ALAN v21n2 - THE LIBRARY CONNECTION - Professional Reading Revisited

The Library Connection

Betty Carter, Editor
Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas

Professional Reading Revisited

At the 1992 ALAN workshop, keynote speaker Ted Hipple asked the audience a series of thought-provoking questions. One that particularly triggered discussion was: Are you aware of some of the recent scholarship in the field? Throughout the two-day workshop, participants returned to that question, asking their friends what new professional books they had recently read and, in turn, recommending personal favorites. This column continues those conversations with the following recommendations for professional reading. Enjoy!

* Broderick, Dorothy M., editor. The VOYA Reader . Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, 1990. $32.50. ISBN: 0-8108-2331-4.

Broderick's delightful assemblage of articles contains inspiration for teachers and librarians who work with young adults. Formerly published in Voice of Youth Advocates during the early years of the journal, 1978-1988, these forty-seven articles are arranged under the topics of censorship, youth participation in libraries, humor, literature, programming and services for young adults, and authors of young adult literature.

Several articles provide exceptional insight into the sometimes-mysterious connection between teenagers and books. Sylvia Mitchell and Karen Chun asked teens to describe their "fantasy" library. To no one's surprise, they requested popular magazines, "a place to study and listen to the radio," video games, and "a special section where the best books are." Paul Janeczko shares the techniques he uses to get his students to write poetry and to have fun at the same time. Mary K. Chelton interviews Nancy Garden about her ground-breaking novel, Annie on My Mind , which explores a romance between two young women. For fans of the earliest young adult titles, Ken Donelson contributes an essay entitled "Our Passion for the Present, Our Apathy Toward the Past; Or, Can a YA Book Be Worth Reading If It's More than Ten Years Old?" Besides sharing his perceptive comments on the best and worst features of past titles, Donelson includes a useful annotated bibliography of some of the best young adult books in four historical periods: Pre-1900, 1900-1941, 1942-1966, and 1967-1974. A section entitled Notes on Contributors identifies writers of the articles as authors, professors, teachers, and librarians who all have a strong interest in young adults and their literacy. -- Reviewed by Rosemary Chance, Sam Houston State University

* Estes, Sally, editor. Genre Favorites for Young Adults: A Collection of Booklist Columns . Chicago: Booklist Publications, 1993. $7.95. ISBN: 0-8389-5755-2.

Halleluiah! Finally teachers and librarians have a pithy, annotated bibliography of books to recommend when a young adult asks, "Do you know a good book to read?" Sally Estes has capably provided her answer to this query by revising and updating previously published bibliographies from Booklist into a discriminating collection of titles for the YA reader. Categories of humor, romance, suspense/survival, mysteries, sports, science fiction, fantasy, short works, diaries, and school stories are organized to include some recent titles along with some classics. Brief introductions to each section give the scope and limitations of the chosen works.

The selection diversity is evident from the first category, "Laugh Bait: Humorous Books for YAs." Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , Olive Ann Burns' Cold Sassy Tree , Joseph Heller's Catch-22 , The Norton Book of Light Verse , and Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs are representative of the great variety of titles delineated in all the genre categories. "Fantasy Highlights of the 1980s" lists selected authors' titles in series order, a double bonus when reading or purchasing the series. A second part of the fantasy section highlights non-series titles. "Quick Takes" is a section of both fiction and nonfiction "quick reads" to entice YAs. Offerings include Robert Fulghum's It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It , Daniel Cohen's Phone Call from a Ghost , and Paul Yee's Tales from Gom Mountain .

Sally Estes has done an impressive job of selecting titles reflecting the diversity of subjects and people YAs read and admire. Some big things do come in small packages, and this affordable one should be on the desk of every YA teacher and librarian. -- Reviewed by Linda Garrett, Texas Woman's University

* Gallo, Donald R., editor. Authors' Insights: Turning Teenagers into Readers and Writers . Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1992. $14.95. ISBN: 86709-294-1.

Walter Dean Myers states that, after two months in his writing workshop, students usually have "a healthy disrespect for the art of writing and considerably more respect for the work of writing." That's what this book is all about -- the work of writing.

Gallo has compiled essays from twelve young adult authors, each of whom approaches the writing process, and the teaching of writing to young people, from his or her own unique perspective.

Richard Peck dares to address the mechanics of writing. In response to students' lack of vocabulary, he quips, "Of course no student should be admitted to class without a dictionary under one arm and a thesaurus under the other, but that suggests a more orderly universe than ours." And yes, grammar should be taught.

Robert Cormier discusses his writing process and his self-censorship of books, such as The Chocolate War , long before they reached the hands of young adult readers, or became the targets of book-banners. He also shares how he goes about addressing delicate subjects, such as incest, in his young adult novels.

The essays in Authors' Insights highlight elements of each writer's personal writing process, as well as offer suggestions on how to teach writing to young adults in the classroom. But don't keep this book in your desk drawer or on a professional reading shelf. Share it with your students. They will enjoy and learn from reading essays by their favorite authors as much as you will. -- Reviewed by Ruth Dishnow, Texas Woman's University

* Gallo, Donald R., editor. Speaking for Ourselves, Too: More Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Authors of Books for Young Adults . Urbana: National Council of the Teachers of English, 1993. $10.95 (NCTE Member Price); $14.95 (Non-member price). ISBN: 0-8141-4623-6.

Readers, both professionals and young adults, who are acquainted with Gallo's Speaking for Ourselves , will welcome Speaking for Ourselves, Too . Although the earlier collection includes autobiographies of 87 authors and young adult books, Gallo and many of his readers thought that respected and well-liked writers were left out. Speaking for Ourselves, Too corrects this omission with profiles, autobiographies, and photos of 89 additional English and American authors, who were again selected with the help of several experts. The book's format mirrors the earlier edition with short (one- to one-and-a-half page) autobiographical sketches that include pertinent information about the authors' lives and their writing processes.

In his introduction, Gallo sums up their comments, offering these observations: "the majority seem to be able to make a living from their writing and speaking engagements.... the authors indicate their early and continuing love of reading... [as well as the] knowledge that they wanted to be writers when they grew up."

Many readers will look up their favorite writers (arranged in alphabetical order) and discover all sorts of interesting information about them. For instance, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was thrilled to receive a check for $4.16 for a story written when she was sixteen; R. L. Stine writes because you don't need any special kind of shoes to do it; and Gary Soto finds writing to be a clean and terrifying job. But, as Gallo tells us, readers will find that "like potato chips (but certainly more substantial)," they can't stop after one. His earlier volume was an American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, and this one is certain to be a welcome addition to libraries and classrooms wanting information about writers and lively accounts for serendipitous reading. -- Reviewed by Lee Kobayashi, University of Houston

* Hearne, Betsy. The Zena Sutherland Lectures . New York: Clarion Books, 1993. $18.95. ISBN: 0-395-64504-2; paper 0-395-64987-0.

Maurice Sendak. Lloyd Alexander. Katherine Paterson. Virginia Hamilton. Robert Cormier. Paula Fox. David Macaulay. Jean Fritz. Trina Schart Hyman. Betsy Byars. These preeminent authors and illustrators of books for young people were invited to deliver the first ten Zena Sutherland Lectures, a series dedicated to and in celebration of the distinguished career of this tireless educator. Hearne has collected the lectures, including her introduction of these leaders in children's and young adult literature, and fashioned a compelling text with the power to speak to a diverse, professional audience. The chronologically arranged lectures address humor, fantasy, realism, the African American experience, the fine points of technical and fanciful illustration, and other topics useful to practitioners concerned with young people and their literature.

But, despite the utilitarian aspects of the book, its primary strength lies in its emotional appeal. The individual stories remind us of the hard work and dedication to the young reader that go into making what these artists do appear so effortless. They inspire the cultivation of the creative process in ourselves and in those we seek to guide. Their words poignantly remind us of the vulnerability and impressionability of the maturing child and thereby validate the importance of the work done by those who choose to work with and for children and young adults.

Ultimately, Hearne's book can only be as good as its contributors allow. Happily for us all, no one let her down. -- Reviewed by Margaret Odom, University of North Texas

* Kaywell, Joan F., editor. Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics . Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc., 1992. $19.95. ISBN: 0-926842-23-4

Joan F. Kaywell's Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics belongs in the collection of every secondary English teacher and librarian. The idea is simple: take a work of literature that is a "classic" and make it more relevant to middle and high school readers by comparing it to one or more young adult novels. Each chapter of the book is written by a different author and takes a different approach to teaching a particular "classic." Some give detailed classroom activities; others dwell more on themes and theories.

One of the great strengths of the book is the wide variety of classics that it addresses; works as diverse as Romeo and Juliet and The Catcher in the Rye are used. It suggests some intriguing classic/young adult pairings, using The Chocolate War with The Scarlet Letter , for instance. Some pairings deal with special themes; Their Eyes Were Watching God and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry are used to show the voice of African American Southern women. Of special note is the all-too-brief chapter that uses the poems of Mel Glenn with the poetry of John Keats.

Although the book deals with only fourteen classics, ideas from each can be applied to any number of other works. Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is the annotated bibliographies of several young adult novels, many of them grouped according to themes. In short, this book is an invaluable resource to anyone interested in making traditional literature more accessible to young adults. -- Reviewed by JaNae Mundy, Texas Woman's University

* Kennemer, Phyllis K. Using Literature to Teach Middle Grades About War . Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1993. $29.95. ISBN: 0-89774-778-X.

Current teaching practice recognizes the use of literature through thematic units as a viable way to teach content in an interdisciplinary approach. Thematic units provide a basis for meaningful learning experiences, student cooperation, and group interaction, while valuing individual student inquiry. Literature about war represents appropriate content for middle school students and serves to stimulate critical thinking, retrospective thought, and understanding of different points of view. Phyllis Kennemer has merged these two powerful learning concepts into a resource book that offers many options for planning and implementing thematic units about war from our nation's history: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and II, the Vietnam War, and the recent Gulf War.

Covering a single war, each literature unit includes a selected chronology of dates and events important to the war along with annotated booklists that recommend picture books, factual books, and biographies. In addition, the author discusses general, optional activities for any of these thematic units, as well as sample lesson plans, suggested classroom activities, and questions particular to each historical period.

Teachers and librarians will find this book a valuable resource in planning and implementing thematic units with a cooperative learning component. Although the grade levels are specifically targeted towards middle school, the literature units can easily be adapted to higher or lower grade levels. The planning guide and forms included in the appendices may also be generalizable to other content areas. -- Reviewed by Connie Briggs, Southeastern Oklahoma State University

* Monseau, Virginia R. and Gary M. Salvner, editors. Reading Their World: The Young Adult Novel in the Classroom . Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992. $17.95. ISBN: 0-86709-306-4.

The demands of teaching and reading both professional journals and young adult novels frequently keep teachers and librarians playing "catch-up." Editors Monseau and Salvner assist professionals in this plight by providing an extensive examination of issues related to the use of young adult literature.

The first part of the book, "Reading the Young Adult Novel," makes the case for young adult novels in the classroom. To prove the literary value of YA novels, Ted Hipple explores the universality of themes in young adult books, while Don Gallo shows how these themes help teenagers understand and see themselves in their world. Barbara Samuels suggests the use of adolescent novels for helping youngsters make transitions to contemporary and adult classics, and Linda Shadiow traces the evolution of the young adult book from a cautionary tract to substantive literature.

Sue Ellen Bridgers, Richard Peck, and Sandy Asher provide authors' perspective in Part II, "Writing the Young Adult Novel;" and, the last section, "Teaching the Young Adult Novel," includes Monseau's recommendations for making the literature class a community of readers, and Salvner's suggestions for integrating YA novels into the traditional literature curriculum. Other discussions of interest to both practicing and prospective teachers include the uses of young adult novels across the curriculum, multicultural concerns, gender issues, and censorship.

Reading Their World is an excellent collection of essays. Its strength lies not only in the information provided, but also in the respect the authors give to adolescents and the literature they choose. -- Reviewed by Be Be Hood, University of Houston

* Rochman, Hazel. Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World . Chicago: American Library Association, 1993. $16.95. ISBN: 0-8389-0601-X.

Employing the epic journey, the universal coming-of-age story, as a focus, Rochman reminds readers of the search for self that goes beyond geography, race, and religion for stories that can make "others," or those who might ordinarily remain strangers, real. Through books, Rochman thinks teens may be surprised to learn about themselves as they learn more about the world by using differences and similarities "across cultures, against borders" to make connections.

Against Borders is a particularly useful aid in selecting exemplary books and videos for young adults. Part One consists of essays using books connected by themes (family matters, outsiders, friends, and enemies). Rochman discusses the titles and authors of hundreds and hundreds of books that explore different facets of our multicultural world. Because good books are about more than one subject, Rochman includes an index linking books in almost 50 categories. Part Two contains books and videos organized by ethnic group, culture, or historical event. On racial oppression, there are titles about the Holocaust and Apartheid, for example. The separate chapters on African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are followed by a final section discussing our widening world.

Although the book includes a remarkable amount of resources, its format makes this information easily accessible. All cited titles in the themed essays appear alongside the text in the book's generous margins. Annotations put the authors and titles in bold type. Quotations from poems and prose, photographs, illustrations from the books, and spacious design help make Against Borders pleasurable to use. -- Reviewed by Karen Morgan, Texas Woman's University

* Zvirin, Stephanie. The Best Years of Their Lives: A Resource Guide for Teenagers in Crisis . Chicago: American Library Association. 1992. $15.00. ISBN: 0-8389-0586-2.

In her introduction, author Stephanie Zvirin, associate editor at Booklist, sketches a sound philosophy for using books to help young people confront and learn to cope with the physical, emotional, and societal pressures of growing up in the 1990s. Zvirin assembles a timely compilation of annotations to fiction and nonfiction materials that addresses youth's fundamental concerns of family, school, peer relationships, and mental and physical health. Intermingled within appropriate chapters, noted authors of young adult literature -- Janet Bode, Jill Krementz, Eda LeShan, and Lynn Madaras -- share their insights and concerns for young people through reminiscences and dialogue.

An attractively arranged book, each chapter begins with brief background followed by detailed annotations of titles of interest to youth as well as parents, educators, and health professionals. A filmography, compiled by librarian Ellen Mandel, accesses currently available videos on the same subjects. Author/title and subject indices provide additional avenues to materials. Intended as a basic guide to recommended titles for youth ages 12-18, this resource also serves as an important tool for parents and professionals who wish to inform themselves about subjects and issues that dramatically affect the lives of teens. Dangers from within and without make it imperative that adults do educate themselves while increasing the availability of appealing and accurate materials dealing with sensitive topics. This book helps them accomplish those tasks. -- Reviewed by Mary Snyder, Texas Woman's University