ALAN v26n1 - A Note from the (New) Editor

Volume 26, Number 1
Fall 1998


When Ms. McCain wasn't looking, Marianna Roberts and I would sneak a copy of Paul Zindel's My Darling, My Hamburger across the rows of desks that separated us. As ninth graders, we liked Ms. McCain and enjoyed her speech class. Yet even the energetic young teacher couldn't hold our interest like that hamburger novel could. Most of our friends had read it already; the pages that they liked best were dog-eared and highlighted with stars and smiley faces. During lunch break, Marianna and I talked with our friends about Zindel's characters as if they were part of our crowd at Dalton High School. We debated the choices made by the teen protagonist and her boyfriend, and checked our own attitudes toward school and romance, families and friends against hers. We had discovered a truth about books- that those written about adolescents hold enormous potential appeal for adolescents. We had learned that the books in which our lives were even vaguely reflected invited us into their worlds. We had come to realize that reading literature is not necessarily a chore, but that it can be an adventure into our own thoughts, and a vehicle for sharing our ideas with others. We had discovered young adult fiction.

But it was the early 1970s then, so we rarely found the books that spoke about us and to us, in our own language, on the shelves of English classes. We understood the message: there are books that are fine for out-of-school reading, but they are not the kind of books that are to be studied. So we trudged through literature textbooks, graphing the denouncement in a short story and identifying metaphors in a poem; we wrote reports about literature in which we proved our ability to match authors' names with their most significant literary contributions and were rewarded with 2-day movies of British actors performing Macbeth and King Lear. And we continued to sneak The Outsiders, Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones and others-- our books--to each other across the rows of desks in the classrooms of our high school.

What a difference twenty years, plus or minus one or two, make. Young adult literature has survived its awkward stages as "juvenile fiction," and "junior book," and its troubled reputation as "problem novel." Young adult literature seems to have grown comfortable with the depth and breadth of its identity as it has come of age. Like many of us, I have used YA literature when teaching middle and high school students, and use it now in teacher education courses. And The ALAN Review, which turns 30 years old this year, has grown up beside the literature it promotes. The ALAN Review is known for articles written by teachers, teacher educators, and media specialists, and its features contributed by the authors who are most popular among adolescent readers. It has a history of introducing teachers and media specialists to engaging authors and texts, of challenging us to find ways to incorporate young adult literature into our middle and high school courses, and of reporting on the celebrations and problems that have emerged when the value of YA literature has been challenged.

My vision for The ALAN Review is simple: young adult literature belongs in classrooms in all middle and high schools, and in all subject areas; The ALAN Review should be the best informed, most convincing, and most appealing promoter and supporter of young adult literature. The time has passed for raising questions about whether or not young adult literature should receive attention in classrooms and occupy space in library and media collections. The focus must now be on finding ways to encourage teachers and media specialists, administrators and parents, to include young adult books in their curricula and their collections. You will recognize many of the columns that have been continued from previous years: the Clip and File YA Book Reviews, which Lawrence Baines is editing; The Publishers' Connection, which M. Jerry Weiss continues to edit; the Library Connection, edited by John Noelle Moore, and The Research Connection, which Jean E. Brown and Elaine C. Stephens are co-editing.

We are adding new columns, too: The High School Connection, which Ann Wilder and Alan Teasley are co-editing each fall; the Middle School Connection, co-edited by Rita Karr and Kathy Corder for each winter issue; The Interdisciplinary Connection, edited by James Brewbaker for each spring issue. Also new are the Professional Reviews Column that Kathleen Carico is editing, the Candian Connection, that David Jenkinson is editing, and the Nonprint YA Literature column that Marjorie Keiser is editing. Assistant Editor Gail P. Gregg will be collecting, from you, as readers of The ALAN Review, BOOK BUBBLES---students' comments on the young adult books that they are reading. BOOK BUBBLES will be a bright spot in each issue.

In the current issue, you will find a thread of attention to historical fiction that begins with Karen Hesse's comments upon learning that she had won the 1998 Scott O'Dell Award, just a few days after she had been notified of the Newberry Award. The thread continues in Joanne Brown's consideration of the problems associated with writing historical fiction for young adults, and with Kathy Bucher's and Lee Manning's article on biographies of women. Jean Brown and Elaine Stephen's Research Connections column will point you to examples of research in the field; Caroline McKinney's treatment of the ways girls' names are presented in young adult fiction, Mary Ann Tighe's article on a project she conducted with high school and university students, and Melissa Comer's survey of university YA literature courses are examples of ALAN-supported research projects. B. Joyce Stallworth's description of her university-based YA literature course, and Ted Hipple's explanation of the ALAN Foundation Award for Research in YA Literature further the discussion of research in the field.

In The High School Connection, Ann Wilder and Alan Teasley guide us by recommending texts and suggesting instructional activities for incorporating YA literature in grades 9-12. Sharon Royer demonstrates how a teacher of high school students can learn from her students when she responds to their pleas, "Why don't we read anything with a happy ending?" Diane Tuccillo helps us think about teens who are on the verge of graduating in her article on YA book for college-bound students, while Sam D. Gill focuses on books for reluctant male teen readers. Like Jerry Weiss, in his column that considers the surprising reading preferences of some of today's middle school students, Sharon Royer, in her article on the adolescent books of Roald Dahl, provides us with more useful lists and rationales for incorporating young adult books into our curricula.

Lawrence Baines, with his team of reviewers, introduce us to 27 recently published works of literature for adolescents, and Kathleen Carico challenges us to increase our understanding of what really happens in literature classes through her review of Susan Hynds' recent book.

In a fall, 1984, letter to the editor of The ALAN Review, Virginia Monseau, then a doctoral student (ten years later, the President of ALAN, and currently the editor of English Journal) wrote that "those of us who know adolescents and their literature must be the ones to decide its value and its place. We must not allow others to decide for us" . As editor of The ALAN Review, I am devoted to providing for those who "know adolescents and their literature" a positive, professional, strong voice.

Since 1993, Patricia (Pat) Kelly and Robert C. (Bob) Small have served as co-editors of this journal. They have given the journal a touch that is at once friendly and scholarly, a tone that balances seriousness with humor, a stance that is measured yet generous. As the editor who follows them, I aspire to learn from the examples they have provided.

Because I have the legacy of Pat Kelly and Bob Small, with Leila Christenbury and Charlie Reed before them, the assistance of Gail P. Gregg and Randy Withers and the column editors and editorial review board members, and the opportunity to hear from you, the readers of The ALAN Review, the challenge of offering you information that will help you determine the "value and place" of young adult literature is one that I eagerly embrace.

Reference Citation: Carroll, Pamela Sissi. (1998). "A Note from the (New) Editor." The ALAN Review, Volume 26, Number 1.