, namely 49 so-called "dirty books" touching on issues such as non-traditional families and gender issues.

The banned books are among 1,098 new books for children that the Venice school district paid some €10,000 for in 2014. The blacklist includes titles from award-winning Italian and international children’s authors like Leo Leonni, whose book Little Blue and Little Yellow tells a fictional tale of two genderless circles that hug so hard they become green.

Another banned book—called What’s Dad’s Secret?—tells a tale of a divorced father whose children worry he has a terminal disease when he starts acting strange around them, only to be overjoyed to learn that instead he has simply fallen in love with his male friend, Luca.
And there’s I’m Not Like The Others by French author Janik Coat, which is about animals that are different from their traditional species, which is as much about physical and religious differences as it is about sexuality.

Public pressure could have an influence on the book ban. Last week, 263 Italian and foreign authors whose books are in Venice schools sent a letter to the mayor asking that their books also be removed from schools as a show of solidarity with the banned authors.

Venetian residents are also holding Flashmob-style read-ins of the books in public venues, and they have started a Facebook page called “Free our Books” where they post pictures of children reading the banned books.

As a personal aside, this blogger has just returned from two weeks in Rome, Ravenna, and Loro Piceno.  Democracy was palpable, as was thoughtfulness, and an aura of judiciousness.  One can only hope the honorable mayor of Venice will reconnect with the Italian citizens who protest his outrageous actions.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hashtag is BBC Radio's Word of the Year for Children Writers

Hashtag is the word of the year among children writers, according to a new study from Oxford University Press (OUP).

OUP examined 120,421 short stories by children between the ages of five and 13 that were submitted to the BBC’s 500 Words competition to see which words were most popular. The research found that words like Instagram, Snapchat and emoji are on the rise as words like email, mobile and Facebook are in decline. 
The research also revealed that girls are often writing about princesses and royalty and using words such as “princess,” “charming,” “unicorn” and “majesty.” Boys on the other hand are more often writing about dinosaurs and super heroes using words such as “raptor,” “Jurassic” and “Batcave.”

Pretty predictable stuff here, but fun!  What words would your young person bring to the list?  Why not ask? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Many Families Want Non-Angst Ridden Books for Kids

MMUthumbOkay, we all know that fiction covers many things – and overcoming difficulties is likely to be one of them! After all, to make a story exciting, to grab the reader’s attention and to keep them turning the pages, something pretty big has to happen.

James and Giant Peach

But not just a few parents ask these days for kids' books without SO much angst and terrible family problems, even though they know their children do need to become increasingly independent. 
I have a partial answer with a new wave of mystery or detective fiction that provides a fertile place for children to act boldly, sometimes alone and sometimes not, and often after the shock of something mysterious happening. Such books are not new - Carolyn Keene’s many Nancy Drew titles, featuring the eponymous female sleuth, were highly popular in both the US and the UK – but it good to see some new examples of them.
cscoverfinalIn Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike, Daisy and Hazel set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls. Following clues is always fun but what if there’s nothing very exciting to detect? Luckily, they find a missing body and then it disappears and soon there is drama a-plenty and it may even threaten the two girls’ friendship. Or try Lauren Child’s thrilling Ruby Redfort series, which starts with Look into My Eyes.


Katherine Woodfine’s The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is  an equally exciting read  for everybody! A twisting plot of thefts and mysteries, including the disappearance of the highly valued Clockwork Sparrow, is gripping to follow in the delightful setting of a very classy department store where such occurrences definitely should not happen! Stories like these provide and exciting drama that is far removed from stories of everyday life. And no angst is afoot!