Thursday, April 29, 2010

Swallows and Amazons (plus a small rant)

Ransome, Arthur. Swallows and Amazons. (1931)
If it had not been for Fuse Eight's poll of The Top 100 Children's Novels, I would not have picked up this nice story of children being allowed to run amok on an island near their English home. It was perfectly nice, reminiscent of The Boxcar Children (1942) in that much time was spent on aligning provisions. If this is not in your library collection, you won't be adding a copy, because I can't see how this story of Roger, John, Susan and Titty alternatively sailing about and making tea over an open fire will resonate with today's children. The only slightly alarming thing is a storm on their last night on the island; Mother clearly is not going to let them get into trouble. As I said, pleasant enough, and now I have read the whole list!

Cantor, Jillian. The Life of Glass.
From the author of The September Sisters, this is another very sad tale. Melissa's father has died of lung cancer, and to deal with missing him, she is reading journals and writing that he has left behind. She is amazed that she is able to go on with her life while he is not there, and is slightly resentful that everyone else, including her beautiful sister and her mother, are able to as well. It's a beautifully written book, but the introspective tone suits this more to the high school level. This is similar to Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever, and that's my slowest moving Dessen book. Seventh graders like sad, but not this to-the-bone grief.

Johnson, Marilyn. This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can SAVE US ALL.
*Sigh.* This book made me sad. Rest assured, I will apparently not be saving anyone at all, because I am, in fact, your grandmother's librarian.

Ms. Johnson makes many eloquent cases for the continued relevance of the librarian in the digital age. Certainly, the librarians who help people with the internet, who find databases, and who guide patrons through mountains of information are ubiquitous. However, aside from a love letter to archivists, very little is said about librarians and BOOKS.

I don't deal much with computers. There is certainly research that goes on in my school, but the main reason I am here is to get children books to read for pleasure. Perhaps this is a bigger luxury than I know. My thought is that these children will spend so much time dealing with computers and the internet in high school, college and working life that now they need someone to tout the virtues of a Good Book. My blog is also predominately concerned with books. Libri. I am a Librarian. Not a Media Specialist, not a Cybrarian, not an Information Technologist or Information Analyst or ProInfoCyberGuru or whatever title they will throw our way in five years. Librarian.

Ms. Johnson has written an entertaining and valuable book. It just doesn't pertain to my life. Also, we know my aversion to hip, tattooed librarians. Really, people. Comb your hair, remove some of the metal from your face, and go buy a cardigan. Stand up straight while you're at it. It's possible to have a dynamic library program and to get children excited about reading books while looking and acting like a responsible adult. I think, perhaps, that the children actually prefer it.


  1. Swallows and Amazons is a fine book, and the second one, Swallowdale and Secret Water are fine also, BUT Winter Holiday is just about one of my favorite books ever!!!! And I really love the two that come next. These later books feature two new children, Dick and Dorothea, who are wonderful. Dick is a scientist, Dorothea a novelist.

    If you do have a spare moment this summer, Winter Holiday is a great book to read in the heat--set on the lake in winter, it has lots of refreshing chilly-ness.

  2. You must know that you are my hero. I was just passed up for a job at a high school because they wanted an ITF person. I know the cyber tools for teaching students as well as their new hire does, but the admin. wanted someone who could work the district's (non-library-related) software. (They already have ONE librarian; why would they need another?!)

    If we can just inspire kids to READ, the rest will follow. I love the cyber tools that help to that end, but they are secondary to the READ part.

    Your post came just when I needed to read it. Thanks for that!

  3. I love, love, love all the Swallows and Amazons books. But no, I cannot really imagine handing them to a modern kid "oh yeah and one of the girls is named Titty...." I did break down and buy the reissue of the first Moomin book, since our library doesn't even own any ancient copies and there's always that special someone who loves them...

    I don't feel particularly hip - or much of an Internet Goddess, or whatever term they're using now since my guiding people through the information pathway mostly consists of endless explanations of email and how to log on, not to mention the ever-popular, How to Print. Sigh.

  4. Umm, I've said it before, Mrs. Yingling, YOU are a soul sister.
    I am a LIBRARIAN.

    Every time librarians moan and groan and wring their hands over their job title they end up losing another pay grade. The Special Libraries Association has been in a protracted agony over their association name (some folks want to ditch the "libraries" term) for at least twenty years. In that time, the number of corporate special libraries in certain industries has plummeted. No one knows what an "information specialist" does.

    I maintain that the key to a successful school library program is a librarian who LOVES the books and can share that passion with the kids. None of my former students remember me, with fondness, because of the brilliant Encyclopedia Britannica lesson I taught. They remember books I read them and book series I introduced that made them a readers.