Odds and Ends

11Apr10

I am proudly wearing my School Library Journal Battle of the Books 2010 T shirt! My goal next year will be to read all the books involved before they’re judged.

Browsing Borders, I found Wild Things, by Dave Eggers. It’s a novelization of the movie Where the Wild Things Are, which he cowrote with Spike Jonze. I’ll assume it’s not significantly different from the movie and won’t put it on the bedside bookstack of doom.

Speaking of the BSBSD, I read The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti. Excellent book set in the late 19th century, about a preteen orphan, Ren,  who is taken from the orphanage by a con man pretending to be his father. As the title suggests, this is a book about moral ambiguity, in which lies reveal truth and thieves, murderers and heroes are a murky mix. Developmentally, I wouldn’t recommend it for someone under fifteen or sixteen. The story itself is good, but younger kids would miss the subtext and get lost in the brutality. I may come back to the book if I have a chance and explore some of the underlying themes.

Finally, at Slate’s XX Factor Blog, K J Del’Antonia is not ready to share her iPad with her kids. She points out that the iPad comes preloaded with Winnie the Pooh and that the Cat In The Hat app (when did they make the transition from book to app?) “is already a top seller.”

At Publisher’s Weekly Allison Druin, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland is quoted as saying, “The way children read books is sitting on their bed, sitting with their parents. Laptops are good, but an iPad is going to be even more freeing . . .”

The apps, as described (I haven’t broken down and tried one with the grandkids) allow you to just read the book, but they offer a range of ways in which kids can “interact” with it . . . everything from background music matched to the scene to playing the book like a movie or using it as a coloring book.

Françoise Mouly, editorial director for TOON Books and art director for The New Yorker gives voice to part of my concern (in the Pub Weekly article I mentioned above): “There’s a slippery slope, where people start having sound effects and animation,” she said. “Then it’s a passive experience for the child.”

Here’s my take.

The value of children’s picture books is not in entertaining children, it is in holding children and giving your time and care . . . it is in the act of reading to them. It is in the child’s delight at sharing with you. It is in the face time.

iPad as a platform for children’s books is wonderful, but the temptation on the part of a tired parent to park the kid in front of it and let it read will be powerful.

image from Apple.com

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