Much has been written, and there’s been much discussion, about the gender gap in reading between boys and girls. A recent study points out that girls are closing their gap with boys when it comes to math, but boys still lag behind girls when it comes to reading.
Depending on the research or analysis of the research, we often hear that boys read less, or that they read simpler books. And, of course, there are folks out there who have ideas about how to get boys reading more.
There also seems to be a lack of respect about the books boys read: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, graphic novels all have their detractors.
Enter author and reading advocate Jon Scieszka, who was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Librarian of Congress in 2008. Schieszka is interested in getting all young people to read, but he has a particular interest in getting boys to read. He started Guys Read, a non-profit literacy organization, and his Guys Read web page is Literary Kitty’s site of the week. Cause, Literary Kitty is a guy, don’t you know! (OK, Kitty P., don’t get started!)
We have literacy programs for adults and families. GUYS READ is our chance to call attention to boys’ literacy.”
The raison d’etre and mission of Guys Reads is explained beautifully here. Visitors to the site can get books suggestions for reluctant readers, submit their own suggestions, and find out how to start a local Guys Read chapter.
Note that the site often focuses on boys in elementary and middle school grades, not older teens. But, the best way to get guys reading, is to catch ‘em and inspire ‘em while they’re young.
Watch Jon Scieszka’s interview with the folks at Reading Rockets.
Check out Szieszka’s book page on Amazon.
Boys like real life stories. Szieszka’s Guys Write for Guys Read is an anthology of authors writing about their experiences as boys.
Why are things the way they are? Why are there stars? Why do alligators have scaly skin? Why do rabbits have those cute powder puff tails? Why do buzzards have bald heads? Native American mythology often employs the character of the trickster to explain the state of the world and its creatures.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trickster as: a cunning or deceptive character appearing in various forms in the folklore of many cultures.
A trickster can be a god or spiritual being, or simply another human being or animal. The stories of the Native American tricksters (which are typically in animal form) have been oral tales told through the centuries, passed down from one generation to the next. The tales often incorporate a moral, imparting a lesson for young listeners.
These stories are being retold more and more in book form, and now comic book creator Matt Dembicki has brought together more than 40 storytellers and illustrators for TRICKSTER Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection.
This collection of 21 tales marks the first time such stories have been told in a graphic or cartoon format. Editor Dembicki explains how the book came about:
“As a comic book creator and someone who appreciates nature, I mulled over the appeal of producing Native American trickster stories in a sequential format. A little research revealed that such a book didn’t exist. For this book, I wanted to be authentic, meaning they would have to be written by Native American storytellers… The storytellers each selected an artist from a pool of contributing talents to render their stories. Additionally, the storytellers approved the storyboards. In terms of editing, text was changed only when panel space was an issue and only with the approval of the storyteller. The point wasn’t to westernize the stories for general consumption, but rather to provide an opportunity to experience authentic Native American stories…”
Four storytellers with Oklahoma roots have contributed their stories to the collection: Joyce Bear, Greg Rodgers, Michael Thompson and Tim Tingle; and Oklahoma artist Roy Boney Jr. illustrated one of the tales.
The book is a delight for readers of all ages, but it would be especially perfect for reading to children. I remember my mom reading Aesop’s Fables to me, and I can see young people experiencing that same kind of wonder by hearing and, in this case, seeing, the tales of the Trickster.
If you’re not a fan of OETA’s Writing Out Loud program, you’re missing some great interviews with some great authors. Host Teresa Miller—author, and founder of the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers—makes her guests feel right at home. It’s a real treat for viewers as host and writer discuss new books and the writing process.
Teresa interviews writers from around the country, but we especially enjoy her sit-downs with Oklahoma authors: like this sneak-peak with author Michael Wallis, who discusses his new book on David Crockett—the one Kitty mentioned. Enjoy!
Literary Kittie back from an extended Cat Nap, has just found a website to warn all her literary writing friends from bad guys out there in publishing land. It was created by the SFWA, a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres.
And it’s got the entire scoop on scams that lie in wait for the unsuspecting author. Throws light on fake contests and awards. Copyright issues every author should know. The ins and outs of electronic publishing. A host of ideas for anyone wanting to get published without seeing their money go out the door and get nothing in return.
There is also a Writer’s Beware Blog with the latest news. There’s some really interesting stuff there; about the publishing industry, plagarism, unscrupulous fee charging for events by unscrupulous publishers and the list goes on. I’m not a writer but I found lots of good information and book news. Literary Kittie is particularly happy with the April 1 entry and is rooting for the felines in Cats v. Google in the Brocculi Kitten lawsuit.
Oklahoma author Michael Wallis has penned a new book on the life and times of Davy Crockett. Dispelling myths, finding the truth and examing the remarkable life of an American giant, amid the backdrop of frontier expansion.
(Booklist.) Wallis’ examination of the man behind the myth is both well written and engrossing.
Of course, Oklahomans know Wallis is a born storyteller and a good one. So it’s no surprise he is able to masterfully tell the true story behind the legendary figure, David Crockett, American frontiersman and icon.
And since we’re on the subject of Tulsa authors, James Patrick Hunt has a new Evan Maitland book, Get Maitland. So right under our nose is a prolific mystery writer with three series characters and plenty of good summer reading.
George Hastings is a St. Louis (Missouri) Homicide Detective.
Evan Maitland is a former Chicago cop who owns an antique business.
Daniel Bridger is a thief who works high dollar scores.*Crime Novelists
The rise in gas prices at the pump, the damage to one of Japan’s nuclear power plants, and the U.S. Congress’s inability to come up with anything resembling a national energy policy has me in the emotional dumps. And it made me want to pick up a book I’d read a few years ago: Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil by David Goodstein.
I didn’t expect a review of this great little book would make me feel better—I knew it wouldn’t. But it’s a good overview of the plight we find ourselves in, as China’s and India’s need for energy collides with America’s insatiable appetite for a finite resource.
Goodstein says the world is much closer to peak oil than we think. Peak oil is when demand for black gold outstrips the supply. America actually reached Dr. M. King Hubbert’s theoretical peak in the mid-70s when production at home declined:
…in 1956, Hubert predicted that the rate at which oil could be extracted from the lower forty-eight United States would peak around 1970 and decline rapidly after that. When his prediction was borne out, other oil geologists started paying serious attention.”
We solved the problem in the 1970s by importing more oil. By depending so much on imported oil, we have, as Fareed Zakaria wrote in Time magazine, “built our house at the base of a volacano (mideast turmoil).”
That U.S. peak back in the 70s may look like a cake walk compared to global peak oil. It’s impact on the economy, human well-being, and world peace could be devastating.
Goodstein reminds us that it is not just oil, but energy itself, that is finite (the law of conservation of energy). He reviews possible technological innovations that could help us; reminds us that these technological fixes do not yet exist; reminds us of the dangers of climate change that go hand-in-hand with fossil fuels; and explores other problems that come along with other energy sources, from coal to natural gas to nuclear energy.
All of this, of course, is bad news. But it’s good to know it, because we need to know what we’re up against.
Goodstein wrote this back in 2004, when Americans were paying $2 per gallon at the pump and screaming to high heaven. Prices went down and we went back to SUVs. It’s time to pick the book up again.
No need to put another dime in the jukebox, baby!
The Library of Congress has introduced a new online service that is streaming “a vast archive of more than 10,000 pre-1925 recordings of music, speeches, poetry and comedy.”
Check out the Associated Press YouTube video below with Harry Connick, Jr. Then check out the service yourself!
Thanks Mom for letting me read gruesome fairy tales, and not worrying if they would warp me.
Thanks Mom for my first trip with Grandma to the downtown Carnegie library to get Mr Popper’s Penguins.
Thanks Mom for a million trips to the library, for books and book reports and term papers.
Thanks Mom for reading Every single day so I thought that was what everyone did.
And Thanks Mom for sharing reading with me, because everytime I reach for a book to enjoy or teach,
I think of you—-
Don’t forget to hit your nearest comic book store or library on May 7 to pick up your free comic book. There will be lots of titles for all ages to choose from.
All this talk about comic books started me thinking about the recent controversy over Superman, which Matt Price addressed on his excellent Nerdage blog. In Action Comics #900, seems the Man of Steel is ready to renounce his U.S. citizenship because he’s “tired of having (his) actions construed as instruments of U.S. Policy.”
Well, for starters, he was raised as an American. He arrived as a child and was nurtured by Ma and Pa Kent in smalltown Kansas, where he was taught all those Red, White and Blue values.
But what if he had arrived elsewhere on Earth? I dug out my copy of Mark Millar’s spectacular Superman: Red Son—because that’s the exact premise of this work. Little Kal-El lands in Soviet Russia, and Millar uses this idea to create one of the most fascinating reimaginings of the beloved DC universe. Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luther, Braniac, Bizarro Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern Corp are all here, and all reinvented; for if Superman really did work for the Soviets, nothing would be the same.
Superman as Big Brother is chilling enough, but Millar doesn’t simply play this one-note theme; he’s smarter than that. Instead he creates a new world where the reader is challenged to reconsider the ideas of communism, socialism, capitalism and American Exceptionalism. It’s a provocative ride, and it’s not always comfortable.
From the opening panels—where President Eisenhower announces to the American People that the Soviets have “an alien superman committed to communist ideals whose very existence threatens to alter our position as a world superpower forever”—to a surprising twist at the end, Millar has created an unforgettable saga.
I didn’t forget it. That’s why all of this talk about Superman renouncing his U.S. citizenship sent me digging down into a bedroom drawer to pull out and rediscover this comic gem.
The late Octavia Butler’s speculative fiction explored race, religion, sexuality, family, community, and “the other.” Like the best speculative/sci-fi/fantasy fiction, her work is a reflection of modern day issues.
I read Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy a couple of decades ago, when the trilogy was published under the title Xenogenesis. The trilogy’s theme of forced human/alien interbreeding is wildly disturbing, but the work is ultimately life affirming as it confronts the reader with what is really means to be family.
I’ve always wanted to read more of her, and finding a 25th anniversary edition of Kindred on a Phoenix bookstore’s sale table last summer was just the impetus I needed.
Kindred is the story of Dana Franklin, a twentieth century black woman who finds herself transported back to the pre-Civil War South to save a white ancestor and slave owner named Rufus. Over the course of a few days of twentieth century time—and two decades of nineteenth century time—Dana will find herself transported back on six different occasions to save Rufus’s life. Her first visit lasts only minutes, but some visits stretch into months, where Dana must suffer the cruel consequences of being black in a slave society.
The reward of the story is not in finding out how this time travel is happening. (We never know how Rufus’s life-threatening situations summon Dana to the past.) The reward is following a modern woman as she is thrust back into a barbaric chapter of American history—seeing the horror through her eyes.
Butler has thrust her protagonist into the role of a slave:
• Dana’s involuntary transportation and disorientation reflects the abduction and disorientation of Africans who were captured and loaded onto slave ships.
• Her affection for Rufus, who is a child during Dana’s first two visits, is slowly replaced by fear as he becomes an adult who is all-to-ready to wield his power.
• Her role as a house slave puts her in conflict with field slaves, and her education and command of English makes her suspect among both slave and slave-owner.
• She is beaten and whipped at the whim of a master, and threatened with death.
• Choice is taken from her: even as Rufus grows more cruel, Dana cannot let him die; for until a certain child is born, this would mean the “deaths” of herself and all of her ancestors who would never be born.
Reading about the past is one thing. Living it is transformative for the protagonist. There is a touching scene, where Dana considers attitudes about certain slave “classes.” She is observing the resourceful and respected (among slaves) cook Sarah, a woman who has suffered the loss of all but one of her children as they were placed on the auction block:
She was the kind of woman who would be held in contempt during the militant nineteen sixties. The house-nigger, the handkerchief-head, the female Uncle Tom—the frightened powerless woman who had already lost all she could stand to lose, and who knew as little about the freedom of the North as she knew about the hereafter.”
Butler allows Dana an act of retribution toward the end of the book, but it is bittersweet at best. It is an act that condemns the horrors of the past, even as it is performed with a familial sadness.
Kindred is terrifying as an adventure, masterful as social commentary, and heartbreaking as family history. There’s a reason this book is a classic.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s tribute to the ground-breaking Butler following her death in 2006.
An Interview with Octavia Butler, from 2003′s “If all of Rochester Read the Same Book” program.