Top 10 Children's Books according to TIME:
1. Duck Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
2. Guess Again by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Adam Rex
3. Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth by Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner
4. Crow Call by Lois Lowry; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
5. Elephants Cannot Dance! by Mo Willems
6. Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman
7. How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
8. Pick a Pumpkin, Mrs. Millie! by Judy Cox, illustrated by Joe Mathieu
9. The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Carson Ellis
10. The Snow Day by Komako Sakai
Here, I hope without violating her privacy, is my recent correspondence with a young girl. This is not at all the same as a simple "Your books suck" kind of letter that can be ignored. But I find myself wondering what my legitimate role is. I never want to get pulled into a political or religious discussion, though some readers seem to invite me to. I steer clear of that. And I don't want to intrude at all on family situations. In this case, I think I've said all I want to say. But I also think I would have been remiss not to grapple at all with the issues raised. I just hope this child is reasonably comfortable with my answers. And it would be great if she showed the emails to her mother. But I suppose that is asking too much.
On Sat, Dec 5, 2009 at 6:47 AM, XXXX wrote:
I do not think that this is a kids book I has stuff kids shoud not read about in it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On Sat, Dec 5, 2009 at 1:49 PM, Lois Lowry wrote:
I don't know which book of mine you are talking about, XXXX. I have written 35 books.
But I think kids should know about EVERYTHING and that reading books is a great way to learn.
On Sat, Dec 19, 2009 at 7:16 AM, XXXX wrote:
I am talking about anastasa has the answers it talks about bad things
On Sat, Dec 19, 2009 at 2:31 PM, Lois Lowry wrote
I can't think of a single "bad thing"in that book.
On Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 9:00 PM, XXXX wrote:
It talks about sex so i think u mite want to read your on book again
On Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 11:16 PM, Lois Lowry wrote:
Well, I took your advice, XXXX, and looked all through ANASTASIA HAS THE ANSWERS. And I didn't find a single thing in it that could be described as "bad." It does use the word "sex" when Anastasia tries to convince her English teacher to use the book "Gone With the Wind" in class, and he says he thinks it is inappropriate. But surely that isn't what you meant. And it uses the word "sexy" when Anastasia's friend paints her toenails and announces that she thinks they look sexy. Surely that isn't what you meant.
So I have to disagree with you, I'm afraid. I don't think there is a single bad thing in the book and I am happy to have my own grandchildren read it.
On Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 8:00 AM, XXXX wrote:
It also talks about a girl liking another girl i mean it happens in life but u do not need to put that stuff in kid books
On Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM, Lois Lowry wrote:
XXXX, it talks about a girl worrying because she sort of has a crush on her female gym teacher. You're right, that such things happen in real life. In the book, the girl talks to her mother about it and is reassured that she is perfectly normal. I think it is valuable for kids—readers—to know that: a) one can talk about such things with Mom and b) that such feelings are normal.
Sometimes a book is a very comfortable way to think about such things. Sometimes it is good to read a book with your mom and talk about it.
Thanks to all of you who sent comments to my post yesterday which quoted an email I had received from am 8th-grade boy. Let me just say once again that I get a huge amount of mail and 99% of it is intelligent, thoughtful and supportive.
And some is a little amusing, like the email I got recently from a young girl that said only: "i dont think kids should read this book it has bad stuff in it." I wrote back and explained that I had written 35 books and don't know which one she was referring to. (Actually, I assumed it was "The Giver' since that is the one that draws the most objection). But no. She replied that was 'anastasia has the answers, that is the one with bad stuff." I replied again, asking what she meant by "bad stuff," that I couldn't recall anything at all that might be offensive in that book; and she replied that "it talks about sex, you should read it again." Mystified, I did so, and found two references to "sex." One is when Anastasia suggests to her 8th-grade English teacher that he teach "Gone with the Wind" instead of "Johnny Tremain" and he replies that he thinks it inappropriate. She counters that it has no explicit sex in it, but he stands firm. Later in the book, an 8th-grade friend of hers paints her toenails and says that she thinks they look sexy.
So I replied once again to my correspondent that I had, on her advice, re-read the book. I told her the two places I had found where "sex" was mentioned, that I didn't think they fell into the category of "bad stuff" and that I would be happy to have my young grandchildren read the book. No response from her yet.
As for the boy who wrote yesterday's email, I just replied to him briefly that I was sorry he hadn't liked the book, that perhaps he was not mature enough yet to understand it well. (I said the same thing to another boy a few years ago, in an email, and he replied, "F___ you, lady, I'm very mature, I'm 17" His reply qualifies, in my opinion, as a good example of Quod Erat Demonstrandum)
Actually, I think the little girl was the more intriguing correspondent, because she felt strongly about something in the book, and tried hard to convince me. Perhaps that's why I replied to her at greater length. The boy? He was just annoyed that he'd been assigned a book to read, and he was being a smartass, and probably showed his friends, with some pride, the rude letter he'd written. It's an age a which disrespect is somehow a badge of honor, and the immediacy and anonymity of email makes it so easy.
The best thing about immature people is that they eventually become mature. Most of them.
Perhaps posting this is just masochism on my part---or misery seeking company---but this is an email I have just received from a kid. I get many, many others that are intelligent and respectful (whether they like or dislike a book) but it is hard to know how to reply to one like this. Of course it is tempting to send a reply that is as insulting and asinine as his email. But that's a lamebrain, unconstructive thing to do. I guess the best thing is to do nothing, maybe send a polite response, and hope he grows up eventually. And learns to spell, if nothing else.
my dear lois lowery,
Snow Spreads Across Region An enormous storm piled on New York and New England after crippling the nation’s capital and mid-Atlantic.
And it is true. Of course it happens every year, so we should be very blasé about it, but nonetheless the first storm is always kind of exciting, even though this one has screwed up my plans to drive to New Hampshire today to see my daughter. Later this afternoon I will make it to a neighborhood party, though---no driving involved.
This is the opening of a chapter in "The Silent Boy":
Snow! When I woke, I could feel the silence of it. There was frost on my window, and the room was cold. It had been cold when I went to bed, but now it was a different kind of cold, a quiet kind.I didn’t get up at first. I snuggled there under my blue and white quilt, thinking about how it would look outside. The world changes so, with the first snow. Ghost shapes appear where bushes had been.
Looking outside this morning started me thinking about writing about snow. Here's another, a short story by me from the collection called "Necessary Noise"..
The December weekend that Evelyn Collier, age 18, came home from college in order to introduce her boyfriend to her family, was the same weekend that it had begun to snow on Friday morning. On Friday evening, when the travelers arrived, it was still snowing.
Mrs. Collier, inquiring about their luggage when the pair stood stamping snow from their shoes in the kitchen, was informed by her daughter that there was none.
"No suitcases?" Mrs. Collier asked, shivering as she pulled the kitchen door closed and peered through its window toward the dented, rusty car in which her daughter had just been transported one hundred miles through increasingly heavy snow by a young man who was not wearing a coat.
“We’re into minimalism,” Evelyn explained to her mother.
(Of course you can tell from the title that this family is going to be stuck with the daughter's unappealing boyfriend for an extended period).
There is also GOONEY BIRD IS SO ABSURD, in which the second graders write poems about a snowstorm.
And right now I am working on a manuscript in which, once again, the winter's first snowfall happens.
Amazing, how each year it seems as if it has never happened before.
It surprises Alfie, too, and he doesn't like it much. You want me to go out in THAT?
It is bitter, bitter cold in the Northeast, and my indomitable son just sent me a photo from his iPhone---he is skiing at Sunday River, where the temperature is in single digits, or even below zero. I emailed him back to PUT THOSE GLOVES ON! You never get over being a Mom.
Sunday River is 20 minutes from my house in Maine, where I hope the furnace is churning away. Nothing worse than frozen, burst pipes! We've been there, done that.
Pipes willing, weather willing, we will head up there for Christmas.
On January 10, 1919, it was 4 below zero in Maine, and there had been 10 inches of snow the day before. I only know this because of research for a book set there at that time. Imagine how much worse it was to be that cold, that snowy, in those days when heating was so much more iffy, and there were no snow blowers.
The NCTE convention was several weeks ago, and I know I have mentioned it before, but while I was later in Germany one of the teachers who had attended, and who had a book signed and a photo taken, emailed me the photograph. I intended to post it---and told her I would---but I was traveling, with my laptop, and when I got home and returned to my regular computer, the photograph remained with my traveling stuff. So, like sunglasses and folding umbrellas, it lay forgotten in some luggage until now.
And now here it is, me and Michelle Hudson from Louisiana. Nothing at all unusual about this photo, but it represents so well the many, many teachers who travel long distances (often, I think, at their own expense) and bring such enthusiasm with them --- for books --- that it is very heartening for authors. We love being reminded of what happens to the books when they leave our hands, and to talk to the teachers who use them in classrooms, who care so much about individual children,
Thank you, Michelle, and every other teacher like you, for all that you do.
I received an email announcing that The Junior Library Guild has chosen my upcoming book, The Birthday Ball, as one of their Spring 2010 selections. They asked me to write a short essay abut the origin of the book for inclusion in their catalogue. A tough task because the book is a light-hearted romp set in a palace and populated by various royal characters, plus chambermaids and kitchen staff, and preparations for the upcoming 16th birthday of the princess. No deep inner meanings, no meaningful theme, just pure fun---and nothing wrong with that but it is hard to write an essay about it.
Then I remembered my own granddaughter's 6th birthday, for which I gave her royal garb: a fake ermine cape, a fake diamond tiara, the whole princesssy outfit. I looked through old photos for that ten-years-ago event, and found this one, which I included in my essay (though I don't know if they'll have room to print it in their catalogue).
Instead of writing about the origins of the book, I simply wrote about how young girls---at least this young girl of my acquaintance---identify with princesses and their milieu. In the book, Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her luxurious life and longs to be a peasant. My little granddaughter, at six, would have traded her peasant life for a palace, I'm sure.
Of course she is now 16 (see previous post!), the age of the princess in the book, and her priorities have changed a bit!