ALAN v23n2 - THE LIBRARY CONNECTION- Young Adult Literature on the World Wide Web

Volume 23, Number 2
Winter 1996
Betty Carter, Editor
Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas

Young Adult Literature on the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web allows individuals to use a convenient computer and purchase airline tickets, plan menus, copy Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs, attend a screening of Party Girl , or ogle pinups of celebrities ranging from Teri Hatcher to Brad Pitt. But what does it offer the reader of young adult literature seeking information about books, authors, and publishers? That's precisely the question I wanted to answer several months ago when I began exploring the Web armed with a variety of search terms ( adolescent literature , children's literature , young adult literature , comics , individual author names, and the like); untold search engines (Alta Vista, Yahoo, Excite, Yellow Pages of WWW Sites, and Magellan, for example); and numerous links from different homepage indexes (most notably The Children's Literature Web Guide at and The Book Wire Index at ) . During the process, I discovered a myriad of sites related to young adult literature. Taken as a group, they project a microcosmic mirror of the Internet: some are informative, others merely clever, blatantly commercial, highly idiosyncratic, or just plain inaccurate. The following websites comprise neither a comprehensive nor an evaluative listing, but instead illustrate the available range and variety of Internet options open to scholars, teachers, librarians, and students.

The ALAN Review joins other journals online at Readers can identify, read, and download full text articles from all issues starting with the Winter, 1994, issue. Searchers lacking graphics capabilities will encounter an unadorned text: a few words run together and print appears crowded and ill-defined. But those accessing the site through sophisticated browsers will be rewarded with a clear, easy-to-read format. In the Fall, 1995, ALAN Review , editors Bob Small and Pat Kelly note that they wanted to post the journal online in order to bring visibility to ALAN. They met this goal; references to several ALAN Review articles peppered my various searches of Internet sites related to young adult literature. Chris Crowe recently developed an ALAN homepage at

Volume 48 (11 issues from September, 1994, to August, 1995) of another print journal, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books , is also online at Although this review journal addresses both children's and young adult titles, The Bulletin nonetheless proves a valuable resource for the YA reader. Each electronic page includes an alphabetical sidebar listing, by author, of all books reviewed in that particular issue, thus affording readers easy access for individual inquiry. Type is set in Adobe Acrobat, and virtual subscribers must download appropriate software (Acrobat Reader) in order to read each issue. These files, however, are free, and instructions for obtaining them clearly outlined at the BCCB site.

Much of what appears on the World Wide Web represents works in progress, such as an ambitious plan from Ted Fulk ( ) to produce an electronic journal on young adult literature. Fulk envisions a "dialogue between students, teachers, and university professors," and, although this site hasn't yet materialized, its projected scope indicates a URL worth monitoring in the future.

For many individuals, the World Wide Web opens an international forum for airing their opinions on matters of personal importance. At such sites, browsers will find one person's views about a particular movie, a beloved book, a pleasant memory, or a special project. With this concept in mind, Martha Davis Beck asked contemporary writers to "select a book that strongly influenced them at that time in their life [adolescence], or a book they have read subsequently, which they feel would have strong appeal for contemporary teenage readers." Their answers, appearing at , vary from Reynolds Price's recommendation of Madame Bovary to Rolando Hinojosa's defense of Lloyd C. Douglas's White Banners to Judith Katz's endorsement of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter . Most moving is Michael Dorris's remembrance of Exodus and Hawaii , two books that appealed to him as a teen because they "weren't assigned, but chosen."

The Internet breeds booklists through postings as varied as Kay Vandergrift's comprehensive recommendation of 100 young adult novels ( ) or the current best sellers reported by Publisher's Weekly ( ). A goodly number of these lists can be accessed through D. K. Brown's extensive children's literature homepage ( ) which records many links of interest to students of young adult literature. Brown maintains current recommendations from Best Books for Young Adults, Quick Picks (Recommended Books for Reluctant Readers), Young Adults' Choices, and Teachers' Choices, frequently updating them before annual announcements appear in the popular media. In addition, this site links to other lists, such as those suggesting picture books for secondary students or books with gay and lesbian characters.

Many young adults read almost exclusively from adult works, but they also ask for appropriate booklists. Fortunately, a few are available. For example, science fiction and fantasy fans will find an inventory of Nebula Awards from 1965-1994 ( ) and Hugo Awards from 1953-1995 ( ).

In great numbers, devotees of series books spend their off-reading time developing homepages, resulting in several gifts to both fans and researchers. A brief, historical overview of series books for girls ( ) and boys ( ) should prove of interest to the novice scholar. A more in-depth examination of Nancy Drew through the decades comes from , a homepage designed by Linda Johnson and Cynthia Keever. Although information here duplicates that found in more traditional print sources, especially Karen Plunkett Powell's The Nancy Drew Scrapbook (St. Martin's, 1993), the attractive graphics, comprehensive overview, and ease of moving from link to link all combine to make this site an outstanding one.

While the Goosebumps Series appeals to younger readers, its website, accessible through , allows R. L. Stine fans a link to the author's homepage and biographical notes. An additional jump to the transcription of Stine's interactive America Online chat, delivered October 31, 1994, extends that encounter with this best selling shockmeister. Those who want further contact can write Stine at his snail mail address, also posted at this site.

Many websites appear as cyberspace transients. Addresses shift, contents change, and homepages disappear with never a parting word. The latter fate fell to a favorite series spot: The Sweet Valley High (SVH) Homepage ( ). Offering a comprehensive overview of the series and a brief annotation for each entry, this site served both readers and collectors. But I've not been able to access it since October, 1994, and a search for it only brings up two pages devoted to the SVH television show, one ( (Unavailable at this time) ) emphasizing the comely twins playing Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, and the other ( ) contributing three original scripts from the series. Additional series sites, such as , which provide information on authors such as Stine, Christopher Pike, and Diane Hoh, were not available through any of the servers available to me.

Like series fans, genre devotees also have a strong presence on the Web. The Mysterious Homepage ( ) provides links to popular sleuths and adventurers such as Sherlock Holmes ( (Unavailable at this time.) ); James Bond (007 Homepage at ); and Spenser (Bullets and Beer Homepage at (Link is currently unavailable) ). Each of these sites explores the characters' literary backgrounds; biographical information on their respective authors; and related movies, television and Internet appearances.

Most of the websites concerning comics are geared toward collectors, for example, of James Bond comics at or fans of individual superheroes such as Superman in pulp fiction at Link Unavailable at this Time and the Man of Steel from other media at Link Unavailable at this Time . But one that differs from the pack ( ) delivers a monthly installment of an original, illustrated entry in its online Galaxy Comics. Like a continuing soap opera, the plot and characters need constant updating, and special links fill readers in on the background and personalities of both the superheroes and their story settings.

Although some full-text books, such as those classics reproduced through the Gutenberg Project, appear on the Web, more often browsers will find excerpts designed to whet the reader's appetite. Opening chapters from Newbery Award Winners ) should appeal to younger adolescents through favored novels such as The Giver or The Summer of the Swans .

Along the same line, HarperCollins's Big Busy House website ( ) assists X-Fileophiles looking for a good read by showcasing opening chapters from a new series based on the popular television show. Similarly, TOR Books ( ) delivers the same service for Greg Bear fans, allowing readers to download the beginning chapter from his Nebula Award Winner, Morning Mars .

One of the handiest motivational sites comes from author Aaron Shepard ( ). Here Shepard reproduces a number of readers theater scripts. Many, such as the one adapted from The Gift of Wali Dad: A Tale of India and Pakistan , come from his own books which primarily appeal to younger adolescents; other scripts, such as "Resthaven," adapted from Nancy Farmer's Newbery Honor Book The Ear, The Eye and The Arm , or "War Prayer" taken from Mark Twain's short story, should prove right on target for an older YA audience.

Teachers, as well as the students they serve, also need motivation. For some, that shot in the arm may come through a series of well developed study guides (edited by former ALAN Review editors Aretha "Charlie" Reed and W. Geiger Ellis) for James Joyce's Dubliners , The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglas , Much Ado About Nothing , The Odyssey , A Raisin in the Sun , and The Taming of the Shrew . Each is available at .

Other teachers may find that inspiration in a discussion of intellectual freedom. A banned books site

( ) posts a detailed, scholarly history of censorship as well as a listing of the most frequently banned titles ( ). The Big Busy House brings this issue home to kids ( ) with an introductory discussion; a poster of the First Amendment ( This link is no longer available... ; and a top 10 list of the "Silliest Reasons to Ban a HarperCollins Book" ( ).

A wealth of information about individual authors that should prove helpful for adult and young adult fans and researchers alike is also available on the Web. Scholastic, for example, has reproduced biographical information from Volume 1 and 2 of its All About Authors series at gopher:// %20Language%20Arts%20Library/All%20About%20Authors /Authors%20and%20Illustrators . Other publishers highlight their own writers. Bantam Doubleday Dell ( ) reports a young adult link in development, but their existing information on adult authors who appeal to young adults, such as John Grisham, Pat Conroy, and Margaret Atwood, is both solid and well formatted.

Creative author information surfaces on individual homepages. Some authors, such as Diane Duane and Peter Morwood, maintain their own. Their excellent website, The Owl Springs Partnership ( ), reveals much about the lives and interests of these two, giving their many readers a folksy introduction to both their books and their unique personalities.

Other author sites come from devoted fans. Christian Olson's enthusiasm for Ender's Game , which he read in 1990, when, judging from his posted photograph, he was a teenager, apparently led him to develop an Unofficial Orson Scott Card Homepage ( ), which includes a complete bibliography of Card's works (listed by series) as well as the full text of a paper developed from an American Online chat.

Young adults also pay homage to favored authors. Students in one middle school developed a super site in conjunction with their study of The Great Gilly Hopkins ( ). They've posted original artwork in three pictorial guides as well as their observations of what they think will happen to Gilly five years in the future.

Teachers who engage in author studies but aren't able to construct a website should contact T. Fulk ( ), who offers to take student-generated information and from this create individual author homepages. Using a different tack by melding the traditional with cutting-edge technology, the Christ in the Desert Monastery now illuminates individual web pages. Not only does this website ( ) include information about the process, but it additionally offers an extensive narrative on scriptoria for students of bookmaking, book design, or illuminated manuscripts.

The most sophisticated author homepages typically target prolific and established writers such as Mark Twain ( )
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J. R. R. Tolkien ( ); Madeleine L'Engle ( ); Jane Austen ( ); and Stephen King ( ). Beyond biographical and critical notes, each site provides quirky links of varying degrees of sophistication. The Madeleine L'Engle Homepage links readers to the archives at Wheaton College which house many of L'Engle's papers ( gopher:// ), while the Mark Twain Homepage jumps to Elmira, New York, for a photographic tour of Twain's home and the gravesites of his family ( ). Similarly, the Jane Austen Homepage connects to a site comparing the novel Emma to the popular movie, Clueless ( ); the J. R. R. Tolkien Homepage directs interested browsers to a map of Middle Earth ( ); and the Stephen King Homepage sends fans to a company selling miniature Christmas tree ornaments of King's Maine homestead ( Link currently unavailable...

The Internet Public Library ( (Unavailable at this time.) ) projects the addition of a "teen room" in the near future. At present, however, young adults can tap into some of the authors, such as Avi, Robert Cormier, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and Lois Lowery, discussed through the children's division ( ). Here students can read about these writers, but they also have the option of submitting questions for additional authors to answer in the future. The Internet Public Library is currently soliciting queries about Seymour Simon, Gary Paulsen, and Katherine Paterson.

This interactive element allows adolescents to see contemporary authors as living, breathing individuals. Nowhere is that concept more pronounced than at Scholastic Central ( ). Here, teenagers join author Sandra Markel on a virtual voyage as she participates in a National Science Foundation expedition to Antarctica and New Zealand. Throughout the journey, Markel reports on her exploration and answers individual questions online. Although the trip will conclude about the time this article appears, Scholastic's Internet history indicates that similar opportunities will appear in the future.

The Internet offers a myriad of information, but along with this wealth of goodies come several cautions. Youngsters will have to learn how to search the Internet as well as how to evaluate the information found there. Does the slick and entertaining movie site for Tom and Huck ( ), for example, add anything to that junior research paper on Mark Twain? In addition, for their own safety, young adults must consider the consequences of contacting unknown individuals for further discussion about common topics. They may find a community of like readers on the Internet, but how close should that community become?

New sites will appear on the Internet in the future. Avon Books should have a site online early in 1996, and Morrow Books expects to be operational during the summer. In addition, individuals will post course outlines, student comments, and personal tributes to books and authors. When you locate or develop new sites of interest to ALAN members, please contact me ( email: ) and I'll announce them in later columns.