I have a confession. I read children's books and I am long past adolescence. I read a wide variety of age ranges in children's literature; early readers, middle grade, and young adult books - both fiction and non-fiction. Why? Because some of the best storytelling can be found on those pages, I am a children's book writer, and it's good research on market trends.
I've always been drawn to children's literature and have great respect for those authors who write it well; Judy Blume, Margaret Buffie, Jane Yolen, and Anita Daher to name a few from a very long list. These authors stand out because of the great care they take with their audience. Not only do they write strong compelling characters and stories, they write knowing that their words will be read by the youngest and most impressionable members of our society - our children.
These writers understand that through the worlds they create, kids can learn compassion and empathy for others and discover they are not alone. Through a good book children and young adults may glean understanding that others, just like themselves are going through the same or similar struggles; parents divorcing, bullying, learning difficulties, dating, and even to the extremes of child abuse and addictions.
These talented authors also realize that their writing must be so exciting and intriguing that their audience will not turn to easier forms of entertainment. Television, iPads, iPods, and the internet are all vying for our children's attention and kids of all ages can easily be drawn away from reading - especially if reading is a challenge for them.
Ben the Inventor is a humorous chapter book for readers aged 7-9 and is a good fit for children, struggling to read.
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My bedside is littered with books - a slow slide of magazines, hard covers, and paperbacks loosely grouped into three piles. Read, partially read, and wishful thinking. Novels, travel guides, histories, current affairs. I'm a jack of all trades, plagued by too many interests and too little time. But I find the paper mountain comforting. After all, books do furnish a room.
However, my favourites, if I'm honest, are the novels. I like fiction that goes to places others fear to tread. I want a book to grab me by the throat and squeeze. Hard.
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Most reviews are given from a literary perspective--that is, from the perspective of an individual who has some knowledge of what qualifies as "good" and what is relegated to the dreaded nether-regions of "bad" writing. Whilst I acknowledge the superior knowledge and education of some people--concerning literature--I have never myself been able to take on this role with any degree of comfort. A lot of my creative energy springs from a general state of open-mindedness, concerning what I see and what I read. If you are of such a temperament, all judgement of good and bad appear extremely subjective--to the point that speculations of quality can seem academic, to say the least.
As a result of this inherent self-doubt, concerning my place in the world of literary criticism, I prefer to write my recommendations purely from the perspective of an author. I may not have found an adequate yard-stick to measure literary quality, as yet, but I have my own private yard-stick to estimate how much fun an author may have had, writing a given work. I can usually guess how much fun an author had by how original and fresh the writing or the concept is. When an author is having fun, it shows in their writing. Not only are other writers intrigued--innately detecting the sense of fun which spurs the author on--but any serious reader will likely be able to catch on to the fun and be carried away on that tide, along with the writer. I recommend these books based entirely on that sense of fun.
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stretching a tripping line from ginsberg to muldoon
when the withering hand raises its statues chiseling Moloch-granites
The Israeli writer Amos Oz remarked on Charlie Rose's PBS interview show recently that he walks in the desert among the ancient stones near his home every morning to "put things in perspective". To me Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" is one of those lasting touchstones. With it I judge the quality of my own work and that of other writers. Editor Jason Shinder's twenty-six essay collection The Poem That Changed America: "Howl" Fifty Years Later (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is a book that I have kept on my night-table for a long time because it is fascinating to read how others value Ginsberg's 1956 poem, or not (the book is not all panegyric).
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I mostly read fiction, memoirs, and poetry--preferences that are reflected in my night table choices. I've selected books that have been published relatively recently, because I believe it's important to support new works. (I've allowed myself one exception, The Smoking Diaries, by Simon Gray, which I excuse on the grounds that it's new to me.)
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