News from ALAN
The Membership ConnectionKay Bushman, Editor
Ottawa High School, Ottawa, Kansas
The annual ALAN breakfast will be held on Saturday, November 18, 1995, during the NCTE fall convention in San Diego, California. The ALAN award for outstanding contributions to the field of young adult literature will be presented, and new officers will be announced. After breakfast, Chris Crutcher, former ALAN Award recipient and author of Ironman,Stotan!, Chinese Handcuffs, and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, will speak.
The 1995 ALAN Workshop, "A Swelling Symphony of Voices and Views," will be held in San Diego, California, November 20-21, following the annual NCTE Conference November 16-19.
The application deadline for research grants sponsored by the ALAN Foundation for Research for Young Adult Literature will be September 15, 1995. These grants for amounts up to $1,000 are funded by royalties from the short storybooks edited by Don Gallo, by publishers of YA books, and by a portion of ALAN dues. Application materials are available from Ted Hipple, 301 Claxton Hall, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-3400.
A Report from the 1994 ALAN Workshop
The following summaries represent some of the sessions at the 1994 ALAN Workshop in Orlando, Florida.
Scaring Us to Death? Teenage Horror Fiction
Horror fiction is the preferred reading choice of many teenagers today.Young adults (and preteens) are buying teenage horror novels in great numbers.As a result they are driving the current market.
A panel of three members discussed horror fiction. John Peel, author ofShattered, Talons, and over 50 novels of horror, science fiction, and thrillers, was sponsored by Pocket Books. Caroline Cooney, author of The Cheerleader, the Fog/Snow/Fire trilogy, and over 50thriller and romance books for teens, appeared courtesy of Scholastic Books.Patty Campbell, author of Presenting Robert Cormier, series editor of Twayne's Presenting YA series, and columnist for Horn Book, was sponsored by Twayne. The three panelists examined the current phenomenon of horror book popularity with preteen and teen readers. Cooney and Peel discussed YA horror fiction in relation to their own work. Campbell focused on the possible dangers of obsessive horror reading for teens who are at an age when they are vulnerable and formulating spiritual/religious views. Group discussion followed.
Certain important points came out of the presentations and general discussion.(1) It appears that the readers of the current crop of horror books are not just white, middle-class, teenage girls. (2) The books also appeal to boys, minorities, and kids living in the inner cities. (3) The majority of the books now being packaged and sold as teenage horror are really thrillers, a fact that contributes to the difficulty of defining the boundaries of horror. At present, horror might better be defined as a style, rather than a genre. (4)The books appeal to kids for various reasons, including knowing that the books are formulaic and, therefore, "safe reads" because the protagonist/s will prevail in the end. Also, many readers find the books funny. (5) When the current YA horror cycle will peak and wane is uncertain, as are any predictions regarding what will take its place as the preferred reading choice of teens(suggestions included science fiction, raw reality, and mysteries). Horror books for teens will probably always retain some popularity, however.
-- Cosette Kies
Northern Illinois University
Young Heroes in the Civil Rights Movement
Freedom's Children, according to its author, Ellen Levine, is a book about heroes, "young people who didn't just live through the Civil Rights Movement, but who put their lives on the line. They believed they could make a change in the world -- and they did." As she researched, she was"stunned by the fact that nothing was written about the kids of this time."Levine felt it was important to tell these kids' stories and to make the point to a young adult audience that we are all capable of becoming heroes. As she tracked down and interviewed the young people, now in their middle years, she realized their stories could make the Civil Rights Movement real to young people of today. The Movement's kids had shared goals and a means for accomplishing the goals of non-violence. According to Levine, "They showed the public what was wrong, shamed the public, roused the public to change."
Following Levine's talk, James Brewbaker of Columbus College shared his experiences using Freedom's Children with a group of youngsters who came to his campus to participate in the college's Challenge Program. According to Brewbaker, "Kids of today have gone through safe, sanitized learning about these times [of the Civil Rights Movement], and Ellen's book can bring them face to face with reality." He also feels that the "Civil Rights Movement is as important a story to tell as that of the Holocaust... lest we forget."
After both Levine and Brewbaker had spoken, there was a time for questions led by Leslie Walker. In her closing remarks following these questions, Levine said, "There is still a great deal to do, but there has been change.It's important to remember that. Today, we're living with the residue of rage.The Civil Rights Movement was the opposite of that. If kids [of today] can learn about the philosophy of the Movement, I think [they] can begin to change their thought processes." Freedom's Choice is a powerful book and one that can begin the process of change within us all.
-- Lucia Leornardelli
Gull Lake Middle School, Michigan
Talking about Censorship with Kenneth Donelson
Following the session, "Censorship: How We See It," for which Kenneth Donelson, Arizona State University, Tempe, was chair and moderator, ALAN participants continued the discussion about specific censorship issues. Those meeting with Donelson were primarily concerned about ways they might increase teacher education students' awareness of the possibilities and ramifications of censorship. The educators agreed that their goal is not to cause new teachers to fear censors, often resulting in self-censorship, but to help them realize the need to be responsible.
Writing rationales for books used in the classroom is often suggested; however, Donelson said teachers need to write rationales for more than potentially targeted books. Gary Salvner suggested helping readers look at the reward of a book, not focus on the fear associated with its use.
Donelson, declaring himself an "ardent Episcopalian," said he is frightened by the "Christian Coalition." He recommended an article to be published in theEnglish Journal entitled "The Religious Right: Who Are They and Why Are We the Enemy?" Donelson stated his concerns about censorship done in the guise of political correctness and about recent incidents when students' speeches have been censored. The accounts he related, showing the frequency and absurdity of censorship incidents, were astounding and alarming.
-- Connie S. Zitlow
Ohio Wesleyan University
Adult Books for Young Adult Readers
In her thoughtful presentation, Pam Spencer, a library program specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools, named popular adult books read by youth today, described the history of teenager's reading preferences, and examined why students choose adult titles. The audience discussed important educational issues during the session.
Working for seven years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science &Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, Spencer noted that students' interests often centered on adult books. Collecting systematic records, she documented that only 29 of 364 different titles discussed during book talks in English classes at Thomas Jefferson High School included young adult fiction. Using slides, Spencer traced young adults' reading choices from the early 1800s to the present. Her handouts and input from the audience indicated that books by John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Mary Higgins Clark, and Stephen King are popular among youth today.
Overall, Spencer's perceptive analyses highlighted how youths' choices reflect society. Today, movies and television prompt students to read young adult fiction and adult books at younger ages. Educators' challenge is to meet the developmental needs of different age groups through literature and culture without underestimating or overestimating individuals' talents.
-- Sharon A. Stringer
Youngstown State University, Ohio
News of Awards
The 1994 Newbery Award was given to Sharon Creech for Walk Two Moons. Honor books include Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy and N. Farmer's The Ear, the Eye and the Arm.
The 1994 Coretta Scott King Award was given to Patricia and Frederick McKissack for Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters.Honor books include Jacqueline Woodson's I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, Frederick McKissack's Black Diamond, and Joyce Handsen's Captive.
The 1994 Jane Addams Children's Book Award was given to Ellen Levine forFreedom's Children. Honor book award went to Russell Friedmanfor Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery.
News of Literature Workshops and Programs
A summer workshop on young adult literature, sponsored by The Writing Conference, Inc., featuring Lois Duncan, Alden Carter, andLensey Namioka, will be held at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, on June 23, 1995. For more information, write to The Writing Conference, Inc., P.O. Box 664, Ottawa, Kansas 66067, or call 913-242-0407.
The Eighth Brigham Young University Symposium on Books for Young Readers willbe held July 11-12 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and will featureAvi, Mark and Caralyn Buehner, Pam Conrad, Ruth Heller, Michael O. Tunnell, and David Weisner. For information, write to Brigham Young University, Children's Literature Conference 1995, Conference Center, Provo, Utah 84602, or call 801-378-2568.
Western Washington University announces the Sixteenth Annual Shakespeare at Stratford Summer Tour July 1 to July 16 in collaboration with The Shakespeare Centre and the University of Birmingham, England. The cost is $2,800 and includes round-trip air fare from Seattle, 14 nights lodging at Stratford, breakfast and dinner, a class in the appreciation of Shakespeare's poetry and drama, travel and excursions in England, visits to the Shakespearian properties, tuition, and entrance fees. For applications, send inquiries toShakespeare-at-Stratford, Department of Theatre Arts, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9108.
The ALAN Review Now on the Internet
At the ALAN Board meeting in Orlando, the Directors approved puttingThe ALAN Review on the Internet. This arrangement will greatly enhance the use of the journal for research. Scholars will be able to do key word searches of all the issues online and get printouts of selected articles. Only the text in each issue, no photographs or ads are included. Periodically the journal editors will receive data on how many times the journal was accessed and what was downloaded. Data from other educational journals that have gone on-line show a positive impact on membership as readers "find" the journal and decide they want regular copies. The Internet address is
Do you have any announcements regarding conferences, publications, or awards in the area of young adult literature? If so, send them to Kay Parks Bushman, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, Kansas 66067. Deadlines are as follows: March 15 (spring issue), July 15 (fall issue), and November 15(winter issue).