News, Notes & Inside Info from a Children’s Book Author

Around the Web: Bystander, The Kidlitosphere, and a Grand Conversation

November 30th, 2009 Posted in Around the Web, Bystander

I confess: I sometimes have misgivings about the kidlitosphere. At times it feels like just another clique, and one dominated by women. I recognize that one woman’s ceiling is another woman’s floor; a “clique” could easily be described as a “community” — a source of strength and positivity.

There’s nothing wrong with women, of course. It’s just that I’m a guy. I have a male point of view. For example, the writers I most love tend to be men. Actually, that’s not true: They are men. I’m just like that second grade boy who won’t pick up a Junie B. Jones book (I know, I have two sons, and I’ve tried to press those books in their hands). If it seems like girl stuff, I’m not all that interested. Or at least, there are hurdles, dispositions, to overcome. Sorry. I have a gender bias. That’s not news, right?

The nature of this clique, or community, has always been at the center of the children’s book world, back from my earliest days as a junior copywriter at Scholastic in the late 80’s. Women, women everywhere. They were the editors, the librarians, the teachers, the reviewers –  and now, the bloggers.

Just to make myself crazy, I did a quick look at the 101 names listed as judges of the Cybils. By my estimation, which involved a little guesswork, 86 of them are women. That’s a lot, right? I’m not complaining, exactly, and I certainly don’t blame anybody.  If more men were around, then . . . more men would be around. It’s our fault: guys need to step up or shut up, I suppose.

I don’t know if I have a thesis point. I’m mostly just typing out loud. Other than to say that as a man in a woman-dominated kidlitosphere, I feel like an outsider. And I wonder if there might be some connection to boys and reading. If they feel as disconnected as I sometimes do.

Yet through this blog I’ve made some meaningful connections. A few friendships here and there. Last year I was invited to Dublin, Ohio, by Bill and Karen from Literate Lives. I still go back to their blog from time to time, because they inspire me with their enthusiasm, their dedication, their sense of purpose. Clicking on today, I saw that Bystander was the recent topic of discussion on a Tuesday night, as part of Bill’s annual “Grand Discussion” series. Check it out, here.

Bill even sent me this photo:

I was supposed to be a part of it, through an iChat link-up. But I couldn’t figure out the technology in time, to my great disappointment. If there was a lake next to my computer, you would have heard a groan of frustration followed by a splash. It’s one more hurdle I’m going to have to figure out, because it seems like a great way to connect with readers.

Thank you, Bill, for the friendship and the support.

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In other news, Musings of a Book Addict recently reviewed Bystander and had some nice things to say. But that’s assumed, isn’t it? I mean, if she didn’t have nice things to say, I wouldn’t link to it. I’m superficial that way.

For the full review, click here. For those short on time, here’s the money quote:

I see the problem of bullying in my school everyday. Sometimes it takes the form of a kid saying something mean to another. Sometimes it is a child saying something nasty about the other kid’s parents. All of it is a form of bullying. However, most kids don’t realize that just standing around saying nothing, doing nothing, when they witness bullying is just as bad. This was an awesome book and one I look forward to placing on my shelves at school.

  1. 3 Responses to “Around the Web: Bystander, The Kidlitosphere, and a Grand Conversation”

  2. By Bill on Dec 1, 2009

    Jimmy,

    Thanks for the great write up on the Grand Discussion. I’m planning a few more informational, “how-to” blogs due to the response I got. As far as the men in the Kidlitosphere, sounds like a calendar, I couldn’t agree more and to add fuel to your fire, there were only about 5 of us guy types at Kidlit Conference in October.

  3. By Jimmy on Dec 1, 2009

    Bill, I was wary of addressing the topic in the fear of coming off as too negative. I do think it’s a problem without an easy solution. And again, that no one currently involved in the “kidlitosphere” are to blame. But, but, but. It can’t all be self-congratulation and back pats, either. There’s work to be done.

    I know that a concerned, intelligent woman can say, “Oh, I know a dozen boys who would love this book.” Or, perhaps, “I know a boy who should read this story.” But I contend that it is a different visceral reaction to the way a man might identify with a story, who was in that situation, who hit that double and stood on second base, or who punched that kid in the face and has lived with that memory. I don’t know how to express it exactly, but there’s a distance between “appreciation” and “identification” — yet at the same time, I’m not sure how much it matters.

    I do believe that there’s a significant danger when we make lists about what we THINK boys like, because those tend toward stereotype and cliche and ultimately a limited view of what boys are, feel, think, and do. There’s a danger of self-fulfilling prophecy. Boys can’t just be reduced to the easy grabs of trucks and gross out humor and violent action.

    Sometimes it feels like Charlotte Zolotow never wrote “William’s Doll.”

  4. By Jimmy on Dec 1, 2009

    Sorry about some grammar problems above — that’s the trouble with “comments,” I can’t go back and fix my mistakes.

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