March 22, 2019

I’ve been thinking about children’s books and especially children’s book illustrations this week. E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web has this great quote: “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth.” Love that! Here’s what I read this week:

  1. The Case of the Perfect Girl Detective, LA Review of Books blog. “No, there will be none of that career-girl nonsense for Nancy; her internationally famous attorney father, Carson Drew, is all for her sleuthing, but it’s understood that it’s a way for her to pass the time until she marries and moves from his stately brick home to one she will share with her archaeologist-engineer-chemist husband and their lovely children, a fate she staves off by cleverly remaining 18.” This was amusing, and reminded me that when I was a kid I was all about those mystery chapter books — especially the ones with girl detectives. (Nate the Great! Cam Jansen! Encyclopedia Brown, those A to Z mysteries with the girl who wore outfits in only one color at a time!) Nancy Drew is an icon but I don’t think her perfection would hold my interest as an adult. Anyone have any extremely flawed female sleuths I should read about?
  2. What You Pawn I Will Redeem, Sherman Alexie (New Yorker). This short story by Sherman Alexie is one that’s assigned to students I’ll be teaching after spring break. Like the best short stories, it stuck with me and was a little sad. It ends in triumph though! Reading short stories is a great way to step into the world of fiction and literature even if you only have a little bit of time. The authors work hard to write lines that will strike you in only a few pages. Like this line from “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”: “I didn’t break hearts into pieces overnight. I broke them slowly and carefully. And I didn’t set any land-speed records running out the door. Piece by piece, I disappeared. I’ve been disappearing ever since.”
  3. Stop the Snobbery! Why You’re Wrong About Community Colleges and Don’t Even Know It, In the Library With the Lead Pipe. “After a year of teaching information literacy in the community college environment, I now feel a little sorry for my university colleagues who are still stuck wrestling students off Facebook. Where before I felt burdened by so many lower-division instruction sessions and looked forward to the upper-level courses, my viewpoint has rotated one hundred and eighty degrees. When I can count on my class presentation turning into a real conversation about information with curious students, teaching basic information literacy becomes great fun.” I’m new to the community college workplace but I can feel a difference in the classrooms I’ve taught so far; as I described it to a library friend, these students cling to my words and take quick notes because they feel the immediate usefulness of what I’m telling them. I’m not sure what else makes community college students different than 4-year residential students but I’m enjoying discovering the familiar and the new here.
  4. Confessions of a Sensitivity Reader, Tablet magazine. “Sensitivity readers (other, better terms include “expert readers” and “authenticity readers”) are representatives of an oft-marginalized group who try to ensure that the portrayal of the group—be it Jews, people of color, LGBTQ people, or people with physical disabilities and mental-health issues—is not dimwitted…[much later]…There’s no weakness or cowardice in acknowledging that you don’t know what you don’t know,” Berry affirmed. “We all know how aggravating it is to see ourselves depicted in a way that’s just a little bit off—gender, race, religion. As an artist I’d like to cause that experience to others as little as possible. Why wouldn’t you want to be as accurate as you can and as reverent as you can be about the real, lived humanity of the people you’re depicting?” I’d never heard of this type of peer review and I found this interesting.
  5. The Secret Service Uses This Massive Ink Library to Catch Forged Documents, Popular Mechanics. “This library was created in the late 1960s at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms until it grew and moved to the Secret Service and its Washington, D.C. forensic services lab in 1988. It contains inks dating to the 1920s, pens Secret Service agents collected on worldwide travels, and annually updated samples solicited from ink manufacturers.” I would watch a perfectly brief miniseries about the ink library analysts. INK LIBRARY.

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