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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Secret Keeper

I so wanted to review Mitali Perkins' Secret Keeper, a copy of which I received thanks to the author herself (I believe) some time ago. I read it over the weekend, when I was sick, and it kept me engaged and occupied (actually, it had me riveted!) as well as keeping my mind off of my increasingly nasty cold. So all is good.

But (you knew there would be a but) I should have reviewed it Monday. The week has intervened, a week full of committee meetings and class meetings and financial aid forms (not to mention tax forms) and recovery, and I just completely lost momentum.

So I'll leave you not with a review but with a question: is it a happy ending if the main character gets one thing she wants by giving up another? I am still struggling with the ending of this novel, which strikes me as more realistic than the endings of many children's and YA novels (but especially children's). There's just not a smidge of wish-fulfillment in it that I can see--tough choices and some significant pain, rather. But, still, (or, maybe, therefore?) it troubled me.

Do read it. I'd love to talk about it further, and maybe then I can write a real review.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thinking about the Other Mother...

Sometimes my friends and I joke that we need clones—one for work and one for home, perhaps? Wouldn't it be great, some days, to have someone else to help raise the kids—someone who wouldn't be bored by the endless play with Lego, who would miraculously make healthy meals they'll eat, who would come up with rainy day activities that are fun for the whole family? Of course on bad days at work I want the clone to sit at the computer while the "real me" goes off to play with the kids. It's all a matter of perspective.

Read the rest in this month's Children's Lit Book Group column....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Does Effort Equal Achievement?

Here's a great piece from the NY Times about grades and grading these days. One student puts it this way:

"“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”"

At least one commentator suggests that the focus needs to be on capturing the students' interest so that they have in intrinsic motivation to do the work rather than the extrinsic one of grades. But that can be especially hard to achieve in a required class. I'm thinking about these issues right now as I am currently serving on a curriculum review committee charged especially with looking at our first year curriculum, which is where grading complaints are, I think, especially prevalent.

Read the whole thing here: Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes -


I'm just back from a meeting with some fabulous librarians about a program I'm doing for them next month. They've planned a wonderful opportunity for adults to talk about children's books, and I'm delighted to be facilitating the discussions. There are three of them, at three different branch libraries--here are some details.

“A Family Affair: Children’s Classic for Adults”
“A Family Affair: Children’s Classic for Adults” Dr. Libby Gruner, Associate Professor of English, at The University of Richmond will lead our discussion based upon the selected books: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, and Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan **Registration is required.**

The sessions are from 2-3 on three successive Saturday afternoons: March 7, 14, and 21 at the Belmont, Ginter Park, and West End branches of the Richmond Public Library. There are details here, along with a number to call for more information.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The Cybils Awards have just been announced, and there are some great ones--check them out! Unlike last year, I wasn't on a judging panel this year so have been watching the doings from a distance--I'm glad I didn't have to make some of these decisions, I can tell you! I'm especially pleased to see the Middle-Grade Fantasy award winner, the Elem/Middle Grade Graphic Novel winner, and the YA Fiction winner are all books I've really enjoyed.

And speaking of that M-G Fantasy award winner, check out tomorrow's NYTimes Book Review, too!

Congratulations to all the nominees and to today's winners!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Teaching and Research

I'm blogging about Jill Biden, my new role model, over at the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed. And trying to get to work on my column. Remember that? I do still write it, but only every other month these days. While I'm away, though, you might check out Mama at the Movies, writing about the lovely oldie, Fly Away Home. Back later!


Thursday, February 05, 2009


Seen on Fuse8, the most amazing bento box ever.