In our last issue I suggested that the creation of new and imaginative books for youth can’t be left entirely to authors, illustrators, and publishers; librarians and other interested adults need to do their part by getting these books into readers’ hands and, we hope, hearts.
At a time when so many books are being published, it is perhaps paradoxical to insist that they need help. Not all books: lots of them do just fine without professional attention, even flourishing exactly because the grownups don’t approve. (I worry sometimes that our generally admirable laissez-faire attitude toward children’s reading choices as well as the current adult enthusiasm for YA have had the unfortunate side effect of giving young readers less room to rebel.) Then there are the books kids and adults read with equal enjoyment—did you catch Phil and Claire talking about The Book Thief on Modern Family?
But let us here consider the books in need—those books for youth that make librarians both happy and industrious. When I look at our 2011 Fanfare list, beginning on page 10, I see an array of thirty books whose fortunes will largely depend on you. Yes, some of the choices have already established themselves (Press Here and I Want My Hat Back are on this week’s New York Times bestsellers list), and good for them. But most of the books on our Fanfare list will need your attention first if they hope to find the attention of young readers.
Take Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Yes, take it, read it, and do something to bring it to the attention of another reader. Chapter books about ten-year-old boys confronting the cruelty and cynicism of Stalin’s Soviet Union do not read themselves, after all, nor do they fly off the shelves. It needed one person—me—to bring it to the Fanfare table; much debate and discussion later, it needs another person—you—to help it flourish. Or maybe Breaking Stalin’s Nose is not the book for you; there are twenty-nine other titles that merit attention and dissemination. Pick one or several and go forth.
The selections on this list range from books for the youngest (A Ball for Daisy, Where’s Walrus?) to those for the oldest (Life: An Exploded Diagram, Feynman); and on subjects including dogs, bears, ghosts, fairy horses, history, families, artists, scientists, and bloody noses. Beyond being within the parameter of books published in 2011 for children and teens, they have only one thing in common. Someone on our review or editorial staff loved a book enough and was so convinced of its potential worth to others that she or he kept insisting the rest of us read it. Again, if necessary. The Fanfare list includes those thirty titles (out of some five hundred reviewed by the Magazine this year) for which one reader’s enthusiasm (and powers of persuasion) successfully created a fellowship of like-minded souls. Your turn.