Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Blog Focus Angst

That's the phrase Jen Robinson used in a discussion of children's lit blogging that came up when both she and Kelly Herold blogged about their blogs. It seems that after the kidlitosphere conference a lot of folks started thinking about their priorities for blogging, and both Kelly and Jen (to name the ones I read most and that I know about) have decided to refocus their energies a bit, making sure they cover what they're passionate about and letting the rest go. I really learned a lot reading their posts, especially because I was having a little tiny bit of blog angst over in my corner, too.

I don't know about you, but there's no way I could read all the children's lit blogs that are out there. So I don't mind if they duplicate each other a bit or if they overlap--I know I'm missing a lot of them anyway.

But I do come back to read the ones that are smart, funny, well-informed, and focused. (And no, I'm not going to name names right now, because I know I'll forget one and then feel bad.) It's not necessarily that they cover a "niche" so much as that they convey their particular and specific interest in their work in almost every post (we all get a day or two of "here are some cool links," don't we?).

So what can you get here that you can't get anywhere else? Or that even if you can, it's worth checking out? What I am most interested in right now is my research, which is on fantasy literature and faith (fairly broadly conceived--right now faith is bleeding into pedagogy, in a kind of weird and interesting way*), and YA literature, to which I am a late convert, and how and why children read. I review new books occasionally for The Edge of the Forest, but I don't really want to expand that--there are actually too many not-new books that I haven't read, and still want to read, for me to keep up with all the new. And while I'm happy to join an occasional good cause (see: Robert's Snow), I'm not really good at doing stuff on particular days just because that's the day everyone does them. That's why I've never joined in on Poetry Friday (that, and, I am just much more fiction- than poetry-oriented), and why contests and such are not a big part of what I do.

I don't see much changing around here as a result of this introspection (and, if you've read this far, thanks for your patience!). What I do see is a shift in attitude, and perhaps posting frequency. I'll post when I have something new to share. I'll try to have something new reasonably often to make it worth your checking back here, and I may still occasionally give a book away (perhaps not every month), but the focus is going to be on the big three above: fantasy literature, YA literature, and kids' reading.

Up next: I join in the discussion of what makes a title "kid-friendly." Stay tuned. (Probably after the weekend, though...)

*According to John Dewey, this is a natural connection. See "My Pedagogic Creed":
I believe that education . . . is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. . . .
[ . . .]
I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.
I believe that the moral education centers upon [a] conception of the school as a mode of social life, that the best and deepest moral training is precisely that which one gets through having to enter into proper relations with others in a unity of work and thought. The present educational systems, so far as they destroy or neglect that unity, render it difficult or impossible to get any genuine, regular moral training.
[ . . .]
I believe that the teacher's place and work in the school is to be interpreted from this same basis. The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences.
[. . . ]
I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing restructuring of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing.
[. . . ]
I believe . . . that the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.


  1. Hey, I coined a new phrase (that's how you know, right, when someone else uses it besides yourself?). Seriously, thanks for sharing in this discussion, Libby. I think that even if you don't change anything, it's good to periodically step back and think about what you're doing, and why. For me, it's a way of making sure that I stay on track - there are a lot of distractions in this Kidlitosphere. Like you, I don't do Poetry Friday (though I tried it for a while early on), partly because of the fixed day, and partly because I'm personally more about story than poetry. It's nice to hear from someone else who feels the same way - it's easy to feel like one has to support everything that's going on, but it's just not practical.

    I'll be looking forward to hearing more about what you have to say about fantasy and faith, YA lit, and kids' reading (clearly this third one is where we'll overlap the most). Definitely interested in the "what makes a book kid friendly question." Good luck!

  2. Jen, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only story person! Thanks for your nice words. I learn so much reading everyone else, sometimes I think I just let you all talk and I'll just listen!

  3. Hey, I'm a story person too :) But, I also love poetry. But, here's the issue, isn't it? We all have to choose the things the resonate with us and not join in just to join in. Most of my angst came from "what will happen if I'm no longer a cool kid?" Honestly. As if I'm seven years old.

    I think this reevaluation is a good thing. I plan on doing it every year or so from here on out.

  4. Maybe there should be a blog refocusing day every October, and we should all join in. OK, just kidding. Seriously, I SO agree with what Kelly said. When you first start a blog you're excited, and want to join everything, and being included in anything feels very validating. But sometimes you have to stop and remind yourself that you aren't seven, and that if you skip this party (meme, blog tour, etc), you can still be true to yourself. High school never really leaves us - that's my theory.

    Oh, and Libby, listen all you want, but people are interested in what you have to say, too.

  5. Thanks to you both for sparking the reflection. (And, Kelly, I know you can be both a story and a poetry person!) You're right about that high school (middle school?) thing--we all want to play with the cool kids. But, speaking here only for myself, I've been a nerd way too long to worry about that at this stage!

  6. Libby,
    I found you through Jen Robinson's blog...I am also interested in the intersection of fantasy and faith in children's books. Since I am just starting a blog, it is also interesting to see how you veterans are re-focusing. Hope the "angst" doesn't last long!