24.5.05

Collection dilemma

Luckily, this isn't about The Collection - it's about the collection at school. This is the time of year when all good school librarians start to think about what they'll put into their summer book order: which books do we want students to "oooh" and "aaah" over when they arrive in September?

As I've mentioned previously, I get a lot of Readers Advance copies from publishers. It's a great way to figure out of the hype is really just that, or deserved. One of my big gripes has been the increase in the coming-of-age book that's clearly written to take advantage of the current technology and trends but is so poorly written that I can't imagine kids reading it.

Right now, I'm reading two books that are in that genre. One is set in 7th grade, the other in 8th (yes, it's a series). From what I remember of my time in those two grades, and from what I've seen my students going through, these are pretty good at getting the emotional side of things down right. Despite not growing up in NYC or attending a fancy NYC private school, I identified with the characters and situations. So, clearly, I should buy them for the school, right?

Not so fast! Something about the books jarred me and then, about 90 pages into the first, I realised what it was. They're written about a past youth (probably the author's). The newsletter is dated 1981, there are no cell phones, no computers, not even a Walkman; a group studying Jane Eyre names itself Eyre Supply in hommage to Air Supply; Elvis Costello is considered new. I double checked the copyright date, and it's 2004.

There's a part of me that wonders if the kids I work with now will read these and enjoy them because of the truthful emotions and situations, or will they get hung up on the latent nostalgia for a more innocent era (no rainbow club here!) and view this as historical fiction?

1 comment:

Sherri said...

That is a question at once funny and profound. As a kid I read books set in all periods -- contemporary to me, 1950's, 1850's, and a ton of science fiction, but I was an atypical reader. I am not in a position today of selecting books for adolescent readers, so I am not informed there. Of course, though, I have thoughts...

On one hand, kids have got to know there was life before they were born, and those people were not so different. I had little problem reading about people who used butter churns and woodburning stoves, or who listened to the radio because TV wasn't invented yet.

On the other hand (good thing hands usually come in pairs) it is difficult to hold the attention of most young people and showing them a world without their familiar things in it might make the automatically feel the book doesn't relate to them. That's sort of a sad commentary, when I ponder it, but I can't say it wasn't true 20 years ago or 30 years ago (It just wasn't true for me).

I suspect you are a sister-in-spirit with my favorite librarian, Miss Olsen/Mrs. Bond, who gave me access to books a little out of my range, and who let me keep the card all my checkouts were written on at the end of the year (which I still have, somewhere :>)